As NBA teams finalize their boards ahead of Thursday night’s NBA Draft, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the order of the top three picks is “increasingly firm,” with Jabari Smith Auburn Jr. going to the Orlando Magic at No. 1, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren to the Oklahoma City Thunder at No. 2 and Duke’s Paolo Banchero to the Houston Rockets at No. 3.
The 6-foot-10 Smith trained with the Magic earlier this month and was the consensus betting favorite to be selected No. 1 on Wednesday night. Magic President Jeff Weltman said Monday the organization is still undecided on its draft plan, saying “it’s still early in the process.”
Smith admitted he was “nervous” ahead of his practice with the Magic, but said it was “fun to come out here and push myself and get through it”.
Smith, 19, averaged 16.9 points and 7.4 rebounds in his lone season at Auburn, shooting 43% from the field and 42% from 3-point range. Against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 against Auburn, Smith averaged 20.8 points and 6.4 rebounds.
The 7-footer Holmgren also met with the Magic last week and praised the franchise, saying the organization is run by “great people.”
This is the fourth time Orlando will make the No. 1 pick. The Magic took Shaquille O’Neal with the top pick in 1992. Chris Webber was Orlando’s No. 1 pick in 1993, and he was traded on the same night against Penny Hardaway and a set of future picks who eventually turned into Vince Carter. and, later, Mike Miller. And in 2004, the Magic selected Dwight Howard with the first pick.
The No. 1 pick on Thursday will join a young core in Orlando that already includes 2017 No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz, a pair of top-eight picks in the 2021 Draft in Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs, and Cole Anthony – the No. 15 in the 2020 draft.
Banchero, who helped lead Duke to the Final Four in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final season, passed Smith to emerge Thursday morning as the consensus betting favorite for the No. 1 pick, before the sports betting remove ratings from their tables.
Smith’s odds had improved to -275 on Wednesday before being passed by Banchero, who was listed by Caesars Sportsbook at -200 for the No. 1 pick. Smith was the second favorite at +140 at Caesars, while Holmgren was at +1,100 on Thursday, before sportsbooks began removing odds from the board.
“This is the weirdest draft market I think I’ve ever booked,” Eric Fenstermaker, a veteran Nevada bookmaker, told ESPN’s David Purdum on Wednesday.
Since Sunday afternoon, there had been more bets on Banchero to be the top pick than there had been in any other NBA market offered on Caesars Sportsbook. PointsBet online sportsbook has also reported renewed interest in betting on Banchero to become No.1.
ESPN’s David Purdum and The Associated Press contributed to this report.