NEW YORK — The No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA draft belongs to the Orlando Magic. And at this point, it is no secret whom they plan to select Thursday night.
“I’ll be surprised if I’m not taken No. 1,” Jabari Smith Jr., the consensus top overall pick out of Auburn, told Yahoo Sports. “It’s just my competitive nature mixed with my unselfishness and my ability to just shoot the ball, defend multiple positions and care about winning. I don’t care about stats. I feel I can help any team right away. But I feel I’m the No. 1 pick.”
Smith has worked out for only 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’re headed in the right direction. They’ve got a new head coach, Jamahl Mosley. It was great talking to him. It was good talking to the GM and you can tell they’re headed in the right direction and the future is bright. I want to be a part of that. I can’t wait.”
Some of the top prospects, including Smith, spent Wednesday afternoon at the headquarters of the National Basketball Players Association in midtown Manhattan, hosting a basketball clinic for local youth and packing kits to benefit residents of the Covenant House, an organization that supports young people facing homelessness.
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 in attendance.
“This is just cool, man,” Smith told Yahoo Sports about the youth clinic. “You see videos of NBA players giving back, you see some of the greatest ever doing stuff like this. So this is just good to give back and help people in need, and just being here with the other players who are about to achieve the dream of their lives.”
The 6-foot-11 forward had a breakout freshman season at Auburn as he averaged 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, one block, 1.1 steals and shot 42% from three in 34 games.
His versatility and size intrigue NBA personnel.
But Smith said he always believed he could be the No. 1 pick, even when no one else believed.
“I just stayed humble, stayed down, kept my head down working and not paying attention to the rankings and the mock…