After a rather quiet week along the college basketball front, a couple of things came to my mind. One of the first things I thought about was last year’s college basketball season. It wasn’t a pretty one, but at least it was basketball on a regular schedule. The COVID-19 pandemic seemed to put a damper on all of sports. But having college basketball back in my life was a huge plus. However, then I got to thinking about how Cade Cunningham stayed as the No. 1 prospect throughout the entire year.
There were a couple of times where people in the media would mention Jalen Suggs, or ESPN would show a highlight of Jalen Green in the G-League. However, for the most part it was pretty expected that whoever got the first overall pick was going to take the wing from Oklahoma State and the famed Montverde Academy. That said, when you look at this college basketball season, it’s safe to say no one has really distanced themselves as the clear cut number one. Which, in my opinion, leaves it up for debate.
The case for Chet Holmgren and Paulo Banchero
While a number one pick hasn’t distanced themselves, coming into the season, it sure seemed like the media had hand-picked Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Duke’s Paulo Banchero to lead the way. Granted, they had very good reason.
Holmgren is a 7-foot-1 freshman center from Minnesota that has a chance to be even better than Cleveland Cavaliers phenom Evan Mobley on the defensive end. Don’t worry Cavs fans, Mobley is truly one of a kind, but Holmgren is also a, “once in a generation” type player that will have a much bigger impact on the defensive end than he will on the offensive end. Right away at least. Hell, Mobley’s defensive play has gotten so good, we often miss how well he is improving his all-around offensive game. But I digress.
This season Holmgren is averaging 13.3 points per game, while also snagging 7.4 rebounds per game, and swatting nearly four shots per game. His shooting splits are 66/30/68 percent which are rather impressive for a big man. His three-point shooting has kind of taken a back seat during his early games with Gonzaga, but that should only become better over time. Personally, if I had the first pick in the 2022 NBA Draft I would take Holmgren.
He’s going to be a stud on the defensive end, and after 1-2 years in the league, he could become an offensive weapon at any spot on the floor. I am concerned with his weight, though. If you think Evan Mobley is skinny, wait until you see Holmgren. He will naturally put on weight as he gets older, but the question with him is, how much? He seems like the type of guy that will eat whatever he wants, whenever, yet can’t seem to gain weight. However, with all the programs these universities and professional teams have for body health, it would seem he would find a way to add muscle.
As for Paolo Banchero out of Duke, I am not as high on him. Yes, I hate Duke and I dislike Coach K for his selfish retirement tour, but in all reality Mike Krzyzewski does know how to find players with NBA-ready skills and bodies. That is the mold for freshman wing Paolo Banchero. Standing at 6-foot-10 with a strong frame, he can impact a basketball game from anywhere on the court.
His outside shooting (33 percent this season) could use some improvement, but that will come with time. He’s averaging nearly 18 points a contest while hauling in seven rebounds and two assists per night as well. But, early on he has had a couple issues staying hydrated and on the court.
There have been a few instances this season that Banchero was removed from games because he was simply cramping up and could not continue. I have no doubt Duke will find a way to fix this problem, but for now it’s enough to slot him down ever so slightly in my prospect rankings.