Report: In minutes before draft, Rockets did try to trade for No. 1 pick with Magic

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For a month or more in the run-up to the 2022 NBA Draft, there was a consensus on how the top three picks would play out: The Magic would take Jabari Smith Jr. No. 1, Chet Holmgren would go second to the Thunder, and the Rockets would take Paolo Banchero third.

Then in the 24 hours before the draft, that narrative shifted as it became clear the Magic had hidden their true intentions all along and were going to take Banchero first overall. That led to questions around the league about what the Rockets might do — it turns out they at least made an effort to trade up to No. 1, report Tim MacMahon and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

Once the Rockets were convinced Orlando was going with Banchero, Houston reached out to the Magic to make a trade offer to get up to the top pick, sources said.

The Rockets wouldn’t have made an offer if they were certain Smith would slide to them, sources said, but they were concerned about having to make a decision on Holmgren without time to digest his medical information…

So the Magic listened to the Rockets’ offer but firmly passed. The negotiation was brief, and the Rockets got the message: A deal was highly unlikely.

This happens a lot more than fans might think. Not necessarily with the top three picks in a draft, but the trade offers and shifting landscape up until the final minutes is expected. Everyone is trying to gain an edge and get to the player they have higher on the draft board.

Houston’s offer was likely lowball because, as noted, they would be happy with Smith and it was no secret the Thunder were high on Holmgren.

In their Summer League debuts, Banchero showed impressive shot creation and passing skills to go with his ability to get a bucket. Smith showed flashes of the athleticism and shooting that made him a top-three pick, but he’s going to take some time to develop his complete game.

Both are strong picks that will be part of their team’s cores for years going forward, but on draft night they were in the middle of a lot of drama.