Renowned Russian author Leo Tolstoy once wrote that “the two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”
Loyal fans of the Orlando Magic are no strangers to patience and time. Having patience with the Magic has been something of a requirement since the team moved on from perennial All-Star center Dwight Howard back in the summer of 2012.
Yes, that’s right - I took it back that far. Orlando has missed the playoffs in the Eastern Conference eight times over the last decade since Howard was dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Hence, patience and time. Time and time again over the last ten years, the Magic have found themselves in the middle of the NBA Draft lottery. But this time, the patience fans have shown - and the time they’ve been waiting for the team to return to relevancy in the East - has finally paid off.
For the fourth time in franchise history, and the first time since 2004, the Orlando Magic will be selecting first overall in the draft. The Magic, who have already assembled a roster with six former top-ten NBA Draft picks (along with a collection of additional young players), will now be adding the top player from the 2022 class to their core group in Orlando.
“More than anything, (I’m) excited for the fanbase,” Orlando Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman told reporters in May, following the announcement that his team had won the lottery. “When we went through the rebuild last year (dating back to the 2021 NBA Trade Deadline), we took on all that comes with that. All the youth, all the mistakes, all the excitement, all the enthusiasm. Part of that process is going into the lottery and hoping that you come out in a good place. So we’re excited about tonight, and I’m really excited that the fans have something to fire (them) up.”
Weltman acknowledged to reporters after the lottery that controlling the top of the draft will come with sets of circumstances his group has not been accustomed to in previous draft processes, such as more access to players’ medical information, more prospects willing to visit/workout with the team, and potentially even more phone calls from other organizations.
Orlando’s top executives, including veteran general manager John Hammond, have quite the predicament on their hands. Three big men have presumably separated themselves in a tier of their own at this point of the pre-draft process. And while things can certainly change over the next month, it has long been assumed that the top three selections in this year’s NBA Draft will result in some combination of (alphabetically listed) Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, and Jabari Smith Jr.
Here at Orlando Pinstriped Post, we will be putting together detailed scouting reports of all three prospects over the next month which will include measurements, film observations, resumes, ‘talking points’, and potential fit(s) with the Magic. First in this series is a sculpted and athletic forward from Duke (via Seattle, WA), big Paolo Banchero.
|17.1 PTS, 7.7 REB, 3.1 AST, 32.4% 3PT% (105 3PTA's)
Eye in the sky
-Was able to use his size/strength to wreak havoc against smaller college defenders in post-up situations
-Has a complex offensive bag: loves to utilize a spin-move facing-up, off the dribble. Possesses excellent footwork creating for himself in the painted area. Can beat defenders off the dribble in one-on-one situations (cross-over dribble, jump-stop, array of pump-fakes)
-Instinctual offensive rebounder. Has nice touch around the rim (comfortable finishing off the glass, comfortable using either hand)
-Probably not an elite/world-class run-and-jump athlete, but certainly possesses plus-athleticism for a player his size. Can be a threat in transition
-Makes defenders pay for falling asleep, has elite vision/play-making ability for a big. No problem passing from the post, elbow, off the dribble
-Regularly finds cutters when double-teamed. Can create fast-break opportunities for others with his ability to throw the ball ahead, pinpoint outlet passer
-Combination of size/strength/athleticism was just too much for many collegiate defenders to handle, looks every bit the part of an NBA-ready ‘big’
-Considering the matchup advantages he regularly enjoyed, probably settled (at times) too often for perimeter shots and/or low-percentages attempts
-Has size/footwork to be a plus-defender, but is aloof defensively too often. Plays a little too upright for me (defensively), definitely took plays off on that end this past season
-Solid balance on his outside jumper, holds follow through really well. Would like to see a little bit of a wider-base (lower half) with his jump-shot
Reminds me of...
Blake Griffin - Similar bodies/measurements. Banchero is not the elite run-and-jump athlete that Griffin was early in his NBA career. Both players used their combination of size/strength/athleticism to ‘bully’ collegiate players on the offensive end.
Tobias Harris - Banchero is slightly bigger/sturdier than Harris, and he has better court vision. You can probably run more offense through Banchero than you could with Harris. Similar movements/footwork/athleticism on the floor.
Chris Webber - Webber was the player Banchero initially reminded me of, but I’ve backed-off that comparison somewhat. Banchero is not the defensive presence Webber was (in college and/or in the NBA), and he also drifts much further from the basket than Webber did. The bodies, vision, and offensive rebounding/instincts are what originally led me to see similarities in their respective games.
