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Paolo Banchero says his head was in Houston prior to 2022 draft day

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It wasn’t just fans and media who were surprised by the draft-day switch of Paolo Banchero going No. 1 to the Orlando Magic and Jabari Smith Jr. going No. 3 to the Rockets. In a new interview with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Banchero admits that he was caught offguard, as well.

“That’s kind of where my mind was at, and I was fine with it,” Banchero said of his anticipated selection at No. 3 in the first round. “In Houston, I would say that’s where my head was at that time.”

Banchero, who often spoke with longtime friends Jalen Green and Josh Christopher about potentially joining the Rockets, said he was unaware of Orlando’s interest until a Zoom call within 48 hours of the draft.

“I was a little surprised they called,” Banchero told Haynes, in reference to the Magic. “Again, my mind was in Houston.”

Since then, Smith has averaged 15.0 points (40.7% FG), 8.8 rebounds, and 1.8 steals in 29.6 minutes over four games with the Rockets in summer league, while Banchero averaged 20.0 points (40.7% FG), 6.0 assists, and 5.0 rebounds in two games with the Magic before shutting it down.

Heading into the 2022 draft, Smith was widely viewed by scouts as the superior defender and shooter, with Banchero having the edge in shot creation and passing — and that’s generally how things played out in Las Vegas, albeit in an extremely limited sample size.

Smith and Banchero will inevitably be compared throughout their NBA careers due to the draft-day drama — which apparently surprised not only fans and media members, but even the players themselves.

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