Top 15 Orlando Magic Rookies
2. Paolo Banchero
20.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 3.7 APG, 72 games, 72 starts, 33.8 MPG
Paolo Banchero is the third player the Orlando Magic selected first overall to step on the hardwood for the team.
He joined the Magic at 6-foot-10, 250 pounds at 19 years old. He is the definition of a man-child and plays like it too.
His first game in the NBA showcased the work he put in during the offseason to get ready to score in an NBA offense. Banchero seemed comfortable squaring up to the basket on the wing to make quick moves to beat his man to the rim.
He also showed some back-to-the-basket offense where he would use jab steps and quick dribbles to create open space for mid-range pull-ups and fade-aways.
Banchero finished his NBA debut with 27 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two blocks. He was the first rookie to record at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists since LeBron James did so in 2003.
He showed the league he was here and ready to be a go-to guy.
The first game was a building block for what was to come. Banchero continued to dominate games on offense while teams would either put their best defender on the rookie or oftentimes double-teamed him.
Banchero showed poise and a level-headed demeanor throughout his rookie season and seemed comfortable leading the Magic even when they were struggling.
One area of his game stood out among the rest during his rookie campaign. Banchero is already one of the best in the NBA in drawing fouls.
He is strong and will use his body control to drive into the lane and navigate around the defense for easy points. Defenders cannot help but foul him and force him to earn his points at the free-throw line.
Banchero was 11th in the league in free throws attempted per game last year.
The 10 players ahead of him have all been selected as All-Stars, and seven of those players made an All-NBA selection this past season. He is in good company.
Banchero led Orlando in points per game and minutes per game, was second in rebounds, and was third in assists in his rookie year.
Unfortunately, Orlando ultimately could not earn a spot for the Play-In Tournament after a 5-20 start. But they played meaningful games down the stretch of the season that were important for Paolo’s development.
The NBA awarded him the Rookie of the Year award, and it should have been unanimous if it were not for a lone vote for Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler.
Banchero showcased enough of his talents to the point where Team USA wanted him to play in the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup. This invitation justifies just how special Banchero’s rookie season was and the expectations Team USA have for the young forward.