How 2022 NBA Draft Phenom Jalen Duren Stacks Up with Holmgren, Banchero

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterDecember 14, 2021

Memphis' Jalen Duren (2) reacts after making a basket in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina Central, Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Karen Pulfer Focht)
Karen Pulfer Focht/Associated Press

When Jalen Duren reclassified and committed to Memphis, NBA lottery teams saw another potential star to draft in 2022.

Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren and Duke's Paolo Banchero have stolen early-season headlines with production and skill flashes that matched preseason hype. Auburn's Jabari Smith has also exceeded expectations, generating top-three buzz and even discussion about being a dark-horse No. 1 overall pick.

So there hasn't been as much noise surrounding Duren, who's averaging 10.4 points and 7.8 rebounds on 65.5 percent shooting through nine games. Four consecutive losses have also led to negative discourse around the Memphis program, including from head coach Penny Hardaway.

However, the analytics say Duren is one of the team's positive-impact players. He's sporting a 6.0 box plus-minus, while high-profile teammate Emoni Bates is at minus-0.6. Both lead Memphis in minutes played.

Still, questions have emerged over the big man's style of play and path to upside, and we've learned enough at this point to make some conclusions about how Duren fits into this draft and the NBA long term.


Comparing Defensive Upside

MEMPHIS, TN - NOVEMBER 19: Jalen Duren #2 of the Memphis Tigers blocks a shot attempt by Jairus Hamilton #3 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers during a game on November 19, 2021 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis defeated Western Kentucky 74-62
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

The closest physical comparison we found for Duren is DeAndre Jordan, who's similarly broad-shouldered and toned with power behind his leaping.

Duren: 6'11", 250 pounds, 7'5" wingspan

DeAndre Jordan (2009 NBA combine): 6'11", 250 pounds, 7'6" wingspan

Defensive upside is the obvious selling point with Duren. He projects as an NBA center, while our projected top-three picks Banchero, Holmgren and Smith will play more power forward.

With more strength for the interior and extra reach, Duren offers far more rim protection than Banchero and Smith, who have a combined 10 blocks in 16 games. Duren has 26 blocks in eight games playing just 23.9 minutes in each. The ability to reach high above the rim, contest without jumping and absorb contact makes him so effective at protecting Memphis' basket.

Duren: 7'5" wingspan, 14.6 block percentage, 2.2 steal percentage

Holmgren: 7'6" wingspan, 14.2 block percentage, 1.0 steal percentage

Smith: 6'11" wingspan, 3.1 block percentage, 3.6 steal percentage

Banchero: 7'1" wingspan, 1.7 block percentage, 2.6 steal percentage

With a similar 7'6" wingspan, Holmgren is putting up comparable shot-blocking numbers. But Duren has 55 pounds on the Gonzaga freshman, making it easier to picture him anchoring an NBA team's paint, while Holmgren figures to be more of a roaming or off-ball shot-blocker.

However, Holmgren processes plays faster than Duren so far. Holmgren is a year older, but his defensive IQ looked special even as a high school junior. Duren has been scored on too easily in the post (opponents are 5-of-6), not showing great anticipation or readiness to react when his man turns over a shoulder.

Results guarding away from the basket have been mixed. Though there haven't been many instances of him being blown by, there have been sequences where he's looked hesitant or confused in pick-and-roll coverage or he's left a shooter open after unnecessarily trying to help or double-team. His defensive talent pops, but not his awareness.

However, he hasn't always needed to make high-level reads to shut down opposing guards. He's appeared mobile enough to stay attached to ball-handlers turning the corner. Just by being around the ball, he makes opposing players work harder.


Offensive Value and Limitations vs. 2022's Skilled Bigs

MEMPHIS, TN - NOVEMBER 19: Jalen Duren #2 of the Memphis Tigers dunks the ball against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers during a game on November 19, 2021 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis defeated Western Kentucky 74-62. (Photo by Joe Murphy/G
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Averaging 5.0 points over Memphis' last four games, Duren has obvious offensive limitations. The question is how much NBA teams should expect one of the draft's youngest prospects to improve, as he just turned 18 years old last month.

His offensive value right now revolves around being a giant finishing target and cleanup man. He has an enormous catch radius around the basket, good for corralling entry passes, lobs or putbacks that are out of opposing bigs' reach. He's shooting 72 percent at the rim.

Still, teammates' missing has led to more scoring chances for Duren than any of his moves or cuts. He has scored more off offensive rebounds (nine FGM) than post-ups, cuts, transitions or rolls, as opponents have had a tough time boxing him out.

Holmgren, Banchero and Smith spend more time operating around the perimeter, so they aren't as active on the offensive glass.

Offensive rebounding percentage

Duren: 11.5 percent

Holmgren: 9.9 percent

Banchero: 3.7 percent

Smith: 3.0 percent

Dating back to high school, Duren has flashed glimpses of post play, and he's 6-of-14 so far. But at this stage, his moves and touch aren't advanced. He also tries hard to avoid his left hand, whether it means using his inside right arm on a hook shot or sneaking to the other side of the rim for a tougher reverse. He relies on a high release point or playing through contact for self-creation. Even at the college level, he doesn't come off as a trustworthy back-to-the-basket option for Memphis.

Otherwise, he's shown no translatable ball-handling or shooting ability, having only taken four half-court jumpers (missed three) and made just 18-of-30 free throws. Fingers cross when he puts the ball on the floor, as he dribbles high and remains prone to charges. He's totaled 20 turnovers to seven assists.

Duren has delivered some quality passes out of double-teams to cutters or the opposite wing and corner, but he's also made bad decisions, casually forcing passes when pressured.

Meanwhile, Holmgren, Banchero and Smith all possess enticing skills for inside-out scoring in today's NBA, and they aren't just flashing them—they're executing with convincing polish and consistency. Banchero ranks in the 80th percentile out of isolation and shoots 41.7 percent off the dribble. Smith is 18-of-41 from three. Holmgren takes defensive boards coast-to-coast, flashes shooting range and ranks in the 93rd percentile on post-ups.

Given how much further away Duren appears offensively, scouts have seemingly dropped him from the elite tier of prospects. It's tough to picture sure-thing star potential tied to a big who doesn't create, shoot or easily play both frontcourt positions.


Where Does He Fit in Draft and NBA?

MEMPHIS, TN - NOVEMBER 9: Jalen Duren #2 of the Memphis Tigers celebrates against the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles on November 9, 2021 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis defeated Tennessee Tech 89-65. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Duren is starting to look like a vulnerable name on draft boards, especially with returning prospects like Purdue's Jaden Ivey and Arizona's Bennedict Mathurin rising. He's certainly behind Holmgren, Banchero and Smith, and unless Duren starts to show signs of improving skill, other prospects will move ahead of him in that next tier.

The draw right now stems from his spectacular physical profile and the easy baskets and rim protection it can offer. The hope has always been for him to become another Bam Adebayo, who's strong and versatile defensively with touch around the key and unique passing skills for an interchangeable big.

However, Duren's current stage of development suggests he's closer to mirroring Andre Drummond, a physical finisher, top rebounder and shot-blocker. Even with that archetype, he's still capable of yielding star-caliber impact, as Drummond has made an All-NBA team and been named an All-Star twice. But there is definitely a narrower path to stardom without a jumper, handles to create or a great feel for the game.

Originally top five on our preseason big boards and mock drafts, Duren now falls into the late-lottery range. Regardless, he should be an appealing fit for a team that starts a stretch 4/5 and needs some interior defense. The Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers look right on paper.


Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports and Sports Reference.