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2021-22' ACC Conference Preview
Our round table goes over the NBA prospects you should keep an eye on, starting with the ACC
1. Ignore “consensus” boards and Twitter group think. Who is the best NBA prospect in this conference?
Nathan Grubel: Paolo Banchero. While I certainly have questions about Banchero's takeover ability as a shooter, he's the most physically imposing prospect in this conference and arguably in the draft when you combine his speed along with his build and strength. As long as he rebounds the ball effectively, helps anchor the defense along with Mark Williams and doesn't forget how to get to the rim and score inside, he'll strengthen his case to go high in the draft during his time at Duke.
Corey Tulaba: I actually think the consensus boards and Draft Twitter are gonna get this one right. Paolo Banchero is the belle of the ball of the conference...and maybe even the entire 2022 class. At 6’10” 250, dude is just a monster of a man and he’s shown all the signs of the requisite skill a prospect needs to live up to the hype train that will inevitably build over his time spent in Durham.
Tyler Metcalf: It's Paolo. Feels too simple but his overwhelming physical presence combined with perimeter skills will be hard to pass up. He has plenty of room to improve with his shooting and physicality, but if he simply suggests that he's improving in those areas, he'll easily be a top three pick.
Alex (Draft Film School): Not gonna overthink this one, It's Paolo Banchero.
Garbage Time Ghim: Paolo Banchero. I can't wait to see this guy play. Think Anthony Mason if he jumped higher, was several inches taller, and shot the ball better. I know that just sounds like a completely different player, but there are real Mase vibes to his game. He's going to be a menace in transition and I'm excited to see him open some eyes with his passing. I have no feel at all for what type of defender he's going to be but I'm excited to see what Coach K can do with him in his farewell season.
Tyler Rucker: Paolo Banchero. Noticing a popular theme here? The ACC has enjoyed a rich history of talent over the years, but the buzz with Banchero just feels special. He's got an eye-opening combination of quickness and pure power to his game. This Draft class feels like it's going to be a battle between two giants in Chet Holmgren and Banchero. If the 6'10" 250 pound freshman wants to make a case for the first overall selection, he's going to have to show some versatility on the defensive side of the ball and effective decision-making offensively. Buckle up...this one should be fun.
Nick Agar-Johnson: Paolo Banchero. It's very rare that you see a big man prospect with his combination of physical presence and skill on the perimeter, and Banchero is the best prospect in this class in many people's eyes (including mine). His size, shooting, and passing alone will be enough to make him a clear top-tier prospect in this class; if he can show some positives on the defensive end, Paolo could end up locking up the consensus #1 pick status within a couple of months.
Evan Wheeler: I'm with my comrades and the consensus here, Paolo Banchero is the best prospect in the ACC this season and there shouldn't be much push back to that. The Seattle, Washington product is a 6'10", 250-pound dual forward who has a rare combination of shot-making, playmaking, and athleticism. He should be a staple in the 2022 number one pick debate all season long.
2. Admittedly, one of the most satisfying parts of analyzing the draft is being able to look back and say “psh about time you guys took notice of him. I’ve been hyping him up for ages.” Who is the prospect that you are irrationally high on?
Nathan Grubel: Caleb Love. It pained me to leave him off of my 2021 draft board but I'm glad he chose to come back to North Carolina. He'll continue to polish his skills as a passer and distributor while striving to become more efficient as a shooter. If he excels in both areas and flashes some leadership on the defensive end as well, he should be back in contention as a first-round pick and one of the better PG prospects in 2022.
Corey Tulaba: Feels like it might end up being Matthew Cleveland from Florida State. That program has been churning out these high end new age wings like nobody’s business over the last few years and Cleveland may be next up. He’s got real bounce, is going to really pop out on the break, and I expect him to flourish defensively under Leonard Hamilton. He’s not getting a ton of spotlight on the mocks at the moment, but he’s got a shot to generate some buzz early on and see a big time rise in his draft stock.
