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A Case For Why These Prospects Deserve to be the 2022 No. 1 Overall NBA Draft Pick

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

Jaden Ivey

The template that Ivey plays within has proven to be ultra-effective in the NBA. Fast, slick, and explosive guards – which certainly describes the 6-foot-4 Ivey – have fared well the last 15 years or so, starting with Dwyane Wade in the mid to late 2000s, then Derrick Rose in the early 2010s, followed by Russell Westbrook the remainder of the decade, and now Ja Morant. The undeniable concern when it comes to players who rely on their speed, athleticism and basket-attacking persistence is health. The prime years for Wade and Rose didn’t last too long and Morant, while an ascending superstar, has had some injuries early in his career, including a bruised knee that cost him the final three games of Memphis’ playoff series against Golden State. 

Jabari Smith Jr.

Is Smith more Rashard Lewis/Jaren Jackson Jr. or Kevin Durant/Kevin Garnett? Obviously, if he’s anything close to the latter pair, then it goes without saying that he’s No. 1 pick material. But if Lewis and Jackson are better comps, then it’s debatable. Regardless of point of view, the 6-foot-10 Smith is a lethal shooter from anywhere beyond 15 feet and a tenacious perimeter defender. Being able to shoot over pretty much any defender with his touch is a major plus. It remains to be seen if he will be able to generate his own offense at the next level, though. He’s not a great ball handler, and he rarely attacked the basket in college. 

Chet Holmgren

Holmgren is the most polarizing prospect in this draft. Some believe he will do things other 7-footers can only dream of doing (such as dribbling around traffic, defending in space, and knocking down threes off the bounce), while others are concerned his thin frame will make it difficult for him to mix it up with the big boys at the next level. Regardless of what side you are on, Holmgren may have the highest ceiling in this draft. It’s just not every day you find someone at his height that can literally do a little bit of everything (protect the basket, switch out onto the perimeter and stay at least semi connected to ball handlers, score inside, score outside, and handle the ball in transition). 

Shaedon Sharpe

Believers in Sharpe will point to his unique blend of athleticism and finesse on the offensive end. Critics, meanwhile, are leery because right now it’s all just speculation. Nobody truly knows which of his skills will translate in the pros. Every player that’s ever appeared in an NBA game dominated in high school. Most, however, don’t reach superstar status. With that said, the 6-foot-6 Sharpe is super intriguing because he moves around the court a bit like Jalen Green, jumps out of the building like Zach LaVine, and possesses a 7-foot wingspan, which could make him a switchable defender. 

Paolo Banchero

Banchero might be the safest pick in this draft. His floor seems very high, as he can score and pass with the best of them at 6-foot-10, 250 pounds. But is his ceiling compared to the other top prospects in this draft slightly lower? While he shouldn’t have any issues getting shots up in the pros because of his slick movements (has a smooth spin move) and power (can back down defenders and outmuscle them), it remains to be seen if he will be efficient enough to be a No. 1 scoring option in the pros. What’s also blurry are his defensive capabilities. He wasn’t a poor defender at Duke, but he does lack lateral quickness and isn’t much of a rim protector. 

Others to think about

Keegan Murray: He can score down low, make threes, push the tempo, and defend the perimeter. He’s only 6-foot-8, though, which will make it tough for him to have his way in the post on both ends. He’ll also be 22 years old by the time next season starts.

Jeremy Sochan: It seems like every day he moves up a spot or two on mock draft boards. With the ability to guard all five positions, he may very well be the best defender in this class. 

Johnny Davis: He moves around the court like Devin Booker and C.J. McCollum and is a pitbull on defense. It’s going to come down to his shooting touch. Is he a high volume, low efficient scorer, or a walking bucket? 

Bennedict Mathurin: It’s unusual for a wing to be a great 3-point shooter and be super explosive. But that describes Mathurin, one of the most improved college sophomores this past season. 

AJ Griffin: He may very well be this draft’s best 3-point shooter. He had a two-month stretch this past season at Duke in which he shot over 50 percent from downtown (finished at 44.7 percent). 

Jalen Duren: The Dwight Howard comp makes a lot of sense. Duren is so incredibly physically advanced for his age (doesn’t turn 19 until November). If it was 2002, rather than 2022, he’d likely be the first pick in the draft. 

Malaki Branham: Something clicked with him in early February. He went from being just an average college player to one of the best in the country seemingly overnight. Even though Ohio State lost the game, he scored 23 points in the NCAA Tournament against hard-nosed Villanova. That’s not easy to do. 

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