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Report: Rockets had Jabari Smith at No. 1 on NBA draft board

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The majority of rumors prior to the 2022 NBA draft had linked the Rockets to Duke’s Paolo Banchero. However, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, Houston actually had Auburn forward Jabari Smith — the team’s eventual choice at No. 3 in the first round — atop its draft board.

“By the end of this year’s (draft preparation) process, two things were clear: Smith was the top prospect on their big board, and regardless, Houston would be pleased with whoever was available to them out of Smith, (Chet) Holmgren, and Banchero,” Iko writes in a new notebook.

It’s impossible to conclusively tell whether the sentiment is legitimate or posturing, since many teams understandably like to spin the narrative that they ended up with exactly who they wanted. After all, no rookie wants to hear that he wasn’t the desired outcome for his new team.

Then again, no draft expert had Smith falling to the Rockets, so it’s entirely possible that Houston’s reported interest in Banchero was simply due to the reasonable expectation that Smith would not be an option. Instead, Orlando shocked the draft community by taking Banchero first.

Whatever the case, the Rockets are clearly pleased by the end result. As far as justifying that type of praise, Smith and Banchero will soon face off against one another when 2022 NBA summer league play tips off from Las Vegas on Thursday, July 7, when the Magic play the Rockets.

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