Tyler Metcalf: Going a little deep with this one, but I'm going to have to say Samuell Williamson from Louisville. The outside shooting hasn't lived up to expectations, but the form is solid and I'm hoping for a meaningful improvement. Despite being a below average athlete, he is a good defender and has a great feel for the game. The shot needs to improve, though.
Alex (Draft Film School): Matthew Cleveland. I'm not sure why he isn't talked about much when 2022 one-and-done prospects are brought up. Cleveland is a monster in transition and fits the mold of past FSU prospects in terms of size & length. I am interested in seeing how he fares in the half-court on offense, but I trust the coaching staff at FSU to showcase his strengths enough for him to gain traction come draft time becoming a first round guy.
Garbage Time Ghim: Isaiah Wong. He's the perfect guy for this question because I can't exactly pin-point why I love him so much. I don't really believe in his shooting, but there's a pace and confidence to his game that I really enjoy. I think he's going to pull his team to some unexpected victories. I really wanted him to come out last year and was surprised when he didn't.
Tyler Rucker: Isaiah Wong. I am always a big believer of seeing the leap from year-to-year when it comes to development and Wong took a monster jump in production from his freshman to sophomore season. After averaging just 7.7 points per game as a freshman, Wong finished last season at 17.1 points per game. There was some buzz building about him keeping his name in the '21 class, but the 6'3" guard is now back for another year with the Hurricanes. He should be putting up huge numbers, and he could heat up if his shooting numbers from deep are promising.
Nick Agar-Johnson: Isaiah Wong. He made a serious leap during his sophomore season at Miami, and could have been a second-round pick last year if he ended up deciding to declare. His defense at the point of attack alone will be enough to intrigue teams at the next level; if he can boost his shooting from beyond the arc (which dipped from 37% as a freshman to 34% last season), he might even sneak into the back end of the first round in a class devoid of elite point guards.
Evan Wheeler: I'm going to go back to the Blue Devils for this answer and pick Jeremy Roach. I haven't seen a ton of buzz about him being a potential first-round talent in this upcoming draft, but I believe he could be one of the most talented passers in the country. With the likes of Banchero, Mark Williams, A.J. Griffin, Trevor Keels, Joey Baker, and Wendell Moore Jr. at his disposal as a playmaker this season, it's hard to not see a path for a rise up draft boards for Roach.
3. Unfortunately, there are two sides to that coin, and they do not have equal probabilities. Which prospect do you like but think has the most likely chance of failing to meet expectations?
Nathan Grubel: AJ Griffin. I may be looked at as ludicrous for including Griffin's name in this section. I did mention him among my top freshman prospects after all in the 2022 draft class. However, his injury concerns cannot be overlooked and if he struggles to get himself in rhythm this year at Duke his stock may tumble out of the lottery which would be a massive disappointment given how much raw talent he possesses. We'll be monitoring his health very closely at No Ceilings.
Corey Tulaba: There’s been a decent amount of Mark Williams buzz building up in the pre-season, and while it may be unfair to say a late first round guy could fail to meet expectations, I wonder how high he can truly climb if we don’t see flashes of a jump shot. With a 7’7” wingspan, he’s a really good shot blocker and rebounder, and as long as he stays injury free those skills will be enough to get him drafted. I expect Willaims to have a good college season, but will the skills he brings to the table be transferable at the NBA level or will we simply talk ourselves into him because of the physical tools?
Tyler Metcalf: Buddy Boeheim. People only considered him a fringe prospect last year because he turned into Duncan Robinson for a few weeks. The expectations will be for him to reproduce that shooting at a similar level all season while also expanding other areas of his game. He's a pass for me.
Alex (Draft Film School): I feel like there aren't high expectations on a ton of ACC prospects aside from the Duke guys so I am also gonna go with A.J. Griffin. This is based solely on health. He will be starting the year rehabbing another injury and I really hope he bounces back and is healthy for a majority of the year but if there is one thing that will hold him back from those top 10 expectations, health is it.
