The forwards are expected to dominate Thursday’s NBA draft, starting with the trio of Chet Holmgren of Gonzaga, Jabari Smith of Auburn and Paolo Banchero of Duke. They are the standouts of the position and have been widely rated top prospects overall with their size and open floor potential.
Check out the main strikers of the draft:
The nation’s No. 1 recruit lived up to expectations for the Zags as an Associated Press All-American second team.
STRENGTHS: The 7-foot, 195-pound Holmgren has an unusual blend of fluid girth skills with a wingspan of approximately 7-5. He averaged 14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists while shooting 60.7% alongside an AP All-American comeback on Drew Timme.
He hit 39% of his 3-pointers and had 14 games with at least two 3s made, showing the kind of consistency that is sure to get great less mobile players out of the basket. And he has the ball-handling skills to his advantage – just look at his court length, behind his back for a dunk against UCLA as proof – for unique potential for creating shots in such a long frame.
At the other extreme, Holmgren proved to be an elite hoop guard, ranking fourth in Division I with 3.7 blocks per game.
CONCERNS: He needs to get stronger. He struggled at times with physical play and could use the added volume to finish through contact as well.
The 6-10, 220-pound rookie was an AP All-American second-team that helped the Tigers earn their top spot in the rankings.
STRENGTHS: Smith, 19, is a lean forward with the potential to impact both ends of the floor. He averaged 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists with the ability to hit the post or step outside where he hit 42% from 3 points with a quality jumper. He also made 79.9% of his free throws to convert on free kicks. He also averaged 1.0 blocks and 1.1 steals with the versatility to chase multiple positions, making him the second highest potential overall on ESPN.
“I just see myself defending, affecting the win and just doing what a team needs me to do,” Smith said. “Ground spacing, dropping pitches, running on the ground and just showing all the features of my game.
CONCERNS: Smith shot only 42% overall with a heavy reliance on his shot so he could use a little more development with off-drive creation and improve his ball handling (1.9 turnovers per game) for a more relaxed look. easy.
The 6-10, 250-pound rookie was the Blue Devils’ focal point in the Final Four under now-retired Hall of Fame head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
STRENGTHS: 19-year-old Banchero averaged 17.2 points and 7.8 rebounds with strength to fight on the inside and mobility to run around the perimeter. Ranked third in the ESPN draft, the AP third-team All-American was comfortable grabbing a rebound and leading the break. And his skill set has proven particularly effective in being able to overpower smaller defenders, move with less mobility, and score in mid-range with polish.
Banchero said on Friday that he feels “the best player in the draft, I feel like I’ve shown that throughout the year.” Duke associate coach Chris Carrawell said he thinks Banchero should also be No. 1 overall.
“For a non-guard of his size, he can create shots from inside and outside,” Carrawell said. “This is rare.”
CONCERNS: Banchero only hit 33.8% on 3-pointers, although he was better in the NCAA Tournament. He also had stretches where he was able to assert himself and impose his will even more, including the final 7 1/2 minutes of the Final Four’s loss to rivals North Carolina with no baskets and only two shooting attempts. Banchero also needs to improve defensive consistency.
OTHERS TO SEE
— KEEGAN MURRAY: While the Holmgren-Smith-Banchero trio might go 1-2-3, the Iowa and AP All-American first-team forward won’t be far behind. Murray, 6-8, 225 pounds, who turns 22 in August, had a quick rookie average from 7.2 points to 23.5 points and 8.7 rebounds while shooting 55.4% overall and 39 .8% on 3-point shots. This overall development made him ESPN’s No. 5 prospect in a loaded position.
— JEREMY SOCHAN: The 6-9, 230-pound rookie offers defensive versatility and endurance in a developing game. ESPN’s No. 15 prospect in the draft averaged 9.2 points and 6.4 rebounds for Baylor, and turned 19 just last month.
— EJ LIDDELL: The Ohio State junior has a strong frame (6-7, 243 pounds) ready to handle the physical game. The AP third-team All-American averaged 19.4 points and 7.9 rebounds while shooting 49% from the field and 37% from 3-point range. Liddell is ESPN’s No. 20 prospect in the draft.
— JAKE LARAVIA: The 6-8, 227-pound junior made a quick impact at Wake Forest after transferring after two years at Indiana State. He showed versatility averaging 14.6 points and 6.6 rebounds and shooting 38% behind the arc as a potential first-round prospect.
—DOMINICK BARLOW: Barlow, 6-9, 221 pounds, played in the Overtime Elite development program for top prospects who ignore college basketball. He is a possible second-round pick.
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