While Paolo Banchero may be a consensus top-three player in the 2022 NBA draft to most, one NBA scout disagrees.
Marc J. Spears of ESPN spoke to one scout who had the Duke star ranked sixth in the 2022 class, he said on the Hoop Collective podcast (25:20 mark).
Here is how the scout broke down his top six players:
- Purdue guard Jaden Ivey
- Auburn forward Jabari Smith
- Gonzaga forward Chet Holmgren
- Wisconsin guard Johnny Davis
- Auburn center Walker Kessler
- Duke forward Paolo Banchero
Most of the names at the top are familiar faces. Holmgren, Ivey and Smith are near-consensus top-five players, and Davis has established himself as a likely top-10 pick. Kessler is the extreme outlier, with ESPN and Sports Illustrated ranking the Auburn center No. 17 in the 2022 class.
While Kessler has emerged as a solid defensive big man for Bruce Pearl after transferring from North Carolina, that lone scout may be the only person on the planet who ranks Kessler over Banchero.
The Duke forward has been stellar throughout his freshman season, averaging 16.7 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists while leading the Blue Devils to a 25-4 record. His effort can wane at times—particularly on the defensive end—but Banchero has an undeniable talent level and arguably has the highest offense ceiling of any player in this class.
The other names on the list ahead of Banchero are justifiable in their own way. Ivey and Davis are attack-first, athletic guards who have made huge strides in their young careers improving their jumpers; it's not hard to see either of them developing into All-Stars in a guard-focused league.
Holmgren has been the projected No. 1 overall pick for much of the draft process, a shot-blocking, three-stroking, break-leading 7-footer who would be leaps and bounds ahead of the competition if it weren't for his 195-pound frame. If Holmgren can add 20 or 30 pounds of muscle without losing his shooting stroke or taking a step back in terms of his lateral quickness, he's a no-brainer selection at the top of this class.
Smith has been rising up draft boards to quickly encroach on Holmgren's standing, thanks in large part to his brilliant two-way play, NBA-ready body and athleticism. There are few freshmen in recent memory who have looked more like a modern NBA prototype at the 4 spot.