Which top NBA Draft prospect has most to gain in NCAA tournament?

Paolo Banchero #5 of the Duke Blue Devils (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Paolo Banchero #5 of the Duke Blue Devils (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Pistons are hoping to land a top-3 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft and the NCAA tournament may end up being a big factor in who they pick.

Three prospects have set themselves apart from the pack, as most scouts and draft experts agree that Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith and Paolo Banchero are the top-3 picks in some order.

You’ll get a lot of argument about which one should go #1, as all have weaknesses to go with undeniable talent.

All three of their teams enter the tournament ranked in the top-10 with Holmgren’s Gonzaga Bulldogs number one, Smith’s Auburn Tigers ranked 8th and Banchero’s Duke Blue Devils just behind them at 9th.

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All three hope to carry their respective teams deep into the NCAA tournament, but who has the most to gain from it in the 2022 NBA Draft?

Detroit Pistons: Players with the most to gain in the NCAA tournament

Chet Holmgren

Right now Holmgren is neck-and-neck with Jabari Smith for who will go #1 in the draft. It will likely just come down to who gets the pick, as there is not a consensus guy.

Holmgren has a lot to gain from this NCAA tournament, as he needs to show that he can play consistently well against elite competition. He hasn’t faced much of it this season and the results have been a mixed bag.

If he puts up huge numbers against good teams, I’d say the overall #1 pick is his to lose. If he struggles against elite competition, some of the fears about his size and the level of competition he’s faced could push him to the bottom of the top three.

Jabari Smith

To me, Jabari Smith has the least to gain from the tournament, as he has already established himself as one of the best pure shooters in the draft. I also think less it expected of his team than Gonzaga or Duke (two perennial Final Four teams), so no one would be super surprised if they exited the tournament early.

Smith has led his team in points and rebounds over the last four games, two of which have been losses, so I expect him to put up huge numbers even if Auburn doesn’t have much team success.

He’s likely going number one or two no matter what happens in the NCAA tournament, as there are fewer questions about his ceiling and floor as an NBA prospect.

Paolo Banchero

Most mock drafts have Banchero going third, so I think he has the most to potentially gain from a strong NCAA tournament.

If Banchero leads Duke to the Final Four and showcases his otherworldly athleticism in the process, it might put some of the concerns about his shooting and defense to rest. He might be the best all-around player of the three, as he doesn’t have a real weakness (nor an elite skill), so if he can put it all together for a deep run, he could leapfrog one or both of Holmgren or Smith, especially if they both struggle.

But I’d also say Banchero is the guy who could drop based on his performance, as Jaden Ivey is right on his heels and could propel himself into that top-3 discussion if he dominates and Banchero falters.

All of the top picks come into the NCAA tournament with something to prove and their performance could end up tipping the Detroit Pistons one way or another if they do end up choosing at the top of the 2022 NBA Draft.

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