Paolo Banchero’s Impressive Debut
The 19-year-old Banchero wasted no time showing the world why the Orlando Magic made him the first overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. His blend of power and finesse really stood out during his team’s 91-77 victory over the Houston Rockets, as did his playmaking, ball handling and contact initiating. The 6-foot-10, 250-pounder, who made his first four shots and finished with 17 points on 5-of-12 shooting overall, 2-of-3 from 3-point range and 5-of-5 from the free throw line, was by far and away the strongest, most assertive player on the court. Even in situations where he couldn’t escape defenders with his handles, he got defenders out of position with his patience and footwork. While he did commit six fouls, Banchero was solid defensively, especially guarding Jabari Smith Jr., who was held to just 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting from the field. Arguably the best aspect of his performance was his passing. He dished out six assists while committing just two turnovers.
Devin Cannady and Caleb Houstan are Terrific Shooters
That’s not breaking news, but it needs to be highlighted. The 26-year-old Cannady and 19-year-old Houstan combined to make eight threes on Thursday. If either or both make the team next season, they will likely get playing time because of their 3-point shooting prowess. The Magic have struggled from distance the last two years, ranking 27th in 3-point percentage in 2020-21 and 28th in 2021-22.
Cannady, who scored 15 points, has bounced back and forth between Lakeland and Orlando the last two seasons. He was named the G League Finals MVP in the Disney bubble in 2021 after helping Lakeland capture the franchise’s first championship. A few weeks later while on a two-way contract with the Magic, he suffered a serious right ankle injury. Following a nearly year-long recovery, he resumed play in Lakeland, where he appeared in 16 games and shot nearly 47 percent from 3-point range. He signed with Orlando again near the end of last season and scored in double figures in three of the five games he played in.
Houstan, who led the Magic with 20 points, was chosen 32nd overall in the 2022 draft after playing one season under Juwan Howard at the University of Michigan. While inconsistent, he led the Wolverines last season with 60 made threes. At 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot wingspan, he’s capable of defending multiple positions as well.
Defense, Defense, Defense
It’s just summer league and most of the players participating will not make NBA squads come the fall. But just watching summer action, you can generally tell which teams prioritize defense. The Magic, undoubtedly, are one of them. The Rockets, largely because of Orlando’s defensive pressure, intensity, and technique, shot just 38.8 percent from the floor and 29 percent from 3-point distance. The Magic made tremendous strides defensively as last season evolved. They had the league’s seventh best defensive rating after the All-Star break and ranked third during that time in opponent field goal percentage. With so much size and versatility across their roster, Orlando should excel on that side of the court next season.