NEW YORK — After months of speculation, Duke’s Paolo Banchero was a surprise selection by the Orlando Magic with the top overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft on Thursday night at Barclays Center.
The Oklahoma City Thunder began a busy first round by taking Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren with the second pick, then acquired 11th pick Ousmane Dieng of France in a trade with the New York Knicks and took Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams at No. 12.
Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr. went No. 3 overall to the Houston Rockets.
In the weeks leading up to the draft, Smith had been widely expected to be the top selection. But the Magic turned things upside down by taking Banchero, who sported a bright purple suit with sequins, along with even brighter shoes, as he took to the stage and shook hands with NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
“I had a feeling, from the information I was being told, that it was just kind of up in the air,” Banchero told ESPN of going first. “Orlando wasn’t really sure yet, and just to be ready for whatever.
“I didn’t find out, though, that I was actually getting picked until about 20 seconds before the commissioner got on the stage. I didn’t even have time to really think about it or anything. It just kind of happened. I can’t believe it, but I’m ready. I’m ready.”
Banchero, a 6-foot-10 forward from Duke, averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists across 39 games for the Blue Devils, who reached the Final Four before losing to their forever rival in North Carolina. Banchero, who might be the most NBA-ready prospect in this draft, will now be looked to as the anchor of Orlando’s nascent rebuild, which includes guards Jalen Suggs other ColeAnthonyforwards Franz Wagner other Jonathan Isaac and centre Wendell Carter Jr.
While Banchero was a surprise at No. 1, Holmgren was always expected to go to Oklahoma City with the second pick. A 7-footer from Gonzaga, Holmgren flashed a wide array of skills in his lone season in college, averaging 14.1 points on 60% shooting overall and 39% from 3-point range while grabbing 9.9 rebounds and blocking 3.7 shots in 26.9 minutes across 32 games.
Oklahoma City now has an interior anchor to go with its promising young backcourt of rising star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Aussie Josh Giddeythe sixth overall pick in last year’s draft and a first-team All-Rookie selection.
The Thunder also acquired Dieng, the 11th pick, by sending three conditional first-round picks to the Knicks. Dieng, who turned 19 last month, averaged 8.8 points for the New Zealand Breakers in Australia’s National Basketball League this past season. Oklahoma City then took Williams with the 12th pick, making him the first player drafted from Santa Clara since Hall of Famer Steve Nash in 1996.
Holmgren said he was pleased to land with the Thunder.
“I think it’s a great situation, great dynamic, playing with guys like Josh and Shai, as well as everybody down the roster,” Holmgren said. “It’s a lot of great players there with unique skill sets. I feel like I can kind of pair up with them and help enhance theirs as well as have their skill sets enhance mine.”
Smith, a sweet-shooting 6-foot-10 forward from Auburn, averaged 16.9 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting 42% from behind the 3-point arc.
After drafting Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Josh Christopher other Usman Garuba in the first round of last year’s draft, the Rockets continued their rebuild in the wake of moving on from franchise icon James Harden at the start of the 2021-22 season by selecting Smith. Houston also took LSU forward Tari Eason with the 17th pick.
Asked if he has any added motivation after being passed over for the top pick, Smith said, “Definitely added a chip, but God makes no mistakes, so I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to be where I’m wanted. I’m happy to get to Houston and just show them, give them what they picked. Just happy to be here.”
Rounding out the draft’s top five were Iowa forward Keegan Murray, who went to the Sacramento Kings with the fourth pick, and Purdue guard Jaden Ivey, whom the Detroit Pistons drafted fifth overall.
Murray had a breakout sophomore season at Iowa, averaging 23.5 points and 8.7 rebounds while shooting 55.4% from the field and 39.8% from 3-point range. He will now join a Kings team that is trying to end a 16-year playoff drought and retool itself around guard De’Aaron Fox and big man Domantas Sabonis under new coach Mike Brown.
Ivey, who had publicly said going to Sacramento wouldn’t be the “worst” thing to happen to him, will team with last year’s top overall pick, Cade Cunningham, in the Pistons’ backcourt. Like Murray, Ivey had a breakout sophomore season, averaging 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists at Purdue.
The rest of the top 10 featured Arizona guard Bennedict Mathurin, who went sixth to the Indiana Pacers; Kentucky guard Shaedon Sharpe, who was drafted seventh by the Portland Trail Blazers; Australian guard Dyson Daniels, who went to the New Orleans Pelicans with the eighth selection; Baylor forward Jeremy Sochan, who went to the San Antonio Spurs at the ninth spot; and Wisconsin guard Johnny Davis, who was selected 10th by the Washington Wizards.
Mathurin averaged 17.7 points and 5.6 rebounds at Arizona and should slot in next to point guard Tyrese Haliburton in Indiana’s backcourt, as the Pacers appear set to enter a full rebuild for the first time in a generation.
Sharpe, meanwhile, was the former top overall recruit coming out of high school who enrolled early at Kentucky and then didn’t play for the Wildcats this spring ahead of entering the draft.
Daniels is the latest player to land in the NBA via the G League Ignite, where he averaged 11.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 32 minutes per game this past season.
Sochan averaged 9.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.3 steals for Baylor as a freshman, and will bring a versatile two-way game to San Antonio. Davis, in a theme at the top of this draft among Big Ten sophomores, broke out in his second season in Madison, averaging 19.7 points and 8.2 rebounds in 34.2 minutes per game.
One other trade was completed toward the end of the lottery selections. Memphis center Jalen Duren went no. 13 to the Charlotte Hornets before landing with the Detroit Pistons in a three-team deal also involving the Knicks, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Duren averaged 12 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game as a freshman this past season.
Kansas forward Ochai Agbaji was the final lottery pick, going 14th to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Agbaji, 22, was a consensus first-team All-American and the Big 12 Player of the Year as a senior for Kansas, leading the Jayhawks to the national championship this past spring, averaging 18.8 points and shooting 40.9% from 3-point range .