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

Paulo Panchero knew Thursday was going to be a special day, the start of his NBA career.

He had no idea the plans of the Orlando Magic, who picked the first overall team in the NBA draft that night. When he found out, just minutes before NBA commissioner Adam Silver was called by his name, he couldn’t believe it.

“This is not a dream,” Banchero said. “I feel like this is a fantasy. I dreamed of being in the NBA, but I was still. One year’s pick – that’s crazy.”

He picked Magic Panchero, a forward from Duke University, with the best pick in Thursday’s draft. He’s a powerful striker at 6 feet 10 and 250 pounds, and his mother, Rhonda Smith Banchero, played for the WNBA.

In the minutes before his name was called, Banchero sat at a table on the floor of the Barclays Center and showed no emotion on his face. The magic was around the clock and word began to spread that Panchiro might be their pick. Cameras crowded around him, but he apparently did not react. Only when he heard his name changed his expression.

He lowered his head and looked up, smiling with tears in his eyes.

“I was telling everyone I wouldn’t cry no matter which option was made,” Banchero said. “It just hit me. I couldn’t stop it.”

In his only season at Duke, Banchero averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game and was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year.

Picks for the rest of the top five: Chet Holmgren of Gonzaga at No. 2 to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Jabari Smith Jr. of Auburn. To the Houston Rockets at No. 3, Keegan Murray from Iowa to the Sacramento Kings at No. No. 4 Jaden Ivey from Purdue to the Detroit Pistons at No. 4 5.

Three prospects are believed to have separated themselves at the top of this year’s draft: Banchero, Holmgren and Smith.

Holmgren nodded and smiled subtly when he heard the name Panchero called first. When Silver called his name, Holmgren broke out with a broad smile, stopping the long handshakes and hugs with his family members.

“I’ve had a thousand emotions to describe this moment,” Holmgren said during an interview broadcast on the plaza in Brooklyn. “It’s surreal and everything I expected.”

Holmgren, 20, is a slim, seven-foot-tall center who grew up in Minneapolis and was named Mr. Minnesota. Basketball in 2021. He was a high school classmate of Galen Suggs, who was drafted by the Magic for fifth in 2021. Both spent one season at Gonzaga.

Holmgren led Gonzaga to 28-4 and averaged 14.1 points per game while making 60.7 percent of field shooters. He also averaged 9.9 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game. Gonzaga entered the NCAA Championship as the No. The top seed in the overall standings, but was upset in the round of 16.

In the days leading up to the draft, rumors circulated in media reports that Orlando had decided to pick Smith first overall. As Smith waited for his name to be called, he seemed frustrated. When Silver finally announced his name, another prospect, Louisiana State’s Tarry Eason, who played in the same conference, jumped from his seat to applaud Smith.

“I know it was a possibility, so when it didn’t happen, I was surprised,” Smith said of the possibility of being picked first overall. “You know, all the selected players are great players. They bring a lot to the table. It was like I said in other interviews: it was a coin engraving. So when that happened, you know, I was just happy for them, and I clapped them and just waited for my name to be called.” “.

Smith, 19, spent one season at Auburn after a prestigious high school basketball career in Georgia. He played for the same IAAF team as another number. 1 Choose From Magic: Dwight Howard. Smith’s father, also named Jabbari Smith, spent parts of four seasons in the NBA in the early 2000s.

Jabbari Smith Jr. was named Best Freshman at the Southeastern Conference and an All-American Second Team last season. Smith is a 6-foot-10 power forward with the ability to shoot from the ocean. He made 42.9 percent of his three-pointers and averaged 16.9 points per game at Auburn.

The surprise of the first night was the selection of Murray by the Kings at No. 4, given that Panchero, Holmgren and Smith are expected to enter some order of the top three. Spectators at the Barclays Center revolted at the announcement.

Murray is the highest-grossing hook-up in the school’s history. The 6-foot-8 forward captured all-American first-team titles last season and finished fourth in the Division I with 23.5 points per game. He led the Hawkeyes to a record 26-10 and first-round appearance at the NCAA Tournament.

Ivy spent two seasons at Purdue before the draft was announced. He averaged 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game during his sophomore season.

The Magic won the Draft Lottery this year after finishing the season at 22-60, the Eastern Conference’s worst record and second worst record in the league. Only the Houston Rockets, who took the third pick in this year’s draft after the 20-62 season, have won fewer games than the Magic.

This year marks the fourth time in franchise history that the first comprehensive selection has been made. The Magic drafted Shaquille O’Neal with the first pick in 1992; Chris Webber, immediately traded to Benny Hardaway, in 1993; and Dwight Howard in 2004.

Hardaway and O’Neal’s pairing resulted in one NBA Finals appearance, but no magic tournament. Howard also led the Magic to one final appearance, in 2009.

Later in their careers, O’Neal and Howard won championships while playing for the Los Angeles Lakers – O’Neal in 2000, 2001 and 2002, and Howard in 2020.

Before Banchero, the last Duke player chose No. The top spot in the NBA draft is Zion Williamson in 2019. Banchero follows two guards – Anthony Edwards (2020) and Kid Cunningham (2021) – in taking home the top pick award.

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