We're still closer on the calendar to the 2021 NBA Draft than we are to the 2022 NBA Draft, but it's never too soon to peek ahead. So with the college hoops season a week away, we're taking advantage of the milestone with a first look at our NBA Draft prospect rankings for the current cycle.
Our top 30 features two former five-star freshmen at the top led by Duke forward Paolo Banchero in the No. 1 spot and Gonzaga big man Chet Holmgren at No. 2. Banchero is one of four Duke newbies to make our rankings and one of two -- along with A.J. Griffin -- to rank in our top 10.
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Holmgren is the only Gonzaga prospect to crack our initial rankings but he is not the only center in the class that enters the season high on draft boards. In fact, he is one of two centers in our top five -- along with Memphis big man Jalen Duren -- and one of four centers to have first-round grades from us with the season looming.
The rest of our rankings are below. The order is bound to shift as the season rolls along and we get more film on this class, especially with the limited scouting opportunities we've had from this crop, but you can find our preseason rankings with a quick little scroll below.
Parrish and Norlander give their picks on the Final Four, championship game and who will win it all. The guys then dive into this year's crop of tournament sleepers, as well as some of the teams that might not make the tournament at all! The episode closes with Norlander giving a dozen regular season and tournament predictions for this upcoming year.
Why Banchero is No. 1
Duke may have its fifth No. 1 pick in program history with Paolo Banchero. He's a dynamite freshman talent with a 6-foot-10 frame who is in line to step in as one of the most electric talents in college hoops from day one. Banchero's size, skill level and versatility on both ends is ultimately what gives him the nod on our rankings. He has a rare ability from his position and with his size to put the ball on the floor and create as a jumbo-sized playmaker with shooting ability from anywhere on the court to boot. He's not the no-doubt-about-it No. 1 talent in this class in the same way I viewed Cade Cunningham last cycle, but he profiles as one of the safest bets inside the top-five of this class.
Holmgren a contender to unseat Banchero
With a 7-foot frame and the skill set of a big guard who can also defend the rim at an elite level, the word "unique" appropriately applies to Holmgren. He's a one-of-a-kind player who can create his own offense, shoot it from anywhere and serve as the last line of defense on the other end because of his timing and talents as a shot-blocker. And he's got a special spunk about his game, too, with the moxie of someone who is both good and knows he is good.
247Sports analyst Brandon Jenkins put it this way:
"Holmgren is as unique of a prospect as there has ever been in the national recruiting database era. . . He is one of the most versatile players in the senior class and while he fills the stat sheet in multiple categories and is extremely productive, his upside is still immense. He impacts the game in so many areas and plays with a huge chip on his shoulder. Even though his defense is ahead of his offense, he has elite ball skills on the perimeter as he can handle and shoot the basketball like a combo guard. Holmgren has the potential to be a generational talent with his unreal long-term tools. Eight months in a college weight training program will serve him well. His upside is clearly in his body as he needs to add weight and get stronger."
G League Ignite talent impressive again
Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga were top-10 picks earlier this year after one-and-done seasons with the G League Ignite program. Now, the team is set to produce another impressive draft haul this year with a potential No. 1 pick in Jaden Hardy and a potential lottery pick in Dyson Daniels -- both combo guards who have great size and scoring ability. Hardy's the blue-chipper here whose flash on offense matches up with anyone in this class but don't overlook Daniels' ability as a point guard to emerge in this class. His size and versatility will make him a star with the G League Ignite. With those two leading the way and Michael Foster, MarJon Beauchamp and Fanbo Zeng also in the fold, this should again be a great showcase year for the upstart program entering its second full season.
2022 NBA Draft Big Board
|3||Jaden Hardy||G League Ignite||SG|| ||6-4|
|10||Yannick Nzosa||Congo||C|| ||6-11|
|11||Patrick Baldwin Jr.||Milwaukee||PF||Fr.||6-9|
|14||Roko Prkacin||Cibona||PF|| ||6-9|
|18||Jean Montero||Overtime Elite||SG|| ||6-2|
|19||Dyson Daniels||G League Ignite||SG|| ||6-6|
|22||Nikola Jovic||Mega Basket (Serbia)||SF|| ||6-10|
|24||Matthew Cleveland||Florida State||SG||Fr.||6-7|
|26||Marcus Bagley||Arizona State||SF||So.||6-8|
|28||Ousmane Dieng||NBL||SF|| ||6-9|
|29||Max Christie||Michigan State||SG||Fr.||6-5|