NBA Draft 2022: Pro comparisons for Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith and other top prospects

NBA Draft 2022: Pro comparisons for Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith and other top prospects

Jaden Ivey is Ja Morant. Chet Holmgren is a more polished Rudy Gobert. Paolo Banchero is Chris Webber.

OK, so maybe player comparisons for 2022 NBA Draft prospects don’t totally fit nice and tidily. That’s because pro comps are hard, bordering on impossible. For every ah, yeah, I can see that it evokes, there are several wait, that’s crazy because . . . 

So instead of taking comps, which (spoiler alert, I’m doing today!) at face value, I ask only that you consider pulling bits and pieces of each of the player’s game and projecting it on to prospects. Jaden Ivey is clearly not Ja Morant – no one is. But they’re both lead guards with C-4 athletic explosiveness. Chet Holmgren is not Rudy Gobert, and while it’s wild to even mention the two given Gobert’s dominance on D as a three-time NBA  Defensive Player of the Year, the former has the latter’s upside on defense with more versatility as a scorer on offense. And finally: no. Paolo Banchero is not Chris Webber. But the Duke product has the polish and promise of a young C-Webb.

Catch my drift?

I’ll explain each comp for all top 10 prospects on the newly updated  Top 100 CBS Sports Big Board as we go along. Keep an open mind and know that, in most cases, these comps are aspirational. If they hit their ceiling, they might be as good as their comp. Think of this more as an exercise to help highlight the finer points of the player’s games.

OK, let’s dive right into these. The order below is the order in which I rank them on my own personal Big Board. You can find my latest rankings of the top 100 prospects ranked here.

1. Jaden Ivey | SG | Purdue

Pro comp: Ja Morant (minus the passing vision)

The explosive athletic ability is more or less where the comparison between Ivey and Morant end. Morant’s a far superior passer and playmaker. He is a better decision-maker. His handle is tighter and crisper. This much is not in dispute.

The way Ivey pressures the rim is, however, reminiscent of a young Morant. With his speed he can blow by defenders — screen or no screen. Once he turns the turbo on he can just flat breeze by whoever is in front of him. Morant uses his handles, change of direction and smarts to manipulate defenders and pressure the rim; Ivey can unleash some combination of that but often times is gathering a hand off and immediately attacking.

Ivey’s shown some passing promise as well, which is where he most needs to improve and consistently perform to reach his All-Star potential. 

2. Chet Holmgren | C | Gonzaga

Pro comp: Kristaps Porzingis

When you’re a 7-footer, the list of players to compare with is pretty small. But in Holmgren I do see some Porzingis. Both have some shake off the dribble and creation ability. Both are clearly gifted scorers for their position with range beyond the 3-point line. Holmgren, though, does a much better job of covering ground on defense and is an elite rim-protector. Porzingis has been a steady deterrent throughout his career and a good shot-blocker, but Holmgren was in college — and might be in the NBA — one of the very best at that.

3. Paolo Banchero | PF | Duke

Pro comp: Ben Simmons

Defensively, Simmons is a monster — and Banchero is not (yet).

Offensively, Banchero is a monster — and Simmons probably won’t ever be (though his passing is elite).

The similarities between the two lie solely in their advanced ability to pass at their size. Banchero grew up a guard before hitting a growth spurt just before high school. He carried those skills with him as he grew to 6-foot-10. It allows him to grab boards and run the break like a big guard and to make high-level passing reads. You can run your offense through him. Duke did this frequently by feeding him at the elbow and allowing him to process the defense. His vision isn’t quite at the level Simmons is and probably won’t ever get there, but his mid-range game and above-average playmaking at 6-10 gives him a distinct advantage on offense.

Want more analysis of the top prospects in the NBA Draft? Listen below and subscribe to the Eye on College Basketball podcast where we take a deep dive on the top players heading to the next level.

4. Jabari Smith Jr. | PF | Auburn

Pro comp: Michael Porter Jr.

Porter’s shooting ability at 6-10 got him drafted in the lottery despite some clear injury concerns after an injury-riddled one-and-done season at Missouri. Smith’s potential No. 1 pick in this class for that same reason. He shot 42% from 3-point range and was in the 94th percentile among all college players as a spot-up shooter, according to Synergy data. They both have much more to their games than spot-up shooters — Smith, for instance, has a ton of defensive potential — but their sharpshooting and positional size are two of the very best prospect-wise the last few years.

