ORLANDO – Moments after the Orlando Magic were awarded the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft at the lottery in Chicago, agent Mike Miller approached Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley to congratulate him and offer a simple message: “I have the number one guy for you.”
After lengthy research, tons of film study, countless interviews, and numerous workouts, Orlando came to the conclusion that Miller, who coincidentally won the 2001 NBA Rookie of the Year honor with the franchise, was right.
And with the No. 1 overall selection in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Magic selected dynamic Duke forward Paolo Banchero on Thursday night.
“I can’t believe what just happened,” Banchero said moments after being selected. “I never would have thought that this would happen. I wanted to be in the NBA, but I didn’t know I would be here. I really honestly, didn’t. This is unbelievable. I can’t speak right now.”
There’s no questioning the offensive ability of the 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward, the aforementioned client of Miller’s. His blend of coordination, craftiness, finesse, fluidity, power, and vision make him an absolute force on the offensive end of the floor. For a franchise that’s been searching for a number one offensive option for quite some time, they may have found their answer at No. 1.
"This is a nineteen-year-old who has so much growth potential. We feel like he was the best player in college basketball," said Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman. "And we feel like he will continue to grow for many years to come. He's a hard worker, he's incredibly talented, and we're just thrilled to add him to our team."
Banchero becomes the fourth first overall pick in franchise history. Their back-to-back pulls of the premier ping-pong ball during the team’s infancy enabled them to select future Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O’Neal first overall in 1992 and then engineer a draft-night trade sending Chris Webber to Golden State for Penny Hardaway and three future first round picks in 1993. Those moves instantly morphed the Magic into a 50-win club and helped propel them to their first Finals appearance in 1995.
In 2004, lady luck was once again on the side of Orlando as it landed the top pick and subsequently drafted Dwight Howard. The perennial All-Star center went on to win three straight NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards for the Magic and vaulted them to two straight Eastern Conference Finals appearances, including a 2009 trip to the NBA Finals.
The organization has placed its faith in Banchero to help them get there once again.
“He’s a freak,” said Duke assistant coach Amile Jefferson, who played for the Magic from 2018-20, on the Mostly Magic podcast. “His ability to handle the ball, handle, pass, his feel at that size; it just doesn’t happen. I talking to somebody a while ago and I’m like when you play (NBA) 2K, you max out (your player’s) height, max out on how big they are, and then you give them a jumpshot, handles, feel, and pass. And he’s like that, almost like that created type of player. He has all the tools and the size, and you’re like, you don’t see this. A freak, even for the new age.”
Unlike many former first overall selections, Banchero is joining a core that’s certainly not devoid of talent. The group currently features a number of lottery selections, including Markelle Fultz (first overall - 2017), Jalen Suggs (fifth overall - 2021), Jonathan Isaac (sixth overall - 2017), Mo Bamba (sixth overall – 2018), Wendell Carter Jr. (seventh overall - 2018), and Franz Wagner (eighth overall - 2021) to go along with other promising young pieces such as Cole Anthony, R.J. Hampton, and Chuma Okeke.
With Banchero's blend of size, versatility, and skill, Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley can deploy him with those players in a number of ways.
"It's beyond exciting," said Mosley of adding Banchero to the roster. "That's the one thing we've constantly talked about is the versatility and the ability to play both sides of the ball. Guard multiple positions. He'll also be a great playmaker, decision maker, and he's giver and a distributor. That's going to be a great addition to our team."
There's a badge of honor that comes along with being a number one overall pick, but there's also a lot of responsibility. Coming from a nationally recognized program like Duke, playing in huge games, and carrying the weight of performing during legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski's final season, all prove that Banchero is up for the challenge.
"With (being the number one pick) comes an expectation level and the most important part is working to live up to it. We're confident Paolo will do that," said Weltman. "I can't imagine too many pressure-packed seasons greater than playing for Duke in Coach K's last season. We all know what that looked like."
Just like he has at every stop of his basketball career, Banchero is up for the challenge that lies ahead as a rookie in the NBA.