NBA Mock Draft


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Two of the top NBA draft prospects, Duke’s Paolo Banchero and Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, square off in a highly-anticipated early-season matchup between the Blue Devils and the Bulldogs on November 26th, 2021 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Chris Carr, Contributing Writer

To me, the weeks leading up to the NBA draft are always one of the most enjoyable and exciting times of the year. The NBA draft is so unique because, unlike other sports, there are only 2 rounds with 60 selections in total. Out of the 60 players selected, each prospect has its own unique background and playstyle. The NBA draft truly features the most diverse group of available players in the pool; from one-and-done college superstars, standouts from overseas leagues, developing young players in the g-league, and even seasoned prospects from smaller colleges in the division two and division three ranks, the draft has a wide variety of skillsets.

This year’s class is no different as these players have displayed their talents all across the world. The annual March Madness tournament to determine the college basketball’s NCAA champion is always a time for draft prospects to display their talents in front of fans, players, coaches, and scouts across the nation. The fallout in the following months determines if a player’s draft stock rose or fell based on their performance in the tournament which leads up to the NBA draft combine and pre-draft workouts a short time after. This time of the year is in full swing and with the draft just a few weeks away, here is a preview of the upcoming selections in my NBA mock draft:

  1. Orlando Magic – Jabari Smith Jr.
    Forward – Auburn
    My Big Board Ranking: 1
    NBA Comparison: Jerami Grant

In my eyes, Smith is the safest pick for the Magic here with the number one pick because of his prototypical NBA size and high motor, especially on defense, but he also possesses the potential to blossom into an all-around star. In other words, Smith has the floor of a solid, versatile 3-and-D player and the ceiling of a true two-way superstar at the next level. Smith possesses an extremely smooth and pure jump shot that allows him to spot up from almost everywhere, spacing the floor as a perimeter threat at all times.

At 6-10, 220lbs, Smith moves extremely well with; without the ball and he is extremely fluid on the court, allowing him to fit perfectly into an NBA offense as a primary scoring option. Overall, he is extremely athletic and skilled for his size, and despite the fact that his team suffered an early exit in the NCAA tournament, Smith continued to prove his worth as one of the best shooters in the country.

On the other side of the ball, Smith’s length and versatility anchor his strong defensive intensity and general feel for the game. There are only a few flaws to Smith’s game, as I believe he needs to be able to improve his shot creation, especially his driving ability and handle, and look to diversify his moves. He also has a tendency to miss wide-open teammates at times, but it is a coachable flaw that I am confident he will be able to solve as he makes his transition to the next level.

While I could go on all day about Smith’s talents on the court, reports have noted that he is a very hard-working and mature player off the court, and he comes from a family of former professional athletes, just what the Magic need. For a team that has been a bottom dweller in the Eastern conference for a prolonged period of time, I believe that they will finally take advantage of their prime draft positioning and take the best prospect available here, a franchise player who will serve as someone to build around for the future. 

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder – Chet Holmgren
    Forward – Gonzaga
    My Big Board Ranking: 4
    NBA Comparison: Kristaps Porzingis

To me, Chet Holmgren is the most intriguing prospect in this draft, simply because we have not seen a player quite like him ever in the NBA. While Holmgren established himself as one of college basketball’s most prolific players, he simultaneously solidified himself as an NBA project in my eyes and his skill set is still very raw. Therefore, I believe it will take him time to adjust to the physicality of the NBA game.

Holmgren is somewhat of a risky pick due to his thin, wiry frame, but he still holds an extremely high upside. Holmgren will need to bulk up and fill out his frame if he wants to defend centers at the next level. My best bet is that he will probably match up with power forwards on defense, which will allow him to create mismatches down low. For his size, Holmgren can handle the ball extremely well and serves as a playmaker for his teammates. He is smooth in transition and can get to the rim with ease, and he has also shown the ability to draw fouls in the post, despite his slight frame. Holmgren has a smooth shooting stroke, which allows him to spot up from almost anywhere and space the floor.

