The NBA draft will commence tonight and the lives of 60 players will change forever. The guys at the top of the draft and very likely to be selected No. 1 and No. 2 are former Auburn Tigers star Jabari Smith and Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, the slightly built big man by way of Minnesota.
One way or another these two former McDonald’s All-Americans will be taken with the top two picks in the draft by the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Jay Bilas, a well-respected ESPN college basketball analyst, recently talked about the two unique stretch four players during an ESPN draft segment.
Here’s what Bilas says about Holmgren:
“Holmgren is kind of a baby Giannis with the way he plays. You have to sort of get over his body, because you don’t see a lot of his body style in the NBA. At least you haven’t traditionally, but Holmgren is the real deal.”
When you think about Giannis coming into the league, Bilas is spot-on as it pertains to his freakish athleticism and even similar build. But Holmgren is much more polished on both ends of the floor than Giannis was coming in. In fact, Holmgren is already a better range shooter than Giannis is currently, nine years into his NBA career.
— ESPN (@espn) December 22, 2018
Holmgren, who averaged 14 points, ten rebounds, three assists, and four blocks per game in his lone year at Gonzaga, has to get better in the weight room. He’ll need to bulk up a bit so he can really showcase that wide array of skills he possesses. Not many players his size can finish with either hand at a high level, make the three at a 40 percent clip, rebound and start the break and protect the rim. For all intents and purposes, he’s a unicorn.
Holmgren possesses star qualities, now let’s see if he can live up to the hype.
Bilas Says He’d Take Smith No. 1 Overall Though
Auburn’s Jabari Smith has an NBA-ready game, and many believe he’ll be the first name called on Thursday. That list includes Bilas.
“I think it’s a difficult decision. If it were mine, I would take Jabari Smith, but only by a little bit. It’s a hard one,” Bilas said.
.@JayBilas thinks Jabari Smith should be the No. 1 draft pick 👀
"With Jabari Smith you have somebody who compares a little bit to Kevin Durant." pic.twitter.com/IqdsRfFY9O
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 21, 2022
Smith’s abilities start with his great shooting touch. He’s adept at the catch-and-shoot, pick-and-pop, and can create his own shot or for others off the dribble. At 6 feet 10, he can easily raise up and shoot over defenders, and it looks reminiscent of one Kevin Durant. In fact, Bilas likens him to a younger KD in that regard.
“With Jabari Smith, you have someone who compares a little to Kevin Durant. With his ability to shoot the ball. He’s a big-time offensive player, and he can defend multiple positions. He can block shots. He’s not a great offensive rebounder, but as a defensive rebounder he’s productive. I think he’s the No. 1 pick.”
Auburn Forward and future NBA lottery pick Jabari Smith on comparisons of his game to Kevin Durant.
"It makes me feel kinda good about myself." @abc3340 @jabarismithll @KDTrey5 pic.twitter.com/qRI4l74K1h
— Johnny Congdon (@congdonsation) March 19, 2022
In his lone year at Auburn, Smith averaged 17 points, eight rebounds, and two assists per game. He shot nearly 43 percent from three, that number increased to 47 percent on catch-and-shoot triples.
Those are lofty comparisons that bring a ton of expectations these two talented players may never reach. But the belief is both will be very good pro players at the very least.