Orlando Magic Selects Paolo Banchero as First Pick of NBA Draft

The six-foot-ten Duke University basketball star was selected by the Orlando Magic.


“It was a challenge early on because teachers treated him older than he was,” said Rhonda Banchero, his mother.
Now 19, Paolo continues to live larger than life. As the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft chosen by the Orlando Magic, Banchero is well-aware of the high expectations.

Pressure? Nah. Just the presumption that he will become one of the greatest players in Orlando’s history. Boom or bust, kid.

“There’s not going to be any handouts no matter what you’ve done in the past,” Banchero said during his introductory press conference at the Amway Center. “At Duke, I had to earn everything. I wasn’t handed anything. That was some of the advice that [Coach Mike Krzyzewski] gave me. No matter what pick you are, you have to come in and take what you want. You’re not going to be handed anything at this level.”

Those expectations became a touch more challenging because the consensus No. 1 pick was presumed to be Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. But as a 6-foot-10 power forward who led Duke to the Final Four, they deemed Banchero NBA-ready and the best man available.

Banchero was joined at the press conference by Michigan’s Caleb Houstan, the number 32 pick in the draft. Reinforcements are needed for a franchise that has only made two first-round appearances in the playoffs since the 2011-2012 season.

“Today is a great day for our team,” said Jeff Weltman, President of Basketball Operations for the Magic. “We went into this draft looking to add skill, size, shooting, IQ, integrity, positional versatility, and these two young guys check all the boxes.”

The pick was a surprise because Banchero did not come to Orlando for a pre-draft workout.

“I know there’s a lot being made right now that Paolo didn’t come in to visit,” Weltman said during Banchero’s introductory press conference. “I want to let everybody know we’ve had several touch points with Paolo, live meetings on Zoom, and Paolo has been very forthcoming, submitting to all of our protocols.”

“There’s a lot of strategy that goes into the draft. There’s a lot of secret-keeping and misdirection.”
The Magic’s faith in Banchero raises expectations for a fan base waiting for Orlando’s return to relevance in the NBA. Orlando has fared very well in franchise-changing picks when given the choice of the first pick in the draft:

Shaquille O’Neal (1992), Chris Webber (who brought Penny Hardaway and three future draft picks to Orlando from Golden State after a draft-night trade in 1993), and Dwight Howard (2004) were the centerpieces of Orlando’s glory years, and playoff runs.

It’s Game On now, with Banchero joining a core group of young players, including Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, and Wendell Carter Jr.

“I’m not really worried about what’s going on or what’s being said on the outside,” Banchero said. “I try to keep everything internal with the teams and the coaches and look to them for help and advice.”

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