5. Shaedon Sharpe | SG | Kentucky

Pro comp: Andrew Wiggins

Both long and athletic wings, Sharpe and Wiggins also share one thing in common: they were once the No. 1 recruit in their respective classes. (Sharpe reclassified and lost that badge, alas.) 

Their athleticism is pretty close to similar, too. Wiggins’ vertical leap is well over 40 inches — reportedly 44 inches — while Sharpe’s may be closer to 50.

Sharpe, however, has to this point in his career been more of an alpha. He’s an aggressive scorer. He’s a tough-shot maker. Wiggins’ lack of aggressiveness — especially as a former No. 1 pick — is a knock that’s stuck with him, even though he’s carved out a nice career for himself and found a great home with the Warriors.

Sharpe has superstar potential which makes him, even after not playing in college, one of the five most intriguing long-term prospects in this year’s class. 

6. AJ Griffin | SF | Duke

Pro comp: Harrison Barnes

I don’t love this comp — but I realized I don’t really like any comp for him. He’s a very unique prospect. One of the best shooters in the draft, physically well-developed, mature, high character. Kind of hard to find someone who profiles the way he does. 

Barnes is my closest guess. Another big wing who is a quality outside shooter and has some wiggle off the bounce as well. I contend Griffin has more athleticism and potential to be a playmaker than Barnes has been, but it’s hard to say definitively because we didn’t see that at Duke near as much as we did when he was a high school prospect. 

7. Keegan Murray | PF | Iowa

Pro comp: Jerami Grant

Skilled, polished, unique — use any positive adjective you want and you can describe the offensive firepower of both Grant and Murray. Murray led the Big Ten in scoring last season as a sophomore while hitting nearly 40% from 3-point range, emerging as a versatile defender and showcasing a little of everything on offense that should make him among the most NBA-ready prospects in this draft class. Grant at his advanced age has developed a smidge more in terms of creating and handling, and he’s more of a 3 while Murray is more of a 4, but Murray absolutely can add to his bag as he develops during his pro career. 

8. TyTy Washington Jr. | PG | Kentucky

Pro comp: Cole Anthony

While Washington doesn’t have the explosive blow-by-you-off-the-dribble ability of fellow former Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey, he does have some striking similarities to his game. Both love to attack in the mid-range, both have great touch on floaters — neither necessarily project as true lead guards.

That profile probably more aptly compares to former UNC (and current Magic) guard Anthony. Below-the-rim athletes who can fill it up as a scorer. Not suited to be true lead guards but can share the role, and perhaps well. I’m more bullish on Washington’s ability to potentially inherit that type of role than I am of Anthony, but even if he doesn’t we’re still talking about a very valuable modern-day combo guard.

9. Ousmane Dieng | SG | G League Ignite 

 Pro comp: Kyle Anderson

Anderson — AKA Slow Mo — gets a feature here with a comp to one of my favorite prospects in Dieng, who comes via the NBL and the New Zealand Breakers. Dieng, like Anderson, is a long, fluid athlete who wins not with his speed but with his long strides, smarts and skill. 

Dieng over the last few months has emerged as a potential top-10 pick because of the combination of his size (6-10) combined with his athleticism and off-the-dribble ability. He has star potential if he can turn his production into better efficiency and mature his frame to hold up well in the NBA.

10. Dyson Daniels | SG | G League Ignite

Pro comp: Spencer Dinwiddie

A lot of comps are a bit forced but this one feels like it has some legs to it. Daniels is an elite perimeter defender — maybe one of the best in the class — which is in line with Dinwiddie’s game since he’s been a very good defender from the guard spot. Both Dinwiddie and Daniels also have some very real passing and playmaking ability, though neither I don’t think are quite cut out to be primary initiators. 

Daniels, actually, I could see starting his career as a wing and second-side creator before growing into more. He has some really creative passing and vision he deployed with G League Ignite that to me makes me think there’s some untapped potential for him in a combo guard role. He’ll have to mature and develop his game as a shooter to stick, but his defense and passing are two quality skills that could help him have a long NBA career. 


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