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

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

He had no concept concerning the plans of the Orlando Magic, the group choosing first general within the NBA draft that evening. When he came upon, simply minutes earlier than NBA Commissioner Adam Silver referred to as his identify, he could not imagine it.

“This is not even a dream,” Banchero mentioned. “I really feel like it is a fantasy. I dreamed of being within the NBA, however being the No. 1 general decide — that is loopy.”

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

Within the minutes earlier than his identify was referred to as, Banchero sat at a desk on the ground of Barclays Heart displaying no emotion on his face. The magic had been on the clock and phrase started to unfold that Banchero may be their decide. Cameras crowded round him, however he did not outwardly react. Solely when he heard his identify did his expression change.

He lowered his head, regarded 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 decide I used to be picked,” Banchero mentioned. “It simply hit me. I could not cease it.”

In his solely season at Duke, Banchero averaged 17.2 factors, 7.8 rebounds and three.2 assists per recreation 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 identify referred to as first. When Silver referred to as his identify, Holmgren broke out into a large smile, stopping for handshakes and lengthy embraces along with his relations.

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

Holmgren, 20, is a rail-thin, seven-foot-tall middle 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 general in 2021. They every spent one season at Gonzaga.

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

Within the days earlier than the draft, rumors circulated in media studies that Orlando had determined to pick out Smith first general. As Smith waited for his identify to be referred to as, he regarded dissatisfied. When lastly Silver introduced his identify, 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 did not occur, I used to be stunned,” Smith mentioned of the prospect of his being chosen first general. “You realize, all the fellows up for the decide are nice gamers. They carry rather a lot to the desk. It was like I mentioned within the different interviews: It was a coin flip. So when it occurred, you understand, I used to be simply completely satisfied for them, clapped for them and simply ready to get my identify referred to as.”

Smith, 19, spent one season at Auburn after a distinguished highschool basketball profession in Georgia. He performed for a similar Novice Athletic Union group as one other No. 1 decide by the Magic: Dwight Howard. Smith’s father, additionally named Jabari Smith, spent elements of 4 seasons within the NBA 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 recreation at Auburn.

The primary shock of the evening 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 Heart erupted on the announcement.

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

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 recreation throughout his sophomore season.

The Magic gained this yr’s draft lottery after ending the season at 22-60, the worst document within the Jap Convention and the second-worst document within the league. Solely the Houston Rockets, who had the third decide 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 general decide. The Magic drafted Shaquille O’Neal with the primary decide 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 NBA finals look, however no championships for the Magic. Howard additionally led the Magic to at least one remaining 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 general within the NBA 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 decide.

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