when The Orlando Magic began a rebuild in March 2021. Centered around young talent, they could only hope to put themselves in this position.
Last month’s NBA Draft Lottery winning position. position to 1st pick in Thursday’s draft with Paolo Banchero,
Whether Banchero will live up to the No. 1 pick’s long-term expectations was not immediately answered.
What is known is that drafting Banchero is the single most important decision the Magic’s basketball operations leadership, led by chairman Jeff Veltman, has made since the roster’s rebuild and Dwight Howard’s take on Emeka Okafor with a no. It’s the organization’s biggest Draft-Day decision ever. Choose 1 in the 2004 draft.
While it was unclear whether any franchise-changing players were available in this draft, which made the choice for No. 1 more difficult than in most years, the Magic made the right choice based on where they wanted to go.
“I’m pretty confident we’re going to find a guy with the size, the talent, the IQ, the skills, the character — everything we want to be about,” Veltman said ahead of the draft. “We are going to add him to our already exciting group of young players. We will put him in a position to fully maximize his potential. Besides, it goes where it goes.”
why banchero was the pick
This year’s draft was not like some years where choosing No. 1 was an “easy” decision, as Cade Cunningham, Anthony Davis or LeBron James were available.
The sentiment entering Thursday was that Banchero, Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith were all good choices for the top pick, but none were good enough to differentiate themselves within the level they shared with each other .
As thin as the margin was, Orlando decided to fill their biggest need, which is why Banchero was the pick.
During the 2021–22 season and in the early stages of this rebuild, the Magic lacked a reliable offensive centre. They had the league’s second-worst offensive rating, behind only the Oklahoma City Thunder last season.
Banchero might be the closest thing to an offensive option in this draft class. This is the bet that Orlando is taking.
Orlando values versatility, defensive intensity while playing with speed and space and communication. Offensively, Banchero is there. There are concerns about his defense, but Magic has the infrastructure to cover for him as he advances to that end of the floor. Coach Jamahal Mosley called for the defense.
The Magic needed someone who could make life easier for them aggressively, and they chose the player they believed would do it.
“The best feature he brings out,” Veltman said on Thursday, “is that he makes it easier for other people to play.”
It helps that Banchero fits in between the players Orlando already has.
He has a combination of size, skill and offensive prowess which helps him to score in myriad ways. Banchero is a smart playmaker and the best passer out of the three is considered for the top pick.
there will also be room for big man mo bambaJoe started for the Magic throughout the 2021-22 season and will be a banned free agent this off-season.
Banchero doesn’t shy away from declaring that he is the best player in this year’s draft category.
Now, he will be seen as a catalyst to raise the level of magic that Mosley has said Orlando needs this offseason.
“The thing about Paolo is that there is no one thing” [that makes him stand out],” said Veltman. “He is such a multi-position player. He fits into the modern NBA. This is one of the things the league is looking for. You don’t have these people very often. You say most NBA-ready, I agree. What is lost in him is sometimes unbelievable growth in him. He’s going to get a whole lot better.”
As far as the impact drafting at No. 1 will have on the Magic’s outlook for the 2022-23 season, Veltman reiterated before Thursday that Orlando will continue to be patient with their rebuild.
“You guys know we haven’t done all the rebuilding of the roster, so we can come back in the middle,” he said. “That’s not what we’re trying to do. Right now, we want to play better basketball, make fewer mistakes, increase our IQ, build chemistry and continue to understand which of our players We want to get better, but not at the cost of getting back to normal. We want to have something sustainable. To do that you have to raise the standard. You can’t just live at basement level .
But there is pressure on magic—especially outwardly—to quickly become a winner again.
There has been a common trend lately among teams that have been in Magic position prior to drafting at No. Teams that have won less than 30% of their games in the past 15 years have generally improved marginally before drafting the top pick. 1 pick’s win percentage in the following season before making a more significant jump in the second season.
As Veltman said after the Magic won the draft lottery, Orlando was “privileged to keep the pressure” of the No. 1 pick.
Now, they are privileged to have that pick turn a player – Banchero – and the expectations that come with it.