Point/Counterpoint: At this point in the college basketball season, who should be picked first in the NBA Draft: Chet Holmgren or Paolo Banchero?  

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Duke Blue Devils forward Paolo Banchero (5) shoots during the first half against the Gonzaga Bulldogs at T-Mobile Arena. Photo by Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports.

The college basketball season is back and rolling. With these spectacular set of events, two stars have emerged: Duke forward Paolo Banchero and Gonzaga big man Chet Holmgren. Both players are special and are a part of two powerhouse teams in college basketball. However, even in the early stages of the college basketball season, the question arises as to whether Banchero or Holmgren will be selected with the first pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. How does the recent matchup between the two college stars play a part in their ranking amongst NBA teams? The Daily Campus, represented by Evan Rodriguez and Stratton Stave, will look to argue this question in this week’s edition of point/counterpoint.  

Evan: I will be the first to say that I love watching both of these future stars play. Both of them are easily some of the best talent that college basketball has to offer. With that being said, if the NBA Draft was coming up and I needed to select one of these two for my franchise, the pick for me is Banchero. I think a big part of my decision comes to positions. A 6-10 forward like Banchero who can perform at a top tier level and easily help put a poor NBA team in a better position to win is certainly tempting. Holmgren is excellent, but I feel that you could find great quality centers too by trading up in the NBA draft or looking for other proven options within the NBA. Banchero’s beautiful shooting and rebounding skills are absolutely insane and with an outlook on the current NBA standings, he can have more of an impact in my eyes at the power forward position on the current contenders for the first pick like the Houston Rockets or Detroit Pistons. He has the capabilities to run the small forward position as well with what he’s proven on the court. I also really like Banchero’s ability to play the point forward with his speed and passing ability; that can really work to the advantage of NBA coaches who may want to draw up plays to take advantage of that. He’s an insane player on the offensive end and can definitely develop his defensive game to become top tier under proper NBA coaching. After watching the Duke vs. Gonzaga matchup, where Banchero looked like a man amongst boys with tough finishes and deep three point bombs, I’m inclined to shift toward picking the Duke star. His offensive firepower is too dangerous to ignore and while Holmgren’s defense is absolutely elite to go along with a polished offensive game, I don’t know if that’s enough to pick him up over a player like Banchero. 

Stratton: The thing here is that Chet Holmgren is not just another quality center. The 7-foot-1 “unicorn” is a generational type of talent with a massive array of skill sets. Starting on the offensive end, Holmgren is an extremely efficient three point shooter for his size at 36.8%. His overall field goal shooting is even more efficient, sitting at an eye-popping 71%, which includes games against three different top five teams. Holmgren is scoring a decent 13.8 points per game, but this should increase as he gains a bit more comfort at the college level. The Minnesota product’s PER currently sits at 31.5, which is incredible too. Along with his ability to put the ball into the hoop, he also knows how to find his teammates, collecting 2.5 assists per game. On the other end of the floor, Holmgren knows how to intimidate his opponents, blocking 3.5 shots per game. Everything about Holmgren’s stat-line screams “first overall pick” and he passes the eye-test too. Although he will need to put some muscle on his thin frame, the fact that he looked so good in the top five matchups currently is really encouraging. Not to say that Banchero isn’t great, but Holmgren provides a much more unique look and will be much tougher to guard in the NBA context. There are plenty of guys you could put on Banchero, but Holmgren would provide a different challenge, forcing the defense to choose between giving up threes and easy twos.  

Evan: I wholeheartedly agree with Holmgren being a generational talent. He’s easily dominating his opponents right now and I can’t stray away from what he would bring to any NBA team. However, the NBA game is evolving and so are centers. Centers like Miami Heat all-star Bam Adebayo are now able to guard the perimeter and the paint. Tougher NBA defenders would impact Holmgren’s impact to finish at the rim at a really efficient rate. You may be able to put plenty of guys on Banchero, but there’s certainly plenty of centers who would be able to make it hard for Holmgren as well. While Holmgren is still adjusting to the college competition, Banchero has had no problem scoring the ball heavily at 18.3 points per game, whether that’s against harder competition or not. While Holmgren may still be adjusting to the college game, it’s not encouraging to see that Banchero is out rebounding him 7.6 rebounds to 7.0 rebounds at this point in the year as well. While it will certainly be a tough choice for any NBA team for the first pick, you don’t pass up on Banchero when he can score the ball that effortlessly along with his complementary skills, whether that’s his rebounding or 1.4 steals per game.  

Stratton: Although centers in the NBA are getting better at guarding versatility, Holmgren is just a different breed. He is able to score at all three levels and can handle the ball too. The most notable play that demonstrates this came against then No. 2 UCLA, where Holmgren blocked a shot on one end, grabbed the rebound, took the ball up the court, got past the defender using a behind the back move and flushed it home. Nobody at any level is capable of guarding that. At the number one draft slot, teams are looking for brilliance to dig their franchise out of a hole. Holmgren is much more unique than Banchero and would be easy to build around with his array of tools. Banchero is still a great player, but Holmgren fits much better as someone who will be picked in the top overall slot. 

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