By Dan Savage
ORLANDO – We’re just one day away from one of the most anticipated days on the NBA calendar.
In a little over 24 hours, a new pool of young talent will enter the league through the 2022 NBA Draft, which takes place on Thursday, June 23 at 8 p.m. ET. With them will come excitement and expectations from fanbases across the association.
While no one can predict exactly how the draft will fall, we do know that it all starts with the Orlando Magic, who hold the prized No. 1 overall pick and will set the tone for the night.
Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman and his staff have been working tirelessly, not just since acquiring the first overall selection during the draft lottery, but instead, over the course of years, stockpiling information and intel to help them build a complete picture of every prospect in the draft pool.
Over the course of the last few weeks, they’ve interviewed and hosted workouts for players with draft projections up and down the board as they prepare for a year where they hold picks No. 1, 32, and 35 overall.
Heeding the advice of his father to not turn in his homework until the day it’s due, Weltman was careful in his pre-draft press conference not to tip the Magic’s hand in regards to any of those selections. Still, that has not stopped the media from declaring who they have going to Orlando tomorrow night.
Let’s take a look at what they’re saying:
The Athletic: Chet Holmgren – “I think I might be the only person who thinks there’s a realistic chance Holmgren goes No. 1. Again: The story adds up. While most draftniks have Jabari Smith Jr. as the top-rated player (as do I), I don’t think that has ever moved the needle on how this front office thinks. The Jeff Weltman-John Hammond front-office team in Orlando is also renowned for valuing length far more than most front offices, sometimes to its detriment (see Bamba, Mo), and sometimes hugely to its benefit (see Antetokounmpo, Giannis).” - John Hollinger | Read More
Bleacher Report: Jabari Smith Jr. – “Though the Magic are believed to be considering Holmgren and (Paolo) Banchero, Smith remains the favorite. The team picking first never wants to worry about risk, and Holmgren's body and slower delivery when creating have evaluators a tad bit nervous. Smith, a year younger and widely praised for his maturity and approach, feels safe to everyone, and he's perceived to offer the same level of upside as anyone in this draft with a skill set that Orlando could use.” – Jonathan Wasserman | Read More
CBS Sports: Paolo Banchero: “Having the Duke star at No. 1 should not be a contrarian opinion. Banchero was the best freshman in college hoops last season, he led his team to the Final Four, he has an NBA-ready body, he has a litany of skills and is one of the best passing bigs in this year's draft. There has never been a moment over the past three-plus years where his skills didn't translate/project to being a wonderful combination of old-school mobile big and modern play-thru power forward. He is the most NBA-ready player in this draft. Be it in dribble pull-ups, using the post, rim-running, coming off screens, catch-and-shoots or on cuts, Banchero is capable of scoring in myriad ways.” - Matt Norlander | Read More
CBS Sports: Chet Holmgren – "The concerns about Holmgren's slight frame are legitimate — but he's such a unique prospect with incredible potential that Orlando should be uncomfortable passing on this 7-foot rim-protector who can also bounce it like a guard and reliably make 3-pointers. He has the highest ceiling in this draft and, for that reason, should be the first player selected." - Gary Parrish | Read More
ESPN: Jabari Smith Jr. – "Orlando has been diligent in evaluating its options beyond Smith atop the draft, working out the likes of Holmgren, Jaden Ivey, Keegan Murray and Shaedon Sharpe. Every NBA team we've talked with expects Smith to end up being the pick here -- any other scenario would be a major surprise to league executives. Smith, whose only workouts have been for the Magic and Thunder, makes quite a bit of sense here, as he's arguably the best shooter in the draft despite standing 6-foot-10 and is more than a full year younger than Holmgren, the No. 1 prospect on the ESPN Big Board." - Jonathan Givony | Read More
FOX Sports: Jabari Smith Jr. – "He’s not the player ready to help you the most now, but in five years, the 6-foot-10 Smith could be putting up Chris Bosh numbers in Orlando. The Magic front office under John Hammond has prioritized length in recent years (Jalen Suggs, Mo Bamba, Jonathan Isaac)." - Jason McIntyre | Read More
