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Paolo Banchero Reveals He Was Prepared to Be Drafted by Rockets Until Late Magic Call

Erin WalshJuly 15, 2022

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Paolo Banchero was selected by the Orlando Magic first overall in the 2022 NBA draft, but he was preparing to go to the Houston Rockets.

"Just all the stuff that was being put out there was that I was going No. 3 to Houston," Banchero told Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes. "That's kind of where my mind was at, and I was fine with it. I was going to be happy wherever I ended up because I knew at the end of the day I would be fine. But in Houston, I would say that's where my head was at that time."

The Rockets selected Jabari Smith Jr. with the third overall pick after Banchero and Chet Holmgren were drafted with the top two picks.

Experts projected Smith to land with the Magic, but the franchise's Zoom call with Banchero just two days before the draft changed everything, according to Haynes.

That's when Orlando became more of a desirable destination to Banchero:

β€œI liked what they were showing me. They have a great staff. Even in my first meeting with them in Chicago during the combine, I liked what they were talking about. But like I said before, all the reports were that they weren't really considering me. And then they made it clear before the draft that none of those reports were true and that they were very much interested in me. And so that's when I kind of knew that it might not be Houston.”

Banchero was one of the best prospects available in the 2022 class after an outstanding freshman season at Duke in which he was a consensus All-American. He averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.1 steals in 39 games while shooting 47.8 percent from the field and 33.8 percent from deep.

Some still question the Magic's decision to draft Banchero, but he balled out in his only two NBA Summer League games, averaging 20 points, five rebounds and six assists.

The Magic opted to shut Banchero down to keep him healthy heading into the 2022-23 campaign. He is projected to be in the team's starting lineup alongside Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter Jr.

Smith, meanwhile, should also be in Houston's starting lineup alongside Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, Jae'Sean Tate and Alperen Sengun.

Regardless of where they ended up, both players are in line to have solid rookie seasons in the NBA.

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