NBA draft 2022: Magic’s No. 1 pick is Duke’s Paolo Banchero

Believe it. The Orlando Magic are banking a large part of their future on the 19-year-old.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Paolo Banchero has insisted for weeks that he believes he is the best prospect in the NBA draft.

The Orlando Magic agree with him.

The first pick in Thursday’s draft brought the first slight surprise when the Magic picked Duke with the No. 1 pick forward — after weeks of speculation that Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. or Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren could be those who could make Orlando’s list.

“I honestly can’t believe what just happened,” Banchero said after hugging his mother — Rhonda Smith-Banchero, a former WNBA player.

Believe it. The Magic are banking a large part of their future on the 19-year-old.

“I wanted to be in the NBA, but I didn’t know I was going to be here, man,” Banchero said. “I really, honestly, didn’t do it.”

Banchero averaged 17.2 points and 7.8 rebounds in his only collegiate season and was a third-team Associated Press All-American. There was a roar from the crowd at the Amway Center – Banchero’s new home ground – as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced just after 8 p.m. that the Magic were on the clock.

It didn’t take long for the Magic to send out the official word. Banchero is traveling to Orlando with plans for his official reception at his new home on Friday.

Silver is a Duke degree. And as is tradition for the commissioner, he gave Banchero a handshake and a warm hug after the new No. 1 pick donned a Magic hat and took the stage for his big moment.

Banchero joins a young core in Orlando that already includes top overall pick of 2017, Markelle Fultz, two top 8 picks from the 2021 draft in Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs, and Cole Anthony — the No. 15 in 2020 — belong.

Orlando also has No. 6 picks from the 2017 and 2018 drafts, Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba. It’s possible Orlando could have as many as six lottery picks, nine top-16 picks and 12 first-rounders on his roster by the start of next season.

This was the fourth time Orlando had made the No. 1 pick. If the story is true, Banchero will have a long career in this league.

The Magic brought Shaquille O’Neal into the top pick in 1992. Chris Webber was Orlando No. 1 in 1993 and was traded that same night for Penny Hardaway and a package of future picks that eventually led to Vince Carter and Vince Carter Mike Mueller. And in 2004, the Magic chose Dwight Howard with the first choice.

Miller also has his fingerprints on this pick: He’s been working with Banchero over the past few weeks to prepare him for the NBA grind.

Now it’s Banchero’s turn to be the coveted rookie after Orlando decided to choose him over the other two highly acclaimed No. 1 contenders – Smith and Holmgren.

Banchero also became the 13th straight player to be drafted No. 1 overall after just one year of college. NBA draft 2022: Magic’s No. 1 pick is Duke’s Paolo Banchero

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