In the weeks leading up to the NBA draft, the question was who would go first to Paolo Bankero, Chet Holmgren, or Jabari Smith Jr.
The answer finally came Thursday night in New York — and not even Banchero knew about it until the announcement of the Orlando Magic selection.
“From the information that I was told, I got the impression that she was just in the air,” Banchero said. “Orlando wasn’t sure yet, and just to be ready for anything,
“However, I didn’t know that I had actually been chosen until about 20 seconds before the commissioner took the stage. I didn’t even have time to seriously think about it or anything like that. It just happened. I can’t believe it, but I’m ready. I’m ready.”
After the Blue Devils made it to the Final Four in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final season, the 6-foot-10 forward was called up by NBA First Commissioner Adam Silver to start the draft, beating fellow freshman forwards Smith and Holmgren.
The order was discussed throughout the process, and Smith was often considered the player who would become No. 1.
Instead, he wasn’t even second, behind No. 3 Holmgren Houston.
“Definitely added a twist, but God doesn’t make mistakes, so I’m happy to be here,” Smith said. “I am happy to be where they want me. I’m happy to get to Houston and just show them, give them what they chose. Just happy to be here.”
All the selected players looked excited, among them was Banchero, who was crying or approaching, hugging friends and family.
Wearing a purple suit full of luxury, he received loud applause at the Barclays Center, where Duke lost in the final of the ACC tournament.
The Magic were picked first for the fourth time, and they did well with their previous pick. They took on Shaquille O’Neal in 1992, traded the rights to Chris Webber for Penny Hardaway the following year, and left in 2004 with Dwight Howard.
All eventually made it to the NBA Finals with the Magic.
Holmgren finished second to the Oklahoma City Thunder after the 7-footer led the West Coast Conference in block shots, rebounds and Gonzaga slugging percentage. He looked stylish in his black suit, but he may need a larger size for NBA success as he only weighs 195 pounds.
He doesn’t care about this conversation.
“Every day I wake up with a plan to get better, to be a better basketball player,” Holmgren said. “I’ve put so much effort into doing this that there’s really no room left for putting effort into things that, one, I can’t control, and, two, don’t help me get better.”
The Rockets were happy to be in Smith, who has the skills to take him higher. The 6-10 Auburn forward is a perfect fit for the current NBA game, capable of defending all three positions in the frontcourt and with a shot that allowed him to hit 42% from behind the arc.
Forward Keegan Murray, after a huge jump in his second season in Iowa, went all the way to the fourth pick from the Sacramento Kings. The Detroit Pistons, a year after they took Cade Cunningham number one, took athletic Purdue defenseman Jaden Ivey fifth.
Before the start of the selection, Silver congratulated the Golden State Warriors on their recent NBA championship and reminded the fans that their backbone, consisting of Stephen Curry, Clay Thompson and Draymond Green, was formed thanks to the draft.
All the teams at the top of this draft need help and already have recent high picks on their rosters, so we hope the Warriors way works for them as well.
Benedict Maturin, a Canadian who played in Arizona, went to Indiana with the number six. The Portland Trail Blazers followed with Kentucky’s Shaydon Sharp, G League Ignite’s Dyson Daniels finished eighth in New Orleans, Baylor’s Jeremy Sochan stayed in Texas with San Antonio in 9th, and Washington rounded out the top 10 with Johnny Davis of Wisconsin.
Brian Mahoney, Associated Press