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Player comparisons are an inevitable part of the NBA Draft conversation, a handy shorthand for communicating a large amount of information about a player’s physical tools, skills, possible NBA role and more.
The problem is the comparisons often miss important information or hone in too closely on some specific connection leaving out others that are potentially more important to fully understanding a player. And that doesn’t even include the lazy comparisons that rely on meaningless factors like where a player is from, their skin color or what college they went to.
For the sake of illustrating how these comparisons can fall short, I’ve collected a few that I found the most questionable from this cycle. I don’t want to call anyone out specifically, so I’m not linking to the sources. But feel free to google them if you’re curious, they’ll all show up.
NBA Draft Prospect comparisons: Paolo Banchero is not Ben Simmons
This one is nonsensical on a variety of levels. Even if you’re confining your understanding of Simmons to who he was as a college player, ignoring his NBA development, the only real connection here is passing ability and size. Both players could function as primary creators with power forward size and length. But Banchero’s offensive skill set is much better suited to actually playing the 4 — facilitating from the elbows, facing-up, leveraging pull-up jumpers and attacking the basket. While he will likely initiate from beyond the 3-point line sometimes, he’s not going to be masquerading as a point guard and bringing the ball up the floor on every possession like Simmons.
And then there is Banchero’s polish as a scorer. He made 44-of-138 3-pointers in his lone college season, Simmons was 1-of-3 from beyond the arc. A similar percentage of their college shot attempts were 2-point jumpers but Banchero made 38.4 percent to Simmons’ 32.9 percent.
The final factor, of course, is defense. Coming out of college Simmons was projected as a strong, versatile defender and he eventually made two All-Defensive First Teams in the NBA. Banchero is projected as a significantly negative defender whose ceiling is much close to average than elite. Again, two big guys who are good passers but the Julius Randle or Blake Griffin comparisons are much more appropriate for Banchero.
Dyson Daniels is not Tyrese Haliburton
The basis of this is big ball-handlers, with versatile, connective offensive games and defensive potential. The difference is that Haliburton was an incredibly accomplished shooter in college, even if there were concerns about how his funky shooting form would transfer to the next level. Haliburton shot 41.9 percent on 3s and 43.4 percent on 2-point jumpers his last season at Iowa State and was particularly strong on pull-ups. Between the G League Showcase and the G League Ignite Tour, Daniels shot 30 percent from beyond the arc and 47.3 on 2-point jumpers, although he attempted just 19 shots across 29 games.
Daniels is a very talented player with tremendous upside. But he’s a long way away from being the polished multi-level shooter Haliburton has been in his first two seasons in the NBA.
Ousmane Dieng is not Brandon Ingram
This one has to be based on their physical characteristics because there’s nothing else to work from here. Nearly 40 percent of Ingram’s shot attempts as a freshman at Duke were 3-pointers and he made 41.0 percent. The bulk of his appeal as a prospect was his length and shooting touch, even drawing Kevin Durant comparisons which were (arguably) less absurd than the comparison to Dieng.
Dieng, for his part, shot 27.3 percent on more than four 3-point attempts per game last season in Australia’s NBL. In his three seasons of play for Centre Federal Du Basket-Ball, Dieng hit 30.1 percent of 335 3-point attempts. Nearly every profile of his highlights his potential as an enormous ball-handler on the wing, but with significant questions about his jumper. He is not the next Brandon Ingram.
Johnny Davis is not Manu Ginobili
This one is confusing on a number of levels. Is the comparison to Ginobili as a young player in Argentina? As a mid-30s veteran on the San Antonio Spurs? I suppose I can see the connection in that they have similar frames and a propensity for similarly aggressive play, summoning positive plays out of chaos. And Ginobili wasn’t exactly a dead-eye 3-point shooter before he arrived in the NBA. But if anyone is looking at Davis and expecting to find a sixth man who shoots 36.9 percent from beyond the arc, assists on nearly a quarter of his team’s baskets when he’s on the floor and can act as a primary creator for large stretches, I think they’re going to be disappointed.
Chet Holmgren is not Dirk Nowitzki
At the surface, this looks incredibly lazy — pairing two big white guys who could shoot. But it’s worth remembering that at the beginning of his career, Nowitzki was a much more mobile offensive player who did a lot more work in the open court. But this comparison is still dramatically underselling Holmgren’s mobility, ball-handling, fluidity and passing ability in the open court.
Oh, and also, Holmgren is an elite shot-blocker whose defensive upside may be as least as high as his offensive ceiling. There are shades of Dirk in Holmgren’s game, and vice versa, but this comparison misses a whole lot of the most meaningful aspects of each player.
Other NBA stories:
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