How #1 Overall NBA Draft Pick Paolo Banchero Fits The Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic draft Duke's Paolo Banchero #1 Overall in the 2022 NBA Draft. How will the team set him up to succeed?
The Magic pull off a Houdini!
Smart draft geeks galore declared him the best player in the class with the highest star shot creator potential of anyone. While this Magic fan wrongly predicted Orlando’s draft target to be Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, everyone in America was reporting interest between the Magic and Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. Even after Vegas saw the frenetic late-night shift in odds for the eventual pick, Woj reiterized the rumor that Orlando was taking Jabari.
Maybe Orlando changed their big board through the draft process. Perhaps an agent or another team wanted the rumor out there to create leverage. Where exactly the rumor began is unknown. Either way, the confusion allowed Orlando to explore every option. If Houston was as interested in trading up after workouts as reports suggest, then Orlando may have turned down the option to trade down to 3, where they could have added a future first(s) and still land Jabari, if they viewed Smith in the same top tier for this team.
Instead, Orlando had Adam Silver pull a name out of a hat that no one saw coming. Houston Rockets GM Rafael Stone said after the draft he had no idea who Orlando was going to select first overall. When it came down to it, the Magic decided to take Paolo Banchero themselves, the strong, tall, tough-shot-making scoring creator out of Duke. Paolo said he didn’t know where he was going until he was congratulated by the commissioner and his agent, Mike Miller, just thirty seconds before the pick was announced.
In 1992, Shaquille O’Neal smashed onto the scene. In 1993, Orlando drafted Chris Webber first overall, only to trade C-Webb for Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway and three future firsts. In 2004, Dwight Howard dropped down from the heavens. In 2022, Paolo Banchero joins Orlando Magic royalty; former top picks who all ended up on the Orlando Magic’s Mt. Rushmore of players.
“When you look at the intersection of size, skill, IQ, shot-creation, ability to create for himself and for others — you don’t see these guys very often. And when you do, they’re pretty good players in the NBA. So, I dont think it’s too hard to see why you wouldn’t be a fan of Paolo. Every layer that we uncovered as we went through the process (intel gathering, testing, measuring), he just kept getting better and better, even beyond what we all see with the naked eye on the court. So we started out with a lot of confidence in him and it only grew as we went through the process.”
“In all of our metrics, he’s in the 90th percentile shot creation for himself and ALSO 90th percentile shot creation for others, and you just don’t see that.”
“The positional versatility at both ends of the floor; the IQ, the size; that’s the way we see our team growing. That’s why we think Paolo is one of those guys that can fit in anywhere with anyone, and we want a bunch of those guys, and I think we’re developing that profile.
- Jeff Weltman via the Ryen Russillo Podcast, The Ringer
How does Paolo Banchero fit with this roster? First off, he’ll make everyone’s life easier. Banchero creates opportunities for himself and teammates, versatile enough to play multiple roles on both sides of the floor. Paolo is so skilled with the ball as a paint-penetrating force, he might draw double teams eventually at the next level.
Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero are now teammates. Two tall wings who dribble, pass, and shoot; two 6’10” good basketball players who break down defenses; two hoopers who create shots for themselves and others. Look out, league, the Magic have entered the modern NBA.
These two could be Orlando’s most promising young offensive options going forward, but let’s not forget the rest of this young core. An under-25 group that features long, strong, skilled players at every position:
PG - Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony
SG - Jalen Suggs, R.J. Hampton
SF - Franz Wagner, Chuma Okeke
PF - Paolo Banchero, Jonathan Isaac
C - Wendell Carter Jr., Mo Bamba
Orlando Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman and General Manager John Hammond are constructing a competitive culture in Orlando, lead by Coach Jamahl Mosley establishing a no-plays-off mentality from the sidelines. On this team, the defensive energy is contagious. Paolo stands 6’10” tall and weighs 250 lbs, with a wingspan reach of 7’1”. Between Banchero, Wagner, Carter, Isaac, Bamba, Suggs, and Fultz, the Magic are huge at every position. Coach Mose won’t be afraid to pull Paolo if he’s not giving his all defensively.
Markelle Fultz and Wendell Carter Jr. bookend the starting lineup as defensive team-first decision-makers. Carter anchors the defense with boulder block shoulders and pristine footwork as Fultz acts as the straw that stirs the drink on offense. ‘Kelle and ‘Dell exemplify the idea of Orlando investing in strength, length, and feel at every position; The Magic want other teams to feel their presence on the hardwood.
Jalen Suggs probably wanted to reunite his dominant Minnesota high school duo with Chet Holmgren, yet Suggs warmly welcomed Banchero to PaolO-Town on instagram. While critics are concerned with Jalen’s first-year 3P%, Suggs has shown more than enough on both ends to be excited about, already a good if not great defender for his position.