Best films of 2021-22
November 9th vs. Kentucky - 22 points (7-11 FGA’s, 8-9 FTA’s), 7 rebounds
November 26th vs. Gonzaga - 21 points, 5 rebounds (3-8 3PTA’s)
March 11th vs. Miami - 18 points (8-10 FGA’s), 11 rebounds, 4 assists
March 24th vs. Texas Tech - 22 points (7-12 FGA’s, 3-4 3PTA’s, 5-6 FTA’s), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals
Video Credit: Frankie Vision
Video Credit: The Scouting Rapport
Resume & ‘By the numbers’
- Mother - Rhonda Smith-Banchero - is the all-time leading scorer at the University of Washington
- Washington Gatorade Player of the Year his junior season in high school (2020)
- Nike Hoops Summit, McDonald’s All-American, and Jordan Brand Classic participant (2021)
- ACC Rookie of the Year (2022), First-Team All-ACC (2022), Second-Team All-American (2022)
- Finished 2nd in the ACC in total points produced (665)
- Scored 20 or more points in a single-contest on 15 separate occasions in 2021-22, recorded 12 double-doubles, and dished-out 4 or more assists in a single-contest 16 times
For me, the process of scouting draft-eligible players begins in the early winter. And it was at that point, when I first started consistently watching Banchero’s film, that I thought to myself, “there may not be another player in this class with a better secondary/swing-skill than Banchero possesses with his vision/play-making ability.”
Well, that was then. And now, I’ve moved on to the realization that distributing the basketball is probably Banchero’s most elite skill. There’s zero doubt in my mind that he’s the best passing big man in this class (hell, he may be one of the better passing ‘bigs’ to enter the NBA in some time).
Bachero’s presence on the offensive end demands so much gravity, and he’s adept at finding teammates off live dribbles, using his size to see over the top of defenses from the elbow (in high-low situations), recognizing double-teams, etc. He shared the majority of his minutes on the floor this past season at Duke with fellow big-man Mark Williams, who Banchero successfully connected with countless times for lob attempts (and finishes) at the rim.
SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell recently wrote about why he thinks Banchero should be Orlando’s top overall pick in the upcoming draft. In his piece, O’Donnell frequently referenced the one-and-done freshmen’s play-making ability, citing “the reason Banchero has been our No. 1 prospect since the start of the cycle is because he’s the only one of the three (top prospects) who projects as a lead offensive option in the NBA.”
“At 6-10, 250 pounds, Banchero thrives playing with the ball in his hands with his advanced handling and excellent passing ability for a player his size,” O’Donnell continues. “Banchero can manufacture offense for himself and his teammates (off the bounce), while Holmgren and Smith Jr. both need someone else to set them up.” SB Nation’s draft expert feels that due to his blend of size and athleticism, Banchero could potentially provide the Magic with the primary creator they “are still searching for”.
2) Offensive bag
Banchero may not be the most elite run-and-jump athlete in this class, but he does possess NBA-level athleticism. He has great feet, and he’s able to use his athleticism to his advantage on the offensive end by combining ease of movement with an incredible bag of advanced skills. The Seattle-native can go get his team a bucket, and he can do so in a multitude of ways.
Banchero used his combination of size and athleticism this past season to regularly beat his defender off the dribble. He has an advanced handle for a big man, and is able to use the live dribble to change tempo/speeds, shake defenders, and create looks at the basket using a crossover dribble. As a former guard who happened to hit a rather large growth-spurt, Banchero is more than comfortable playing on the perimeter, and using one-on-one moves to create offensive opportunities. And if he finds a way to become more consistent shooting from beyond the arc (which I think he will), watch out.
When Duke needed a score last season, Banchero was able to contribute off the dribble (from the perimeter), from the elbow extended, and down on the low block. As Mike Schmitz of ESPN noted in May (Top 10 signature moves from the 2022 NBA Draft class), Banchero’s signature move this past year was his spin move, which he went to off the dribble, with his back to the basket in the post, and even in transition.
Paolo Banchero’s spin move was nearly impossible for collegiate defenses to contain, especially when combined with his hang pull-up and overall off the dribble shooting touch. Full article on go-to-moves from the draft’s current top-10: https://t.co/DMNelLvUU8 pic.twitter.com/1rwfCfi56R— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) May 14, 2022
3) NBA-ready body
With prospects entering the NBA at earlier and earlier stages of their development than they have since high school players were still allowed to declare for the draft, you don’t find many draft-eligible players as well put together as Banchero very often anymore.
At 6-10, the former youth football star is a solid 250 pounds (his father played college football at the University of Washington). His arms are sculpted (and then some), and his lower half is sturdy. Unlike some of the other elite prospects in this class, no one is questioning Banchero’s body - and the likelihood that he will be able to physically compete with NBA big men right away.
