Paolo Banchero as advertised and more in Orlando Magic debut

Paolo Banchero turned in a historic rookie debut for the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Paolo Banchero turned in a historic rookie debut for the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

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Paolo Banchero has the cool and calm demeanor that any team wants in the clutch. He seems always under control, calm and composed. It never looks like anything is speeding him up or making him go where he does not want to go.

This is the look of a player who has complete command. Which is saying something from a rookie.

There are still those moments when Banchero gets that fire under him. When his eyes seem to open and the accelerators come on. That calm and composed demeanor turns into a monster and whoever is in his path is in trouble.

If there is one thing the Orlando Magic learned from their season-opening 113-109 loss to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday, it should be that they have something special in Banchero.

Paolo Banchero turned in a historic rookie debut, scoring 27 points for the Orlando Magic and giving the team everything he was advertised to be and more.

If this is what he looks like in his debut, imagine what he will look like when he is comfortable. Imagine what he will look like when his reads are second nature. Imagine what the rest of the league has to worry about.

"“It felt good,” Banchero said after Wednesday’s game. “It’s crazy. I felt like I left a lot of points on the board. I missed like three layups, and missed some shots I feel like I could have made. A lot to work on. I wasn’t disappointed with the way I played. I thought I played hard. I thought I played to the end. I thought we played hard. It was a positive showing for us. But obviously, we would have liked to get the win.”"

Banchero had a historic night, scoring 27 points on 11-for-18 shooting, adding five rebounds and five assists. He set the Magic record for most points scored in a rookie debut. He became the first player to score 25 points in a rookie debut since LeBron James and scored the most points in a rookie debut since Allen Iverson scored 30 in 1997.

The only top overall picks since 1969 to score 25 points, grab five rebounds and dish five assists in their rookie debuts were LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

That is elite company.

It is just one game. There are still 81 more of these and a whole career ahead of him. He will not likely be this good every single night. As the Magic repeatedly say, they will score by committee with several players able to step up and score. Banchero was certainly the beneficiary of excellent passing and spacing finding him near the basket.

But that is still some insanely elite company to be in. And he has indeed set the bar high for what he can do.

He even brought out that extra gear that usually seems reserved only for the superstars.

The Pistons certainly got to see firsthand what happens when Banchero narrows that focus and goes from the smooth team player into that killer. When that lane opens up and an opportunity comes to make an incredible play.

This is what a star can do. And the entire game changed on two of Banchero’s plays.

Just ask Killian Hayes, who had the temerity to steal the ball from him at the top of the key and think he could beat him down the floor. Banchero flew in to erase the shot off the backboard, a huge play at that moment of the game as the Detroit Pistons threatened to run away with it.

They said Banchero could not play defense. And while Paolo Banchero — and Franz Wagner — were often miscast and struggled as the main ball handlers after Cole Anthony became a late scratch with an illness. They both got pushed into turnovers by pressure defense as they tried to initiate the offense.

But at this critical moment early in the fourth quarter, Banchero made a mistake and did exactly what the Magic want him to do, he made good on it, hustling down to the other end of the floor and making a defensive play. The mistake did not fester, it got corrected and led to a big 3-pointer for R.J. Hampton after Paolo Banchero secured the block.

The other moment that made everyone’s jaw drop came at another critical moment a few minutes later.

The Magic squeezed out a rebound and got on the break where Paolo Banchero found an open lane and only Cory Joseph in the way. That would mark Banchero’s first NBA poster.

This from the guy who supposedly lacked athleticism and burst to get to the rim. The guy who was too smooth and some were concerned would not be able to get his shot off against more athletic defenses in the NBA.

Instead, the spacing and the Magic’s motion offense seemed to fit his eye. The team was able to get him shots on cuts to the basket and dump downs as he rolled into the lane — all but one of his field goals came right at the rim.

Orlando even set him up with some iso plays as he did a good job seeking out mismatches and working his way to the basket and to the foul line, where he made five of seven attempts.

Banchero can still get so much better. And he is going to get better with his pick-and-roll reads — he had four of the Magic’s 18 turnovers (all of them seemed to hurt with the Pistons scoring 24 points off those turnovers). He is going to get comfortable too as a shooter and get his opportunities from beyond the arc, where he did not take any attempts.

"“I think Paolo handled himself very well,” Jalen Suggs said after Wednesday’s game. “I think he got to his spots in transition, he was physical, he boarded, he made the right play when it was there. He did a fantastic job tonight. We are going to continue to run with him and continue to grow. Moments like this are important for us.”"

This was the Magic easing Banchero into the league and into the game.

But they too understood very quickly that they needed to go to Banchero in the fourth quarter needing to come back and with the game on the line. Banchero scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter.

He, along with Wagner and some more focused defense, were the reasons the Magic clawed their way back into the game and had a chance to win it. That is until Isaiah Stewart hit his first three with 30 seconds left to extend a one-point deficit to four and just out of the Magic’s reach.

There is still a lot of work for Banchero and for this team to do. But the fact scoring came so easily to Banchero in his debut game is a positive sign for the young Magic team and their burgeoning star.

Next. Orlando Magic are capable of anything in 2023. dark

This is something the Magic have not seen in quite some time. And it is something special to build on.