NBA Draft: Paolo Banchero Goes No. 1 to Orlando Magic

Paolo Banchero knew Thursday can be a big day, the beginning of his N.B.A. profession.

Earlier within the day, he had heard that the Orlando Magic weren’t positive who they would choose with the primary total choose within the draft that night time. When he came upon, simply minutes earlier than N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver referred to as his title, he couldn’t imagine it.

“This isn’t even a dream,” Banchero mentioned. “I really feel like it is a fantasy. I dreamed of being within the N.B.A., however being the No. 1 total choose — that is loopy.”

The Magic chosen Banchero, a ahead from Duke College, with the highest choose in Thursday’s draft. He’s a 6-foot-10, 250-pound energy ahead, whose mom, Rhonda Smith-Banchero, performed within the W.N.B.A. He was a guard earlier in his basketball profession and performed soccer and basketball at O’Dea Excessive Faculty in Seattle.

Within the minutes earlier than his title was referred to as, Banchero sat at a desk on the ground of Barclays Middle exhibiting no emotion on his face. The Magic had been on the clock and phrase started to unfold that Banchero is perhaps their choose. Cameras crowded round him, however he didn’t outwardly react. Solely when he heard his title did his expression change.

He lowered his head, seemed up and smiled with tears in his eyes.

“I used to be telling everybody I wasn’t going to cry it doesn’t matter what choose I used to be picked,” Banchero mentioned. “It simply hit me. I couldn’t cease it.”

In his solely season at Duke, Banchero averaged 17.2 factors, 7.8 rebounds and three.2 assists per sport and was named the Atlantic Coast Convention’s rookie of the yr.

The picks for the remainder of the highest 5: Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren at No. 2 to the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder, Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. to the Houston Rockets at No. 3, Iowa’s Keegan Murray to the Sacramento Kings at No. 4 and Purdue’s Jaden Ivey to the Detroit Pistons at No. 5.

Three prospects had been thought to have separated themselves on the prime of this yr’s draft: Banchero, Holmgren and Smith.

Holmgren nodded and smirked subtly as he heard Banchero’s title referred to as first. When Silver referred to as his title, Holmgren broke out into a large smile, stopping for handshakes and lengthy embraces along with his members of the family.

“I received a thousand feelings to explain this second,” Holmgren mentioned throughout an interview that was broadcast within the area in Brooklyn. “It’s surreal and all the things I anticipated.”

Holmgren, 20, is a rail-thin, seven-foot-tall heart who grew up in Minneapolis and was named Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball in 2021. He was a highschool teammate of Jalen Suggs, whom the Magic drafted fifth total in 2021. They every spent one season at Gonzaga.

Holmgren led Gonzaga to a 28-4 document and averaged 14.1 factors per sport whereas making 60.7 % of his field-goal makes an attempt. He additionally averaged 9.9 rebounds and three.7 blocks per sport. Gonzaga entered the N.C.A.A. event because the No. 1 total seed, however was upset within the spherical of 16.

Within the days earlier than the draft, rumors circulated in media stories that Orlando had determined to pick out Smith first total. As Smith waited for his title to be referred to as, he seemed disenchanted. When lastly Silver introduced his title, one other prospect, Louisiana State’s Tari Eason, who performed in the identical convention, leaped out of his seat to clap for Smith.

“I do know it was a risk, so when it didn’t occur, I used to be shocked,” Smith mentioned of the prospect of his being chosen first total. “You already know, all the blokes up for the choose are nice gamers. They bring about quite a bit to the desk. It was like I mentioned within the different interviews: It was a coin flip. So when it occurred, you recognize, I used to be simply completely happy for them, clapped for them and simply ready to get my title referred to as.”

Smith, 19, spent one season at Auburn after a distinguished highschool basketball profession in Georgia. He performed for a similar Beginner Athletic Union crew as one other No. 1 choose by the Magic: Dwight Howard. Smith’s father, additionally named Jabari Smith, spent elements of 4 seasons within the N.B.A. within the early 2000s.

Jabari Smith Jr. was named the Southeastern Convention’s freshman of the yr and a second-team all-American this previous season. Smith is a 6-foot-10 energy ahead with the flexibility to shoot from the perimeter. He made 42.9 % of his 3-pointers and averaged 16.9 factors per sport at Auburn.

The primary shock of the night time was the collection of Murray by the Kings at No. 4, given the expectation that Banchero, Holmgren and Smith would go in some order within the prime three. The spectators at Barclays Middle erupted on the announcement.

Murray is the highest-selected Hawkeye in class historical past. The 6-foot-8 ahead earned consensus first-team all-American honors this previous season and completed fourth in Division I scoring with 23.5 factors per sport. He led the Hawkeyes to a 26-10 document and a first-round look within the N.C.A.A. event.

Ivey spent two seasons at Purdue earlier than declaring for the draft. He averaged 17.3 factors, 4.9 rebounds and three.1 assists per sport throughout his sophomore season.

Lengthy after a lot of the 24 gamers within the draft’s inexperienced room had been chosen, Jaden Hardy remained, ready for his flip. Hardy, who performed for the G League Ignite final season, sat along with his household and his agent, Wealthy Paul. He waited by way of the primary spherical and 6 picks into the second spherical earlier than he heard his title.

Silver sometimes broadcasts solely the first-round picks, however earlier than Hardy’s choice, he briefly stopped by Hardy’s desk. As Mark Tatum, the N.B.A.’s deputy commissioner, introduced that Hardy had been chosen thirty seventh total by the Kings, Silver waited offstage and applauded.

The Magic gained this yr’s draft lottery after ending the season at 22-60, the worst document within the Japanese Convention and the second-worst document within the league. Solely the Houston Rockets, who had the third choose on this yr’s draft after a 20-62 season, gained fewer video games than the Magic.

This yr marked the fourth time within the franchise’s historical past that it made the primary total choose. The Magic drafted Shaquille O’Neal with the primary choose in 1992; Chris Webber, whom they instantly traded for Penny Hardaway, in 1993; and Dwight Howard in 2004.

The pairing of Hardaway and O’Neal yielded one N.B.A. finals look, however no championships for the Magic. Howard additionally led the Magic to 1 finals look, in 2009.

Later of their careers, O’Neal and Howard gained championships whereas taking part in for the Los Angeles Lakers — O’Neal in 2000, 2001 and 2002, and Howard in 2020.

Earlier than Banchero, the final Duke participant chosen No. 1 total within the N.B.A. draft was Zion Williamson in 2019. Banchero follows two guards — Anthony Edwards (2020) and Cade Cunningham (2021) — in incomes the excellence of being the highest choose.

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