Pistons draft: Which top prospect has been most impressive so far?

Purdue Boilermakers guard Jaden Ivey Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Purdue Boilermakers guard Jaden Ivey Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons have been monitoring the NCAA Tournament closely and several of the top prospects have helped their cases as NBA Draft prospects.

On one hand, it is foolish to read too much into just two games, as all of these prospects have larger bodies of work to evaluate.

On the other, seeing players against other elite competition in a do-or-die setting can give us an idea of how they hold up on the big stage and whether they can dominate at the college level when it matters most.

There is a consensus top-4 in the 2022 NBA Draft, though the order is up for debate, so how have the top guys fared so far?

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I think two of them have strengthened their cases, while the other two have shown some weaknesses.

Pistons Draft: How the top prospects have played in the NCAA Tournament so far

Jabari Smith (1-1, eliminated)

After winning their first game, Jabari Smith’s Auburn Tigers were throttled by the University of Miami and eliminated from the NCAA Tournament.

It was a so-so showing for Smith, who had only 10 points, but did add 15 rebounds and four assists. He did go just 1-of-8 from 3-point range, which is somewhat concerning considering that is his biggest strength as a player.

He had problems getting his own shot against Miami, which is probably the biggest knock against him as a prospect. He’ll still go in the top-4 for sure, but I do think his performance exposed some of the problems scouts have with him.

He also showed some intangibles, played hard and still had 15 boards on an off night, so this performance shouldn’t hurt him too much, but I do think it will raise red flags with some.

Chet Holmgren (2-0, Sweet 16)

Holmgren’s Gonzaga Bulldogs were able to get a comeback victory against Memphis to make the Sweet 16 for what seems like the 50th year in a row.

Holmgren had a forgettable night for Gonzaga, scoring just nine points and adding nine boards and four blocks while fouling out of the game.

Some of his weaknesses were exposed by Memphis, who were able to push Holmgren around on the block behind center Jalen Duren, who will also be a lottery pick. This is the concern with Holmgren, though he won’t be asked to defend centers in the NBA and his shot blocking is still effective even when he gets pushed under the rim.

I don’t think he has helped his status so far, but he has also shown he can be an impact player defensively even when his shots aren’t falling.

Jaden Ivey (2-0, Sweet 16)

Ivey has helped himself so far in the NCAA Tournament, as he has his Purdue Boilermakers in the Sweet 16 behind strong play from the electric guard.

They dispatched of the Texas Longhorns with Ivey scoring 18 points and adding three rebounds and three assists. He shot 2-of-4 from 3-point range and 8-of-9 from the free-throw line, which is going to be a strength for him at the next level.

He took over the game at times against Texas and hit some big shots, but most importantly he showed he can get into the paint at will, draw fouls and rack up points at the line, which you love to see from an elite scorer.

He has Donovan Mitchell potential at the next level and may play himself into the top-3 discussion with another strong game or two.

Paolo Banchero (2-0, Sweet 16)

To me, Paolo Banchero has been the most impressive of the top NBA Draft prospects and has put himself in the discussion for the number one pick, especially if the Detroit Pistons get it.

He reminds me of a young Blake Griffin, as he is a big guy who is an elite athlete and can handle the ball like a guard. All of the talk leading up to the tournament was about Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith, but Banchero might have the highest floor of any of them.

He put up 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists in Duke’s win over Michigan State and most importantly, took over the game late, imposing his will and superior athleticism and strength on the Spartans.

Banchero is Cade Cunningham’s favorite prospect and I am starting to come around to the idea that he might be the best player in this draft class.

Banchero and Ivey have stepped up so far and have definitely put scouts on notice that Holmgren and Smith aren’t the only guys who might go number one overall.

Other players who have helped their cases: Johnny Davis from Wisconsin and Bennedict Mathurin from Arizona, who could have played himself into a top-5 pick with his last performance.

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