Paolo Banchero has to win in Playoffs to get national respect

The Orlando Magic can officially say they have an All-Star player on their roster. But Banchero must win in the Playoffs to gain the respect he deserves from his peers.

Everyone inside the league knows Paolo Banchero is an All-Star and one of the most difficult players in the league to handle. But the national respect from the media has no yet arrived.
Everyone inside the league knows Paolo Banchero is an All-Star and one of the most difficult players in the league to handle. But the national respect from the media has no yet arrived. / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me.

These are legendary lyrics from Aretha Franklin, but they can be applied to the social atmosphere concerning the Orlando Magic's All-Star forward Paolo Banchero.

But what does it mean to him?

How does Banchero feel about being snubbed out of national television conversations about who could be the next face of the NBA? Is that even something he wants to be?

These are questions only the second-year star out of Duke can answer.

Judging by his on-court play, this guy wants to be one of the best players in the NBA one day. He is still establishing himself among the league's best but doing so quickly. He was quickly welcomed by the current faces of the league even as Banchero seemed to be pinching himself to share the All-Star court with them.

Reaching the All-Star Game at 21 years old and his second season in the NBA are sure signs that Banchero is one of the special players in the league. Everyone expects him to return to the All-Star Game for years to come.

He has earned that moniker and that place among the game's elites. And his team is fighting for a playoff spot. Banchero has checked off all the boxes to be one of the most-talked-about players in the league.

But even during the All-Star Game, Banchero was hardly mentioned. He got a few lines from Reggie Miller in the third quarter, even though Banchero was easing his way into the All-Star experience.

How is Banchero supposed to get noticed? It is not for his work during the regular season. Respect is ultimately earned in the postseason. If the Magic want more national TV games and notoriety, Banchero and the team must stand out on the league's biggest stage.

Banchero has had loud enough numbers to support more attention, especially with his young age.

Banchero is averaging 23.0 points per game, 5.3 assists per game and 6.9 rebounds per game. He averages more points than the Miami Heat's Bam Adebayo, the Indiana Pacers' Tyrese Haliburton, the Boston Celtics' Jalen Brown, the LA Clippers' Paul George and the Minnesota Timberwolves' Karl-Anthony Towns, who just put up 50 points in the All-Star Game (for whatever that is worth).

Banchero put up All-Star numbers. He is coming off his Rookie of the Year campaign. Yet, the Magic have been on national TV once in Banchero's career.

The NBA shifted some of its post-All-Star TV schedules on Wednesday. The Magic were again left off the list with two of their biggest games remaining this season given the short end of the changes.

That lack of notoriety and attention has led to many national pundits mischaracterizing or ignoring what Banchero has accomplished.

Banchero may still have some work to go to be the next face of the NBA -- and a lot of that gets proven on the court in the postseason. But there are a lot of supposed national figures who completely disrespect his game.

Banchero needs a strong playoff showing to silence those critics and build a clearer star resume.

Banchero is well on his way to leading the Magic to the postseason and checking that box. But judging by the way people like Gilbert Arenas -- and he is not the only one -- still talk about Paolo Banchero and the Magic, you would think they are nowhere near the postseason.

Everyone seems to be holding Banchero to an impossible standard and giving passes to many other players on weaker teams.

Talk about a harsh critic.

Banchero has been the unquestioned leader of one of the youngest teams in the NBA. That same franchise was 22-60 before he was drafted. The team is now 30-25 in his second year at the break.

They are tied for seventh in the Eastern Conference and have a good chance to climb the standings after the All-Star Break with one of the best defenses in the league.

This is a legitimate playoff team with a legitimate star. Nobody seems to be treating them as such.

Banchero is on pace to do the unthinkable. He should lead his team to the Playoffs in his second year. And that should set the table for the Magic to make another leap out of the first round next year.

Banchero is growing quicker than anyone could have anticipated. Soon, he will inch toward becoming one of the top players in the league and an All-NBA candidate.

Right now, in only his second season, he is already a top-20 NBA player. Arenas and others who are not watching would probably disagree.

But what matters most is what Banchero thinks of himself.

He clearly has modeled his game after his idol LeBron James. His trajectory is similar.

For context, LeBron James missed the playoffs in his first year and led the Cavaliers to a 42-40 record in his second year. Nobody batted an eye and celebrated his rise. Sure, James is one of the best players of all time and one of the most hyped rookies in league history. But Banchero is not too far off of even that impossibly lofty goal.

The Magic have played well with Banchero leading the way. They should be in the fight for the 6-seed in the Eastern Conference. They should easily eclipse 41 wins and get a winning record.

Orlando is still looking to establish its place in the league. The Magic have found themselves in the playoff race.

The bigger question is why nobody seems to recognize that. Why does the national media not respect what the Magic have done in the regular season? Why do other young teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder or Indiana Pacers get more respect? Do they even get enough respect?

These teams will have to prove they can win a Playoff series, just like Orlando will have to prove it to get that respect. They are all fighting for respect, too, even with the Timberwolves and Thunder sitting atop the Western Conference.

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The fans in Central Florida may need to be patient for the NBA to catch up on what is cooking in Orlando. But Banchero will have to eat in the Playoffs before he gains the respect he deserves.