Garbage Time Ghim: I really, REALLY want A J Griffin to succeed. I'm also terrified of the list of injuries that's starting to build up and I'm starting to get some Harry Giles III vibes from him. If he can come back and shine then I'll be ecstatic for him, but things are starting to look a little dicey for him.
Tyler Rucker: Buddy Boeheim. I'm actually going to agree with the other, less cool, Tyler above...I'm not really drinking the Buddy Boeheim kool-aid just yet. It's always an exciting time when a player can go on a serious streak over the course of a tournament run, but that also leaves some overhyping the ability. Could Boeheim have a fantastic year for Syracuse? Absolutely. He's a lethal shooter but there needs to be some versatility when it comes to his shot creation. If he can provide that on a consistent basis, then surely he could become a popular name in a hurry. But I think the hype could need to cool down a bit.
Nick Agar-Johnson: A.J. Griffin. Unfortunately, his name has already come up a few times in this roundtable already, but his early-season injury after 18 months of injury issues is more than a little concerning. Griffin is an incredibly talented prospect and I think that he has a real NBA future if he can overcome these issues; sadly, recent history seems to indicate that he will have real trouble with shaking the injury bug.
Evan Wheeler: I'm with most of the crew here and once again am going to the Duke well for my answer, it's going to be A.J. Griffin sadly for me. I'm a huge fan of the his skillset and even thought he should've been in that number one pick discussion for the 2022 NBA Draft, but the durability issues seem to be a thing. A knee sprain before the season isn't going to help quell those concerns, but I'm hopeful Griffin will be a superstar whenever he hits the court at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
4. The shiny new thing is always the most enticing to go after, but there is always a ton of value in older prospects. Based on their previous college seasons, which returning player are you most excited to watch and has the best NBA potential?
Nathan Grubel: Mark Williams. The Duke center was one of the best defenders in the ACC conference tournament and looked absolutely dominant for stretches protecting the rim and rebounding on both ends of the floor. He's the athletic rim-running big the league is always looking for and if he continues to build out his offensive game away from the basket he could be a massive steal later in the first round.
Corey Tulaba: Caleb Love was truly very bad last year. Utterly inefficient in ways that make Ziaire Williams freshman campaign jealous…BUT…there’s something about Love that still intrigues me. He was a projected borderline lotto guy last year and despite the percentages, showed off a blend of athleticism and smooth versatile shot making that makes for a killer highlight tape. If he comes back in year two as a more disciplined, efficient shot maker, he may pop back up on the draft radar as a potential top 20 guy.
Tyler Metcalf: Isaiah Wong came on late last season and flirted with staying in the draft. I thought the Miami point guard showed a promising command of the offense and think he could have a big year for Miami. Wouldn't surprise me if he is in talks for ACC Player of the Year as we approach the end of the season.
Alex (Draft Film School): Michael Devoe. He has good size for a PG and is just solid in every aspect of the game. While he may not have the star power of his former Montverde teammate, RJ Barrett, I think he can carve out a long time backup PG role in the NBA. A career 40% 3pt shooter on good volume who is a plus defender for his position is always going to useful in the league. He's also a better passer than the 3apg would like you to believe.
Garbage Time Ghim: Buddy Boeheim. This dude went off in the tournament last year, that game he had against San Diego State was pretty unreal. The biggest thing I'm looking forward to with him is if he can keep growing as an off the bounce shooter. He showed some signs last year that I actually enjoyed. If he can keep working on that he'll be a really intriguing draft prospect as more than just a spot-up guy.
Tyler Rucker: Caleb Love. I don't know why but I simply just can't get over the Love Train. After creating some buzz as a potential one-and-done player at North Carolina, it was just simply a tough year for the 6'4" guard. But that isn't a terrible thing, as this could be a perfect bounce-back campaign for Love. The talent is there and I'm intrigued with the tools. If he can hit the ground running, scouts will surely be coming to Raleigh in a hurry.
