Paolo Banchero is the babyface at the helm of the Orlando Magic's up-and-coming squad. Since high school, he has been touted as one of the best up-and-comers in the world. A semi-fresh 21-year-old has been putting the league on notice since being drafted first overall in 2022.
Coming out of Duke, Banchero was expected to come in and be the key piece of a rebuilding effort in Orlando with hopes of becoming one of the conference's best in a few years.
In just one season, he has led the Magic into the thick of the Eastern Conference race and has given basketball in The City Beautiful a facelift.
His talent was evident from his first game as a pro, where he remembers being dejected after a close loss to the Detroit Pistons and struggling to comprehend why everyone around him was in such good spirits -- until he was told he posted the first 25/5/5 split in an NBA debut since LeBron James in 2013 and scored the most points by a rookie in their debut (27) since Allen Iverson in 1996.
"“I remember just being genuinely pretty pissed off that we lost. And I remember getting back to the locker room, and our PR guy, his eyes were, like, lit up and he was hella happy. He was like, 'Yo, great job!' He asked me if I realized what I even did, and I was like, 'Man, no—I don’t know.'""- Paolo Banchero after his NBA Debut
This season, Banchero is well on his way to All-Star status. He has placed himself in the top 10 of both Eastern Conference All-Star frontcourt returns.
The question for the next month is: Will he make the All-Star team?
The long-term question is how he stacks up against other youngsters in the NBA. HoopsHype recently published a Top 25 under 25 list and ranked Banchero ninth. Here is how he stacks up against some of the best young players ranked around him.