Paul Banchero, Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith confident of being selected by Magic in NBA draft

NEW YORK — Paolo Banchero thinks he should be No. 1. Jabari Smith Jr. is sure he won’t make it past second. Chet Holmgren will be happy too.

Freshmen are considered the top three players in the NBA draft. The Orlando Magic will decide who goes first on Thursday night, with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets close behind.

Smith, who led Auburn to a first-time No. 1 finish, gave himself a slight edge, but was impressed with all three.

“I think I’m perfect because I have the ability to affect the sides of the ball and the ability to knock down shots and affect wins at such a young age and early in the game,” Smith said. “So I think that’s why I’m the No. 1 pick. Those guys have been great watching them all season, how selfless they are, how much they’ve contributed to the team so early.”

Assuming they disappear in the top three, that’s when the mystery begins.

The Sacramento Kings have the No. 4 pick, a position that produced last season’s Rookie of the Year for Toronto forward Scotty Barnes. They could have players like Purdue guard Jaden Ivey and Iowa forward Keegan Murray to choose from, though it’s unclear which way the Kings might be inclined — or even if they would choose rather than trade it.

Ivey, an athletic guard who’s trying to shape his game like Ja Morant and Russell Westbrook, said he hasn’t spoken to the Kings, and it doesn’t sound like he’s going to be overly enthusiastic about the conversation.

“If I was drafted there, it wouldn’t be the worst choice,” Ivey said. “I can’t choose, I’m not a general manager who picks players, so I just want to enjoy the process and I’m going to stick with it no matter what happens on draft night.”

Murray had a much better view of playing for new coach Mike Brown, a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006, the worst drought in NBA history.

“I think for me, as the King, I want to be part of that culture, to be part of a team that can turn the team around and make the playoffs,” Murray said.

The Magic will be the No. 1 overall pick for the fourth time before the Kings make any moves. They’ve done well with bigs before, drafting Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard first, and if they decide to go down that route again, Smith or Holmgren will be their options.

The 6-foot-10 Smith isn’t quite as big as they are, but has a shooting touch that most big men will never have, and he shot 42 percent from 3-point range in one season at Auburn. He’s also averaging 7.4 rebounds and believes he can guard all three frontcourt positions.

The same goes for Holmgren, a 7-footer from Gonzaga who has the mobility and shooting range to play on the perimeter, but at 195 pounds might mix with NBA centers in the paint. He’s been in the weight room, so should come, while there’s a lot to offer.

“I feel like I have a variety of skills that can compare to anyone,” Holmgren said.

The same goes for Banchero, who averaged 17.2 points per game while leading Duke to the Final Four. He’s a little fed up with the pre-draft process, which is often individual workouts with few games. But some encouraging words from fellow Spurs guard Dejounte Murray from Seattle got him excited about the future.

“He told me to enjoy this draft day,” Banchero said. “To live, you only have one draft week, one draft night, but once the 24 hours are over and you’re drafted, that’s when the real work begins, and there’s no mercy after that. In the NBA, it’s a killing Or kill environment, so you have to be locked from the jump.”

shorter than normal

This year’s draft will only include 58 picks instead of the usual 60. The Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat have waived second-round picks to talk to free agents before allowing them.

school relations

Kentucky had six players drafted in 2012 and ’15, most from any school since 1989. Mike Krzyzewski thinks he can have five players alone in first round on his last Duke team, Banchero joins Mark Williams, AJ Griffin , Wendell Moore and Trevor Keel.

“The NBA doesn’t just draft based on who you are now. They draft who you might be or who they think you’ll be. So a lot of kids who leave us early, we’ve groomed them to the point where people see the potential they have. The point,” Krzyzewski said on his SiriusXM radio show, “Coach K’s basketball and beyond.”

Academic Award

Australian Dyson Daniels, who played for Arizona, and Canadian Benedict Mathurin have the opportunity to be the second and third draft graduates of the NBA Academy. Australia’s Josh Giddey finished sixth with the Thunder last season and was named to the All-Rookie Second Team.


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