NBA Draft 2022: Orlando pulls up with surprising top pick

Brooklyn, New York - The Orlando Magic sprung a surprise late Thursday, taking Paolo Banchero with the top pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Paolo Banchero (r.) was congratulated after being selected as the number one overall pick by the Orlando Magic in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft at Barclays Center.
Paolo Banchero (r.) was congratulated after being selected as the number one overall pick by the Orlando Magic in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft at Barclays Center.  © Collage: Brad Penner - USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder followed up by selecting Chet Holmgren second overall, and although many projected him to be the top pick coming into Thursday, the Houston Rockets took Jabari Smith Jr. third.

Reflecting the evolving nature of the NBA, the Magic looked to the wing this time in Banchero, selecting front-court prospects with their previous three top selections in franchise history, in the form of Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Webber, and Dwight Howard.

"I don't even know what to say. I really can't believe what just happened," Banchero said on ESPN's draft broadcast. "I never would have thought that this would happen. I wanted to be in the NBA, but I didn't know I would be here. This is unbelievable."

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Banchero is the fifth top selection to come from Duke University, following Art Heyman, Elton Brand, Kyrie Irving, and Zion Williamson, also making for the 13th consecutive freshman to be taken at first.

The 19-year-old averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists as he led the Blue Devils to the Final Four, earning first-team All-ACC selection and the ACC Rookie of the Year.

As a huge athlete who can stretch the floor, the 7-foot-1 Holmgren exhibited unique shooting ability for his size in his freshman year at Gonzaga University, potentially creating more space for the likes of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey to make plays.

Similarly gifted, the 6-foot-10 Smith is arguably the most NBA-ready of the three coming out of Auburn University, with his ability to score off the catch and off the dribble, along with a versatile defensive skill-set.

The 76th edition of the annual NBA Draft was held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on Wednesday night. It marked the event's return to its regular June time frame after its 2020 and 2021 postponements due to the pandemic.

Cover photo: Collage: Brad Penner - USA TODAY Sports

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