Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Magic fills biggest demand by selecting Paolo Banchero with No. 1 pick in NBA Draft

As the Orlando Magic begin a rebuild centering on young talent in March 2021, they can only hope they’re in that position.

Winning the lottery spot in the NBA draft last month. Picked Paolo Banchero with the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday’s draft.

Whether Banchero will live up to longstanding expectations of the No. 1 pick won’t be answered immediately.

Banchero’s draft is known to be the most important decision the Magic’s basketball operations leadership has made since deconstructing the roster and the organization’s No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft since Dwight Howard.

While it’s unclear if there’s a team-changing player in this draft, making the No. 1 pick more difficult than in most years, the Magic made the right choice based on their goals.

“I’m pretty confident we’re going to get a guy with the size, the talent, the IQ, the skills, the character — everything we want,” Weltman said before the draft. “We’re going to add him to our already exciting squad of young players. We’re going to let him reach his full potential. Beyond that, it’s going wherever it goes.”

Why Banchero is the first choice

This year’s draft isn’t like some years when the No. 1 pick is an “easy” decision, like when Cade Cunningham, Anthony Davis or LeBron James are available.

The feeling going into Thursday was that Banchero, Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith were all good picks for the No. 1 pick, but none were big enough to stand out in the class they shared.

With razor-thin margins, Orlando decided to cater to its biggest needs, which is why Banchero was picked.

Throughout the 2021-22 season and early in the rebuild, the Magic lacked a reliable offensive pivot. They had the second-worst offensive efficiency in the league last season, behind only the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Banchero may be the closest person to an offensive option in this draft. It’s Orlando’s bet.

Orlando values ​​versatility, defensive intensity, rhythm and space, and communication. On offense, Banchero was there. There are concerns about his defense, but the Magic have the infrastructure to cover him as he improves on that end of the floor. Coach Jamal Mosley called for defense.

The Magic needed someone to make their life easier on offense, and they picked players they thought would do it.

“The best traits he brings,” Weltman said Thursday, “he makes it easier for other guys to play.”

position fit

That helps Banchero fit into the players Orlando already has.

His combination of size, technique and offense helps him score in a variety of ways. Banchero is a smart playmaker and is considered the best passer of the preferred trio.

He’ll serve as Orlando’s frontcourt player between Franz Wagner, the No. 8 overall pick in last year’s draft, and Wendell Carter Jr., who won’t lack playmaking or offensive versatility.

There will also be room for big man Mo Bamba, who starts for the Magic throughout the 2021-22 season and will be a restricted free agent this offseason.

Banchero has made no secret of claiming that he is the best player in this year’s draft.

Now, he’ll be seen as a catalyst for the Magic’s upgrade, something Mosley has said Orlando needs to do this offseason.

“There’s nothing about Paul [that makes him stand out],” Weltman said. “He’s such a multi-position player. He fits into the modern NBA. That’s one of the things the league is looking for. You don’t meet these people very often. You say the best for the NBA, I agree. What is sometimes lost is that he also has incredible growth. He will get better. “

expect

As for how the No. 1 overall pick will affect the Magic’s play in 2022-23, Weltman reiterated before Thursday that Orlando will continue to be patient with the rebuild.

“You know, we’re not done with all the roster deconstruction we’ve done so we can rush back to the middle,” he said. “That’s not what we want to do. Right now, we want to play better basketball, make fewer mistakes, improve our IQ, build chemistry, and continue to understand which of our players can affect winning. We do want to be better, but It can’t come at the expense of a rush to mediocrity. We do want something sustainable. You have to raise the bar to do that. You can’t just stay in the basement.”

But the Magic are under pressure — especially from outsiders — to quickly become a winner again.

Teams that have been in the Magic’s position prior to the No. 1 overall pick have recently had a common trend. Over the past 15 years, teams that won less than 30 percent of their games prior to the No. 1 overall pick typically had a winning percentage in their second season and then made an even bigger leap in their second season with the No. 1 overall pick.

As Weltman put it after the Magic won the draft lottery, Orlando was “fortunate enough to be under the pressure of being the No. 1 pick.”

Now, they’ve had the privilege of making that pick a player — Banchero — and the expectations that come with it.

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Send Khobi prices to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @khobi_price.

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