The Case For And Against Each Top-Four 2022 NBA Draft Prospect At No. 1 Overall

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While some NBA Draft classes arrive with a consensus No. 1 player, the 2022 group instead has a consensus top four. Purdue guard Jaden Ivey, Gonzaga big man Chet Holmgren, Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr., and Duke forward Paolo Banchero could conceivably slot into any order at the top of the class, and each brings a different skillset to the table that could be appetizing for NBA organizations.

As such, the 2022 NBA Draft could bring a bit of chaos in the opening minutes, even with weeks for teams like the Orlando Magic, with the No. 1 overall pick, to get their ducks in a row. In this space, we’ll take a glance at the cases for and against each player when it comes to the top overall selection, broadly acknowledging that beauty is in the eye of the beholder on these prospects to a very significant extent.

Paolo Banchero

The case for

Banchero already possesses an NBA body and he uses it effectively. At 6’10, he is one of the best passers in the entire draft, with hundreds and hundreds of reps as a shot creator for himself and others. He is exceptionally fast from end-to-end for a player with his measurements, and Banchero has polish as a scorer, even against the highest levels of college competition as the focal point of every opposing defense. He is comfortable as a pull-up shooter already, and Banchero has the ceiling of a legitimate No. 1 scorer in the NBA if everything breaks in his direction.

Add that to the physical stature and basketball IQ to be an impact defender and you have a potential star. That appeals to Orlando at No. 1 overall, especially with the Magic lacking that sort of individual force on the current roster.

The case against

Banchero has the size of a small-ball center, but his defense is a work in progress. He will need to solidify many things on that end of the floor and, in the increasingly position-less NBA, it is possible he is a negative defender. Banchero was also only a 33.8 percent three-point shooter at the college level, and to reach his highest ceiling, he will need to be an above-average perimeter shooter. He isn’t a hyper-twitchy athlete either, and Banchero’s projection could be more as a No. 2 or No. 3 guy on offense, rather than as an undisputed No. 1 option. While that wouldn’t be the worst outcome for the Magic, Banchero’s shooting could be an issue alongside the rest of Orlando’s core.

Chet Holmgren

The case for

Holmgren’s overall and advanced numbers at the college level were mind-boggling. He was an utterly dominant rim protector at the college level, preventing opponents from even attempting shots in the paint and rejecting them when they tried. Holmgren is also agile and intelligent as a positional defender, with the ability to function on the perimeter and command a defense. On the other end, he is already a willing passer with the skills to face up from the perimeter, knock down three-pointers, and also put pressure on the rim. His rebounding numbers are also elite, even when playing with another traditional big for almost every minute of his college career. Ultimately, Holmgren is the evolutionary version of the uber-length and defense prospects Orlando tends to enjoy, and he brings an offensive skillset that none of the organization’s previous investments can match.

The case against

If you consume any level of NBA Draft coverage, it is safe to assume that you have heard about Holmgren’s frame. He is projected to weigh less than 200 pounds as a seven-footer, and there are concerns about his ability to stay healthy and handle the physical pounding of stronger, thicker NBA players. That creates some skepticism that he could be a full-time center and, at the 4, his offensive skill package projects to be more ordinary. Holmgren may also have a lower offensive ceiling than his top prospect counterparts, and he is also a bit older than a typical one-and-done prospect. Orlando is already heavily invested in frontcourt options like Wendell Carter Jr. and Jonathan Isaac, with the recent pick of Mo Bamba and a lengthy history of relative misfires looming over this selection. Would they have the stomach to go for yet another big man?

Jaden Ivey

The case for

Ivey is perhaps the best athlete in the entire class and, if viewed through the lens of a lead guard, he brings tremendous size and physicality to the table. In a league that is increasing pushing to the perimeter, Ivey can attack the rim at any point and he is an improved shooter with more room to grow. Defensively, he has the tools needed to become a highly disruptive and productive player, and his athleticism and length project the potential for switchability. For Orlando, Ivey would bring a higher potential offensive ceiling than any player on the roster and, provided his jumper continues to progress, he could fit nicely alongside Jalen Suggs. Ultimately, effective shot creation is at the top of any list of important traits, and Ivey has the ceiling of a legitimate perimeter star.

The case against

While Ivey’s athleticism is undeniable, his size becomes more ordinary if he is not capable of handling lead/point guard duties on a full-time basis. In addition, Ivey does not have the longest track record of success as a shooter, with merely average free throw shooting, a largely barren mid-range game, and a very shaky freshman season from long distance. He also does not have the cleanest shooting form with a set shot, and Ivey is not a transcendent passer when compared to lead creation prospects.

On defense, his potential is real, but it is also theoretical, at least on the ball. He does have intriguing off-ball tape on defense, but there are questions as to whether Ivey can translate his tools into actual production on the defensive side. When it comes to the Magic, the fit might not be the cleanest either, as Orlando does have perimeter shooting questions and the pairing with Suggs is far less snug if Ivey’s mid-range offerings and passing do not improve.

Jabari Smith Jr.

The case for

Smith’s combination of size and shooting is tremendous. At 6’10, he shot 42 percent from three-point range on 7.7 attempts per 40 minutes, and his volume could’ve been higher if not for a lack of guard help at Auburn. He can already create his own shot in the mid-range, and his length makes that shot virtually unguardable, even against NBA competition. Smith is a very smart defender with great size to play both forward spots, and he has the tools to be quite good on that end of the floor. He’s also a willing passer who can make teammates better and fit into any scheme on either end. If he hits, Orlando would be adding a dynamic shooter and a snug forward partner for Franz Wagner that could wreak havoc for years.

The case against

Perhaps the biggest knock against Smith is that he lacks elite athleticism. He is a good athlete, which provides a high floor, but some of his high-end defensive outcomes and shot creation upside could be limited against better competition. At present, Smith is also a pedestrian ball-handler, at least when compared to NBA perimeter creators. That shouldn’t change his ability to shoot over the competition, but if he’s the No. 1 pick, it could be a while before he is getting to the rim with effectiveness and regularity. It is possible to envision Smith simply becoming a very good No. 3 option, rather than a transcendent star, and the Magic are certainly in the market for that star given their lottery luck this season.