Banchero, who at 19 years-old is already 20-25 pounds heavier than former lottery big men the Magic have drafted in the recent past (Jonathan Isaac, Mo Bamba), used his size and strength to bully smaller and weaker defenders at the collegiate-level - drawing comparisons to Webber, Griffin, and Julius Randle that came before him.
But don’t be fooled, Banchero has ample enough touch in the painted area to finish at the rim (67% last season) as well, despite his plus-strength.
Making a case for the Magic to draft Paolo Banchero #1 in the 2022 NBA Draft
|Does Banchero fit the Weltman/Hammond archetype?
|Would Banchero provide the Magic with depth in a needed area?
Last season, the Magic ranked 28th or lower in the NBA in the following categories:
FG%, 3PT%, PTS, Offensive Rating, and eFG%
Would drafting Banchero help the Magic improve in any of those areas?
|Does Banchero possess the upside to be considered the 'best player available'?
I like to finish these reports by attempting to incorporate a Magic-specific approach to how certain prospects may be viewed by Orlando’s front office.
As we all know, decision-makers Weltman and Hammond have a ‘type’ of player that they value, the archetype of a player they have targeted (and drafted) numerous times already during their time in Orlando. Both Weltman and Hammond value character, long-term projectability, positional-size and versatility, and of course - length. For the most part, the greater a prospect’s wingspan to height differential tends to be, the better. Besides all being viewed as high-character guys, you can see a little of what Orlando’s front office values in their recent draft picks, such as Isaac (positional-size, versatility, length), Bamba (record length, projectability), Chuma Okeke (versatility, length), Jalen Suggs (projectability, positional-size), and Franz Wagner (positional-size, versatility).
Banchero doesn’t initially strike me as a carbon-copy of the type of player Weltman and Hammond are drawn to. At 6-10 with a 7-0.5 wingspan, Banchero possess solid but not necessarily noteworthy length for a modern NBA big. He does carry an incredibly strong and sculpted NBA-body which will allow him to compete nightly (from a physical standpoint) with the best big men in the world across an entire NBA schedule. Depending on the system, I think Banchero will probably be able to get away with playing both the power forward and/or center positions at the next-level, so he does potentially offer the Magic some positional versatility.
Adding depth to their frontcourt doesn’t seem to be a pressing ‘need’ for the Magic on the surface, but leading-off the draft doesn’t usually equate to teams picking to fill needs anyway. Orlando has committed long-term (4/$50M contract agreed to last October) to fourth-year center Wendell Carter Jr., so you know for certain that he is a part of the organization’s future plans in their front-court.
After Carter Jr., things get a bit murkier. Of course, Orlando has Isaac under contract for three more seasons (2022-2025), but it remains a bit unclear what exactly the Magic can expect to get from their fifth-year forward after he’s missed the last two seasons recovering from a serious left knee injury he suffered in the bubble (‘20). They also have 2019 first round pick Okeke in the mix (16th overall), but his presence on the roster shouldn’t/wouldn’t stop the Magic from drafting Banchero. And there’s certainly no guarantee that Bamba, who’s coming off a career season that saw him serve as the primary starter at the center position for the first time, will be back with the Magic next season either. Orlando’s former sixth overall selection from the 2018 NBA Draft was not granted an extension by the Magic prior to the start of this past season and is set to become a restricted free agent.
So yes, there does seem to be room for Banchero in both Orlando’s immediate as well as their long-term plans. And who knows, maybe the forward from the Pacific Northwest is exactly who the Magic need to help solve some of the offensive woes that have been plaguing the roster of late. His scoring ability would absolutely serve as a jolt to Orlando’s offensive attack, and his plus-vision would assuredly create opportunities for others on the roster to get better/easier offensive looks. But his tendency to fall asleep or seem disinterested at times on the defensive end of the floor is something that doesn’t seem to fit the identity of what Coach Jamahl Mosley and his staff are trying to develop.
Kevin O’Connor (The Ringer) has Banchero alone atop his latest big board (updated 5/16). ESPN lists the Duke forward third on their “best available” board (5/22), while both Jeremy Woo (Sports Illustrated, 5/5) and Sam Vecenie (The Athletic, 5/2) rank Banchero third overall on their big boards as well.
Magic brass have an impossibly difficult decision to make between now and June 23rd. It’s a decision that will likely affect the long-term overall success of the organization, as well as Weltman and Hammond’s ultimate legacies as leaders of the front office. The player selected first overall by Orlando will be handed over the keys to the franchise, the new practice facility, the local Publix - you name it, it will be theirs.
Orlando’s soon-to-be first overall pick will need to provide the team with some offensive punch, they will need to have vision. And with the way Paolo Banchero sees the floor (and what’s in front of him), he just may be exactly what the Magic are looking for.
Aaron Goldstone has been writing for Orlando Pinstriped Post since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @AaronGoldstone.