UNITED STATES—The NBA is the biggest basketball league in the world. Players from the US and other countries strive hard to get a shot at making it in the NBA. Players also get to show the world how good they are at basketball. Getting paid handsomely while playing the game you love is one of the best things in the world. This fact is the reason why people pour everything into getting to the NBA.
Although many international players coming into the league isn’t a new thing, the biggest source of fresh talent comes from local US college hoops. NBA teams choose only 60 players to be part of their lineup each year.
Getting drafted, however, isn’t a guarantee that they’ll be playing right off the bat. They have to prove themselves to get into the rotation. With that said, let’s take at this year’s best draft prospects:
Jabari Smith – Auburn
NBA Comparison: Rashard Lewis
The Orlando Magic will have the first pick this season, and they will definitely swipe one of the best, if not the best, 3-point shooter in this year’s draft. A 6’10 power forward from the Auburn Tigers, Jabari Smith shoots at a terrific 42.5% from the three-point line. He also averages 15.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
The Magic will need help from the arc as they are shooting a woeful 34.3% and the fourth-worst in the league. Jabari Smith isn’t a talented rim protector like Holmgren or a shot-creator like Banchero; Smith is an incredible perimeter defender. He also has good footwork for a power forward his size. It’s a tight race for the number one pick; however, team needs matter most at the end of the day.
Chet Holmgren – Gonzaga
NBA Comparison: Kristaps Porzingis
The race for the 1st pick isn’t over as Chet Holmgren can still snatch the top spot from Auburn forward Jabari Smith. As a 7’0 center, Chet Holmgren has the size and athleticism, a good shooting stroke, and tenacious defense. His scoring mainly comes from the paint and running the open court, but he can also hit threes if given a chance.
Chet Holmgren is one of the biggest reasons why Gonzaga is the top team in the country today. March Madness odds favor the Bulldogs to win it this season, a testament to how Holmgren is playing well for the team. Holmgren’s weakness, however, is his lanky frame. Although he isn’t afraid to bang with bigger players down low, he lacks upper and lower body strength.
This weakness could be a problem at Houston as he’ll have an excellent chance to provide quality minutes at the center spot should Christian Wood move back to his natural power forward position. If he can address those weaknesses, Chet Holmgren can establish himself as a Unicorn in the NBA.
Jaden Ivey – Purdue
NBA Comparison: Dejounte Murray
The Detroit Pistons will pick 2nd this year; however, their pick goes to the Oklahoma City Thunder. With that said, Jaden Ivey will have to work hard to move up the rotation as OKC is loaded with guards. He has all the necessary tools and even more when he finally makes it to the pros.
As a 6’4 guard, Jaden Ivey is one of the most athletic and explosive players in this year’s draft. He’s quick to the step and has a long wingspan for a guard. His long arms and strength can be keys to being a good defender on the perimeter. His weakness revolves around his energy as he’s prone to poking balls from opponents, leading to unnecessary fouls. Ivey also has tendencies to be too aggressive on the offensive end.
Paolo Banchero – Duke
NBA Comparison: Julius Randle
The Duke Blue Devils are playing well this year, primarily because of Paolo Banchero and his stellar play. For a power forward standing at 6’10, Banchero provides the size and length to defend opposing players in the paint. Aside from his size, he has good shooting form, body control, and loves to elevate towards the rim.
Averaging 16.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, Paolo Banchero’s game is still young and consistently developing. If he plays well enough, he has a big void to fill in at the power forward position due to Domantas Sabonis’s exit from the team.
Johnny Davis – Wisconsin
NBA Comparison: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
If you’re looking for an all-around shooting guard, look no further than Johnny Davis from Wisconsin. Averaging 20.7 points per game, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game, Davis is one of the most complete players this year. Davis is good at finishing around the rim with both hands. He’s also a crafty slasher who can easily pull up for a midrange j.
Johnny Davis has a good understanding of the game, making him an easy fit for the Pelicans or any team who drafts him. Although projected to be picked 7th overall, Davis still has time to increase his draft stock.
Making it to the NBA is just one part of the journey. To truly experience greatness, a player should have the drive to be one of the world’s best players and win a championship for their team. The five players mentioned above are some of the best players this year.