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

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Paolo Banchero knew Thursday could be a big day, the beginning of his N.B.A. profession.

Earlier within the day, he had heard that the Orlando Magic weren’t sure who they’d select with the primary overall pick within the draft that night. When he came upon, just minutes before N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver called his name, he couldn’t imagine it.

“This isn’t even a dream,” Banchero said. “I feel like this can be a fantasy. I dreamed of being within the N.B.A., but being the No. 1 overall pick — that is crazy.”

The Magic chosen Banchero, a forward from Duke University, with the highest pick in Thursday’s draft. He’s a 6-foot-10, 250-pound power forward, whose mother, Rhonda Smith-Banchero, played within the W.N.B.A. He was a guard earlier in his basketball profession and played football and basketball at O’Dea High School in Seattle.

Within the minutes before his name was called, Banchero sat at a table on the ground of Barclays Center showing no emotion on his face. The Magic were on the clock and word began to spread that Banchero could be their pick. Cameras crowded around him, but he didn’t outwardly react. Only when he heard his name did his expression change.

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

“I used to be telling everyone I wasn’t going to cry regardless of what pick I used to be picked,” 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 three.2 assists per game and was named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s rookie of the yr.

The picks for the remainder of the highest five: Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren at No. 2 to the Oklahoma City 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 were thought to have separated themselves at the highest of this yr’s draft: Banchero, Holmgren and Smith.

Holmgren nodded and smirked subtly as he heard Banchero’s name called first. When Silver called his name, Holmgren broke out right into a wide smile, stopping for handshakes and long embraces along with his relations.

“I got a thousand emotions to explain this moment,” Holmgren said during an interview that was broadcast in the world in Brooklyn. “It’s surreal and every part I expected.”

Holmgren, 20, is a rail-thin, seven-foot-tall center 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 overall in 2021. They each spent one season at Gonzaga.

Holmgren led Gonzaga to a 28-4 record and averaged 14.1 points per game while making 60.7 percent of his field-goal attempts. He also averaged 9.9 rebounds and three.7 blocks per game. Gonzaga entered the N.C.A.A. tournament because the No. 1 overall seed, but was upset within the round of 16.

In the times before the draft, rumors circulated in media reports that Orlando had decided to pick out Smith first overall. As Smith waited for his name to be called, he looked disillusioned. When finally Silver announced his name, one other prospect, Louisiana State’s Tari Eason, who played in the identical conference, leaped out of his seat to clap for Smith.

“I understand it was a possibility, so when it didn’t occur, I used to be surprised,” Smith said of the prospect of his being chosen first overall. “You recognize, all the blokes up for the pick are great players. They carry rather a lot to the table. It was like I said in the opposite interviews: It was a coin flip. So when it happened, you already know, I used to be just completely satisfied for them, clapped for them and just waiting to get my name called.”

Smith, 19, spent one season at Auburn after a distinguished highschool basketball profession in Georgia. He played for a similar Amateur Athletic Union team as one other No. 1 pick by the Magic: Dwight Howard. Smith’s father, also named Jabari Smith, spent parts of 4 seasons within the N.B.A. within the early 2000s.

Jabari Smith Jr. was named the Southeastern Conference’s freshman of the yr and a second-team all-American this past season. Smith is a 6-foot-10 power forward with the power to shoot from the perimeter. He made 42.9 percent of his 3-pointers and averaged 16.9 points per game at Auburn.

The primary surprise of the night was the collection of Murray by the Kings at No. 4, given the expectation that Banchero, Holmgren and Smith would go in some order in the highest three. The spectators at Barclays Center erupted on the announcement.

Murray is the highest-selected Hawkeye in class history. The 6-foot-8 forward earned consensus first-team all-American honors this past season and finished fourth in Division I scoring with 23.5 points per game. He led the Hawkeyes to a 26-10 record and a first-round appearance within the N.C.A.A. tournament.

Ivey spent two seasons at Purdue before declaring for the draft. He averaged 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and three.1 assists per game during his sophomore season.

Long after a lot of the 24 players within the draft’s green room had been chosen, Jaden Hardy remained, waiting for his turn. Hardy, who played for the G League Ignite last season, sat along with his family and his agent, Wealthy Paul. He waited through the primary round and 6 picks into the second round before he heard his name.

Silver typically declares only the first-round picks, but before Hardy’s selection, he briefly stopped by Hardy’s table. As Mark Tatum, the N.B.A.’s deputy commissioner, announced that Hardy had been chosen thirty seventh overall by the Kings, Silver waited offstage and applauded.

The Magic won this yr’s draft lottery after ending the season at 22-60, the worst record within the Eastern Conference and the second-worst record within the league. Only the Houston Rockets, who had the third pick on this yr’s draft after a 20-62 season, won fewer games than the Magic.

This yr marked the fourth time within the franchise’s history that it made the primary overall pick. The Magic drafted Shaquille O’Neal with the primary pick in 1992; Chris Webber, whom they immediately traded for Penny Hardaway, in 1993; and Dwight Howard in 2004.

The pairing of Hardaway and O’Neal yielded one N.B.A. finals appearance, but no championships for the Magic. Howard also led the Magic to 1 finals appearance, in 2009.

Later of 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 chosen No. 1 overall within the N.B.A. draft was Zion Williamson in 2019. Banchero follows two guards — Anthony Edwards (2020) and Cade Cunningham (2021) — in earning the excellence of being the highest pick.

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