Orlando Magic Daily: Jabari Smith Jr. – “There is a legitimate three-player race — although, to many, it is quickly becoming a two-man race … Trying to differentiate between the three prospects is a seemingly impossible task at the moment. No one is envying the position the Magic are in even though it comes with an incredible amount of power. So why is Jabari Smith seemingly the top prospect at the moment? It is a combination of a number of things.” - Philip Rossman-Reich | Read More
Orlando Pinstriped Post: Jabari Smith Jr. – “If I were running the Magic, I think I would lean towards taking Banchero with this pick, but I wanted to make this as realistic as possible (and I’m not convinced Orlando is seriously considering him). I went with Smith because I think his combination of elite shooting and defensive upside plays in this league on any team/within any ecosystem. I’m not worried about his handle and limited ability to create space in one-on-one situations (or his finishing ability). He just turned 19, and I think his upside is as strong as anyone’s in this class.” - Aaron Goldstone | Read More
Rookie Wire: Jabari Smith Jr. – "For much of the pre-draft process, we have had Chet Holmgren going to the Magic at No. 1, but we now believe Smith will be the choice. The fit with the Magic seems too good to pass on, despite the upside and higher potential of Holmgren. Smith worked out with the Magic on June 9 and said it is his ability to shoot and defend that should enable him to go No. 1. The rumors of Holmgren wanting to fall to the Thunder at No. 2 also could play a factor on draft night. However, Holmgren, as reported by Rookie Wire, met with the Magic in Orlando for two days last week. The Magic were also expected to meet with Paolo Banchero and are still finalizing their decision.” - Cody Taylor | Read More
The Ringer: Jabari Smith Jr. – "I’m still not 100 percent convinced the Magic take Jabari Smith Jr. here, even though all indications are he’ll be the selection. There’s just too much chatter about teams trying to trade for this pick. If the Magic play their cards right, they might be able to land Smith at a lower pick while accumulating additional assets." - Kevin O'Connor | Read More
SB Nation: Jabari Smith Jr./Paolo Banchero – "Why Jabari Smith Jr. is the most likely pick on the board: Most of the reporting around Orlando’s thinking at No. 1 has Smith as a slight front-runner over Chet Holmgren. The Magic finished No. 28 in three-point percentage this season, and Smith is an elite shooter at 6’10. As long as Jalen Suggs, Markelle Fultz, or Cole Anthony can set him up, Smith should be able to knock down shots at a high clip.
Why Paolo Banchero is the best pick on the board: Banchero is our No. 1 player in the class because of his shot creation ability — a combination of ball handling, live dribble passing, and versatile scoring — at 6’10, 250 pounds. Orlando has some nice young pieces on the roster, but they don’t have a primary initiator with star potential. Banchero is the best bet to turn into that in our estimation.” - Ricky O'Donnell | Read More
SI: Jabari Smith Jr. – "While the Magic haven’t tipped their hand on what they’re doing at No. 1, the likely choice remains Smith, who is viewed by many around the NBA as the draft’s best prospect. The Magic have brought in Smith, Holmgren and Paolo Banchero, among others, but it’s Smith who rival teams believe will be the choice, and it’s also notable that he seems excited to land in Orlando.” - Jeremy Woo | Read More
USA Today: Chet Holmgren – “I’d still consider Auburn’s Jabari Smith the favorite to hear his name called with the first overall pick with Holmgren in Oklahoma City. But while virtually every other mock draft has the Magic selecting Smith, I still believe there is a chance Orlando selects Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren. Per Rookie Wire’s Cody Taylor, Holmgren recently met with the Magic front office, and Orlando reportedly has a “soft spot” for Holmgren.” - Bryan Kalbrosky | Read More
Yahoo! Sports: Jabari Smith Jr. – "Smith might be the youngest of the top three prospects, but he brings a wide variety of offensive skills that can be plugged into this Magic team right away. He has the length and athleticism to defend positions 1-4 and is the best shooting big in this draft class, averaging 42% from 3-point range, something the Magic desperately need some help with after shooting 33% from deep last season. The Magic brought in Holmgren for one of their last workouts (Smith worked out for the team June 9), but there is so much to like about what Smith brings to the table right away with his elite shooting and defensive versatility." - Krysten Peek | Read More