By: Tim Jones
The Orlando Magic shocked the world on draft night by selecting Paolo Banchero from Duke with the No. 1 overall pick. Banchero joins Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway (acquired via Chris Webber trade on draft night), and Dwight Howard as the only No.1 overall picks in franchise history. Banchero is now in company with a group who combined for a total of 14 all-star appearances, 13 all-NBA selections, and two finals appearances in their tenure with the Magic.
Prior to the night of the draft, the Magic had been long linked to Jabari Smith Jr. out of Auburn, who even believed himself that he was headed to Orlando. Reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski came out just minutes before the pick saying that Orlando was leaning towards Banchero.
After successfully pulling off one of the biggest smokescreens in recent NBA history, Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman said that in the end, Banchero was the pick because of his size, skillset, IQ and positional versatility, which he says is custom made for the way the game is played today.
Banchero admitted that he was a little surprised being selected first overall, given the fact he didn’t actually work out with the Magic, but he says he went through just about every other step in the pre-draft process with the team.
The Magic already possessed an intriguing and talented young core, but adding a player such as Banchero to the mix could be what essentially takes this team to new heights.
As I mentioned before, Paolo Banchero has all of the tools to quickly become the Magic’s go-to guy and primary option on the offensive end. That size and versatility that Weltman refers to is what separates him from the rest of the players in this class. He’s not the defensive prospect that Chet Holmgren is, nor is he the shooting prospect that Jabari Smith Jr. is, but his creation, playmaking, and overall scoring abilities clear them both at the moment.
Though he’s only been with the team a short amount of time, he looks to be fitting in with the squad just fine. Coach Mosley has only had high praises for the rookie and the two have frequently been seen getting extra reps together after practices. He was also seen days after the draft in the gym working out with Magic guard Cole Anthony and trainer Chris Brickley.
Banchero made his anticipated Magic debut at the NBA 2K23 Summer League in Las Vegas last night against none other than Jabari Smith and the Houston Rockets. It seemed very fitting for the two to play their first professional game against one another, since they will forever be linked because of what went down on draft night.
Along with fellow rookie Caleb Houstan, Banchero led the Magic to a 91-77 win over the Rockets. Houstan, a wing from the University of Michigan, was the leading scorer for the Magic with 20 points, including five three-pointers.
Banchero in his debut posted an impressive statline of 17 points, six assists and four rebounds on 5-12 shooting from the field and 2-3 from the three-point line. He looked comfortable and confident operating as the team’s primary initiator.
His full arsenal was put on display, as he drained fall-away jumpers, step-back threes and delivered pinpoint passes to shooters or cutters for open looks, some of which he did benefit from in the assist column.
Obviously it’s only been one game, but the top pick in this year’s draft showcased more than enough in last night’s win for fans to be confident in his future stardom.
Follow Tim Jones on Twitter