Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, Auburn’s Jabari Smith and Duke’s Paolo Banchero are all among those who could feasibly be taken No. 1 overall when the Orlando Magic go on the clock Thursday.
One former NBA scout believes Purdue standout Jaden Ivey is the best player in the draft.
“I think the guy I would select at No. 1 is Jaden Ivey,” Michael Vandegarde, who worked as a scout for the Philadelphia 76ers for 18 years, told Fox News Digital in a recent interview.
“Jaden Ivey is everything (Memphis Grizzlies guard) Ja Morant is and was at the same age except he’s bigger, longer, and he might even be more athletic and Ja Morant’s a freak. I’m telling you Jaden Ivey… and he shot it much better this year. He dramatically improved every aspect of this game. He’s by far the closest thing I’ve seen to a Russell Westbrook or Ja Morant that I’ve ever seen. I absolutely love him.
“I would consider him at the No. 1 pick, and I’d be excited to take him, obviously in the top five, but if I’m staring at No. 1 I’d absolutely be 100% considering him. And if I had to choose today, I would say Jaden Ivey. If I’m staring at (Nos.) 2 or 3, he might get selected there. It wouldn’t shock me if (the Oklahoma City Thunder) take him at two. I just think no matter where you get (him) you get the chance at absolutely the best player on both ends of the floor, and he’s the most dynamic athlete in this draft bar none.”
Ivey was a consensus second-team All-American and a first-team All-Big Ten Conference in 2022 following his sophomore season with the Boilermakers. He played in 36 games and averaged 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists before deciding to go pro.
Holmgren, Smith and Banchero also had solid careers for their respective schools.
The 7-footer Holmgren was the 2022 West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year averaged 14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game. He’s rated at the top of some mock drafts.
Smith was named the Wayman Tisdale Award winner for being the most outstanding freshman men’s basketball player in 2022. He finished his lone year at Auburn with a 16.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game average.
Banchero was the 2022 ACC Rookie of the Year. He averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game for Duke
Vandegarde added he thought Shaedon Sharpe could develop into a formidable NBA player. He was a five-star shooting guard when he graduated early to play for Kentucky. However, he did not play game for the Wildcats and decided to turn pro.
“There’s some really high-level guys,” he told Fox News Digital. “I’d even go down to Shaedon Sharpe. I’ve seen him for the last three years. He’s a little bit of a wildcard. But I’ll tell you what, when I saw him two years ago and did some scouting on him, he was the closet thing I saw to Kobe Bryant that I’ve seen as a junior in high school. I absolutely love him. (But) there’s some major question marks. We haven’t seen play at the highest level, but I absolutely love that kid.”
As a potential underdog selection, Vandegarde mentioned Caleb Houstan as a potential solid pick later in the first round. He played in 34 games as a freshman at Michigan, averaging 10.1 points and 4 rebounds per game.
“Not an elite athlete,” Vandegarde said of Houstan, “but he was an elite shooter in high school for many years. He didn’t have an elite season maybe at Michigan but sometimes some of these guys that were amazing in high school turned out to be much better players.”
The draft is set to begin at 8 p.m. ET at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the home of the Nets. The draft will be broadcast on ESPN.
While Vandegarde has been out of basketball for a little while, he’s joined the handful of former coaches who have joined CoachTube. The digital platform provides online sports coaching and training from those who were experts in their respective fields.
Vandegarde told Fox News Digital he’s gotten a lot of good feedback from those who use it.
“It’s been wonderful. I think the coaches really like it to get their name out there. Obviously, the world has changed in the last eight to 10 years. You used to have to sell videos at Walmart on the shelves, and now everything’s moved to a digital age and the feedback has been wonderful,” he said.
“I think for somebody that lives in a certain part of the world or even a certain part of the United States, you don’t have access to the gym facilities and elite-level training. And CoachTube, I think, really fits that void.”