Magic

Orlando Hoping Banchero Enchants Magic’s Rebuild

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Have no fear, Orlando; Paolo Banchero is here.

The Magic took Banchero with the first pick in the 2022 NBA Draft last week. Orlando hasn’t picked first since the team drafted Dwight Howard back in 2004.

Banchero was a consensus top-three pick in this year’s draft. Orlando had the league scrambling on draft night, however.

The Magic now believe they have their franchise cornerstone for the foreseeable future. 

Heading into next season, Orlando has nowhere to go but up. The Magic have been in the NBA’s cellar since Howard left the team in the 2012 offseason. Orlando has just one regular season above .500 since 2012, peaking at 42 wins in 2019. The team hasn’t been a top-six seed in the Eastern Conference since Howard’s last year in Orlando.

Up to this point, the Magic’s post-Howard rebuild has been nothing but disappointing.

What Banchero Brings to Orlando

On paper, it seems like Banchero was created in a basketball laboratory. At 6-foot-10 and 250 lbs, Banchero possesses elite size, strength and athleticism. Paolo’s frame translated to moments of pure dominance during his lone season at Duke.

Banchero looks to bring that same dominance — particularly on offense — to Orlando.

Banchero is one of the better isolation scorers in this year’s draft. He can post up on the low or high block, excels in the middle of the court as a playmaker — especially against a zone defense — and is a strong rim finisher with great touch from the mid-range and occasionally from three.

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Banchero’s offense fits well in both the half-court and in transition. The 19-year-old’s athleticism and ball-handling make him a force in fast-break situations. His blend of speed, power and touch allows him to be a versatile isolation scorer in the post, as a rim-runner or with the ball in his hands.

Orlando is in desperate need of a jolt on offense. The Magic finished last in offensive rating this past season. In the last five years, the team has never finished higher than 22nd in that category and 24th in points per game. Banchero could bring instant scoring to one of the worst offensive teams in the league.

At Duke, Banchero’s athleticism made him one of the best second-chance-scoring players in college. 

Banchero can beat other bigs off the dribble and draw fouls. He was a phenomenal offensive rebounder at Duke, remaining a presence in the paint even without the ball. Banchero can make plays and bring offensive value to the Magic with or without the rock.

Last season, Orlando finished 27th in free-throw attempts per game and 30th in offensive-rebounding percentage. Heading into next season, Banchero will instantly patch up some of the team’s biggest holes.

The main concern for Banchero is his outside shooting. He shot under 34% from three at Duke. His jumper looks good but isn’t consistent. Orlando was 28th in the league in three-point percentage last season. Banchero’s offensive potential will have a limited ceiling if he can’t make teams pay from beyond the arc.

Banchero’s Fit with the Magic

Orlando will start next season with a crowded frontcourt.

The Magic’s roster is filled with rotation-caliber bigs and wings with promise, but Banchero has the highest ceiling of them all. He can start on day one as the power forward.

The most intriguing question for Orlando is Banchero’s fit alongside Wendell Carter Jr. 

Carter thrived as a rim-runner and rebounder in his second season with the Magic. Banchero (3.1 APG in college) and Carter (2.8 APG in 2021-22) could be the most underrated passing frontcourt in the league. On defense, Carter could patrol the paint and Banchero could serve as an excellent help defender. On offense, Banchero could be a great cutter, passer and isolation scorer next to Carter.

But Carter and Banchero are both inconsistent three-point shooters. In the context of Orlando’s potential starting lineup next season, spacing is going to be a problem.

Magic’s Most Likely Starting Lineup for Next Season

Hypothetically, the Magic will start next season without a league-average three-point shooter in their starting lineup. 

Sharing the ball is also going to be a problem for Orlando.

Cole Anthony is one of the best on-ball scorers and playmakers in the league but is less effective without the ball in his hands. Suggs, Fultz, and Wagner are all young and could use some extra reps. Carter is an efficient scorer who will command touches. How Banchero fits alongside ball-dominant guards who don’t fit the traditional playmaking role will be something to watch for next season. 

Where Does Orlando Go From Here?

Unlike previous offseasons, the Magic are in the possession of multiple prospects with tremendous upside.

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Banchero and Franz Wagner fit the model of how the Celtics and Clippers built the cores of their teams: versatile, two-way wings with superstar potential. Banchero and Wagner could be the new Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, or Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown of Orlando.

The Magic’s past choices in the draft were confusing at best and dumbfounding at worst since the post-Howard rebuild began. For the first time in over a decade, Magic fans have a young duo that could propel them back to success in due time.

If the Magic are committed to both Wagner and Banchero, then the next step is to build the roster around these two wings.

Specifically, Orlando needs to make decisions on the futures of Mo Bamba and Jonathan Isaac

Bamba will hit restricted free agency without an extension from the Magic. Bamba averaged career highs in points, rebounds, blocks and three-point percentage. But with Banchero on the team and a roster already stacked at the frontcourt, the Magic might not want to make a financial commitment to Bamba. Orlando also recently signed Carter to a four-year, $50 million extension.

Isaac is under contract with the Magic, but because of his injuries, Orlando has the flexibility to move on.

If the Magic are set with Banchero and Wagner, it might make sense for them to move on from Isaac.

There’s still a ton of work that needs to be done in Orlando, but the Magic took a big step forward by adding Banchero.

For the first time since the Dwight Howard era, the Magic might have a superhero who could save the day and their team.

About Dominic Chiappone

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