Weekend Update with Coach Spins: Feb. 7, 2022
Chet Holmgren and Jaden Ivey are making pushes for the top pick. Who else is on an upward trajectory?
And just when you think Jabari Smith or Paolo Banchero are breaking away from the pack…
The top of the 2022 NBA Draft class has gotten more interesting. Jabari Smith, thought by many to be the frontrunner due to his shooting, defense and leadership at Auburn to bring them to #1 in the country, only beat lowly Georgia by two on Saturday. Smith finished with 7 points and 6 assists while going 2-7 from the field, a less-than-stellar outing.
Banchero, the other frontrunner in many publications, lead the Blue Devils into Chapel Hill to a 20-point victory over their rivals. Yet he was inefficient (13 points on 5-14 shooting) and was overshadowed by another freshman teammate coming on strong.
Is there room for two others to push them? We believe so, and will start with those two as we dive into our Weekend Update from college basketball games that were:
Chet Holmgren - P, Gonzaga
To call Chet an ‘outsider’ for the top pick discussion seems disingenuous. ESPN’s Mike Schmitz and Jonathan Givony have been high on Chet all season and insist that he’s a top pick. Holmgren hasn’t been lower than second on our own boards. But there’s a notion that, because he isn’t your typical top option creator on offense and is a slender-man wanna-be, he isn’t a guy to truly be in contention at number one.
Chet’s play over the last few weeks should be quieting those skeptics. Over his last five games, Holmgren is averaging 19.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 3.4 blocks and shooting 72% from the field, 61% from 3 and launching 4.6 triples a game.
Those are superhuman stats. To do so with the fluidity and skill level that Holmgren has is impressive. He is so skilled off the bounce, handling in transition, hitting pull-up triples above the break and diming for others. He has a floater game that is blossoming and indicative of touch, a major positive for scouts to note. He makes the simple and effective play, has a positive A:TO on the season and, lest we forget, can dunk without having to jump very high.
He torched BYU over the weekend: 20 points, 17 boards, 6 assists, 5 blocks.
Two questions come up frequently from Chet skeptics: what is he positionally and can he do this against non-WCC competition. To the first, it doesn’t really matter. He’s a damn good basketball player, and what we’ve seen from Evan Mobley’s rookie campaign is that elite defensive-instinct bigs who can do so many different things on offense find their way. Projecting his position is more about which players to pair him with than what traditional label to attach. Similarly to Mobley and the Cavs, Chet will be best next to another mobile big who can guard the interior.
As far as the second question goes, Chet is coming into his own at the right time. But he wasn’t bad by any means against the big teams on their schedule:
vs. UCLA: 15 PTS, 6 REB, 4 BLK, 6-8 FG
vs. Duke: 16 PTS, 7 REB, 3 BLK, 8-13 FG
vs. Alabama: 10 PTS, 11 REB, 2 AST, 4 BLK, 3-5 2FG
The two negative pieces against high-major competition were the poor scoring performances against Texas (2 points) in his second collegiate game and the early-season struggles from deep. Chet is more than balancing the shooting concerns now while still being effective on the interior against great programs. Not much concern on our part. He could easily leapfrog Paolo on our boards, and do so sooner than later.
Jaden Ivey - PG, Purdue
23 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists. 8-12 on the interior. 8 free throw attempts. Only two turnovers. A fantastic day for Jaden Ivey against Michigan on Sunday.
It’s alright to overlook the dud of a shooting performance (0-6 from 3-point range) when the other positive factors are there. First and foremost: the eye-popping athleticism. Open-floor plays, rim attacks where he just outruns his man to the middle of the floor… he’s an elite A1-caliber athlete.
The biggest takeaway against Michigan was the impact Ivey had in playing out of the PNR. Matt Painter went to him multiple times at the start of the second half to create out of ball screens, and Ivey converted pretty much every time. Against Drop coverage, an NBA staple, Ivey played poised and slowed down. He used some hostage dribbles and lean-ins to create contact, flashed impressive handling, and then (my personal favorite) played strong off two feet. He was able to get to a floater, some counters and step-thrus, and make sound decisions each time.
The challenge in evaluating Ivey, the clear top athlete in this 2022 guard class, has been Purdue’s college-based offense that gives him very few consistent PNR reps. The Michigan game was great, as we got to see Ivey in that setting and relished each play he got. Timely passes and very few forces were other positives from the game, and he looked in total control on both ends.
Still, Ivey is a half-step back from breaking into the top-tier with Chet, Paolo and Jabari on our board. Most of that centers on defensive engagement, the mechanics of his pull-up jumper (and his catch-and-shoot, which is a very set shot) and some personality factors that have come up in our research.
A clear top-tier talent, just a few things to unearth or get more comfortable with before cementing his position.
AJ Griffin - ATH, Duke
Recovering from injury after injury, we’ve seen AJ Griffin start to find himself. Over the last five games (all wins for the Dukies), he’s averaging 16.4 PTS and shooting 61% from 3-point range. Those type of performances scare me a tad. He’s getting more volume, but he’s also skyrocketing based on an increase in his makes from deep. Were Griffin, a solid shooter, only at about 38% over that time period, he’d lose three points per game.
Griffin still scares us in a lot of ways outside of the shooting numbers. The form is a bit off: he’s got a wide base, gets very little lift and even looks flat as a jumper off screens (you can see one example in the clips below on a BLOB screen he curls on the baseline). The off-the-dribble shot-making is strong but still a bit flat in teams of leaping; at 6’5”, that’s less than ideal.
In the Carolina game, you can see how Griffin’s major physique and unique strength for his age allows him to finish on the interior. Whenever he drives right and can get someone on his left shoulder, it’s game over. He handles contact so well and stays strong as a finisher.
Griffin is producing and starting to rise up other boards. We’re withholding from an increase in his position. The mechanical flaws in the shot and functional scoring ways are apparent. Griffin is very athletic — strong, solid bounce, shifty in tight spaces. But he doesn’t consistently or functionally play an athletic style of basketball.
The offensive potential is there. In a class like this, we understand the process of propping him up and buying the stock. We just aren’t there yet.
Collin Gillespie - PG, Villanova
Never bet against a competitor.
There aren’t 60 better basketball competitors in this draft class than Cillespie, the fifth-year senior at Villanova who is averaging 17.2 points and 3.0 assists on 46-43-91 splits. He’s a shooter with toughness, a classically-trained Jay Wright guard with post-up skill, flawless footwork and elite IQ.
Gillespie flashed each aspect against UConn, a big win over a tough top-25 opponent, and willed his team to victory.
Is Gillespie draftable? It depends on who is considering the pick. After 40th or 45th, a contender who knows they could use some tough, heady leadership in a 3rd-string point guard would be wise to look his way. If not, we’d suspect Gillespie will be one of the most sought-after UDFAs for Summer League.
Don’t bet against guys like him…
Kofi Cockburn - P, Illinois & Trayce Jackson-Davis - P, Indiana
Sometimes a head-to-head battle is just what you need to evaluate prospects. The box scores can tell the story on who came away ahead, but they often don’t tell enough.
The box numbers from the showdown between Illinoi’s Kofi Cockburn and Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis lean in a clear direction:
Cockburn: 17 PTS, 6-13 FG, 8 REB, 1 BLK, 5-9 FT, 34 min
Jackson-Davis: 6 PTS, 3-9 FG, 6 REB, 3 TO, 23 min
Illinois 74, Indiana 57
Those numbers don’t do justice to the dominance that Cockburn played with on the interior and the confirmation of what we’ve believed for a long time: TJD is not an NBA player.