Paolo Banchero just getting started with Orlando Magic debut

Paolo Banchero had an impressive showing in his first Summer League game with the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Paolo Banchero had an impressive showing in his first Summer League game with the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports /

For much of the Orlando Magic’s 91-77 Summer League win over the Houston Rockets, Paolo Banchero was content to kind of groove at his own pace.

He was not calling for or demanding the ball. Nor was he looking to break the offense and do his own thing. That time would come during the course of the game. But he was simply getting his feet wet in his first run of organized 5-on-5 basketball in a game setting since April’s Final Four.

He is the number one pick so it would have been disappointing if this is all he did during the course of the game. But it also would have been understandable. This was the first game of Summer League — his first game in what everyone hopes is a long career. These kinds of things ultimately would not matter.

Still, even hovering in the background, it was hard for Banchero not to come to the front. It was hard for him not to stand out.

The ball found him when the clock was ticking and he made things happen. And then just keep making things happen.

Paolo Banchero had an impressive Summer League debut. But he and the Orlando Magic both know there is room to get better and this was just the beginning for their young rookie.

There was the time in the first half when he got the ball late in the shot clock and drove toward the free-throw line before stopping and hitting a jumper over a defender who was all over him, drawing the foul while willing the ball into the basket.

There was the time in the first half when he brought the ball up the court, sized up a smaller defender and then stepped back into a 3-pointer.

Or the time he took the ball in transition and whipped the ball to the corner to Caleb Houstan for one of his five three-pointers.

Or his final field goal when he put a player on the block, shed a double team and turned to hit a short jumper over two defenders.

It all just kept adding up into impressive play after impressive play on his way to 17 points and six assists in his Summer League debut.

If this is how Banchero will start, what comes next?

Apparently a whole lot more. Very clearly a whole lot more.

As good and as impressive as Banchero was, he knows and the team knows there is still a lot more he can do.

"“I think I did all right,” Banchero said after Thursday’s win. “I missed some easy shots, missed a layup, a couple in and outs. I think I did solid. I think I got my teammates involved. Could have been better on defense. I’m just warming my body back up and getting back in playing shape. That’s what I’m using Summer League for, to get back right.”"

This is at least some sign of greatness. Even in a game where Banchero was clearly the best player on the floor and put all of his talents on display, he sees ways he can get better.

Banchero was missing some of that explosion and certainly seemed to wear down as he got closer to the end of his 26 minutes on the court. He had some good defensive moments, including a chase-down block on Jabari Smith Jr. But he got beat plenty as he struggled with some of his lateral movement.

Banchero said he felt he was a little slow on his feet. He just was not fully there with his explosion and lateral quickness. He is still working to get his playing condition back.

He is indeed using this Summer League to get back into playing shape.

That makes it all the more impressive that he still found a way to make his impact on the game. He still very clearly looked like the best player on the floor.

Everything that made Banchero the choice for the top pick was on display. And probably even more in unexpected ways.

"“I think his play creation is for sure high level,” Magic Summer League coach Jesse Mermuys said after Thursday’s game. “You will see that develop even more as he figures out the NBA spacing. The college and NBA are just totally different at this point. He wasn’t perfect. But he did obviously make some really nice plays for us. I thought he was trying defensively for us really hard. He did some silly fouls. He obviously had a really nice game. I can’t wait to watch film with those guys to show them things we can get better at.”"

His passing was indeed the most impressive aspect of his game — as good as he was as a shot-maker and creator.

Scouts advertised Banchero as more than a scorer and isolation player. They all said he was an incredibly gifted passer for a 6-foot-10 forward. That this was something that was not on display during his time at Duke.

Banchero was immediately dominant as a passer, whipping passes quickly from the top of the key. It was impressive to watch him move the ball so quickly. The Magic will hopefully see him become more individually assertive, but if he continues to make these reads and passes, that will only add to his potential and his attack.

Beyond getting himself in shape, Banchero sees this as part of his goals too.

"“Just that I can be a go-to guy and effect winning at the same time,” Banchero said after Thursday’s win. “I feel like I will have the ball in my hands a lot to provide scoring, assisting and rebounding for my team. And get better at defense. I think I did all right, but I can get a lot better.”"

Banchero said he was not going to come out and just hunt for his own shots. It did seem odd that he took only 12 shots. That does not feel like a first overall pick. But it also always felt like Banchero was in control over his game.

His fingerprints were all over the game.

And it is clear he can still do more. As good as he was, there is still much more he can unlock.

He can be a better scorer, looking for his own shot and trying to impress his scoring in the game. He can be better defensively, getting down to his stance and keeping players in front of him and not just trying to recover. He can still be a better passer.

This is just the start for the rookie forward. And it was a good start.

Next. For Orlando Magic's Summer League: Less is more. dark

But there is still a lot more he will do and improve.