On defense, he also has proven to be one of the best shot-blocking bigs in the nation. To me, Holmgren aligns perfectly with the Thunder, as general manager Sam Presti is known for taking big swings in the draft in recent years. For example, everyone was shocked when the Thunder took a swing on Australia’s Josh Giddey early in the draft last year, and Holmgren seems to fit the build of a prototypical lanky, versatile player who will be a part of their long term rebuild.

Paired with the talented young guards in OKC, Holmgren can be scary in the pick and roll as he can attack defenses from a variety of angles. However, Thunder fans need to remember that he is still raw with a solid build, but the sky is the limit for him as he just needs time to develop

  1. Houston Rockets – Paolo Banchero
    Forward – Duke
    My Big Board Ranking: 3
    NBA Comparison: Julius Randle

Banchero is a highly-regarded, versatile prospect who has a great touch and feel for the game and can score from almost anywhere on the floor. He is one of the best pure scorers in the draft, especially around the basket, where he has an amazing touch. Banchero plays like a scrappy veteran, as he is extremely physical and aggressive and can hang around with some of the best down low. He showed his toughness in the NCAA tournament when he consistently fought for rebounds and second-chance buckets. However, he needs to bring the same energy and intensity at the defensive end in order to develop into a two-way player in the NBA.

Another area of improvement for Banchero is his jump shot, as he is a solid floor spacer, but I believe he needs to put in some more work to be a consistent perimeter threat. Banchero has a nose for the rim at all times, which will allow him to work well with Houston’s young, guard-heavy roster in the pick and roll game. Banchero is a proven winner who shines under the spotlight and has all the tools to become a bonafide superstar at the next level. 

  1. Sacramento Kings – Keegan Murray
    Forward – Iowa
    My Big Board Ranking: 5
    NBA Comparison: Aaron Gordon

From starting off as an unranked player in high school, Keegan Murray has come a long way to develop as one of the most prolific scorers in collegiate basketball while also leading his underdog Iowa Hawkeyes squad to become the Big 10 Conference Champions. Murray has defined himself as a high-motor, high-energy player who finds a variety of ways to score from all across the floor. He is an absolute menace in transition who can sniff out the rim at all times. Like his twin brother Kris, Keegan is a smooth athlete with a reliable jump shot and great driving ability. He is very aware on the court at all times and can space the floor, allowing him to slide in nicely to any NBA offense. Like many other forwards in this year’s draft, Murray is another pure scorer who can play both ends of the floor and his size allows him to operate well as the NBA transitions into more of a positionless league. His freaky athleticism and quick cuts permit him to become a more versatile and selfless player at the NBA level.

On the other end, Murray’s motor and court awareness paired with his experience and high basketball IQ will help him take the next step defensively. Overall, he is one of my favorite and most underrated prospects in this draft. Murray has very few flaws in his game, but one flaw with him as a prospect is his age. He enters this class as one of the oldest players at 22 years of age. However, for a team that is desperate to make the playoffs next year in order to avoid a complete rebuild, I believe he will fight right in on a young, energetic, and competitive Kings roster. 

  1. Detroit Pistons – Jaden Ivey
    Guard – Purdue
    My Big Board Ranking: 2
    NBA Comparison: Donovan Mitchell 

Like his archrival Keegan Murray in the Big 10, Ivey is one of my favorite and most overlooked players in the draft. He is a powerful, ball-dominant guard with dynamic offensive ability who shows flashes of running a successful offense at the next level. Ivey has the capability at the NBA level. He showed his ability in college to lead a team offensively and make the difficult shots, especially late in games. He has a knack for the basket and open teammates at all times. Aside from his playmaking, Ivey is a flat-out scorer who works hard to get to the rim and can beat almost anyone 1-on-1. He is a smooth offensive operator with nice size and the ability to fit into a lot of teams’ offenses as a top scoring option and ball-handler.

In Detroit, Ivey will slide in next to last year’s number one pick Cade Cunningham on a team that is desperate for a leader at the point guard position. Ivey’s defensive ability is there, but he lacks consistent effort. However, I believe his size and intensity will lead him to become more of a two-way player as he translates to the next level to form a dynamic, young backcourt duo in Detroit on a very youthful roster.