Once the NBA Finals came to a conclusion with the Golden State Warriors claiming the title over the Boston Celtics at TD Garden, it was a quick pivot to the league’s first event of the offseason.
The 2022 NBA Draft will take place this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET, and while there’s intrigue over who the Orlando Magic will select with the No. 1 overall pick, oddsmakers see a clear pecking order taking shape.
The growing consensus is Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr. will be the top selection, and that’s reflected with him currently having the best odds (-165) at DraftKings Sportsbook to go off the draft board first.
Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren isn’t far behind Smith on the betting sheet and he reportedly visited the Magic in the lead-up to the draft. Holmgren’s odds are set at +125 to go No. 1 overall, while Duke product Paolo Banchero has the third-best odds at +1600. Purdue guard Jaden Ivy follows Banchero with +8000 odds to go to the Magic, while everyone else after Ivy is even more of a massive longshot to hear their name called first.
Smith becoming the favorite to be the Magic’s choice at the top of the draft is a contrast to when it was considered a two-player race between Holmgren and Banchero during the college basketball season to earn the status of No. 1 overall pick.
The 6-foot-10, 220-pound Smith, who turned 19 just over a month ago, registered 16.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game during his lone season at Auburn while knocking down 42% of his 3-point attempts courtesy of a smooth shooting stroke.
Like Smith, Holmgren brings a versatile skill set to the floor, but has a much slender frame — that might be putting it mildly — with the Gonzaga product standing at 7-foot and 194 pounds. Holmgren did a little bit of everything during his freshman season with the Bulldogs, including almost averaging a double-double with 14.1 points and 9.9 rebounds.
Banchero led Duke to the Final Four this past season, and he should bring a polished offensive game to the NBA. But he isn’t as efficient as an outside shooter as Smith and Holmgren. The 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward totaled 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 33.8% from downtown.
Even if the Magic scoop up Smith at No. 1, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets certainly won’t have bad consolation prizes with the No. 2 and No. 3 picks, respectively.