The first time Paolo Banchero touched the ball, it was the exact situation everyone imagined the Orlando Magic drafted him for.
The offense had broken down and the shot clock was ticking under 10 seconds. The ball found its way to Banchero and the team asked him to do something.
Banchero went into attack mode after a few possessions of easing his way in. He set up his shot, gave a pump fake and got his man in the air. He stepped in and took the contact and drew the foul.
That sounds like a pretty boring play. It did not even result in free throws because of the NBA’s rules about drawing fouls and leaning into players while they are in the air.
But this first shooting possession was emblematic of what Banchero can do. And what he did for the rest of the game.
When the light turned on for Banchero — and it was on a lot — he was on the attack and creating for himself and others. He was able to get the ball in late-clock situations and attack the basket and draw fouls. He was able to hit from the outside. He was able to dish and find open players.
The Magic want to use this Summer League to lay down the basics for what they want to accomplish this coming season.
Paolo Banchero led the Orlando Magic with an impressive performance as they picked up a win in their Summer League debut.
If this is the foundation, it certainly looks strong as the Orlando Magic defeated the Houston Rockets 91-77 in the opening game of the NBA Summer League.
All eyes were on Banchero throughout the game — as they will be for every game he plays simply because he was the No. 1 pick (and because the Magic are facing the teams with the other top picks from this draft). And he did not disappoint.
That does not mean Orlando only had Banchero rolling. Their other rookie, Caleb Houstan caught fire in the second half. Devin Cannady was a solid shooter throughout. Admiral Schofield — despite seven fouls in three quarters — was solid cleaning things up defensively. Orlando scrambled and reacted well defensively, gambling some on Houston’s struggles to shoot in a Summer League setting.
The Magic did a lot of things well by Summer League standards.
But this was all about Banchero in the end. And why shouldn’t it be? He was impressive in so many ways. The Magic got to see exactly what they wanted to see as this Summer League run begins.
Paolo Banchero – A
No way to get around this: Paolo Banchero was as good as advertised. He scored 17 points to go with six assists, making 5 of 12 shots (thanks to some late misses) and 2 for 3 from beyond the arc.
Everything the Magic wanted to see from him, they saw. He worked the post well, backing down defenders and turning quickly into fadeaway jumpers. He overpowered defenders to get to his spots and he simply rose over smaller defenders to shoot without much concern. He stepped comfortably and confidently into 3-pointers.
Most impressively, he picked the defense apart with his passing. He whipped passes to the weakside from post-up positions, fed cutters into the lane from the top of the key and found guys in transition.
Everything just felt very natural and easy for him. Nothing seemed to speed him up and he played at his pace the entire night. That is probably the most complimentary and encouraging thing of the night. The Magic wanted to ease him in and he did not really pick up his shot attempts until the fourth quarter when fatigue (he played 25:44) started to set in.
There is a lot more to unlock and Banchero is certainly just getting started.
Caleb Houstan – A+
Nobody really knew what to expect from Caleb Houstan, the Orlando Magic’s second-round pick. Everyone understood he was super talented and that he underachieved at Michigan. They will quickly understand now that he is a pretty good shooter too.
Houstan’s first make was a putback. But he was active throughout the night, cutting to the basket and finding space. He always found himself in the right spots and in good areas to receive the ball.
Then the shooting came. Houstan scored 20 points, making five of his nine 3-point attempts. He was outstanding as a shooter and made the Houston Rockets pay every time he left him open. That is encouraging and Houstan will have something to build on the rest of this Summer League. He did all the right things.
R.J. Hampton – C
R.J. Hampton volunteered for Summer League. He wanted to use the time to get some extra reps in. And for sure something that seemed important to him and for him was the chance to play in organized settings. But that meant playing within himself. That is not what he did for much of his first Summer League game.
Orlando clearly wanted to put the ball in his hands in many ways. The team wanted him to lead. And early on Hampton was again out of control. He struggled to find his pace and struggled to get the team comfortably into sets. Hampton was going way too fast and threw the Magic off (some of Orlando’s best sets came when Banchero was leading the charge).
Hampton finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds with three turnovers. He made 4 of his 11 shots. He calmed down a lot more in the second half and that helped the Magic reassert themselves and control the game. That was a better pace for him and that is at least a place for him to go heading into the next game.
Devin Cannady – B
Devin Cannady kicked things off for the Orlando Magic with a 3-pointer. He hit another one in short order. If there is one thing Cannady can do, it is shoot. And he did that fairly effectively throughout the game, even with the defense shading over to him on many occasions.
Cannady scored 15 points, making 3 of 8 from beyond the arc and 4 of 10 overall. That is what the team expects from Cannady.
He got caught a few times on bad switches and got eaten up on the post. His defense is still an area to improve on as he struggle at times to keep his man in front of him. But overall, a solid Summer League debut for Cannady.
The Summer Magic return to action Saturday against the Sacramento Kings.