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 at as the anchor of Orlando’s nascent rebuild, which includes guards Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony, forwards Franz Wagner and Jonathan Isaac and center 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 Australian Josh Giddey, the 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 2023 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. And the Thunder rounded out their first-round selections by taking UCLA’s Peyton Watson with pick No. 30.
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 out 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 and 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 sophomore season breakout 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 up 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.
The 11th pick was the first trade of the night when the New York Knicks received three future first-round picks – conditional selections from the Denver Nuggets, Wizards and Detroit Pistons – in order to send the draft rights to Dieng to the Thunder.
At that point, the Knicks then traded the Denver 2023 conditional first-round pick they received from Oklahoma City, plus four second-round picks, to the Charlotte Hornets for the rights to Memphis center Jalen Duren – only to then send him, along with guard Kemba Walker, to the Pistons in exchange for a 2025 conditional Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick.
The Cleveland Cavaliers followed that up by taking Kansas forward Ochai Agbaji with the 14th pick, and then Charlotte used her second first-round pick to take Duke center Mark Williams.
As the first round continued to play out, there were more trades that shook up the board.
The Memphis Grizzlies, who entered the night with the 22nd and 29th picks, sent them both to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 19th selection – and used it to take Wake Forest forward Jake LaRavia, sources told ESPN’s Wojnarowski.
Memphis then moved back into the first round by sending De’Anthony Melton athletic guard to the Philadelphia 76ers for the No. 23 pick and veteran Danny Green, who sustained a serious injury in Philadelphia’s season-ending loss in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Minnesota took Auburn center Walker Kessler with the 22nd pick, and then traded the 29th pick and two second-round picks to move up to the No. 1 pick. 26 selection, where the Timberwolves took Duke forward Wendell Moore.
With the 29th selection, Houston – which originally got the 26th pick from Dallas earlier this month in a deal that sent big man Christian Wood to the Mavericks – selected Kentucky guard TyTy Washington.