The Orlando Magic have selected Duke forward Paolo Banchero with the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. The pick is a major surprise as, throughout the entire draft process, the Magic were widely expected to select Auburn forward Jabari Smith with the top choice. That expectation persisted into draft day and only really began to change in the final minutes before the Magic went on the clock.
While the selection came as a surprise, the Magic received a strong grade from our CBS Sports NBA Draft experts as the choice of Banchero was given an A.
Even though I would have taken Chet Holmgren, I can’t say it’s wrong to take Banchero. I think he’s going to be the most impactful player right from the jump and the favorite to win Rookie of the Year. This is sensible, if surprising. He’s a big, strong and skilled forward who could be an incredible building block in Orlando. Grade: A
In the end, Orlando went with a prospect considered to be the best offensive player in this draft class. Banchero did a little bit of everything offensively at the college level. He can score inside and out, make 3-pointers off of the catch and create his own looks. He should be able to join the Magic right away and help give them one of the best offensive cores in basketball.
Defense is where doubts about Banchero sprouted. The modern NBA is incredibly demanding of big men defensively, and while Banchero has the athletic tools to survive on that end of the floor, it hasn’t yet translated into steady performance. If Banchero is going to lead the Magic into contention in the coming years, that is going to have to change.
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The Magic entered the 2022 NBA Draft with plenty of young talent already in-house. Franz Wagner was an All-Rookie selection last season, and his all-around game should mesh quite well with Banchero’s scoring. Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs both flashed promise last season, and while Markelle Fultz is always an injury risk, he was a No. 1 overall pick himself for a reason. Wendell Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba both had breakout seasons in 2022, and if Bamba is retained as a restricted free agent, that duo should set Orlando up at center for years to come.
Now Banchero becomes the crown jewel of that young roster. Orlando’s last two No. 1 overall picks, Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard, both forged Hall of Fame careers for themselves. Now they’ll just have to hope that Banchero can follow in their footsteps.