HOLMGREN OR BANCHERO? WHO WILL BE #1?
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We’re still months away from the 2022 NBA Draft and there’s still a few weeks to go before the college season basketball tips off. If you're a person who eats, sleeps and breaths the NBA draft like I do, it’s never too early to discuss who should be the first player to hear his name called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver next June.
As of today, I believe it’s a 3 person race with Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren as the favorite with Duke manchild Paolo Banchero and Jaden Hardy, a professional scorer who bypassed college for the G-League, as the main challengers.
What’s crazy is Chet Holmgren could be the #1 pick in the 2022 NBA draft despite not being the best player on his team! In my opinion Gonzaga junior Drew Timme will be the best player in college basketball next season while Holmgren will be the best NBA prospect.
Timme is coming off a strong sophomore season where he averaged 19 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists while shooting 65% from the floor on a Zags team that made it to the Final Four before losing NCAA title game to a hungry Baylor squad. Timme, Holmgren and McDonald's All American Hunter Sallis are expected to lead Gonzaga back to the Final Four and will likely begin the season as the #1 team in the nation. And all eyes will be on the lanky sharp shooter from Minnesota who followed Jalen Suggs path from the Twin Cites to Spokane, Washington.
I personally think Holmgren’s unique blend of size, length, skills, shooting and rim protection should make him a lock to be the # 1 pick.
The label "unicorn" has been thrown around a lot over the past few years in the basketball world, but you can make a case and say Holmgren is the most deserving of the high praise.
Holmgren is 7 footer that can handle, shoot with efficiency from 3, create scoring opportunities for teammates who also glides across the floor like a natural wing. Defensively he’s a high level shot blocker that can also defend in space and screw up an opponents offensive game plan. I truly believe he has the highest upside in this draft class and will be the face of a franchise if he can maximize his potential.
The main concern about Holmgren’s NBA potential would be largely related to his frame or lack there of. He’s listed 195 pounds and his body doesn’t look like he can add a lot of bulk or weight, which could impact his draft stock as teams may be worried about his durability. I can imagine comparisons to Kristaps Porzingis , another player labeled a unicorn, will mentioned often between now and the draft.
Although, it's concerning, I'd still take Holmgren number #1. Despite the fact he looks like he’s skinny enough to dodge range drops, he’s what I called skinny tough. He plays with heart, aggression and with competitive fire. Let's be honest, there’s a stereotype that slim 7 footers who can shoot the lights out are usually soft and avoid contact and physicality.
Chet Holmgren does not fall in that category.
TOP INTERNATIONAL PROSPECTS
I personally have Gonzaga freshman Chet Holmgren as the favorite to be the top pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, but I wouldn't say he's a guaranteed lock to go #1. Many believe Duke’s Paolo Banchero is the best NBA prospect in college basketball and will be the first player to hear his name called on draft night.
I’m old enough to remember when the hot topic around the NBA was about small ball being the new wave and how you can’t build a contender around a big man. Maybe that thought process has changed since Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid finished first and second in MVP votes last season and Giannis Antetokounmpo lead his Milwaukee Bucks team to the NBA title.
Now I know Giannis isn’t a traditional big, but neither are Holmgren and Banchero. What's weird is their games aren’t similar in style, but very similar as far as how they impact games with their versatility.
Holmgren’s thin frame and lack of strength has raised questions about his long term durability and NBA fit, while Banchero’s frame and natural strength (on top of his skill set) are usually the main selling points for those that believe he is the top NBA prospect in this draft class.
When you look at Banchero body, it’s hard to believe he’s just a few months removed from playing high school basketball. I definitely don’t remember seeing any 6’9 235 lbs teenagers roaming the halls back in my high school days.
What makes Banchero since an intriguing prospect is he has the size and strength to dominate games by playing bull ball in the low post, but he also has ball handling and shot making ability to create mismatches in space when opponents look to defend him with size.
To make it simple and plain, Paolo Banchero is a matchup nightmare for coaches to game plan against. When he’s in the mid post he’s got a little Carmelo Anthony in his game where he can get to the rim off the bounce or knock down face up jumpers. If a coach wants to send double or triple teams to slow him down, he has the court vision and passing instincts to create easy scoring opportunities for his teammates.
Did I mention he’s also comfortable as a pick & roll ball handler and can initiate the offense as point forward?
It’s hard not to love Banchero’s game and what he’ll bring to a team as an offensive weapon. At the very minimum he’ll serve as connective tissue that contributes to winning basketball and makes everyone around him better.
The concerns about Banchero’s lack of athleticism and explosiveness is legit, but we just saw a below average athlete and slow footed big man win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award.
