After becoming the number one overall pick in the draft, Paolo Banchero will look to make an immediate impact on the Orlando Magic.
The Magic will place Banchero into a rotation with multiple young players who will all attempt to grow together and learn how to play with one another quickly. It will very much be trial by fire — and this current roster is certainly still incomplete.
Most importantly, Banchero is now paired with second-year forward Franz Wagner, who made the All-Rookie First Team last year. Their growth and development will be the most interesting and important part of the Magic’s development this coming season.
For Orlando to have success in the future, it is a must for Banchero and Wagner to develop and mature beside each other. And luckily for the Magic and their fans, their play style and fit should develop chemistry for years to come.
The Orlando Magic solidified their frontcourt as they selected Paolo Banchero to pair with Franz Wagner for the foreseeable future. Their games should fit perfectly together.
Both players are 6-foot-10′ forwards with 7-foot wingspans and silky smooth strokes from beyond the arc. Wagner shot 35.4-percent from three this past season and was the best volume three-point shooter on the team outside of Gary Harris. Banchero shot 33.8-percent from deep this past season (45.0-percent in his last 11 games) at Duke.
Opposing teams now have to face two players, both almost 7-feet tall, who can each drive to the basket and shoot the ball from three. It could potentially be the first time since the Dwight Howard era where teams will be concerned with Orlando’s offensive power.
They can each operate in the post, play off the dribble and get defenders off balance with their superb body control.
Both Banchero and Wagner are extremely versatile players who have the ability to play both forward positions. And while neither is known for their defense, they both possess the tools to become quality defenders in the NBA.
Because of this, the Magic will probably roll out lineups where Wagner and Banchero play anywhere between shooting guard and center depending on if the Magic run a small-ball lineup.
But their versatility is not this duo’s biggest attribute.
Each player hangs their hat on their offensive game. And it is only a matter of time until Orlando decides to run their offense through the both of them.
For starters, Wagner was impressive last year. He is now considered one of the most promising rookies in his class. Looking forward to next year, he will attempt to build off of his surprise rookie season with a bigger offensive role the Orlando coaching staff will surely give him.
Last year he played 30.7 minutes per game and his usage rate was still just fifth on the team. And even with the insertion of Banchero, both numbers should go up.
Wagner finished fourth among rookies in scoring at 15.2 points per game. And among the top five rookies in scoring, he averaged the fewest amount of minutes per game, was the only one of them to shoot better than 35 percent from three and had the highest free-throw percentage.
Wagner was a picture of efficiency, something very rare for rookies, especially for poor teams. Wagner was not simply handed the keys and asked to score. He played a defined role for the Magic and succeeded within it.
Next season, with a bigger offensive load, he will be able to add to each of those numbers as well as improve on holes in his game.
Specifically, he will look to improve on his in-between game, playmaking and getting to the free-throw line. All of which will elevate him into the Magic’s leading man.
That is where Banchero comes into play.
With his addition, the two will be able to work off each other’s weaknesses, by opening up opportunities for one another and being effective in that area themselves.
In the 2022 season, only 4.3-percent of Wagner’s field goal attempts came from the 10-16 feet from the basekt. Wagner also averaged fewere than 3.0 assists per game and shot just 3.2 free throws per game (fifth on the Magic).
Banchero is good from midrange and will be able to spread the floor by adding another scoring option for Wagner to work off of.
And while Wagner is still developing as a decision-maker, Banchero was a playmaker in college, running Duke’s offense and being the team’s second-leading assist man. In college, he was also able to regularly get to the free-throw line, averaging 4.8 free throw attempts per game.
Banchero’s presence should also give Wagner the ability to improve his play in those areas.
Orlando will allow Banchero to handle the ball which should allow for Wagner to get open, effortless looks. Last year Wagner shot 83-percent of his threes off an assist so next season he will be one of the main recipients of all the opportunities.
And with Banchero being able to shoot efficiently from three himself, the defense will not be able to collapse so hard on Wagner’s dribble drives.
He will still be able to kick out to open shooters and get those assist numbers up but if they do collapse, then he will have more room to work with allowing him either to finish at the rim or pull up to shoot that underused midrange jumper of his.
Part of the growing pains for Wagner and the rest of the Magic last year was there was not a reliable go-to guy on offense. Banchero can be that guy and could really open up the floor for the Magic as a whole, especially if one of the young point guards is having an off night.
At Duke, Banchero had a usage rate of 27.5-percent and took the most shots on the team averaging 13.2 field goal attempts per game.
He averaged 17.2 points per game and scored more than 20 points 15 times. He only scored in single digits once (both against Virginia). In Duke’s seven losses last season, Banchero averaged 18.0 points per game which is slightly higher than his total season average.
He can help Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner play so much more freely next year by simply being on the court. And that ability to play loose is exactly what helped Wagner, who was put in a box at Michigan, blossom into the player he is.
This effect on the court could be seen sooner rather than later since Banchero is projected by many scouts to be able to make an immediate impact.
At 6-foot-10-inches weighing 250 pounds, there is no question whether he can handle the physicality of the NBA. The question instead is whether he can handle the expectations that come with being the top overall pick.
But considering he was the main man on the last Duke team under Coach Mike Krzyzewski and had to deal with the constant media coverage all season, the expectations should not affect him.
For Magic fans, all they can hope for is the front office got it right this time. But Banchero’s likelihood to succeed is high, considering his (on paper) ability to play with Wagner and the rest of the Magic squad. And for the fans, that’s at least reassuring.