Orlando Magic rookie Paolo Banchero believes the 2022 NBA Draft class has become underrated. He also believes that will just add fuel to the fire of this season’s rookies. That includes himself, Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, Keegan Murray, Jaden Ivey, and the rest.
“I think it’s a great class,” he told Inside The Rockets reporter Coty M. Davis. “People underestimated our draft. I think there are a lot of very great players in this class, and I think we will all continue to prove it.”
So far in the NBA 2K23 Summer League, the new kids in town have been living up to the Orlando Magic rookie’s claim.
Early highlights from the Summer League games have included healthy amounts of rookie flavor. These feature Banchero, Thunder big man Chet Holmgren, Pistons rookies Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren. Even Heat center Nikola Jovic and second-round pick Jaden Hardy have played really well.
Following the game, I asked Paolo Banchero about his first impressions of the 2022 NBA Draft class:
"I think it's a great class. People underestimated our draft. I think there are a lot of very great players in this class, and I think we will all continue to prove it."
— Coty M. Davis (@CotyDavis_24) July 10, 2022
Ahead of the 2022 NBA Draft last June 23, many pundits considered this a top-heavy class. They felt that only three incredibly talented players led the way. Those three were the Magic’s Banchero, the Thunder’s Holmgren, and the Rockets’ Smith.
Paolo Banchero was described as a creative shotmaker who is as skilled in the paint as he is on the wing. Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren was pegged as a seven-footer who was incredibly adept at shooting, dribbling, passing, and defending despite being razor-thin. Auburn’s Jabari Smith, meanwhile, wowed scouts as a player who could routinely make shots that had high degrees of difficulty.
In fact, DraftExpress founder Jonathan Givony said, “All three guys are incredibly talented. This draft has really great players at the top and really good depth, too.”
Still, compared to last year’s draft class, the 2022 cohort initially paled in comparison. The 2021 NBA Draft class, after all, is difficult to beat with four potential franchise players in the top five.
Based on a very early and small sample size, however, the class of 2022 might just be as strong… or even stronger. Each of the top three projected prospects may eventually reach All-NBA caliber. There are impact players who fit the modern NBA’s direction. Additionally, some players seem to have landed in just the perfect spots for their talents to be maximized. This class should produce several veteran NBA players.
Now, while the jury is still out on whether anybody (including the top three) will end up as comparable players to the likes of Kevin Durant, LeBron James, or Steph Curry, there may be a good number of rookies who could have All-Star caliber trajectories along the lines of, say, Draymond Green, Jaylen Brown, and even Bam Adebayo.
Experts do believe this is a much better class than the infamous 2013 Draft class, although even that batch yielded someone you may have heard of — young Greek named Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Milwaukee Bucks drafted Giannis with the 15th pick nine years ago. Of course, he went on to become an NBA champion and a back-to-back MVP. The draft is usually full of surprises, and diamonds in the rough are among them.
So far, aside from the lottery picks turning heads, the 27th overall pick Nikola Jovic and second-rounder Jaden Hardy have also impressed.
"He's a steal 🔥"
2nd round pick Jaden Hardy's impressive Summer League debut with the Mavs: 28 PTS, 4 REB, 3 AST & these highlights pic.twitter.com/Ptyvpm0UfC
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) July 9, 2022
Could this mean that this draft class’s depth has been severely underestimated as Banchero said? That’s possible, but until we have one season’s worth of body of work, anything can still happen.
One thing is for certain, though. Orlando Magic top draft pick Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, and the rest of the 2022 NBA rookies are aiming to exceed expectations. NBA fans all over should soon take notice.