Orlando Magic 2024 3rd Quarter MVP: Paolo Banchero reaches consistency

The Orlando Magic got through the doldrums of the middle of the season and began to climb the standings. Through it all, Paolo Banchero has reached an elite level of consistency.

Paolo Banchero continues to establish himself as a consistent scorer and star for the Orlando Magic as they prepare for the Playoffs.
Paolo Banchero continues to establish himself as a consistent scorer and star for the Orlando Magic as they prepare for the Playoffs. / Gregory Shamus/GettyImages

Paolo Banchero does not have many bad games anymore.

That is what happens when you reach a level of stardom. You start to take for granted how good they are every day and every game. Greatness becomes normal.

Banchero might not be at the level of the elite players in the league yet, but Banchero's consistency and leadership in his second year are still astounding. The Magic know what they can count on from their young star every night.

So when he does have a bad game, how he responds means something. How he affects the game and the way he still makes an impact in a bad game says a lot too.

The Orlando Magic were facing the Detroit Pistons, one of the worst teams in the league by record, a few weeks ago in what should have felt like an easy game. Banchero was sick though and looking every bit of it on the floor. The Magi were struggling.

That game at Detroit on Feb. 24 may be one of the most important games of Banchero's young career.

Banchero was not his best. He scored only 15 points on 5-for-17 shooting. He made just five of nine free throws. He was giving all he could but was still clearly laboring.

As he said after the game, his teammates kept gassing him up. They filled in and provided the defense and scoring to give them a chance. But they knew Banchero was someone they could count on when it matters.

After the Pistons tied the game, the Magic had the last possession. They already knew they were going to Banchero. They already knew he would deliver -- as he has throughout the season.

Of course Banchero hit that tough shot to give the Magic a three-point win. That is what great players do. And Banchero has established himself as a great player.

The Magic entered the final quarter of their season far exceeding their expectations this season. They will spend their final 20 games fighting for homecourt advantage in the Playoffs. The postseason is almost a certainty (the team should clinch at least a Play-In Spot in the next couple of weeks).

Banchero is a big part of that. And how he became so consistent to solidify his spot on the All-Star Team and as the team got healthy is a big reason why.

It should be no surprise then that Banchero is once again our quarterly MVP. He turned in another solid 20-game stretch as he continues to establish himself as one of the best young players in the league.

For Banchero, it remains not only about his numbers and the attention defenses put on him. It is about the consistency of his performances. He is doing something that 21-year-olds do not do. Something that deserves far more praise nationally than he is getting.

In the third-quarter of the season (from Jan. 19-March 5), Banchero averaged 22.8 points per game, 6.4 rebounds per game and 5.8 assists per game (his season average is 22.9, 6.9, 5.2). He shot 48.7 percent from the floor, 37.9 percent from three and 72.4 percent from the line.

That is consistency. He hits his averages almost every night.

More importantly, the Magic went 14-7 to recover from a poor second quarter of the season when the team dealt with injuries. Banchero was a consistent part of that run and remained consistent through the third quarter of the season.

How consistent? His range of scoring went from a high of 36 (in the loss to the Dallas Mavericks and the win over the New York Knicks) to a low of 12 points (in the return game from the All-Star Break against the Cleveland Cavaliers when he was sick). He scored at least 20 points in 13 of the team's 21 games during the third quarter of the season.

For as much as everyone marvels at the big scoring games -- and how important those games can be for his burgeoning stardom -- stardom is made through consistency. That is why he made his first All-Star Game. His consistency was undeniable.

Banchero was clearly an All-Star this year, boosted for sure by the team's strong play. And while Banchero does not seem to have the biggest statistical impact -- the team was +3.0 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor including a stellar (for the Magic) 117.0 offensive rating -- he soaks up so much attention.

The Magic simply do not work without the threat Banchero constantly provides.

That remains the biggest thing Banchero does.

He has gotten more proficient at getting to his spots and he has gotten more comfortable taking those mid-range jumpers in the low and mid post that stars take.

Banchero just has a lot of gravity around him.

That is clearly seen in how many double teams he faces every night. The Magic have to get the ball to him just to force defenses into rotation and force them to double him.

If there is an area Banchero still has to improve it is in reading these double teams and making plays out of them.

Even there he got better, averaging 2.7 turnovers per game in the third quarter of the season (he is averaging 3.1 per game this year). Still, considering his usage and heavy touches per game as essentially the team's point guard and lead playmaker, Banchero still has a lot of high-turnover games.

To put that kind of responsibility on a player so young and to see him thrive in it consistently though is the point.

As important as the Magic's playoff chase is, those results are merely a byproduct of the growth the team wants to see from its young players. They are willing to ride the ups and downs of Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs (among others) because they know that will help them in the long run.

They know it will make them a better team.

In that way, Banchero's growth this year and his consistency throughout is why the Magic have climbed as quickly as they have. There are clearly a playoff team and growing rapidly.

What stood out about this quarter of the season was how Banchero continued to establish his consistency. That is what the great players do. They are great every single night.

Banchero will continue to get better. The final quarter of the season will test him and this young team in tremendous ways. The Magic will grow as a group and learn what they will need to develop further into the 2025 season.

dark. Next. 5 questions fourth quarter 03.06.24. 5 questions for the fourth quarter of the Magic's 2024 season

But one thing is clear. The Magic know they can count on Banchero every night. He has truly become the team's All-Star.