Former Duke phenom Paolo Banchero says he's the best player in NBA draft
Less than a week before the 2022 NBA draft, former Duke freshman phenom Paolo Banchero told reporters that the Orlando Magic should use its No. 1 overall pick on him.
"I feel like I am the best player in the draft and I feel like I showed that throughout the year," he said Friday over Zoom. "I feel like I showed everything with my skill sets and my intangibles."
The 6-foot-10, 235-pound Banchero, who averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists while earning ACC Freshman of the Year honors this past season, is projected as a top 3 pick alongside Auburn's Jabari Smith and Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren in the upcoming June 23 draft at Brooklyn's Barclays Center.
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The Magic have the first pick with Oklahoma City and Houston selecting No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. Banchero had his most recent workout with the Rockets and commented on possibly playing alongside Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr.
"Those are two extremely skilled, extremely talented players," Banchero said. "Both guys I've known for a while. I feel like playing with them would be fun. Both are unselfish guys. Guys who want to win."
"I'll be blessed to hear my name called by any of the top three teams," he added.
During an interview on Friday, Duke assistant coach Chris Carrawell also called Banchero "the best player in the draft."
"When you get to the playoffs (in the NBA) you got to have a guy who can make and create shots," Carrawell said. "When the shot clock goes down, you've got to be able to throw the ball to a guy and have him create something. Paolo can do that right now."
Banchero could be a part of a record night for the Blue Devils, which could have five players – Banchero, AJ Griffin, Mark Williams, Wendell Moore and Trevor Keels – drafted in one night for the first time in program history.
"Anytime you get that opportunity to have five guys, I played with four (who were drafted), you want them to beat that record," Carrawell said. "It would be a great thing for us and, you know, everyone gets to see that. When I go into a recruit's home, I get to say, I coached that guy, and you know, that helps."
David Thompson is an award-winning reporter for the USA Today Network covering NC State and Duke athletics. Follow him on Twitter at @daveth89.