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time, picks, live blog, updates, trades, moves, best players, order, Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren, Australians, Dyson Daniels


US college star Jabari Smith Jr. is strongly tipped to be chosen with the top pick by the Orlando Magic when the 2022 NBA Draft takes place on Friday [AEST].

The 19-year-old Smith, who excelled for Auburn University’s Tigers this year during his only season as a college player, has emerged as the bookmaker’s favourite to be chosen first in Thursday’s annual scramble for the top collegiate talent.

The 6ft 10in power forward impressed for the Tigers in a college season that saw him average 16.9 points per game along with 7.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists.

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The teenager has a rare combination of size and shooting touch, with deadly accuracy from three-point range and an athleticism likely to make him a defensive asset for any team that ends up recruiting him.

There were suggestions on Thursday afternoon that Paolo Banchero could instead be selected first and that the Houston Rockets could move up to the No. 1 pick.

That came after Banchero rocked into favouritism on the betting markets to be taken with the first overall pick but that does not appear to be the case anymore.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Friday morning that the order the top three prospects will be taken in is “increasingly firm”.

Smith’s biggest rival for the No.1 pick is expected to be Gonzaga University’s Chet Holmgren, who stands an imposing 7ft tall.

The 20-year-old Bulldogs standout also offers a combination of elite ball-handling and footwork as well as being an expert shot-blocker. Holmgren averaged 14.1 points per game with 9.9 rebounds for Gonzaga.

If Orlando fail to pick Holmgren with the first choice, he is almost certain to go to the Oklahoma City Thunder with the second pick.

James Jones, an assistant coach with the US Team at last year’s Under-19 World Cup that Holmgren played in, describes him as a “Kevin Durant kind of player.”

“He has great instincts. He’s the kind of guy that can do multiple different things,” Jones told AFP.

“He’s not one kind of player, he can do a lot of different stuff, very versatile.

“As a kid, leader, hard worker, great person, very friendly, very outgoing, and very dedicated into becoming the best basketball player he can.”

“He’s a Kevin Durant kind of player in terms of his skill level, to be able to do some of those things. He’s obviously not Kevin Durant. But he has that skill, a similar skill set.”

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Other talent in the top echelon of the draft on Thursday includes Duke University’s Paolo Banchero, tipped to be taken by the Houston Rockets with the third pick.

Jaden Ivey, who averaged 17.3 points per game for Purdue, could also feature high in the draft, with the Sacramento Kings lurking as a possible destination for the 20-year-old.

From an Australian perspective, all eyes will be on Dyson Daniels, who is projected as a lock for the top-10 in Friday’s draft.

The Portland Trail Blazers and New Orleans Pelicans are considered a strong chance of drafting the Australia, although both could also trade down, adding an extra element of intrigue.

In draft day news, the Los Angeles Lakers have made a move to acquire the 35th pick from the Magic, who get a future second-round pick and money in return.

The Lakers have made seven second-round draft picks over the last decade, with Talen Horton-Tucker the only one currently left on their team.

That is expected to only be the first of plenty of trades on a chaotic draft day.

“A lot of trades,” Wojnarowski said on ESPN’s Draft Preview when asked for a bold prediction.

“Listen, trades are the new free agency this time of year. You’re seeing fewer and fewer impact players going into free agency. They’re signing extensions, and then they enter the transfer portal when they want out and ask for a trade.”

The Ringer’s Chris Vernon predicted on the latest episode of ‘The Mismatch’ podcast that this is going to be a ‘wild’ draft.

You can follow all the latest developments from the ‘wild’ draft below!

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