Las Vegas has been the center of the basketball world since Sunday, with team presidents and general managers bouncing back and forth between arenas to evaluate the next wave of NBA players. After a long week of scouting and schmoozing, the large contingent of NBA executives will be treated to the premier evaluation opportunity of the season, and one of the best true head-to-head prospect matchups in recent memory: Duke's Paolo Banchero vs. Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren.
The battle for the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA draft continues Friday at T-Mobile Arena at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. Two of the best programs in the country, featuring the two best NBA prospects in the nation. Banchero and Holmgren are about as different big men prospects as you'll find. Banchero is the more polished of the two. Physical, powerful and skilled with an NBA-ready body and game. Holmgren is lean and lanky, with shot-blocking instincts, 3-point shooting and grab-and-go ability that are staples of the modern NBA.
So what will scouts be looking for? What is the argument for and against either Holmgren or Banchero as the No. 1 pick? Can anyone else challenge them?
What is the case for and against Holmgren as the No. 1 pick?
As we've seen with Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Evan Mobley, today's NBA is about length and skill, and no player in this draft class brings more of those two things to the table relative to his position than Holmgren. With a 7-foot-6 wingspan, a huge standing reach and some of the sharpest shot-blocking instincts you'll see from a 19-year-old, Holmgren is a future NBA Defensive Player of the Year candidate. His timing, reach and compete level have helped him block over six shots per 40 minutes through six games. He's a true defensive anchor who plays much tougher than his paper-thin frame suggests, as he put a lid on the rim and helped shutdown No. 2 UCLA 83-63 on Tuesday. While not quite as quick-footed as Mobley, Holmgren is also more than comfortable stepping out and switching on guards, using his length and high-level feel to deter smalls from either attacking him or pulling up from deep.