Remember how this was He’s supposed to go?
1. Jabbari Smith, Jr.
2. Chet Holmgren
3. Paolo Banchero
4. Jaden Ivy
That’s what most sarcasm was telling you until early Thursday night, just minutes before the 2022 NBA Draft kicks off. Despite the fact that – as we mentioned earlier,– Controversy over who should Was Go No. 1 convincing as we saw years ago. This concept ended up being validated. Somehow.
Orlando, what have you done?
Claimed to be one of the most daring 11h 59th in the history of the NBA draft, that’s it.
Since the night of the lottery, May 17, it seemed that all the momentum was behind the idea that Charm They would go with the convention and take Smith at No. 1. Similar rumors of Oklahoma City from the jump to be intrigued by Holmgren. That, of course, would leave Houston with the clear choice to take the rest of the Big Three – Banchero’s pick for third.
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The kings, who are going through the worst playoff wave in any pro sports tournament, surely will have to pick the best fourth-place player, right? Ivy. He must be.
Then the betting markets took off earlier in the week. Banchero moved from +1400 all the way to +175 (still behind Smith) to go #1. Subsequent reports have attempted to quell this rumor.
Then, just before 8 p.m. ET on Thursday night, everything was blown to pieces. Mess. Expectations were not real. This is a fact.
Smith – Somehow! – The third goes to the Rockets.
Keegan Murray – Hey! –.
Then Ivy, who might prove to be the best player in this draft 10 years from now, Ivy fell into a lap Detroit Pistons.
In what could be one of the most talented drafts in recent history, Orlando and Sacramento—two franchises that have been seemingly bad for generations—blew expectations and gave us mayhem. Given the high profile of each of the top three picks, and the unnatural feel of a three-way race in this year’s draft, this was always a draft that would have us looking back and comparing the teams that made the right call and who didn’t.
but now? The risks appear to be high.
Think of it this way: Smith has been a favorite for months, including for the majority of draft days, to go into first place. He ended up falling in third place. Has this happened before in the history of the draft? A player that experts and in the betting markets expect to be the first choice not only does not go first, but is crossed for the second time?
Thursday night felt historic in immediate ways but also in intangible ways, meaning that the repercussions of these decisions appear to spread among these five teams over the remainder of the next decade.
Consider the perks that turned this draft on its head. Orlando won a series in the playoffs in 2010; Sacramento hasn’t been there since 2006. Go take a look at every NBA draft in history. You’ve never had your top five picks, or even your top three picks, turned out to be the best in their class. Will Banchero and Murray’s choices prove smart, or will those decisions backfire on the two franchises famous for their performances that made them?
I have no problem with what magic did. I find it amusing and somewhat surprising how the front office managed to trick the entire league into thinking he was taking Smith. But I recorded for weeks that Banchero. He could be the player changing fortunes and the future of the franchise he so desperately needs. He has star power and tangible all star potential.
The sweet buzz in all of this: we don’t know. Will Panchero be the best? Has Orlando just changed the trajectory of its franchise for the better over the next 10 years, or is it doomed to pass on two other big, genre-changing men who can prove they look an idiot? And don’t think Oklahoma City is no longer in trouble because it came in second. Is Thunder going to end up looking bad five years from now? When Banchero was off the board, Smith was sitting there to take it. Several leading recruits and NBA scouts comfortably ranked Smith ahead of Holmgren. But as expected, OKC General Manager Sam Presti stuck to his heart and took the player unlike any other.
That leaves Houston in the best place of any team in the top five. There is a reasonable chance that the best player in this draft could have fallen to them in third place.
If Smith is so successful and becomes a top player, it’s not unreasonable to look back at 2027 and see the Rockets vying for an NBA Finals appearance while Thunder and Magic are still picking in the lottery. This was one of the most interesting boots on the draft in quite some time. I managed to exceed expectations.
With that in mind, it’s been a long time since the top of the NBA draft felt this way. And that’s before we even get to the Kings’ decision not to take on the prospect that has been globally rated fourth best (at worst) on the board, Ivy. Dynamo Purdue had no desire to go there, and this stunt ended up perfectly with Ivy and Detroit. You could make the argument, easily, that with De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell, getting along has been difficult with these two and Ivy in Sacramento. But this is royalty. And it’s not hard to imagine the Pistons fully blossoming with Kid Cunningham and Ivy, while the Kings go on…to be royalty.
You need a player who can be a superstar – who can get you out of the NBA purgatory. The Kings, by choosing Keegan Murray, tell the league that they think he’s more likely to do so than Ivy. Few others agree.
And now it looks like the Pistons, along with 13th-placed Galen Doreen pick, are putting together one of the league’s most exciting youth rosters.
Thursday night’s predictions and assumptions were thwarted as dramatically as possible. There is almost no chance that Banchero, Holmgren, Smith, Murray and Ivy will end up as the top five players in this draft. The top five picks would be the top five players, well, that never happened. Ever. At least one team – maybe two, maybe three – miscalculated and made mistakes tonight.
Witchcraft has rarely been relevant over the past decade. But in their biggest moment in a generation on Thursday night, they skewed the entire NBA’s future — and tricked the rest of the league into doing so. Now all Banchero has to do is live up to the expectations of Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard, the two former number one big men who led the Magic to the NBA Finals.
In a draft stacked and discussed like this, anything less would be a failure.
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