NBA Draft 2022: Superstars take many paths on their way to the dreams of professionals

by John Fanta
FOX Sports College basketball writer

Jabbari SmithAnd the Chet Holmgren And the Paulo Banchero They’ve been dreaming of this week all their lives.

Yes, draft week has arrived, and on Thursday night in Brooklyn, a few players will see their dreams come true—a chance to be among the nearly 500 people playing in the NBA.

Mark Little breaks the Chet Holmgren game

Mark Little breaks the Chet Holmgren game

Gonzaga coach Mark Vue joined forces with Colin Coerd to discuss Chet Holmgren’s potential in the NBA and compare the league, including his strengths and what makes him stand out in the teams and front offices.

While we know that these three one-time college players are likely to fill three spots on the roster except for a major turn of events, the same goal will be accomplished by players the likes of Dyson Daniels, Jaden Hardy and MarJon of G League Ignite Beauchamp.

Moreover, some of the sophomores in college — I think Wisconsin’s Jonny Davis, Purdue’s Jaden Ivey, Duke’s Mark Williams — would also be in the mix.

the point? Prospects have an increasing number of avenues into the league and the element of name, image and similarity in college sports creates an interesting dimension as well.

Make no mistake: The single college path remains the most popular option, with 21 players selected in that category in the 2021 draft, and 17 prospects selected in 2020. In last year’s draft, 24 of the 30 first-round players dropped out of college. 23 in the previous year.

There are pros and cons to every position.

In the college basketball vs. G League Ignite debate, the dynamic of money available to college players is definitely changing the discussion. A strong college player who may still have room to grow can go back to school, earn $500,000 and – although not a headline – continue to work toward a degree. This is usually the best player on the field every night. Compare that to the G League, where top leads on Ignite face grown men day and night and earn six-figure payouts.

2022 NBA Draft: Which potential stocks are fluctuating?

2022 NBA Draft: Which potential stocks are fluctuating?

Join Mark Titus and Tate Frazier Sam Vicini of The Athletic to discuss why some big names have gone down in the NBA draft while others are rising.

“People aren’t talking enough about what NIL could mean for players participating in non-traditional paths (Ignite or Elite Time extra),” said one scout. “With the big players now being able to make a pay cut by going to college to take these paths, I’d be interested to see what these programs look like in 3-5 years.”

However, G League Ignite has proven that it can work for major clients.

“For the highest percentage of potential college players, the G League Ignite should be considered a viable option in the NBA,” said one scout. “The current climate is solid with the G League Ignite program as it produces talent from the first round. The older veteran members of Ignite also provide professional advice that is unobtainable at the college level.”

After counting two of last year’s top seven picks – Galen Green of the Rockets and Jonathan Cominga of the Warriors – Ignite is set to play a first-round triple on Thursday with Daniels, Hardy and Beauchamp.

So, what do potential customers themselves say about their specific avenues?

“Of course, there are benefits on the court, but off the field, building relationships with coaches and players in college, that goes beyond basketball,” Smith, who would probably be the better choice, said. “It was just how much fun I had in Auburn. You really can’t replace that with going the other ways. Having fun, going to the football games, being with my teammates, those are things you can’t take back and go beyond basketball.”

“College was the best for me,” said Holmgren, who chose to take the Gonzaga route which saw Jalen Suggs and Corey Kispert make the Top 15 last year. “Playing for a coach like Mark Vue, who has been doing it at a high level for so long, I didn’t think I could find anyone better to learn from or play for. He was also so trusting of that tried and true (college) path.”

For potential Top 10 pick Daniels, whose father Ricky played college basketball at North Carolina State prior to his career, evaluating the options led him to take a different path.

“Between college and the G League and the NBL, for me, it has always given me the best path to getting into the NBA,” said Daniels, who averaged 11.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists this past season. “I felt like G League Ignite did the most, with things like nutrition programs and funding. On the ground, you play a 48-minute game, you face the players trying to make it in the league, you have veteran players trying to help you. Everything the G League had to offer It was too good to be rejected.”

There’s also one obvious thing a road like Ignite can offer: You don’t have to go to school.

“It was the best route for me because I was ready to work on my game full time,” Hardy said. “Playing for Ignite means playing against an NBA-level competition, and I feel that helps you in the long run. I think it puts me ahead of players who played in college. I wanted to take on a challenge at the professional level.”

For someone like Ivy, who might be in the top five, spending two years in college gives him an even more unique perspective.

“The college game is a lot different, and there were certain challenges that I had to face over the two years,” said former Perdue Boilermaker and All-American 2nd Team. “These challenges have helped me become the person I am on the court. I try to never be too ahead or never to be on the court, and I feel that applies to life.”

Williams, another duo who played a key role in the Duke race at the Final Four last season, may have summed up the traditional track best.

“A college is a college. You only get this experience once in your life,” Part Seven said. “Being in college, you’ll play in hostile environments and against different styles. And in college, I mean, it’s fun. You travel around the country and play a bunch of different teams. It’s a great experience.”

While the college path is for most people, it will be interesting to see how Ignite develops. Would the next generation talents – players of the caliber of Zion Williamson or LeBron James – choose to head straight into the NBA pipeline?

The program has proven capable of producing talent, with Green relegating the All-NBA Rookie Team after averaging 17.3 points per game, and 19-year-old Kuminga averaging 9.3 points in 70 games with Golden State and becoming the second youngest NBA . champion in the process.

2022 NBA Draft: Real point guards, bears, and dogs

2022 NBA Draft: Real point guards, bears, and dogs

Mark Titus and Tate Frazier team up with Sam Vicini of The Athletic to discuss the lack of real guards in this year’s draft.

Talent will always end up on top, but with NIL impacting the college game financially, it will be interesting to see the results in the coming years.

In this year’s draft, though, the faces of the college world grabbed almost all the headlines.

John Fanta is a National College Basketball announcer and writer for FOX Sports. It covers sports in a variety of capacities, from invoking games on FS1 to serving as the main host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed.


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