Orlando Magic's All-Star future is taking shape

The final All-Star returns showed Paolo Banchero gaining ground with the chance to pick up one more spot before voting closes. The Orlando Magic also seem closer to a long-awaited project to set up their next All-Star bid.
Paolo Banchero has turned in an All-Star season for the Orlando Magic this season. And voters are recognizing it.
Paolo Banchero has turned in an All-Star season for the Orlando Magic this season. And voters are recognizing it. / Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
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Paolo Banchero has made a pretty big statement this year.

The second-year forward is on the cusp of making his first All-Star team, averaging 22.9 points per game, 7.0 rebounds per game and 4.9 assists per game. With the Magic in playoff position and a very impressive run through December and January, he should get the nod from the coaches when reserves are announced.

There is still a long way to go for that. All-Star starter voting is still open until Saturday at 11:59 p.m. ET with a 3-for-1 vote day due up Friday. The starters will be announced on Jan. 25 (next Thursday).

Banchero's chances of starting are going to be pretty poor. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Jayson Tatum are not only the top three in the final returns of All-Star voting before voting closes, but pretty safe bets to start.

But Banchero continues to pick up notice and attention.

In the last week, he has again picked up a spot in All-Star voting.

In returns released Thursday, Paolo Banchero passed Julius Randle to come in eighth among East frontcourt players, making up a 5,700 vote difference. That puts him perhaps in the range of making up the final 6,000 votes to pass Bam Adebayo for sixth.

That may not go far for making the reserves -- the conference's coaches vote on the reserves -- but it is certainly a sign that Banchero is picking up some steam and picking up notice around the league.

Banchero has done his part on the court. He is averaging 26.9 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game and 5.4 assists per game in his last 15 games with just two games scoring fewer than 20 points. It is an impressive thing to watch from a second-year player.

Banchero's rise in the voting has been equally impressive.

Since last week, Banchero accumulated an additional 186,148 votes with two 3-for-1 vote days occurring this week (last Friday and Martin Luther King Day on Monday). That was an increase of 52.4 percent after more than doubling his vote between the first and second returns.

Banchero trailed Adebayo by 54,522 votes at last week's returns, he trails the Heat center by just 5,971 votes after Thursday's returns.

That is the kind of steam Banchero has picked up. Impressive considering how little Banchero has been in the spotlight with his only national TV appearance slated for just before All-Star Weekend in February.

Banchero will be heading to Indianapolis at least to participate in the Rising Stars game on Friday. But he has put together an All-Star-caliber season.

We will find out his official fate when the reserves are announced on Feb. 1. He still has time to build his case.

That is the Magic's future at the All-Star Game on the court. Off the court, the Magic and Orlando are still waiting their turn.

This year All-Star Weekend will take place in Indianapolis. Next year, the showcase game heads to San Francisco and the Chase Center. The league announced this week that the 2026 All-Star Game will take place at the Intuit Dome outside of Los Angeles.

Orlando has been waiting to get its turn to host All-Star Weekend since hosting the game in 2012. Magic CEO Alex Martins said the team had an interest in hosting All-Star Weekend again. But those ideas have been put on hold as the team waited to get the entertainment complex off the ground.

There is finally some much-needed movement on that front too.

The entertainment complex got a more pared-down design and a design company on board. They now have an important approval from the city.

Earlier this week, Orlando's Municipal Planning Board approved plans to build the project and will move it forward to the City Council for final approval. Developers anticipate that the team will begin construction on the project later this year.

The City Council will take up the matter in February.

This is a big step for the team to redevelop the area around the Kia Center.

Ever since the city built the arena, the Magic had designs for building an entertainment district similar to LA Live or Beale Street around those stadiums. The Magic planned to build a hotel with convention space and restaurants, bars and entertainment options (a bowling alley had been pitched previously) while also creating a gathering space around the arena.

The plan has been scaled back over the years and was put fully on hold during the pandemic. The team bought the property across from Kia Center in preparation for this construction.

It is still a few years away. But almost certainly the Magic could not host All-Star Weekend until this project was completed. That was one of the drawbacks of the 2012 All-Star Weekend. With the parking lot across from the arena, space was cramped for the pregame concerts and events around the stadium.

dark. Next. Kia Center name 01.19.24. Kia joining Orlando Magic on the rise with Kia Center

After a long wait, this project is finally getting off the ground. And hopefully it means the Magic will not only get to see Banchero in the All-Star Game for years to come, but Banchero as an All-Star on the Kia Center floor.