Paolo Banchero never worked for the Orlando Magic† He didn’t have to.
His year at Duke provided all the information they needed.
The latest – and arguably most important – piece of Orlando’s rebuilding is Banchero, the 208cm forward that became No. 1 in the overall standings. NBA draft† He met the Magic several times over the past few weeks and participated in everything from personality profiles to introductory interviews, and what happened during those sessions reinforced Orlando’s belief that he was the best choice.
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“We think he was the best player in college basketball,” said Magic president Jeff Weltman. “And we have a feeling it will continue to grow for many years to come.”
Banchero averaged 17.2 points in his lone college season along with 7.8 rebounds and was a third-team Associated Press All-American. There were cheers from the crowd at Amway Center – Banchero’s new home court – when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced the Magic was on the clock.
It didn’t take long for the Magic to send the official message. Banchero heads to Orlando, with plans for his official reception on Friday at his new home.
“A dream come true,” Banchero said, detailing the moment he heard his name as the No. 1 pick. “It was a really surreal moment.”
Silver is a Duke grad. And as is tradition for the commissioner, he gave Banchero a handshake and a warm hug after the new No. 1 pick donned a Magic hat and took the stage for his big moment.
The whole scene was overwhelming for Banchero, and yes, he cried.
“I had never been moved to tears by anything positive,” he said.
Banchero joins a young Orlando core that already includes Markelle Fultz, the 2017 top pick, a pair of top eight picks from the 2021 draft in Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs, and Cole Anthony, the No. 15 pick in 2020.
Orlando also has the number 6 picks from the 2017 and 2018 drafts, Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba. It’s possible that when next season starts, Orlando will have as many as six lottery picks, nine top-16 picks and 12 first-round picks on the list.
There is a lot of room to grow. The Magic went 22-60 last season. Banchero’s Duke team won 10 games more than the Magic.
“I’m super excited to go to Orlando,” Banchero said. “I’m really excited about the team. I think that’s the most exciting part, going out with the team. I feel like we’re a really talented team. A lot of guys are hungry, ready to win, and I’m the same way.”
Banchero will make over $14 million next season, the start of his four-year rookie deal, plus whatever lures him off the track. Given that he is a number 1 pick, out of Duke, with Italian and American citizenships, it is likely that he will have a lot of appeal in the endorsement world.
Banchero’s choice came as a slight surprise after weeks of speculation that Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. whether Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren might top Orlando’s list. Holmgren went No.2 to Oklahoma City, and Smith No.3 to Houston.
Weltman hinted earlier this week that the reports may not be accurate, even boasting that the Magic take pride in keeping big decisions like this one as a surprise.
They also took it off.
“I think it’s important for people to know that information is managed discreetly with us from every corner of this business, from agents to other teams to the media,” Weltman said. Don’t put your cards on the table, do you?”
This was Orlando’s fourth time making the No. 1 selection. If history is correct, Banchero will have a long career in this competition.
The Magic took Shaquille O’Neal to the top pick in 1992. Chris Webber was Orlando’s No. 1 pick in 1993, and he was traded that same night for Penny Hardaway and a pack of future picks that eventually led to Vince Carter and Mike Molenaar. And in 2004 the Magic selected Dwight Howard with the first choice.
Miller also has his fingerprints on this pick: He’s been working with Banchero for the past few weeks to get him ready for the NBA grind.
Now it’s Banchero’s turn to be the esteemed rookie after Orlando decided to choose him over the other two highly regarded candidates for the No. 1 pick: Smith and Holmgren.
Banchero also became the 13th consecutive player to become No. 1 overall after just a year of studying.
“I honestly can’t believe what just happened,” Banchero said, after hugging his mother – Rhonda Smith-Banchero, a former WNBA player.
Believe it. The Magic are betting much of their future on the 19-year-old.
“Our team got a lot better tonight,” Weltman said. “Paolo has not played a minute in this competition and everything he gets he will have to earn. It is clear that he has a great future, a great future, in front of him.”
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