Suggs’ defensive pressure, versatility, and energy was super impactful, a rare trait for rookies; Jalen posted hustle stats resembling the type of lockdown defenders his game should ideally emulate in Marcus Smart and Jrue Holiday. Between his defensive impact, north-south burst in transition, and already developing as a finisher at the rim during his time off from injury, Suggs’ exciting two-way career has only just begun, with a proven willingness to put in the work.
The biggest wildcard for next season is Jonathan Isaac’s availability and his level of two-way impact if and when he can get back onto the court at full strength. One of the most destructive defensive forces in the league early in his career, Isaac hasn’t played more than a few NBA games in the bubble since the first day of 2020. Now 24 years old, Jonathan faces a similar hurdle that Klay Thompson saw, attempting to return to the grind of an NBA schedule after missing two seasons of action.
With everyone available, Orlando would suddenly have one of most versatile defensive frontcourts in the NBA, with a variety of skills at every position. Franz, Chuma, Isaac, Paolo, Wendell, and Bamba should complement each other differently, play for each other, and compete defensively, affording the coaching staff endless lineup options.
Picking Paolo over Jabari and Chet could be a good sign for the return of restricted free agent, Mo Bamba. Paolo focuses on sound rotations providing rim deterrence, rather than leaving his feet for block attempts. With Jabari and Chet having more play-finishing rim-protecting floor-stretching traits in common with Bamba than Paolo does, there’s at least a better chance of Mo re-signing in Orlando than if the team had gone in a different direction with the pick.
Orlando has roughly ~$27M in cap space in a weak free agent class, while next year’s star-studded class awaits. The Magic can make a team-friendly offer to Mo and/or wait to match any larger offers in RFA if they don’t work out a deal directly with the big man. Add in Orlando having two lottery tickets for the 2023 Wembanyama draft, and you might see why the team is straddling the line between building a respectable competitive culture and keeping the draft pick odds as high as possible.
Banchero’s touch, ball-skills, and tough shot-making in the midrange inspire hope for realistic development as a shooter, while those skills combined with his vision, interior passing, and short-roll playmaking add to a skillset that, when combined with the right work ethic and situation, could describe a star scoring creator in the NBA.
Even though other top prospects in this draft class project to be great outside shooters and elite defenders, the concerns over Paolo’s shot and defensive capability seem overblown. While Jabari earned the label as this draft’s tall tough shot-maker with an aesthetically pleasing shot release, Paolo was fairly flashy himself, busting out moves before rising up over defenders for the pull-up.
The ACC Freshman of the Year looked like a star out of the gates against Kentucky with 22 PTS, and his play only grew stronger as the season continued. Banchero looked dominant in a head-to-head win over Chet’s Gonzaga team, scoring 21 PTS.
Drawing four free throws a game at the collegiate level, Banchero can be a constant threat to draw fouls at the next level, especially in motion when rolling to the rack. The Magic coaching staff will look for ways to put Paolo in position to earn whistles.
As an outside shooter, Paolo hitting 33.8% 3P% on 3.3 3PA per game at Duke is a respectable rate, especially when one remembers that 33% efficiency on a three-pointer is worth as many points per possession (1.0 PPP) as a Durant/Kawhi 50% 2P% middy.
In the tournament, Paolo continued to raise his game to an even higher level, scoring an extra two points per game on shooting splits that grew from 48-34-73 to 50-53-73.
Look closer at that 3PT bump! In five straight March Madness games, on the biggest stage, Paolo Banchero shot 52.6% 3P% from deep while launching 3.8 3PA!
Paolo projects to be a good shooter, someone who can always work to continue developing his game. If anything, the Magic coaching staff may look to increase Banchero’s touches from deep, with realistic room to develop in different roles on the ball in ISO and P&R sets and off the ball as a spot-up threat.
While the Magic’s best C&S 3PT threats seem to sit on the bench, let’s not pretend only one lineup exists, especially for a team with so many players in and out of the rotation. Orlando might start an inverse-spaced lineup, where its frontcourt stretches the floor better than the backcourt. Franz Wagner plays with team-first efficient precision, while Wendell Carter Jr. built up his shot confidence to the point that defenses must respect him from deep in C&S situations.
All sorts of variations of a two man game can emerge between Franz and Paolo. Will Franz run P&R with Paolo rolling, or will Paolo run P&R with Franz popping? How does one guard the Banchero handoff to Franz, into a rescreen, into a roll? Let’s throw a wiggle into the action with Spain P&R, have Paolo-Wendell running the main pick-and-roll as Franz sets the second screen in the paint and flares out to the three.
