The clear top pick to go first in the 2022 NBA Draft - jobs fights tigma
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The clear top pick to go first in the 2022 NBA Draft


The clear top pick to go first in the 2022 NBA Draft

The Orlando Magic were the big winners in this year’s NBA Draft Lottery and will be picking first overall in June’s draft.

This is the fourth time Orlando has won the draft lottery. The three other top picks in franchise history were Dwight Howard, Shaquille O’Neal and Chris Webber (traded for Penny Hardaway).

The Magic are hoping to strike paydirt again with this year’s top pick and the odds say the selection will be one of three low-post players: Auburn’s Jabari Smith (-130), Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren (+160) or Duke’s Paolo Banchero (+ 475).

Jabari Smith

He is the early favorite to land in Orlando. He probably has the best mix in this class of someone who can come in and contribute right away but also has huge upside down the road. The 6-foot-11, 220-pound Smith dominated as a freshman at Auburn, averaging 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, and shot 80 percent from the foul line.

Jabari Smith
Auburn Jabari Smith

Though there is a lot to like about Smith, he shot just 42.9 percent from the field. That’s a concern for a guy with Smith’s size and talent at the college level. He also needs to develop more of a killer instinct. There were times when Smith was reluctant to take over games and he struggled in the NCAA Tournament loss to Miami, scoring just 10 points on 3-for-16 shooting.

The Magic need a skilled low-post player and Smith certainly fits the bill. I believe Smith is the most talented player in the draft but with two other intriguing big men also on the board, I’m not sure I’d lay -130 on him to go No. 1 right now.

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Chet Holmgren

One thing I always warn when betting draft props is my / your opinion is irrelevant. It does not matter what we would do, it matters what the teams selecting will do.

Personally, I like Smith more than Holmgren. However, Chet at +160 is the best bet on the board. There is no question that some in the Magic camp will be infatuated with Holmgren’s unique skill-set and you can bet he’s very much in play to go No. 1 overall.

Holmgren is one of the most hotly-debated NBA prospects in recent history. People either love him or hate him. Though I’m not as high on Holmgren as some people, one argument that makes sense is his game translates better to the NBA than college.

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Holmgren supporters believe his ability to handle the ball and the spacing in the NBA is a recipe for him becoming a superstar. However, Holmgren detractors will argue he struggled against better competition in college and that’s likely to continue against bigger, more physical players in the NBA.

Holmgren averaged 14.1 points and 9.9 rebounds at Gonzaga. However, in games against Arkansas, Memphis, Texas Tech, Alabama, Duke, UCLA and Texas, those numbers dropped to 9.7 points and nine rebounds.

Still, I like grabbing Holmgren +160 early in the process. By June, I think he’ll be closer to even money with Smith.

Paolo Banchero
Duke’s Paolo Banchero

Paolo Banchero

He is the most polished player of the three and the one most likely to make an immediate impact. The reason he’s +475 to go No. 1 is because many analysts believe his ceiling is not quite as high as the other two top prospects.

It’s hard to argue with production though. Banchero averaged 17.2 points and 7.8 rebounds against the 42nd-toughest schedule, according to KenPom. He was also by far the most impressive of the three on the big stage, averaging 18.8 points and 7.6 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament.

I’d be fine with Orlando taking Banchero No. 1 but do not think it will happen. The +475 is tempting, but it’s a pass for me. I see the Magic going with either Smith or Holmgren, making Chet +160 the best bet on the board right now.


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