NEW YORK (AP) — The question in the weeks leading up to the NBA draft was whether the top pick would be Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren or Jabari Smith Jr.
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The answer finally came on Thursday night – and even Banchero didn’t know it until moments before the Orlando Magic selection was announced.
“From the information given to me, I felt like it was just up in the air,” Banchero said. “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 took the stage. I didn’t even have time to really think about it or anything. It just happened. I can’t believe it, but I’m ready. I’m ready.”
After leading the Blue Devils to the Final Four in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final season, the 6-foot-10 forward was called up first by NBA commissioner Adam Silver to start the draft, beating his colleagues first-year forwards Smith and Holmgren.
The order had been debated throughout the process, with Smith often seen as the player who would become No.1.
Instead, he wasn’t even second, behind Holmgren in Houston at No. 3.
“Certainly added a chip, but God doesn’t make mistakes, so I’m happy to be here,” Smith said. “I am happy to be where I am wanted. I’m happy to come to Houston and show them, give them what they’ve chosen. Just happy to be here.”
All of the chosen players looked elated, with Banchero among those crying or hunkering down as they hugged friends and family.
Dressed in a purple suit full of bling, he received a loud ovation inside the Barclays Center, where Duke lost in the ACC Tournament Finals. He became the fourth Duke player taken No. 1 since 1966, when the NBA scrapped territorial draft rights, and was followed by Blue Devils teammates Mark Williams (No. 15, Charlotte), AJ Griffin (n #16, Atlanta) and Wendell Moore Jr. (#26, Dallas).
The Magic picked first for the fourth time and they did well with their previous picks. They took on Shaquille O’Neal in 1992, traded Chris Webber for Penny Hardaway the following year and went with Dwight Howard in 2004.
All of them eventually reached the NBA Finals with the Magic.
Holmgren went second to the Oklahoma City Thunder after the 7-footer led the West Coast Conference in blocked shots, rebounds and shooting percentage at Gonzaga. He looked sharp in his black suit, but he might need to eventually be taller to succeed in the NBA, as he weighs just 195 pounds.
He’s not worried about this conversation.
“I wake up every day with a plan to become a better person, a better basketball player,” Holmgren said. “I put so much effort into executing this, that it doesn’t really leave room to put effort into things that, one, I can’t control, and two, it doesn’t help me. to improve.”
The Rockets were happy to find themselves in Smith who has the skills to go higher. The 6-10 Auburn forward is a natural fit in the current NBA game, capable of defending all three frontcourt positions and with a shot that has allowed him to hit 42% from behind the arc.
Forward Keegan Murray, after a huge leap forward in his second season at Iowa, jumped all the way to the No. 4 pick of the Sacramento Kings. The Detroit Pistons, a year after taking Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 pick, have taken on Purdue’s fifth athletic guard, Jaden Ivey.
Before tryouts began, Silver congratulated the Golden State Warriors on their recent NBA championship and reminded fans that their core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green had been built through the draft.
All of the teams at the top of this draft need help and already have recent high picks on their rosters, so hopefully the Warriors method will work for them as well.
Bennedict Mathurin, a Canadian who played in Arizona, went to Indiana with the No. 6 pick. Portland Trail Blazers followed with Kentucky’s Shaedon Sharpe, G League Ignite’s Dyson Daniels picked eighth by New Orleans , Baylor’s Jeremy Sochan stayed in Texas with San Antonio at No. 9 and Washington rounded out the top 10 with Johnny Davis of Wisconsin.
Then the trades began, with the New York Knicks moving picks to amass more. They distributed the rights to No. 11 pick Ousmane Dieng to Oklahoma City for four first-round selections, then used one of them to acquire the rights to No. 13 pick Jalen Duren from Charlotte and sold him with Kemba Walker to Detroit for another one. pick, a person with knowledge of the details told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity as this trade would not become official on Thursday.
Walker spent one season with the Knicks but wasn’t with the team after the All-Star break after battling knee issues.
The Warriors made Patrick Baldwin Jr. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee their pick at No. 28 and the first round ended with Oklahoma City taking Peyton Watson from UCLA and agreeing to trade his rights with Denver.
Notable second-round names included Gonzaga guard Andrew Nembhard (#31, Indiana), Ohio State’s EJ Liddell (#41, New Orleans) and Southern California’s Isaiah Mobley (#49, Cleveland, where his brother Evan plays).
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