Any overlapping skills that don’t involve ball-stopping are a positive; a team can never run out of huge dudes with feel for the game who make team-first decisions with the ball and compete on both ends. Between Wagner’s on and off-ball shooting prowess, Paolo’s bully-ball short-roll playmaking, and the interchangeability of both players in so many roles, versatility remains the word of the day. This Magic duo can mold their game into a versatile attack as malleable as any.
Banchero’s best skills are hard to pinpoint, because he’s pretty dang good at everything. Unleashing Paolo as a grab-and-go monster who feasts in transition is bound to produce exciting results. Experimenting Paolo in different playtypes is needed when he can do everything from create P&R as ball-handler, roll into the paint as a short-rolling playmaker, and ISO mismatches on the wing, all potential pathways to efficient buckets for Banchero while leading to good half-court looks for the team.
Hopefully Orlando’s depth of intriguing talent opens up opportunities to score and create in a secondary attack role that Paolo isn’t used to filling as the clear star on his previous teams. A Fultz-Paolo P&R with the starters could feature Markelle attacking the rack and Paolo short-rolling into the paint with Franz, Suggs, and Wendell ready to hit the three, attack closeouts, or keep the ball moving on the wing.
Banchero’s ability to lower his shoulder, get to the rim, and stop on a dime with the pull-up jumper, all while keeping his eye open for kickouts, is an extremely valuable set of skills. Star players who go out of their way to look to set up teammates are a rare find. This amalgamation makes him an overqualified short-rolling playmaker with high potential as a supersized scoring creator; imagine pairing Paolo’s unpredictability in a handoff or P&R with a sniper from deep?
Cole Anthony drops a mean pull-up jumper, often ignoring screens for self-created looks and setting up popping big men with behind-the-back passes. Flashing development as a halfcourt primary decision-maker when running the offense, the Magic sneakily scored just as efficiently as a team with Cole running P&R as Franz running them last season, 0.93 PPP, with Cole racking up twice the volume. (850 poss)
Cole and Paolo could have one of the most lethal handoffs and pick-and-roll plays on the team, if not the league, with Anthony’s pull-up shooting efficiency as high as anyone in the NBA , albeit on a lower volume of 3+ pull-up threes per game. Play Banchero with the second team, and he’s suddenly flanked by shooting. Cole, R.J., Chuma, Bamba provide spacing for Banchero to operate, and team-first play-finishers to work with. Banchero fits cleanly on paper with this second unit in a similar way that Scottie Barnes would have last year; a giant north-south transition force of nature at the 4 who’s always looking for the team’s best shot.
Chuma Okeke and R.J. Hampton have shown promise as outside shooters, while Okeke has also proven to be a frenetic, switchable wing defender. R.J.’s north-south speed gives him a chance to break one at any moment; Hampton’s ability to attack closeouts and knock down C&S threes could keep him in the rotation, especially with shot-creators like Fultz and Paolo helping to create easier looks than before.
If Okeke finds consistency from deep, the Chuma-Paolo two-man game can become a beautiful thing to watch in its own right, with another pair of skilled team-first wings who can play on and off the ball. Okeke actually got an opportunity to work with Carmelo Anthony on his shot and midrange moves.
Jonathan Isaac’s strong stretch of corner three-point shooting was a big swing factor in Orlando making the playoffs a few seasons back. Isaac’s even had the chance to work on his game with the fourth face on Orlando Magic Player Mt. Rushmore, Tracy McGrady.
This young core has few holes in their game, so few that other teams should have nothing to pick on or target when gameplanning a strategy. Ideally, Orlando reaches a point of lineup versatility that everyone from the players and coaches would feel comfortable rolling out different lineups, different schemes, different gameplans on the fly, with the versatility to handle alternate matchups appropriately.
Obviously, every prospect has room to grow; these players are hardly finished products, and that’s a good thing. The Orlando Magic have built an expectation of daily improvement, enjoying the journey, and never quitting on a possession.
More than any one pairing on this team, though, is the interchangeability of the roster, the lineup versatility this team has to offer. Strong and long at every position, each player has realisitically developable ball-skills for their role. The backup for any position can step in and help the starting role as a fill-in, if not even bring a complementary new factor to the table. Everyone has opportunity to succeed and develop in their role with a good fit between two-way team-first feel and spacing, without any one really stepping on each other’s toes in the process.
Joining Zion, Brand, and Kyrie as Duke star talents to go first overall in the draft, Banchero marks the second former high school quarterback drafted by Orlando in back-to-back years. (Suggs) With Paolo Banchero in the mix, Orlando adds a good basketball player to the rotation, potentially a giant franchise star to build around, the best modern scoring creator of the class, and a tough-shot-hitting midrange assassin.
Welcome to PaolO-Town!
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