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The 2022 NBA Draft was not short on drama, because while we didn’t see a blockbuster trade involving a top-10 pick for a veteran as many had anticipated, the widely expected order at the top got turned on its head when the Orlando Magic took Paolo Banchero at No. 1 instead of Jabari Smith Jr.
It was the culmination of a rather wild week in the betting markets, as bettors won big on Banchero to go No. 1, with odds moving like crazy starting on Monday and continuing through Draft day, despite reports that Orlando was still focused on Smith at the top. Sure enough, that movement proved to be correct and Smith slid from No. 1 to No. 3, landing in Houston after Chet Holmgren went second to OKC in spite of the change at the very top.
For all of us, it was crazy to watch from afar, but for Smith it was a life-altering shift as he found his future suddenly in flux after believing for weeks (if not months) that he’d be headed to Orlando to start his NBA career. Smith spoke with Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks at Summer League about the emotions of that night and how he was physically shaking when it all went down, struggling at first to deal with those frustrations but saying that they all melted away once his name got called and his lifelong dream of getting to the NBA was achieved.
“That was the first time I ever felt like…I was really shaking. I couldn’t stop.”
I asked Jabari Smith Jr about the draft emotional rollercoaster, playing Orlando this season, & what he really wants people to remember about him from draft night
— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) July 13, 2022
It’s a reminder of how Draft night drama impacts the young men waiting to find out where their careers are set to take them, as trades and sudden changes can impact that player’s life tremendously. The good news is that Smith seems to have a good perspective on it all and is taking the approach of embracing where he ended up in Houston.
On a large scale, there wasn’t really a bad landing spot for the top three, as all three of the teams picking at the top are in youth movements, and the Rockets took steps to prepare for the arrival of a young big man prior to the draft by trading Christian Wood, so there’s ample opportunity for him and he will play for a staff where development is first and foremost at the moment. Still, it has to be quite the shock to the system to be told for weeks you’ll go No. 1 and end up at No. 3, but it seems to be just a bit more fuel on the fire for Smith as he gets ready to embark on his NBA career.