The week-long question leading up to the NBA draft was whether the first pick would be Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren or Jabari Smith Jr.
The answer finally came Thursday night — and even Banchero didn’t know it until just before the Orlando Magic picks were announced.
“I felt like it was just up in the air based on the information I was given,” Banchero said. “Orlando wasn’t sure yet and just wanted to be prepared for anything.
“However, I didn’t find out I was selected 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 under coach Mike Krzyzewski last season, the 6-foot-10 forward was called first to start the draft by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, beating the others 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.
Instead, he didn’t even finish second, falling back to Houston in 3rd behind Holmgren.
“I definitely added a chip, but God doesn’t make mistakes, so I’m glad to be here,” Smith said. “I’m happy to be where I’m wanted. I’m happy to come to Houston and just show them, give them what they chose. I’m just happy to be here.”
All the selected players looked delighted, including Banchero, who cried or grew closer as they hugged friends and family.
Wearing a purple suit covered in jewelry, he received a loud ovation at Barclays Center, where Duke lost in the final of the ACC tournament. He was the fourth-ranked Duke player since 1966 when the NBA rescinded territorial draft rights, followed by Blue Devils teammates Mark Williams (No. 15, Charlotte), AJ Griffin (No. 16, Atlanta) and Wendell Moore Jr. (No. 26, Dallas).
The Magic picked first for the fourth time and they did well with their previous choices. They acquired Shaquille O’Neal in 1992, traded the rights to Chris Webber for Penny Hardaway the next year, and teamed up with Dwight Howard in 2004.
All eventually reached the NBA Finals with Magic.
Holmgren finished second to the Oklahoma City Thunder after the 7-footer led the West Coast Conference in blocked shots, rebounds and shot percentage on Gonzaga. He looked smart in his black suit, but he may need a larger size to be successful in the NBA as he’s listed at 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’ve put so much effort into making this happen that it doesn’t really leave room to focus on things that firstly I can’t control and secondly don’t help me get better.”
The Rockets were lucky to land in Smith, who has the skills to go higher. The Auburn 6-10 forward fits perfectly into the current NBA game, capable of defending all three frontcourt positions and possessing a throw that allowed him to hit 42% from behind the arc.
Forward Keegan Murray jumped to the No. 4 position in the Sacramento Kings in his second season in Iowa after a big jump. The Detroit Pistons, a year after conquering No. 1-ranked Cade Cunningham, picked athletic Purdue guard Jaden Ivey for fifth.
Before the pick 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 was built through the draft.
All of the teams at the top of this draft need help and already have the final top picks on their rosters, so let’s hope the Warriors path works for them too.
Bennedict Mathurin, a Canadian who played in Arizona, went to Indiana with the number 6. The Portland Trail Blazers followed with Kentucky’s Shaedon Sharpe, G League Ignite’s Dyson Daniels finished eighth from New Orleans, Baylor’s Jeremy Sochan stayed on in Texas with San Antonio at No. 9, and Washington completed the top 10 with Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis.
Then the trades began, with the New York Knicks moving picks to accumulate more of them. They’ve traded the rights to No. 11 Ousmane Dieng to Oklahoma City for three future first-round picks, and acquired the rights to No. 13 Jalen Duren from Charlotte and sold him to Detroit along with Kemba for more picks, noting the Details to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity as that deal would not become official on Thursday.
Walker spent a season with the Knicks but was no longer with the team after falling out of coach Tom Thibodeau’s rotation.
The Warriors picked Patrick Baldwin Jr. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee at number 28 and the first round ended with Oklahoma City acquiring Peyton Watson from UCLA and agreeing to sell his rights to Denver.