France’s Victor Wembanyama is a special talent that is worth all the hype surrounding his name. I personally think he's the top international NBA prospect since Luka Doncic and should be the top player taken in the 2023 NBA draft. I've seen the Rudy Gobert/Kristaps Porzingis hybrid comparisons, but I believe he could also have some Karl Anthony Towns in his game.
Wembanyama's talent was on full display at the FIBA U19 World Cup this summer where his play on the defensive end alone would make him one of the best prospects in recent memory. Through 7 games he averaged a whopping 5.7 blocks per game.. 5.7! Blessed with a wingspan as long as the lines to get into the Louvre on a summer day, Wembanyama single handedly altered or destroyed opponents games plans and solidified himself as the best prospect in the world.
Do not be surprised if Yannick Nzosa's name is mentioned as a candidate to be selected #1 in the 2022 NBA Draft. Most fans in the states, aren't familiar with the name but they will soon be familiar with his game. I know this sounds crazy, but Nzosa is raw and polished at the same time. He's still fairly new to the game as he just started playing for years ago in the Democratic Republic of the Congo before moving to Italy in 2017 and then Spain in 2019. Nzosa is fits the mold of the modern day NBA center with his coordination, mobility and quickness which allows him to defend in space while being an elite shot blocker.
Serbia is a country with a little under 7M people, but in the past few years, Serbia has been a hotbed for producing NBA prospects. 2021 MVP Nikola Jokic, Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic and last years media darling Oklahoma City rookie Aleksej Pokusevski are all Serbia. Next up is Nikola Jovic a skilled oversized wing that can do a little bit of everything on the basketball court with a game that fits the modern day NBA.
Estonia born Henri Veesaar is one of the best players born in the 2004 generation and has a really good opportunity to be the first player to represent Estonia since Martin Muursepp played in the NBA back in the 96-97 season.
Veesaar projects to be a pick & pop 5 in the NBA. Although he only shot 28% from 3 U18 European challengers, he shot over 41% from 3 in last season through 8 games for Real Madrid in the Adidas Next Generation tournament. He also shot 43% from deep in 2020 at the U 16 Baltic Sea Cup so I'm a believer in his upside as a floor spacer.
Although I believe his main skill set will be as a floor spacer, Veesaar can also get buckets around the rim.
Italy's Gabrielle Procida is a 19 year old 6’7" 215 wing that is one of the top international prospects in the 2022 class after flirting with NBA Draft in 2021.
Procida is an uber confident shooter that is not afraid to let it fly from behind the line.. In his first season as a rotation player in Italy’s top division, he attempted nearly 3 attempts per game from deep in only 15 minutes.
And the results were positive as he connected on 38.8% of his 3 point attempts. Including a very small sample size of only 6 attempts during the 2019-20 season, Procida has shot 39.5% from behind the line in 35 career games.
Spain’s Juan Nunez is ranked as one of the top prospects in Europe born in 2004 largely due to his ability to run a team and his incredible playmaking skills. He's definitely one of my favorite prospects to watch from an entertainment standpoint. If you love passing creativity and flare then you'll love Juan Nunez.
France's Ousmane Dieng is one of the most highly regarded international prospects and became somewhat of a pioneer in Europe by deciding to spend the 2021-22 season in Australia’s NBL with the New Zealand Breakers. Dieng’s name has been buzzing as a potential lottery pick in 2022 due to his size, ball handling and potential as a shot creator which has drawn a lot of comparisons to Paul George.
As of today Hugo Besson is my new favorite prospect in the 2022 draft class. I was sleeping on him all last season but now I am awake and will be driving the Besson bandwagon all season. 3 & D prospects are so valuable in today’s NBA, but they’re boring to watch from a scouting perspective.
Hugo Besson is far from boring and is the total opposite because he gets bucket and buckets in bunches. The 6'3' guard from France is coming off a strong season where he lead the French Pro B in scoring.
Mojave King is a 6’5 wing from New Zealand that projects to be a 3 & D floor spacer and ball mover in the NBA. King will be playing this season for the Adelaide 36ers, a team that has produced two first round draft picks in the last 5 years most notably Josh Giddey who was selected 6th in 2021 by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
There’s a chance King could be the next prospect to transition from Adelaide to the big leagues due to his combination of positional size, athleticism and shooting.
Jean Montero, a 6’2” scoring machine from the Dominican Republic who played the last couple seasons for Gran Canaria in Spain and will be the face of the new Overtime Elite league which will feature highly regarded high school and international prospects.
Montero doesn’t pass the eye test as he’s not an great athlete that wows you with his explosiveness or highlight dunks. But what he lacks in ideal physical tools he makes up for it with his knack for putting the ball in the basket. He’s an impressive scorer that plays with great pace and is a creative shotmaker that slithers through defenses to get to the cup.