The debate surrounding who will become the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA draft is growing louder -- and the pool of potential candidates is growing deeper. Since the day the 2021-22 college basketball season tipped off on Nov. 9, much of the conversation has been centered around Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren and Duke's Paolo Banchero, talk that only intensified when the duo performed well in a head-to-head meeting in Las Vegas on Nov. 26.
But a third talented freshman prospect has entered the chat, and it's 6-foot-10, 220-pound power forward Jabari Smith of Auburn, who has powered the Tigers to the No. 1 overall seed in Joe Lunardi's latest NCAA tournament Bracketology projection, and whose popularity among NBA talent evaluators has increased since the start of the season. What are the skills that have allowed Smith (15.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG entering Saturday's meeting with No. 12 Kentucky) to become a candidate for the No. 1 pick? Which potential NBA lottery teams might be in the market for a player of Smith's distinctive skill set? Who is Smith's comp at the next level, what's his ceiling and what's his floor? NBA draft experts Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz considered all of these questions ahead of Saturday's matchup: