NBA Draft 2022 Rumors: Strong Signals Point to Rockets Taking Duke’s Paolo Banchero

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJune 20, 2022

Duke's Paolo Banchero (5) walks the court in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Syracuse during quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference men's tournament, Thursday, March 10, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
AP Photo/John Minchillo

With the 2022 NBA draft three days away, the Houston Rockets might have zeroed in on their primary target with the No. 3 overall selection.

The Athletic's Kelly Iko reported Monday "the signals are pointing stronger and stronger" toward Duke star Paolo Banchero as Houston's pick.

The likelihood of Auburn star Jabari Smith being available is slim if his pre-draft workouts are any indication. Following a workout with the Orlando Magic, he told reporters the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have the No. 2 pick, were the only other team he planned to see in person.

The Ringer's Ryen Russillo also reported on his podcast (via Clemente Almanza of Thunder Wire) Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren prefers to join the Thunder.

That could clear the path for Banchero to fall to Houston.

The 6'10" forward would provide some much-needed height to the Rockets. With Christian Wood reportedly on the way out, Alperen Sengun will be the only player who's 6'10" or taller.

Still at an early stage of their rebuild, the Rockets remain a bit of a blank slate. That gives them some freedom to put value over need. In Banchero, they'd get a player who checks both boxes.

The second-team All-American averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 steals in his one season with the Blue Devils. He also shot 47.8 percent from the floor and 33.8 percent from beyond the arc.

Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman compared Banchero to Carmelo Anthony and Blake Griffin, writing that he possesses a mix of Anthony's athleticism and Griffin's playmaking ability at the 4.

If Banchero can hit the heights Anthony and Griffin did during their prime years, then the Rockets would be getting a franchise cornerstone.