Orlando Magic preparing Paolo Banchero to take a big step up in Summer League

Paolo Banchero dominated the inside in the college game but the Orlando Magic are eager to unlock more of him. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Paolo Banchero dominated the inside in the college game but the Orlando Magic are eager to unlock more of him. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /

Paolo Banchero is stepping into a new world.

That much should be abundantly clear from even his first few sessions of Summer League practice. Everything is taking a step up.

Where coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke leans on his experience to teach, Jamahl Mosley will get right in the front lines with you. He will be right there bumping and grinding trying to push a player to do more. It helps that he is 30 years younger and still in good enough shape to do it.

So when the Magic wrapped up their second Summer League practice session with some post drills for their bigger forwards, Mosley was there guarding the top overall pick — the 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward.

It was Mosley stopping the drill even after Banchero spun past him for a dunk and explained to him how he will have to do it against the bigger players he will face when the NBA season tips off.

It was Mosley encouraging Banchero to really get into him and bump his man off his spot even in this drill by pulling assistant coach Nate Tibbetts to the block and showing how he wants him to get into his space and establish his position.

Then he let Banchero throw his full force into him to complete the drill. That is the energy the Magic are looking for.

These are all just drills for Summer League. They are not the competition Banchero will see when the season tips off in the fall. But it is a symbol of how much the level of competition is about to step up.

There are no half measures in the NBA and the Magic are already trying to unlock everything about Banchero that he may not even know about himself.

"“I definitely use my body a lot and effectively in college,” Banchero said after Sunday’s practice. “That was one thing around this time last year going into college that Coach K really helped me with. Just the difference here is in the league I think you can be more physical. That’s just me getting used to that and using that to my advantage. I’m a big physical guy. Just being able to use  that to my advantage and be physical is what Coach Mosley is getting me to do.”"

Some stories remain the same. And this will be part of Banchero’s evolution.

As Mosley put it, Banchero is a “very strong individual.” But still he does not quite know how strong he really is. And that is what the team is aiming to teach him and grow in him as they build their Summer League program.

The Orlando Magic are working with top overall pick Paolo Banchero in their Summer League sessions as they look to unlock more from their young forward.

The Magic have begun practices for Summer League in Orlando before they head out to Las Vegas. They open the NBA’s Summer League on Thursday against the Houston Rockets. It will be a small thing but a big debut for Banchero as he steps onto a professional court for the first time.

Banchero said even walking into the AdventHealth Practice Facility for his first practice felt a bit like NBA 2K. Dreams are coming true.

But the work is what follows. And, with the attendant pressure of being the top pick in the draft, there are big expectations heaped on Banchero.

There is a lot to learn as the team lays its foundation.

"“He’s going to have a lot coming at him,” Mosley said after Sunday’s practice. “It’s part of laying that foundation for what he’s going to see during the regular season. How fast he picks it up, how he understands it, the ability to play within himself and allow the game to slow down for him at the speed he is growing. He is a willing listener, a willing learner and obviously a great teammate for these guys so far.”"

Banchero said he knows he has played with a target on his back. That has been the case throughout his young career even after entering Duke. That is also what comes with the No. 1 pick — it is no coincidence the NBA scheduled the Magic to play the teams with the next three picks in the Draft to create some marquee matchups.

But a lot more is getting thrown at him right now. There is new NBA terminology and everything comes quicker. Banchero said NBA practices tend to move a little quicker and there is certainly more physicality involved with the step up in play.

It is still a process to get there. The first few Summer League practices were spent on drills to get the terminology down and make sure they understand the basic building blocks and concepts for what the team is going to run.

The Magic are slowly building up to playing 5-on-5 and getting up and down — something that everyone is looking forward to. That will be where Banchero gets his real test.

For Banchero’s part, in the short term, he said he is focused on winning and showing that he can contribute to winning. That is his biggest goal for Summer League.

These games will represent the first 5-on-5 games Banchero has played since the Final Four in April — and, for many players, since their seasons ended.

There is a lot of work to do to get the team up to full speed.

Third-year guard R.J. Hampton said he has been impressed with how rookies Paolo Banchero and Caleb Houstan have worked through drills. He said their attention to detail has been strong as they have been eager to learn.

Banchero said Hampton has pulled him aside to let him know he can be more physical at this stage. The tips of the trade are already being passed on.

There are a lot of reasons to be excited and everyone seems eager for Thursday and the build up to it.

"“He’s just an all-around player,” Hampton said after practice Sunday. “That’s why we took him No. 1. I feel like he is the most complete all-around player in this last draft and can bring everything to our team — rebounding, scoring, passing. His ability to know every part of the game is what’s really underrated.”"

There is still work to do before then. And the Magic are seemingly building slowly to get to that point.

The one thing they seem to be telling their prized rookie is just how much of a step up even that moment is going to be. There is more to Banchero that he probably does not even realize yet. These sessions are about building the confidence to bring that out.

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It will go one bump and one play and one practice at a time to get him there. All eyes will be on him in Vegas.