With the NCAA's March Madness in full effect, all eyes will be on several collegiate players who will be stepping foot in the NBA in a few months. Who will headline this year's draft class? Who are some of the notable names that could probably be superstars in the future? Is this draft class a special one or a bust? Here's a draft guide consisting of five players to watch out for.
Paolo Banchero (Duke University)
You've probably stumbled upon a highlight or two of Paolo Banchero, currently the best player on the Duke Blue Devils. Banchero is averaging 17.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game this season as he wills his team to the finish line in this year's NCAA tournament. He's a versatile scorer who does his damage best when it comes to inside scoring and playmaking and has a feel for the game that can translate well in the NBA.
However, for as NBA-ready as Banchero is, the 19-year-old still lacks skills as a prime on-ball defender and has an inconsistent jumper. This is something he'll have to improve, but Banchero has already shown shades of some of the skills that strong forwards Chris Webber and Julius Randle possess.
Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga University)
Aside from Banchero, a popular candidate in this year's draft class is Chet Holmgren. A 7'0 big averaging 14.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.6 blocks, and shooting 41.2% from the three-point area. He has the ingredients to fit nicely alongside the big man in today's game who can do it all on both ends of the floor.
Holmgren, who is also vying to lead his team to the Final Four in this year's NCAA tournament, already has the chops to become an elite shot-blocker, interior scorer, perimeter shooting big who masters in off-ball defense. The 20-year-old still needs to build muscle and strength to fit in the NBA, but there's a good chance that he can go No. 1 in this year's draft, especially if the team with the first pick is looking for a versatile big man.
Jabari Smith Jr. (Auburn University)
Despite Auburn University's early exit in this year's March Madness, Jabari Smith Jr. proved that he's ready to join the NBA. The 19-year-old forward averaged 17.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and shot a remarkable 43.6% from the field this season.
NBA teams will likely gamble on Smith Jr. because he was a lethal scorer in college. He can hit perimeter shots from almost everywhere on the court, which is arguably the biggest asset for any player in today's NBA He was also known as one of the most hard-working players in the NCAA.
Just like any other player, Smith has his weaknesses. The future rookie cannot seem to get in the paint consistently and make his shots as of now.
Jaden Ivey (Purdue University)
Dubbed as one of the best scorers in this year's draft class, Jaden Ivey is on pace to lead his university to the final four. He's an athletic 20-year-old who's shown flashes of his dynamic scoring and passing abilities in the perimeter and on the paint. He can score in different ways, whether cutting to the basket, driving in, or from the perimeter. Ivey is currently averaging 17.2 points, 3.0 assists, and is shooting 37% from the three-point area.
The challenge for the 6'4 guard is his attentiveness on defense and passing - especially given that he's projected to be a lead guard.
AJ Griffin (Duke University)
Another standout from Duke University is AJ Griffin, who averaged 10.3 points on 48.3% shooting this season. He plays the forward position (in demand in today's NBA) and is a capable and creative scorer. Griffin a threat when it comes to midrange, perimeter, and off-ball scoring. The 6'6" forward has also developed a defensive identity at a young age and already has certified ball-handling skills.
The biggest problem with Griffin are his injury concerns, as he had to miss two years of high school basketball due to knee and ankle issues. The NBA is a highly different league when it comes to player usage, so his health might bring down his stock.