The 2022 NBA Draft is just hours away, and the top three seem to be locked among Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga), Jabari Smith (Auburn), and Paolo Banchero (Duke). Some talking heads and experts think it’s a toss-up as to which player will be selected No. 1. I don’t think it’s even close. Holmgren is pulling up the rear in this comparison with Smith and Banchero.
Over the past 24 hours, Banchero jumped into the favorite spot in betting odds to be the No. 1 pick. This comes as a surprise since most of the talk had been about Smith or Holmgren going first until now. Regardless of Banchero’s overnight rise, I’d still be inclined to draft him ahead of Holmgren. Banchero’s game and body are ready to contribute in the NBA immediately. He’s 6'-foot-10, 250 pounds. Wherever he falls, I can see him starting from the opening tip next season.
Holmgren will probably need more development time which he’ll get in Oklahoma City, where he’s largely projected to go at this point. The Thunder have been very successful in the draft over the years and always have multiple picks. So, they’re probably OK with Holmgren not being NBA-ready for a year or two after drafting him. But if they want a quicker bang for their, they’d select Banchero, assuming Smith is the first player taken.
I’m not saying Chet can’t be a good player in the NBA. I just don’t see a star in the making. A nice solid role player feels like what he’ll eventually settle into. Of the three, Smith seems like he’s most likely the future star of this trio.
Of course, where a player lands plays a huge part in how their career turns out. Since the Thunder have four picks in the top 34, whiffing on one wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. But missing on the second overall pick when there’s a better option (or two) available is something not easily forgotten.
None of this is an exact science for anyone. The so-called “can’t miss” guys often become career role players or wash out of the league before their rookie contract expires. Other times we see someone like Giannis Antetokounmpo go on to shock the world in his progression over several years.
One of the more recent comparisons for Holmgren has been to a young Giannis. Not MVP Giannis, but 2013s 15th overall pick of the draft. I see where some might make this comparison as you have two tall, skinny kids with potential and upside. Antetokounmpo claims he’s gained 50 pounds since coming into the association in 2013. It’s not impossible, but I’d like to see if Holmgren can add half the weight Giannis has over his time in the league. It just looks like that will be a tremendous battle for Holmgren.
We saw in the NCAA Tournament that Holmgren’s play felt underwhelming at times as the competition got stronger, tougher, and stepped up a notch. In Gonzaga’s final two tourney games, Holmgren scored a combined 20 points against Memphis and Arkansas. He did grab 23 rebounds in the two games, which is a great sign but whether he can do this consistently in the NBA is open for debate.
Holmgren has a nice skill set, but whoever drafts him will need to spend many hours with this kid in the weight room. He has a nice handle for a 7-footer but isn’t very explosive. So, I just think it’s going to take time for Holmgren to become comfortable with the NBA game, and it’s going to take a patient team (like OKC) that’s fine with him needing two-three years before he’s ready to play significant minutes.