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Orlando Magic makes Duke’s Paolo Banchero a surprise No. 1 pick

Paolo Banchero got to shake hands NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being selected as the number one pick overall by the Orlando Magic. (John Minchillo/AP)
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NEW YORK — The biggest NBA draft surprise in a decade took the Barclays Center stage in a purple, gem-studded suit and with tears in his eyes.

In an unexpected twist, the Orlando Magic drafted Duke freshman Paolo Banchero with the No. 1 pick Thursday, bypassing Auburn freshman Jabari Smith Jr., who was long viewed as the consensus favorite to be the top pick.

The 19-year-old Banchero, a Seattle native, didn’t work out with the Magic during the pre-draft process and was projected by most analysts to go third to the Houston Rockets. Instead, he joined Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber (who was traded for Anfernee Hardaway) and Dwight Howard as the fourth No. 1 pick in Magic history and became the first Duke player to go first since Zion Williamson in 2019.

When Banchero’s name was called by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, the Brooklyn crowd cheered and gasped. Not since the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 pick in 2013 has the top selection caught so many basketball observers off guard, though there were unconfirmed hints of Orlando’s decision when betting markets swung wildly in Banchero’s favor earlier this week.

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“I’ve never cried tears of joy before ever in my life,” Banchero said after shaking hands with Silver. “Tonight was the first time when it all hit me. I want to come to Orlando and win games, bring the Magic a championship. That’s the plan.”

Orlando ranked 29th in offensive efficiency and 28th in three-point percentage, so Banchero, a physical scoring forward who averaged 17.2 points and 7.8 rebounds while earning second-team all-American honors at Duke, will have every opportunity to make an impact as a rookie. For the Magic, who hasn’t won a playoff series since 2010, Banchero is their best bet at a franchise player since Howard departed in 2012.

“This isn’t even a dream,” Banchero said. “I feel like this is a fantasy. I didn’t find out 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 happened. I can’t believe it, but I’m ready.”

Despite the Magic’s curveball, the Oklahoma City Thunder selected Gonzaga forward Chet Holmgren, the player they were linked to throughout the pre-draft process. That dropped Smith to the Houston Rockets at No. 3. Iowa forward Keegan Murray went to the Sacramento Kings at No. 4 and Purdue guard Jaden Ivey was selected fifth by the Detroit Pistons. Picking 10th, the Washington Wizards selected Wisconsin guard Johnny Davis.

Holmgren, a 7-foot, 195-pound big man who averaged 14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.7 blocks as a freshman, became Oklahoma City’s highest pick since Kevin Durant went second in 2007, when the franchise was still in Seattle. As the Thunder progress through an extended rebuild, Holmgren will serve as an interior linchpin to complement a pair of backcourt playmakers in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and 2021 lottery pick Josh Giddey.

“It’s a great situation, great dynamic,” Holmgren said. “On defense, I can use my length and my quickness to cover a lot of ground and take up space. And on offense, OKC plays a five-out style of basketball. There’s a lot of space, especially in the paint to get to the basket or draw two defenders or drive and kick.”

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Smith, 19, was viewed by many as the class’s most talented prospect thanks to the modern nature of his game, which mixes length, athleticism, three-point shooting and defensive versatility. The Georgia native averaged 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2 assists while shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc to earn second-team all-American honors. After finishing a league-worst 20-62 last season, Houston will look to construct a high-powered offense around Smith and dynamic guard Jalen Green, who was the second pick in last year’s draft.

“It was a coin flip,” Smith said of the No. 1 selection. “When it happened, I just was happy for [Banchero], clapped for him and just waited to hear my name called. … [Sliding to third] definitely added a chip [to my shoulder], but God makes no mistakes. 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.”

The fourth selection was cause for much speculation and interest, as Ivey gave indications that he wasn’t interested in going to the Kings. Rather than call Ivey’s bluff or auction off the pick, the Kings simply took Murray, a 21-year-old forward who averaged 23.5 points and 8.7 rebounds as a sophomore.

Ivey, in turn, fell to the Pistons, where he fits in cleanly as a secondary scorer alongside 2021 No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham. The 20-year-old scoring guard compared his “speed and athleticism” to Ja Morant and Russell Westbrook, and credited his mother, former WNBA player Niele Ivey, for guiding his development.

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“It’s actually an amazing story to have a mother who has been in the league,” Ivey said. “The bond that we have is special. I wouldn’t be on this stage, I wouldn’t be here, without her.”

Arizona guard Bennedict Mathurin went sixth to the Indiana Pacers, Canadian guard Shaedon Sharpe went seventh to the Portland Trail Blazers, Australian guard Dyson Daniels went eighth to the New Orleans Pelicans and Baylor forward Jeremy Sochan went ninth to the San Antonio Spurs.

With Sacramento keeping its pick, there were only two trades involving lottery picks: The Knicks sent No. 11 pick Ousmane Dieng to the Thunder for three conditional first-round picks, while the Charlotte Hornets selected Memphis center Jalen Duren with the No. 13 pick and traded him to the Pistons for a first-round pick in a three-way deal with the Knicks.

— Ben Golliver

See below for all 58 picks

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