Smith, Holmgren, Bunchero are the best forwards in the NBA draft | Basketball

AARON BIRD, AP basketball columnist

The forwards are expected to dominate Thursday’s NBA draft, starting with a trio of Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, Auburn’s Jabari Smith and Duke’s Paolo Banchero. They are the headliners in this position and are widely regarded as the most promising overall due to their size and outdoor venue potential.

Here’s a look at the best hitters in the draft:

Rookie number 1 in the country lived up to expectations for the Zags as an Associated Press All-American second team.

STRENGTHS: Holmgren is 7 feet tall and weighs 195 pounds. has an unusual combination of agile perimeter skills with approximately 7-5 wingspans.. He averaged 14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists while shooting 60.7% along with a returning AP All-American in Drew Timm.

He made 39% of his three-pointers and made 14 games, at least two of which he made three-pointers, showing a consistency that is sure to get less mobile players out of the basket. And he has ball handling skills to use – just look at his court length, back dunk against UCLA as evidence – for the unique range on such a long frame.

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On the other hand, Holmgren proved to be an elite rim guard, finishing fourth in Division I with 3.7 blocks per game.

PROBLEMS: He needs to get stronger. At times, he had problems with physical play and could use the extra mass to finish through contact.

The 6–10-pound, 220-pound freshman was the second AP All-American team to help the Tigers to a No. 1 spot in the rankings.

STRENGTHS: Smith, 19, is a long-range striker. with the possibility of hitting both ends of the floor. He averaged 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists. with the ability to play in post or go beyond it, where he shot 42% from three-point range with a quality jump. He also made 79.9% of his free throws on foul play. He also averaged 1.0 blocks and 1.1 steals with the versatility to chase multiple positions, making him ESPN’s No. 2 prospect.

“I just see myself defending, influencing the win and just doing whatever the team wants me to do,” Smith said. “Floor smashing, knockdowns, floor running and just showing off all the assets in my game.

PROBLEMS: Smith was only shooting 42% overall, relying heavily on his jump shot, so he needs a bit more development, creating out of drive and improving his ball play (1.9 revs per game) for an easier look.

The 6–10-pound, 250-pound freshman was the focus of the Blue Devils in the Final Four under now-retired Hall of Famer coach Mike Krzyzewski.

STRENGTHS: 19-year-old Banchero averaged 17.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per the strength to fight inside and the mobility to roam the perimeter. ESPN’s third overall pick, the AP Third Team All-American was comfortable catching the rebound and leading the breakaway. And his skill set proved especially effective in being able to take down smaller defenders, get past the less mobile big players, and score brilliantly from mid-range.

On Friday, Banchero said he feels like “the best player in the draft, I feel like I’ve shown that all year.” Duke’s assistant head coach Chris Carrowell said he thought Banchero should also be number one overall.

“For a non-guard of this size, he can create strikes from the inside as well as from the outside,” Carrowell said. “It is a rarity”.

PROBLEMS: Banchero shot only 33.8% of three-pointers, although he was better in the NCAA tournament. He also had stretch marks when he could assert himself and impose his will even moreincluding last 7 1/2 minutes losing the Final Four to North Carolina no baskets and only two shot attempts. Banquero should also improve defensive consistency.

— Keegan Murray: While the Holmgren-Smith-Bunchero trio can go 1-2-3, the Iowa forward and first-team AP All-American won’t be far behind. 6-8, 225-pound Murray, who turns 22 in August, rose quickly from 7.2 points as a freshman to 23.5 points and 8.7 rebounds on 55.4% shooting overall and 39.8% on 3-pointers. This is a comprehensive development made him ESPN’s 5th prospect at the loaded position.

– JEREMY SOCHAN: 6-9, 230 lb freshman offers defensive versatility and durability in the development game. The 15th pick in the ESPN draft averaged 9.2 points and 6.4 rebounds for Baylor and just turned 19 last month.

— EJ LIDDELL: The junior from Ohio State has a solid build (6-7, 243 lbs) ready to handle physical play. The AP All-American Third Team averaged 19.4 points and 7.9 rebounds. when shooting 49% from the field and 37% from three-point range. Liddell is 20th overall in the ESPN draft.

– JAKE LARAVIA: The 6-8, 227-pound junior made a quick impression at Wake Forest after moving to the next two years at Indiana State. He showed versatility, averaging 14.6 points and 6.6 rebounds and shooting 38% from behind the arc as a potential first-round prospect.

– DOMINIC BARLOW: 6-9, 221-pound Barlow played for the Overtime Elite development program for prospective players who do not play college basketball. He’s a potential second round pick.

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