Nick Agar-Johnson: Mark Williams. He really turned it on towards the end of the season for Duke last year, and he'll be a big piece to their puzzle this year as well. His 7'7" wingspan alone will earn him interest from NBA teams; if he can polish up his offensive game at all and continue to excel on the other end of the floor, he'll be hearing his name called by Adam Silver in the first round on draft night.
Evan Wheeler: I really think Noah Locke is in for a big year at Louisville this season and believe the Florida transfer is a sleeper in this class. He's got good size for the lead guard spot and a silky jumper to add to it. Locke could be the featured option on a good Cardinals team this season and improve his draft stock immensely.
5. Whether it’s Anthony Edwards dropping 37 points against Michigan State or Austin Rivers ripping the heart out of UNC fans or De’Aaron Fox vs. Lonzo Ball, fans are provided with mesmerizing matchups and performances every season. Which matchup, whether team vs. team, player vs. player, or player vs. team, are you most looking forward to?
Nathan Grubel: I'll be paying close attention to both Duke/UNC games this year. Once again Duke is brimming with young talent, but new Tar Heels coach Hubert Davis has the kind of squad to re-ignite the rivalry and entice scouts to pay attention. With returnees like Love, Armando Bacot and Kerwin Walton leading the way for NBA consideration, keep an eye out for freshmen D'Marco Dunn and Dontrez Styles to possibly make some noise on the perimeter.
Corey Tulaba: Vegas baby, Vegas. Banchero vs Holmgren locking up so early in the season is going to be one of the most anticipated matchups of the entire draft process. Two blue chip heavy weights (well metaphorically at least), jockeying for the number one overall spot on a nationally televised broadcast. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Tyler Metcalf: Paolo vs Chet will be a must watch, but I'm really going to be intrigued with the Duke vs UNC matchups, mainly to see if Dawson Garcia is a legitimate NBA prospect. Garcia had a really promising freshman season at Marquette, but didn't regularly face NBA level interior opponents. Seeing how he handles the athleticism, physicality, and skill of Banchero and Mark Williams will be a fun matchup.
Alex (Draft Film School: Duke is the only school in the ACC with two (maybe three) first round prospects and they play Gonzaga early on in the season. While A.J. Griffin will most likely still be out, the matchup still has the potential #1 & #2 picks in the 2022 Draft going up against each other (hopefully guarding each other too). Mark Williams vs Drew Timme (or Chet) should be another fun matchup to watch in this one as well. Must see TV.
Garbage Time Ghim: I just want to watch Syracuse this season. I want to see the Boeheim bros, I want to see if Joe Girard finally tames the streakiness in him and finds some semblance of consistency, and I'm really excited for Benny Williams. I'm want to see Williams inject some athleticism and playmaking into that squad.
Tyler Rucker: VIVA LAS VEGAS. I'll give you two answers just because I'm feeling generous here. First, the obvious. Chet vs Paolo on November 26th is shaping up to be one of the most hyped showdowns between two potential top picks that we've seen in years. Power vs Length. It's literally going to be MUST watch television. But there's a game earlier that week in Las Vegas that will need a little more respect...With all eyes on the Friday showdown between Gonzaga and Duke, don't forget that Gonzaga is going to be facing a motivated and STACKED UCLA team earlier on November 23rd. UCLA has got some serious horses in the stables, and Peyton Watson could make his "official" introduction to the basketball world with a big performance.
Nick Agar-Johnson: Duke vs. Gonzaga on November 26th. The two best big man prospects in college basketball, who in my mind are also the two best draft-eligible prospects, will be facing off as the headliners for two of the top teams in the country who are both loaded with prospects and great players beyond the two headliners. What's not to love?
Evan Wheeler: It has to be the November 26 matchup between Gonzaga and Duke right? As Corey pointed out, Banchero vs. Holmgren in Las Vegas alone sells itself, but add in all the other incredible NBA talent that will be on display and you've got the making of a must-see, box office showdown.