This year’s draft delivered the perfect blend of instant star power and some intriguing buys that could pay off in the future.
Prospecting is one of the core aspects of being a trading card hobbyist or investor. The dream is to collect the next LeBron or Jordan, or to buy a player now who will develop after a few seasons like Steph Curry. With a new NBA Draft class coming in, we take a look at who has the best chance of being an instant star, as well as the sleepers who can come into their own three or four seasons down the road.
The Top 3
This draft isn’t as loaded as previous years, but the top three picks have a lot of hype surrounding them. Paolo Banchero from Duke, Chet Holmgren from Gonzaga, and Jabari Smith Jr. from Auburn are all listed at 6’10” or taller. Could this be when the hobby gives big men their due? Let’s take a look at the potential of each.
Paulo Banchero (Orlando Magic)
Banchero had the honor of being the first overall selection of the 2022 NBA Draft and is headed to Orlando. He has a fantastic ability to drive to the basket, but has questions around his three-point shooting and defense. While defensive stats doesn’t build hobby value, being fun to watch does. Banchero will look to provide excitement to a franchise that has only two playoff appearances over the last 10 seasons.
The Magic don’t have any true stars at the moment and Paulo has the opportunity to become a quick contributor. Orlando is expected to get both Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac back from injury, which could make for interesting matchups against other teams.
Chet Holmgren (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Chet is a high-risk, high-reward kind of prospect, having garnered comparisons to “slim” prospects such as Kevin Durant. Holmgren stands at 7’0 and can tower over most of the NBA while stretching defenses with his outside shooting ability. Chet signed an NIL deal with Topps while he was at Gonzaga, but no word yet on if he’ll sign an exclusive agreement with them for his pro career.
Even with the early exclusive trading card sets, Holmgren will be seen as a big-man and big men typically don’t hold long-term value when it comes to trading cards. Holmgren will play his rookie season in OKC with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, and other young talent.
Jabari Smith Jr. (Houston Rockets)
The forward from Auburn is a freak athlete who can shoot lights-out from three (he shot over 40% in college). Smith was named an All-American his lone year in college and looks to make a huge splash in the NBA. Originally expected to go to the Magic, Jabari was selected third by Houston, which will expect him to fill the void from Christian Wood’s trade to the Blazers.
Houston will have an interesting dynamic going into next season. Smith will join the likes of Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr., who both have tremendous upside when it comes to value in the hobby. If the Rockets make a run for a playoff spot in a tough Western Conference, don’t be surprised if Smith plays a big role.
The Long Game
Keegan Murray (Sacramento Kings)
There was a lot of talk about teams trading for the Kings’ No. 4 pick, but Sacramento ultimately took the Iowa product. Murray can play either forward position and provides a lot of offensive excitement. Murray shot over 50% at Iowa and looks to be an offensive contributor in the NBA. He could be a low-risk buy early with some upside down the road, especially if he’s the help De’Aaron Fox desperately needs in Sacramento.
Jaden Ivey (Detroit Pistons)
Ivey joins a Pistons backcourt that consists of Cade Cunnigham and Killian Hayes. Hayes has improved but is still adjusting to the NBA game, which means Ivey will get a lot of opportunities early on. The Purdue guard has a game that translates pretty well to hobbyists and investors alike. Ivey is definitely a player to keep an eye on for the coming years.
AJ Griffin (Atlanta Hawks)
The Hawks got a wing with the 16th pick that can possibly win a few three-point competitions. Griffin has the potential to be a Desmond Bane-like player in the NBA, as he shot almost 45% from three at Duke and plays solid defense on the perimeter. Teaming up with Trae Young will get him a lot of opportunities to let it fly from deep.
Nikola Jovic (Miami Heat)
Not to be confused with Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, Nikola Jovic is arguably the most interesting prospect in this year’s NBA Draft. Jovic is 6’10”, can handle the ball, shoot the three, and play down-low. All that is to say South Beach just got a really dynamic player. It may take a while for him to get used to the style of the NBA, but he’ll have great vets to learn from in Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Udonis Haslem.