2024 Orlando Magic Player Outlook: Paolo Banchero stepping toward stardom

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 13: Paolo Banchero #5 of the Orlando Magic drives to the basket against Ayo Dosunmu #12 of the Chicago Bulls during the second half at United Center on February 13, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 13: Paolo Banchero #5 of the Orlando Magic drives to the basket against Ayo Dosunmu #12 of the Chicago Bulls during the second half at United Center on February 13, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Paolo Banchero is coming off an outstanding rookie of the year season and has continued his journey through Team USA basketball. The Magic’s leading scorer has continued to play at the highest level with some of the best athletes and he is ready for that to translate into his sophomore season.

A realistic goal for Banchero, and a necessary checkmark that any player needs to check off on their way to stardom, is to make the All-Star Game. Making the All-Star Game in year two would put him in company with NBA greats LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, who made the All-Star team  in their second seasons, and it would be a season before Kevin Durant did it.

That is not bad company to be in, and being named as one of the 24 best players in the league will surely put the league on notice about his improvement.

We have already seen glimpses of the all-around improvement this summer.

Banchero got serious minutes for the U.S. and has done it all for them. He was scoring the ball efficiently, showing huge strides on defense with a couple of highlight-level blocks. This came while he played seemingly out of position as the team’s backup center.

Banchero did whatever he was asked and adapted to provide quality minutes in the U.S.’s run to the semifinals of the tournament.

But Banchero is clearly much more. He is the potential superstar of this Magic team. Now he is armed with being able to do much more to support his team.

Paolo Banchero had a stellar rookie season and followed that up with a solid showing at the FIBA World Cup. Now the Orlando Magic are ready to see what he does in his second season and what step he takes into stardom.

To be sure, Banchero’s potential trip to Indianapolis is dependent on how his team does. If Banchero plays well and the Magic win, he will be an All-Star. And then the fun really begins.

To really make that All-Star push though, the Magic are not only going to have to win more, but Banchero is going to have to make a jump in his counting stats. Specifically with his efficiency.

Banchero already put up great numbers in his rookie year. He averaged 20.0 points per game, 6.9 rebounds per game and 3.7 assists per game. Those are good numbers, but not all-star numbers. Last year 58 players averaged at least 20.0 points per game. So as impressive as being a 20-point-per-game scorer is — the Magic’s first from a non-center since Steve Francis in 2005 — it is still not all-star level.

To really put his name in all-star contention it would be nice to see him push to a 25-point-per-game scorer. The 25-point-per-game mark is a big accomplishment that only the league’s best scorers reach. If he were to reach that mark in just his second year it would be hard to not bring his name up in All-Star conversations.

His rebounding also needs to make a jump in order to reach the All-Star level. Averaging basically seven rebounds per game is already solid and was second on the Magic, but Banchero has double-double potential. With the Magic’s rebounding problems that would just make them a better team in general.

This will also allow him to run fast breaks and set up the offense which runs through him primarily.

Banchero’s assists numbers are already amazing for a forward as he was tied for fourth in assists per game for a small forward. He needs to keep being a facilitator for the Magic.

But his biggest jump needs to come in the efficiency department.

Banchero was a rookie drafted to be the number one option on a rebuilding team with a bottom-tier offense. It is normal for any rookie to struggle with efficiency in their first year, especially if they are being asked to be the first option.

There is nothing to be worried about with his efficiency, but he needs to show improvement on the court now that he has a year of experience

Last year he had 42.7/29.8/73.8 shooting splits in 33.8 minutes per game. He did not shoot poorly, but most of the league’s best players and scorers, especially bigs, shoot in the high 40s to the mid 50s.

Banchero is terrific at running the floor, transition offense and scoring around the rim, but it is the jumper that needs to fall this year.

Banchero’s numbers were pulled down last year by a 1-for-32 showing in February. Take that out and he still shot 33.3 percent from three. That is a number that he can both improve and a sign that he can shoot it decently well.

After all, LeBron James shot 29.0 percent in his rookie year and Kevin Durant made only 28.8 percent of his 3-pointers in his rookie year. There is always an adjustment to the NBA 3-point line.

To stay an elite scorer in today’s game he has to be able to shoot the long ball decently. He showed some promise last year as he had 25 games with multiple threes made however lack of consistency hurt him. He had 23 games where attempted at least one three and made zero.

The three-point shot will come but he needs to start hitting the mid-range shots to make defenders play out on him and to open up driving lanes.

Banchero shot 38.1 percent from midrange last season and 38.0 percent from 3-10 feet. For the volume Banchero shots these shots, this is a clear area where he can improve and become more effective.

Having some trouble in your rookie season is nothing to worry about, but it will become troubling if he does not show improvement this year. For him to be scoring 20 per game with poor mid-range shooting is honestly quite impressive. But it is scary to think about what his numbers could be if he gets the mid-range down.

Getting the mid-range down will also open up driving lanes for him to get easier buckets at the rim where he is more comfortable. It will also open up drive-and-kick opportunities for him. He is such a great playmaker that this will open up the Magics offense as a whole.

The mid-range game can bring him to the next level as well as some better three-point shooting.

Banchero can clearly develop into a three-level scorer. But what really separated him despite the inconsistencies in his shooting was his ability to get to the line. Here too, Banchero can get a lot better to improve his scoring averages.

He was not a bad free throw shooter, but for someone who goes to the line for nearly eight attempts per game, it would help his averages and his team if he could get to the 80-percent mark. He settled in at 73.8 percent last year. And his free throws were a surprising struggle during his run at the FIBA World Cup.

One way for Banchero to put the cherry on top of his year two all-star campaign is on the other end of the floor. Banchero came into the league with a lot of question marks when it came to the defensive end of the ball.

Banchero still made plenty of rookie mistakes defensively. And he struggled at times to guard the perimeter. But against post players or in the paint, Banchero posted some surprisingly solid numbers.

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Banchero was an above-average defender but as a 6-foot-10 player with a 7-foot-0.5 wing span who plays the small and power forward, he has the potential to be elite on both sides of the ball.

As a rookie who had to come in and guard the league’s better wings and bigs no one should have expected him to come in and be an All-NBA defender, but he definitely had his moments.

He held Julius Randle to 8-for-20 shooting, Jayson Tatum to 6-for-16 shooting and Jimmy Butler to 3-for-13. He made some rookie mistakes, but he showed he has good IQ and he can get down and guard on a team that struggled defensively. He definitely proved he can hang with the best in the league.

The last way to solidify his year two all-star campaign is by winning. If all goes right and he makes the jump that most are expecting him to do then winning should come with it. If he becomes a more efficient shooter and a better rebounder then that should elevate the Magic by itself.

That is the ultimate key and every improvement Banchero makes should help this team that was knocking on the door of the Play-In last year burst their way in.

Banchero has all the potential to be a star. He had an incredible and historic rookie season that put him in the breath with several all-time legends and clear-cut stars. The Magic have every reason to believe he can become an All-Star in the very near future.

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This is the year when he sheds all the rookie mistakes and takes a real step toward stardom.