NEW YORK — After months of speculation, Duke’s Paolo Banchero was a surprise selection by the Orlando Magic with the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft on Thursday night at Barclays Center.
Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren was taken second by the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr. became No. 3 overall for the Houston Rockets.
In the weeks leading up to the draft, Smith was expected to land the No. 1 pick. But the Magic turned things upside down by taking Banchero, who wore a bright purple suit with sequins, along with even brighter shoes, as he took the stage and shook hands with NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
“I had a feeling from the information given to me that it was just up in the air,” Banchero told ESPN, saying he was the first. “Orlando wasn’t really sure yet, and just to be ready for anything.
“I didn’t find out, however, that I was in fact chosen until about 20 seconds before the commissioner came on stage. I didn’t even have time to really think about it or anything. It just happened. II can’t believe it, but I’m ready. I’m ready.
The 6-foot-10 Duke forward averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game in 39 games for the Blue Devils, who reached the Final Four before losing to their lifelong rivals in North Carolina. Banchero, who may be the NBA’s most ready prospect in this draft, will now be seen as the anchor of Orlando’s fledgling rebuild, which includes guards Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony, forwards Franz Wagner and Jonathan Isaac and center Wendell Carter Jr.
While Banchero was a surprise at No. 1, Holmgren still had to go to Oklahoma City with the second pick. A 7-footer from Gonzaga, Holmgren showed a wide range of skill in his lone season in college, averaging 14.1 points on 60% shooting overall and 39% starting. of 3 points while grabbing 9.9 rebounds and blocking 3.7 shots in 26.9 minutes over 32 games.
Oklahoma City, which entered the night with a second lottery selection (12th overall) and with multiple firsts in each of the upcoming drafts, now has an inside anchor to go with its promising young backyard of rising star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Australian Josh Giddey, the sixth overall pick in last year’s draft and a first-team All-Rookie selection.
Smith, a 6-foot-10 soft-shooting forward, averaged 16.9 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting 42 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
After drafting Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Josh Christopher and Usman Garuba in the first round of last year’s draft, the Rockets – who also entered the night with the 17th pick – continued their rebuild after leaving the icon of the James franchise. Harden at the start of the 2021-22 season by selecting Smith.
Rounding out the top five in the draft were Iowa forward Keegan Murray, who went to the Sacramento Kings with the fourth pick, and Purdue guard Jaden Ivey, who the Detroit Pistons drafted fifth overall.
Murray had a stellar second season at Iowa, averaging 23.5 points and 8.7 rebounds while shooting 55.4 percent from the field and 39.8 percent from 3-point range. He will now join a Kings team trying to end a 16-year playoff drought and reorganize around guard De’Aaron Fox and big man Domantas Sabonis under new coach Mike Brown.
Ivey, who has publicly said going to Sacramento won’t be the “worst” thing to happen to him, will team up with last year’s top pick, Cade Cunningham, in the Pistons’ backcourt. Like Murray, Ivey had a stellar second season, averaging 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists at Purdue while displaying jaw-dropping athleticism and speed in straight line.
Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin went sixth to the Indiana Pacers, the Portland Trail Blazers took Kentucky’s Shaedon Sharpe to No. 7 and the G League Ignite’s Dyson Daniels went No. 8 to the New Orleans Pelicans.