Jabari Smith 2022 NBA Draft: ‘I’d be surprised if I’m not taken No. 1’ by the Orlando Magic

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NEW YORK — The No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft belongs to the Orlando Magic. And at this point, it’s no secret that they plan to select Thursday night.

“I’d be surprised if I’m not taken No. 1,” Jabari Smith Jr., Auburn’s top overall pick, told Yahoo Sports. “It’s just my competitive nature mixed with my selflessness and my ability to just shoot the ball, defend multiple positions and care about winning. I don’t care about stats. I feel like I can help any team any right away. But I feel like I’m the first choice.

Smith has only worked for Orlando and the Oklahoma City Thunder, owners of the No. 2 overall pick.

“The city of Orlando was really nice,” Smith told Yahoo Sports. “They are going in the right direction. They have a new head coach, Jamahl Mosley. It was great talking to him. It was good talking to the GM and you can tell they are heading in the right direction and the future is bright. I want to be part of it. I can not wait.

Auburn forward Jabari Smith told Yahoo Sports he would be surprised if the Orlando Magic didn’t select him with the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday’s 2022 NBA draft. (Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports)

Some of the top prospects, including Smith, spent Wednesday afternoon at the National Basketball Players Association headquarters in midtown Manhattan, hosting a basketball clinic for local youth and packing kits to benefit Covenant residents. House, an organization that supports young people facing homelessness.

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First-round prospects Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, Ochai Agbaji, MarJon Beauchamp, Malaki Branham, Dyson Daniels, Johnny Davis, Ousmane Dieng, Jalen Duren, Tari Eason, Jaden Hardy, Bennedict Mathurin, Keegan Murray, Jeremy Sochan, Blake Wesley, Jalen Williams and Mark Williams were also present.

“It’s just cool, man,” Smith told Yahoo Sports of the youth clinic. “You see videos of NBA players giving back, you see some of the greatest that have ever done stuff like that. So it’s good to give back and help people in need, and just to be here with the other players who are about to fulfill their life’s dream.

Jabari Smith ‘remained humble’ throughout 2022 NBA draft process

The 6-foot-11 forward had a freshman season at Auburn averaging 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, one block, 1.1 steals and shot 42 percent on three in 34 games.

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His versatility and size intrigue NBA staff.

There were initially debates over who would become No. 1 when the Magic won the toss. Holmgren was a safe bet for the spot for much of the 2021-22 college campaign.

But Smith said he always believed he could be the No. 1 pick, even when no one else believed him.

“I just stayed humble, stayed quiet, kept my head down and didn’t pay attention to leaderboards and fake drafts,” Smith told Yahoo Sports. “I just focused on Auburn, focused on my teammates and focused on winning. I feel like I did that and everything else worked. And I feel like my selflessness stands out. I really don’t care how many minutes I get. I really want to help the team. That’s how I was brought up. And I was always brought up to play the game the right way and always care about winning, not individual success. That’s how I am.

Being taken #1 comes with high expectations. The Magic’s three previous No. 1 selections have proven to be superstars.

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Shaquille O’Neal was selected in 1992, Chris Webber was selected the following year and traded on draft day to the Golden State Warriors for No. 3 pick Anfernee Hardaway, and Dwight Howard was the pick in 2004.

Smith should be in excellent company.

“No. 1 picks like LeBron James and so many others, there’s a lot of pressure. They’ll tag you a bust pretty quickly if you don’t produce,” Smith told Yahoo Sports. “I know for most No. 1 picks it’s pretty hard to come into the league focusing on winning, but that’s exactly what I want to do. I don’t really care what people say about me. I just want to make the playoffs my freshman year, and the rest will take care of itself. I know that if I win, I’m doing something good.

Draft day has finally arrived. NBA commissioner Adam Silver will call his name and his life will be changed forever. This is the moment he has been waiting for, a moment he has imagined in front of the masses.

“I’m a little nervous, man, like everyone should be,” Smith told Yahoo Sports. “You’ve been working for this for so long and it’s like a dream come true. So I’m a little excited and nervous. I’m just ready for the day.

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