NBA rookie Paolo Banchero makes magic happen

When the Magic drafted Duke power forward Paolo Banchero first overall in this year’s NBA Draft, there were plenty of expectations. But even more prevalent was a newly ignited sense of hope. The city of Orlando was more than ready to embrace him.

It’s no secret that years and years of rebuilding have caused the hopes and dreams of Magic fans to dwindle over the years. The franchise hasn’t reached the second round of the playoffs since 2010 with four first-round exits and eight seasons with 35 or less wins. Even with highlights from former players like Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon over the years, the Magic have always had questions surrounding them.

Now, Paolo Banchero is the answer. 

In his electrifying season debut, Banchero dropped 27 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks in a narrow loss to the Pistons. Despite the outcome, he looked poised, determined, and most importantly, intelligent. With these traits, it’s no wonder he’s been so great so far this season.

Through his first 11 games, Banchero has averaged 23.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game on a 46.1% shooting percentage. In that span, he also ranked top 20 in points, rebounds, field goals, free throws and minutes played. On top of that, he led all rookies in scoring. He’s scored 20+ points seven times and 30+ points twice with his best performance coming against the Kings. In that game, he recorded a career-high 33 points and 16 rebounds. Simply put, Banchero’s statistics are truly next-level.

But numbers don’t tell the whole story. Athletes can put big numbers, but look terrible on the court. Thankfully in Banchero’s case, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Even with a 6-foot-10, 250-pound frame, Banchero has a fluid, balanced, and shifty game that allows him to get to any spot on the floor with quickness and balance. He can use his height to get to the basket and attack while utilizing his 86-inch wingspan to get steals and big blocks on defense. While being officially listed as a power forward, Banchero is at his best when he plays more like a point guard. His passing is accurate and with solid ball-handling skills, he can create off the bounce to find teammates and set up plays. He is also excellent at using angles to find his sweet spots and score. When mismatches arise, he quickly takes advantage with his mid-range game and respectable three-point shot. But what’s most impressive is his athleticism. With a 40-inch vertical, Banchero can throw down some of the best dunks you’ve ever seen and he’s a constant lob threat. All in all, the Italian-American rookie is a box-office talent.

While the 2022-23 NBA season is still fresh and there is plenty of basketball to be played, Banchero’s performance so far this year has been nothing but encouraging. Orlando’s desperately needed a star that can take them back to the top. Multiple players have come and gone, but none of them have ever felt as special as Banchero feels. His game is fantastic and he has undoubtedly been the most NBA-ready rookie of them all. And once Banchero realizes that he can take over games and lead this franchise to victory, there’s no telling how far the Magic will go.

Paolo Banchero makes things happen on and off the court. All of Orlando knows it and soon enough, the world will know it too.