Jabari Smith or Chet Holmgren, Chet Holmgren or Jabari Smith. That’s the question the Orlando Magic, its fans, and even the media are asking themselves right now.
Who to pick with the first overall pick? They’re clearly the best players in 2022 NBA Draft, but who’s better?
Jabari Smith or Chet Holgren?
It’s not about the money. At least, not right now. As we’ve mentioned in our NBA rookie contracts explained article, the first overall pick salary isn’t that high. They can be eligible for max contract extensions based on incentives, but that’s not the issue.
When we’re talking about the first-overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, we talk about generational talents. We need to find guys who could make an immediate impact and turn a franchise’s future around, guys who could one day lead us to an NBA championship and even end up in the Hall of Fame.
That’s what makes the top two prospects in the 2022 NBA Draft class such a matter of debate. On the one hand, we have a can’t-miss kind of guy who looks poised for stardom. On the other, we have a guy who’s dominated at every single level, who’s been in the spotlight, but whose only concern may be enough to pass on him.
So, who’s better: Jabari Smith or Chet Holmgren? And more importantly, who could be better down the road? Who could actually fulfil his potential? Why not both? That and many more questions are keeping GMs up at night as we speak. Here, we’ll try to give you some clarity on the matter, so you’ll be the judge.
Smith is a nearly perfect prospect
Jabari Smith is what scouts dream of at the power forward position. He’s an elite shooter, and by that, I’m talking 40% shooting from beyond the arc on multiple attempts per game. He can spot-up, catch-and-shoot, pick-and-pop. and even pull up off the dribble at 6’10”.
Smith is tailor-made for today’s positionless basketball. He can play small-ball five, both forward spots, and be efficient in nearly every single offensive setting you can think of. Smith is a proficient finisher with both hands and can play above or below the rim with ease.
Moreover, he’s a gifted athlete and a guy whose NBA-ready body gives him a big edge over Holmgren. He has a strong frame, is a foul magnet, and will never shy away from contact. Also, as the elite shooter he is, Smith is a reliable free throw shooter as well.
If that wasn’t enough, Jabari Smith is also a dominant defender, both on and off the ball. He makes great reads and knows when to help, and he can hold his own versus both bigger and quicker players inside and on the perimeter. His lateral quickness and athleticism make him a perennial threat in passing lanes and is even a good shot blocker.
On the downside, Smith is a mediocre passer at best. He struggles at times when he’s forced to put the ball on the floor and could be a better rebounder for his position. The upside, energy, and physical traits are there, but he may never be a reliable ballhandler.
Holmgren is the true unicorn
Chet Holmgren has been viral since his high school days. He’s a 7’1” specimen with a 7’6” wingspan and he’s still growing. But his impact on the court goes way beyond his long arms and legs, as he’s also a brilliant passer with a high IQ who rarely makes the wrong play.
Holmgren has the ball-handling and shooting skills of a guard trapped in Manute Bol‘s body. And just like Bol, he’s also a dominant shot-blocker. And I mean, with the potential of being a historically great rim protector after averaging north of four blocks per game in college.
He knows how to compensate for his lack of speed with big strides and lateral movements and is rarely caught off guard on the perimeter. His sole presence is enough to alter shots and he’ll turn defense into offense right away by grabbing the board and initiating the fast-break on his own.
A 39% shooter from beyond the arc who can pull up over every single player on Earth, make plays for others, finish with both hands, and swat shots into the stands should be a no-brainer first-overall pick every single year. But as intriguing as he is, he doesn’t come without risk.
Holmgren has dominated at every level, but he’s just 195 pounds. That’s five pounds heavier than Stephen Curry, who’s barely 6’3”. So, will he be able to hold his own in the post against NBA big men? And how will his body hold on in the long run? Those concerns are huge and cannot be ignored.
I guess one could make a case for any of these players. They both have the potential of becoming generational talents and could make an immediate impact regardless of where they go. Smith is the safer choice, but Holmgren has the higher upside, so it’ll all depend on the fit and how aggressive GMs will be on their approach.
Truth be told, a GM on the hot seat shouldn’t hesitate to go with Smith. But what if Holmgren turns out to be the video game-style superstar some believe he’s poised to be? Will that be a Hakeem Olajuwon–Michael Jordan scenario? That worked out pretty well for both teams.
The Draft is fast approaching yet teams still have some time to make their decision, and that’s a nice problem to have.