With the first pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic select....Paolo Banchero.
Those words from Adam Silver on Thursday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn ushered in a new era in Magic basketball, as Orlando used the No. 1 pick to select the player they hope will be the next franchise player to turn the team’s fortunes around.
By picking the 6-10 forward out of Duke, the Magic got arguably the top offensive prospect of the three players who were presumed to be in contention for the top overall pick, potentially giving the Magic a sorely-needed creator.
Banchero possess advanced ball-handling and playmaking skills for a big, displaying an ability to create that Jabari Smith and Chet Holmgren did not consistently show at the collegiate level. That should help a Magic team that was among the worst teams in the league in many key offensive categories last season.
There are, however, concerns about Banchero’s limitations on the defensive end, where he occasionally displayed a total lack of effort.
Here’s some of what our Aaron Goldstone said about Banchero’s fit with the Magic in his pre-draft scouting report...
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.
Until the final hour before the pick was made, most believed the Magic were set to take 6-10 Auburn forward Jabari Smith, who fell to the Houston Rockets with the third pick. Arguably the best shooter in the draft, Smith shot 42 percent on 188 three-point attempts in his lone collegiate season. He also has the versatility to guard multiple positions as a shutdown defender, making him an immediate 3-and-D specialist. There was concern that, with his limitations in creating off the dribble, Smith’s ceiling did not go much higher than valuable role player.
The Magic also passed on Chet Holmgren, who was selected second overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder. The top shot-blocker in the draft, Holmgren is also one of the most efficient scorer’s in the class, displaying the ability to score inside and out. To be able to do so consistently at the NBA level, the 195-pound Holmgren will have to bulk up considerably. His build was the biggest concern surrounding Holmgren entering the draft, and possibly the only reason he wasn’t the consensus No. 1 pick.
Instead, the Magic get a player with an NBA-ready body who could emerge into their first option...
Much more to come on the newest member of the Orlando Magic.