It may have been safe to say that the Orlando Magic’s first overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, Paolo Banchero, was going to be special. But it may not have been to the extent to which he played in his rookie season.
Banchero finished averaging 20.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. He brought home the Rookie of the Year Award as well which was nearly unanimous. This made him Orlando’s third Rookie of the Year all-time along with Shaquille O’Neal and Mike Miller.
A standard was set for Banchero, but he certainly went above and beyond it in his first season.
So just what does year two entail for him?
Well, based on a near-unanimous award-winning rookie season from a year ago. The goals and results can be even bigger. It is feasible to say Banchero can become Orlando’s next NBA All-Star.
Paolo Banchero was the near-unanimous Rookie of the Year as he seemed to elevate the Orlando Magic to a new level all on his own. What comes next for him? An All-Star berth is his next hill to climb.
Looking at his stats from his rookie campaign, Banchero is an all-out facilitator on offense. He is not afraid to take shots as he averaged 15.6 field goal attempts per game and had the most attempts of any player in Orlando last season. He struggled with efficiency as any rookie would but he had some downright impressive scoring performances.
There just are not many rookies to average 20 points per game — only four rookies have hit 20.0 points per game since 2017. Banchero did something historic. And all four of those aforementioned rookies — Zion Williamson, Luka Doncic, Donovan Mitchell and Joel Embiid became All-Stars within three years (and only Mitchell in that group had to wait that long).
The reason for drafting Banchero was that he would look most like a star. And All-Star voters will scan for point totals first. Banchero is a budding scorer who topped off at 33 points and 16 rebounds in an early season game against the Sacramento Kings and topped 30 points six times.
The often-recited stat to bolster Banchero’s star resume is that he scored 20 or more points 41 times as a rookie, matching LeBron James’ rookie total. Regardless of how you feel about these statistics, Banchero’s rookie season consistently puts him in the company of other future All-Stars — if not other future Hall of Famers.
It will take more than just scoring to reach the NBA All-Star Game. But it is a goal he can readily achieve.
An underrated stat from Banchero is his rebounding. His average is high but he led the team in total defensive boards and was second on offensive boards behind Wendell Carter. He also was tied with Carter on the total rebounding number all season (497).
The high rebounding helped him create more opportunities for extra points. In fact, it showed for the team’s performance as well as the Magic ranked 11th in the league last season in second-chance points.
The rebounding also created more fast break opportunities for Orlando as it helped to boast their fast break point average by two points.
Banchero’s assist totals were nothing to sneeze at either.
He was top five for Orlando in that category. He had 20 games with five-plus assists. And, although the high assist rate may not have been there at all times, it showed occasionally and revealed the potential that he has in that category.
What makes Banchero unique is that there are few 6-foot-10 forwards with his passing ability. The rookie was ninth among players 6-foot-10 or taller in assists with 3.7 per game, trailing a who’s who of big men passers like Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Franz Wagner is 11th in this category, by the way).
The one thing on offense that held Banchero back last season was his efficiency in shooting. He finished with a shooting split of 42.7/29.8/73.8. Not bad for a rookie, but is probably not what you expect from a player that was an almost unanimous Rookie of the Year winner.
The real unattractive feature of that split however was the three-point aspect.
In February, Banchero shot a measly 3.0 (1 for 33) from beyond the arc. This was a detriment to his three-point percentage and his total shooting percentage as well.
He would shoot well in the following months (37.0 percent in March and 50.0 percent in April), but the percentages in February and prior never touched 35 percent at least.
He saw wavering numbers in field goal shooting as well with his best month of shooting being November (47.7 percent) but his worst being February (37.4 percent). And as for his free throw shooting, it mostly hung around the 70 percent mark but got close to the 80 percent mark during December and January.
The lack of consistency in shooting hinders Banchero from striving to put up true NBA All-Star numbers. But it gives him an area where he can clearly take a big step up in his second season.
A step up that could land him a trip to Indianapolis for All-Star Weekend. He has all the other skills to get there.
When it comes to rebounding and passing, he does more than his job entails as a slashing big body player on the wing. But, the scoring (which is already great) can be improved even more with a more consistent jumper from all levels of the floor.
The defense could also be a little more active for Banchero. He had just 13 games this season with more than one steal and just eight games with more than one block. Although once again, the potential sits there as he was top five on Orlando in both of those categorial totals.
With a fine-tuned defense and a more efficient way of scoring, Banchero can definitely make the push to become an NBA All-Star. He pushed beyond all expectations in year one and has the ability to do so in year two with a great campaign.
If he were to earn an all-star appearance in the 2024 season, he would be the Magic’s first all-star since Nikola Vucevic back in 2021 and would be the youngest Orlando all-star since Dwight Howard in 2006 who made it at the age of 21.
It will still be a long road and a competitive one at that — whose spot does he take from a loaded Eastern Conference frontcourt. But Banchero is definitely capable of making that big leap into the NBA’s winter showcase. Especially after showcasing himself at the FIBA World Cup.
Team results would not hurt his cause either as the Magic are expected to take the same leap Banchero may soon make individually.