Orlando Magic need to let Paolo Banchero cook to break their winless start

Paolo Banchero continues to put up historic numbers for the Orlando Magic. They need to trust him to finish now. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Paolo Banchero continues to put up historic numbers for the Orlando Magic. They need to trust him to finish now. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

38. 103. 156. Final. 92

The Orlando Magic are determined to get that first win.

It is easily visible on their faces as they try to scratch and claw their way through these games. They can feel the pressure of trying to execute and make all the right plays to win. Their failures right now are only adding to the frustration.

At this point, the Magic need someone or something to carry them over the finish line. They remain very close to that breakthrough victory. So close they can feel it.

It is just going to take some force to do it. Just some pure grit, duck your head in and make a play kind of work. The kind of play that an individual’s greatness on other teams forces everyone to rise up to meet.

The kind of play the Magic think they might have in their budding star of a rookie.

Paolo Banchero might be a rookie and it might be asking a lot from a player who has just five games under his belt, but it is becoming clearer and clearer that Banchero is that guy. He is the guy to lift the Magic up above their station. The player who is going to get others involved but also put pressure on the defense with his own presence.

The Magic want to win. That much is clear. Right now, the team needs to put their trust in their rookie forward to get completely over that hump and deliver them.

The Orlando Magic are still searching for their first win. But in the process, they are seeing their rookie turn into the kind of star they should trust to close out games.

Orlando wants to find out just what kind of star it has in Banchero.

At 0-5, the kids’ gloves should be off. It should be clear even from these games that Banchero is the team’s best player. To win, they need to let Banchero be the leader and push them to that finish line.

The Magic were not quite there, falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-92, fighting again to the bitter end but still not over the hump to get to that finish line. The Cavs kept the Magic largely at arm’s length for the fourth quarter.

They only sweated because Banchero forced them to. That is going to become the theme increasingly this season. And Banchero is fighting to get that breakthrough for the team.

"“I’m just out there playing, playing hard, playing to win,” Banchero said after Wednesday’s game. “I’m not surprised what I expect out of myself at this level. There is a lot of stuff I can get better at and improve on. I’m not happy, I’m not satisfied. I’m playing well but it is not translating to wins. obviously, there is more to do. You can’t get caught up in the individual stuff right now. You have to be worried about getting right with the team and getting some wins.”"

That is where this season is heading eventually, right?

Banchero scored 29 points, surpassing his career-high set on opening night, making 10 of 19 shots and 6 of 8 free throws. He has now scored 20 or more points in his first five games, becoming the first rookie to do that since Dominique Wilkins. He is on some impressive lists filled with Hall of Fame players.

At every turn, he continues to put pressure on the defense by his presence alone. He is capable of hitting spot-up threes and becoming the bail-out guy at the end of the clock.

Banchero was at his best when the Magic needed someone to keep them afloat ion the fourth qaurter, scoring 16 of the Magic 23 points in the final frame. He did almost all of his work in the first half of that quarter, hitting some step-back threes to answer threes on the other end, driving aggressively to the basket and taking even a great defender like Evan Mobley off the dribble.

It was at the point where any possession without Banchero touching the ball was an empty one for the Magic. That has been the unfortunate reality to this early part of the season, Banchero is the best thing the Magic have going for them.

This is no rookie and he is constantly forcing the defense to react, helping the Magic impose some measure on the game.

"“His ability to attack the lane,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Wednesday’s game. “I think he did a good job of getting downhill trying to get to the basket and not trying to settle. I think they did a good job of being physical with him early and being physical with us early. I think we’re getting the shots that we like. Obviously, it is being able to keep that level of confidence to step in and knock them down.”"

He scored on an and-1 layup over Jarrett Allen to make it a seven-point deficit with 6:44 to play. It was an impressive star-making play. The kind of shot they make to keep their team in the game.

But the Magic went away from him for almost the rest of the quarter.

Ross cut it to five on a three-pointer that came two minutes later following a Banchero block on Mobley. But that was about the only offense the Magic mustered. They did not score again until Banchero finally got a shot attempt again on a layup with 50 seconds left.

Orlando is still hunting for some kind of consistency. The lack of a consistent playmaker — even with Cole Anthony in, the Magic leaned on Franz Wagner as the main initiator — has made it hard to make sure the team finds the hot hand.

But one thing that has been consistent and constant has been Banchero. He is capable of scoring in a number of different ways and, it seems, on a number of different defenders. He found his way to the foul line going up against Julius Randle and the New York Knicks on Monday just as easily as he blew past Evan Mobley on Wednesday.

Banchero is finding a variety of ways to beat his defender. And his consistency in getting to the foul line is a refresher for an offense that was incapable of getting easy shots.

Orlando should still look to get him involved through its normal offense. He is scoring plenty just from normal setups or even as the point guard himself — he has looked a lot better in that role despite turnover issues than Franz Wagner has. But the team should know in winning time the player that is going to stir the drink or butter their bread.

"“He’s very impressive,” Franz Wagner said after Wednesday’s game. “His poise, his talent and skill set are obvious. He gives a lot of confidence and energy to the rest of the group. To have that kind of leadership so early I think is very impressive. Our chemistry is going to continue to get better. Obviously, we are trying to win games. We don’t want to just be close. We’re going to figure it out.”"

To win some of these games, Orlando is going to need someone to will them to it. At this point, Orlando should be comfortable handing the keys to him and treating him like the star he has become.

If there is one thing the Magic needed to learn and see is the potential for Banchero to become this player. With the Magic desperate for a win, he has shown himself capable of shouldering that burden.

"“It’s going to come,” Banchero said after Wednesday’s game. “We’re playing hard. We’re playing together. We’re competing with good teams. We’re not getting blown out at all. Teams are having to fight to beat us. We just got to be able to finish and get over that hump. We haven’t been able to do that. But it’s early.”"

5 adjustments to make for the Orlando Magic's first win. dark. Next

Letting Banchero loose and trusting him to lead the team late in games will help the Magic in the short- and long-term.