Houston Rockets’ NBA Draft Meta Big Board Top-5 Prospects: Part 5 #1
The Houston Rockets, since landing the third overall pick, have been most heavily linked with Paolo Banchero. While many mock drafts have Banchero going third, big boards seem to be convinced that he is the best player in the draft.
If you haven't caught parts 1, 2, 3, and 4, that detail Keegan Murray (#5), Jaden Ivey (#4), Chet Holmgren (#3), and Jabari Smith (#2), check the links below.
The Meta Big Board
This is the second year I’ve done a meta big board. The general premise behind the exercise is two-fold. First, I am not an amateur basketball aficionado, and second, it is the belief in the wisdom of the crowd. By taking the work of many experts and aggregating it you can come to a better answer than relying on your own or another’s individual judgment. In essence, this big board aims to stand on the shoulders of giants and call itself tall.
Last season, I aggregated eight different big boards and then averaged each prospect’s ranking. Using the same method as before, but this time with 11 different publications, I once again created a meta big board for the 2022 NBA Draft. In this piece, I’ll take the scouting consensus and provide the statistical profile of each prospect. Unfortunately, no player in the top five of the meta big board did physical measurements at the draft combine.
#1 Paolo Banchero
Paolo Banchero’s ability to be the focal point of an NBA offense makes him the highest-rated prospect in the 2022 NBA Draft. His combination of size, ball-handling, shot creation and passing vision are second to none in this draft. Banchero should walk into the NBA ready to shoulder an impressive offensive load and will be the odds on favorite to win rookie of the year.
The appeal of Banchero is he is a walking mismatch. NBA teams will set screen after screen to try and get a favorable matchup for their most gifted offensive players. As soon as Banchero touches the ball, he will have a size or speed advantage against his man. The ability to beat your man and draw double teams is one of the most valuable skills in the league.
Banchero’s ability to create favorable offensive situations allows his passing and scoring to play up. He was an efficient scorer around the rim and from the left baseline in college, and he should be able to get there routinely at the next level.
While Banchero’s shot creation is lauded, he is far from a flawless prospect. His defense has been criticized routinely, he lacks elite burst, and his 3-point shooting is poor for a player who will be leading an offense.
On defense, Banchero’s effort and attention waxed and waned. While he was able to make up for it by having an NBA body against amateurs, at the next level his physical advantages from college won’t make up for those half-seconds of lethargy. If he’s tasked with piloting an offense, there’s a real chance he never commits enough energy to defense to be a plus on that end. Although, there are enough tools for him to be a solid defensive player.
The lack of burst, for me, is the biggest concern with Banchero. His finishing around the rim was above average for college, but it wasn’t dominant, and he struggled to finish against length, which there will be far more of in the NBA. Banchero will need to develop an advanced below-the-rim package, low-post moves, and/or become a free throw merchant. He’s plenty capable of realizing those goals, but without excellent burst, it puts tremendous pressure on his skill development.
The 3-point shooting is the least of Banchero’s concerns, but it could be what makes him a superstar. The development of a credible stroke from distance could make him unguardable. It’ll give him a weapon against smaller defenders by shooting over them and it’ll force frontcourt players to vacate the paint and give him enough space to blow by and get clean looks at the rim.
Banchero’s statistical profile shows an excellent player, but not a slam-dunk first overall pick. His 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in 33 minutes per game on 52.5% 2-point shooting and 33.8% from 3-point range are fantastic marks for a freshman, but they aren’t overwhelming. His 4.8 free throw attempts per game are also a bit concerning. A player with his physical advantages and skill should have been near the top of college basketball in freebies, but it was merely very good.
In my meta big board, Banchero had an average ranking of 2.0 with a range between first and third. His current offensive advantages and potential are driving his ranking. It’s for this reason that there’s a good chance that he ends up being the best player from this draft, and an even better chance that he’ll end his career with the most impressive basic box score stat line. However, the questions about his defense, 3-point shooting, and efficiency around the rim could see him become a good, but not a great player.