No. 3 overall in the 2022 Houston Rockets first round widely expected pick any one of the top three prospects – Auburn’s Jabari Smith, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Duke’s Paolo Bankero – is still on the board. All players in the front zone.
However, it remains unclear which of the three will eventually be available to Rockets General Manager Raphael Stone. There’s also a distant scenario where Oklahoma City picks Jayden Ivey at No. 2, which could leave Houston with a choice between two of those three frontcourt options.
Assuming the Rockets keep the pick, the pick will immediately join Jalen Green as a fundamental part of Houston’s recovery.
Now that it’s draft week, rumors are circulating leading to an actual pick on Thursday night, June 23rd. Some messages in the last days will be authentic, while others may be misinformation suited to a particular team or the prospect’s agenda. With that in mind, instead of writing separate stories for every rumor, we do what we do every day at RocketsWire sorts all the tidbits featuring each of the top three teams.
From here, it can be easier to determine where the true momentum or trend lies. As of Monday afternoon, here are the latest reports on the Magic (No. 1), Thunder (No. 2), and Rockets (No. 3), and what that could mean when it comes to Houston’s final selection. .
Orlando Magic, No. 1 overall
With the No. 1 pick Thursday night, league officials are widely predicting Auburn forward Jabari Smith to be the Magic’s choice. Among Smith and other prospects, Chet Holmgren and Paolo Bankero, Smith and his reps have long been the most enthusiastic about joining the Magic, sources told B/R. According to league staff familiar with both players, Holmgren’s and Bunchero’s camps acted with a strong desire to land elsewhere.
Smith was the #1 guy in the tryout draft right after the lottery, and he’s still that guy here as we start draft week. I’m not as sure as some of my media colleagues to call it a castle. Orlando did a thorough screening of all the best leads in different ways. I don’t think this decision was made in a matter of weeks or anything, and we’ll only find out about it during the draft.
Orlando diligently evaluated his options outside of Smith in the draft, working with the likes of Holmgren, Jaden Ivey, Keegan Murray and Shaydon Sharp. Every NBA team we’ve talked to expects Smith to end up being drafted here – any other scenario would be a big surprise for league leaders.
Oklahoma City Thunder, 2nd overall
While Holmgren was visiting Orlando, it is believed that Gonzaga’s product and its representatives would have preferred to land with the No. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder, as they believe the Thunder has a stronger infrastructure to support Holmgren’s development. Holmgren only partnered with Orlando and Oklahoma City during pre-project activities, sources said. The same goes for Smith.
Oklahoma City wanted to build a modern team where all five players could grab and go at halftime, shoot 3-pointers, and show off real offensive skills while still being able to defend. An idealized version of this in many ways is Holmgren.
Holmgren, who has only worked for Orlando and the Thunder, seems happy with the idea of being drafted here.
Houston Rockets, 3rd overall
Bunchero is known to be relishing the opportunity to join the Rockets at No. 3, sources said, while members of his representation haven’t ruled out the possibility that Duke’s freshman ends up in Oklahoma City. Banchero is originally from Seattle and has several ties to Rockets general manager Rafael Stone, who is also a Seattle native. Sources told B/R that Banchero is even more excited to be able to put together a scoring offense with Rockets defenseman Jalen Green.
The Rockets are getting someone who ranks very high on their board, as well as Banchero. After trading Christian Wood, it seems clear that the Rockets are emptying their frontcourt for any of the top three frontcourt players.
The Rockets took a close look at Banchero in private practice at his home base in Memphis before bringing him to Houston for another visit.