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The Houston Rockets are preparing for the 2022 NBA Draft with the mindset of selecting Duke forward Paolo Banchero with their third overall pick, league sources told SI Fastbreak.

While the Orlando Magic own the first overall pick and the Oklahoma City Thunder own the second overall pick in next week’s draft, the Rockets are confident that Jabari Smith Jr. and Chet Holmgren will be the first two picks, in no particular order, paving a way for Banchero to fall to Houston.

Throughout the pre-draft process, Banchero has been the name at the top of Houston’s draft board and if they had the first overall selection this year, there is wide speculation amongst league circles that the Rockets would very likely be selecting Paolo Banchero.

Not only did the team spend time with Banchero at the NBA Draft Combine in May, but he worked out for the team recently and the team was obviously impressed with what they saw given the surprising move to trade Christian Wood on Wednesday night.

Moving Wood to the Dallas Mavericks in a package that landed them Sterling Brown, Trey Burke, Marquese Chriss, Boban Marjanovic and the No. 26 overall selection in this year’s draft, the Rockets have opened up a spot in their frontcourt for a power-forward of Banchero’s potential to pair alongside 2021 first-rounder Alperen Sengun.

The only question mark surrounding the Rockets heading into the 2022 NBA Draft now lies in the hands of the Thunder, who currently own the second overall pick, one pick ahead of the Rockets, and have been relatively quiet on their intentions in the draft.

Some around the league believe that if Jabari Smith Jr. goes first overall to the Orlando Magic, that the Thunder would be more than happy to take Chet Holmgren, but both Banchero and Holmgren have fans within Oklahoma City’s front-office, multiple sources confirm to SI Fastbreak. Not to mention, the Thunder recently brought in Smith for a workout.

A wrench could be thrown in Houston Rockets’ plans for next Thursday’s draft should Paolo Banchero go second overall to the Thunder, but as of right now, early indications are that Banchero will be on the board for them with this third overall selection.

With some calling him the best overall prospect in this year’s draft given his offensive prowess, Banchero would slide right into a starting spot in Houston alongside last year’s second overall pick Jalen Green and some other first-round talent in Kevin Porter Jr. and Alperen Sengun.

Following Wednesday night’s trade with the Mavericks, the Rockets now have the Nos. 3, 17 and 26 picks in next Thursday’s draft, the team hoping they will be able to select Paolo Banchero with their third pick.