I hearken back to when I felt the Orlando Magic should’ve had the bullseye on rookie Paolo Banchero in the 2022 NBA Draft and quite frankly I’ve came away disappointed with Banchero even if he has put up rookie LeBron James like numbers in his rookie season? Why? Well the inconsistency and he’s just not really making his mark in Orlando, the stats would say otherwise but I reckon back to when former Orlando center Dwight Howard was drafted by the Magic and how although he didn’t take the league by storm exactly much like former Orlando Magic sensation Shaquille O’Neal did in his early days with the Magic; you could just feel he was going to be one of the top 10 players in the game at the very least even if former UConn center Emeka Okafor,who was drafted right after him, seemed to have a more impressive rookie campaign if you just compared them by sheer numbers. Dwight Howard was an amazing basketball player, I just never gave him his due until after he lead the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals 2009 because I was just so used to watching so many different bigs like Shaquille O’Neal,Tim Duncan,Kevin Garnett,Dirk Nowirzki,Jermaine O’Neal,Chris Webber,Rasheed Wallace, and Alonzo Mourning dominate the game in the 2000’s that watching Dwight attempt to mimic Shaq’s dominance was just something I couldn’t buy into.
Add on the fact that I also got to witness Tracy McGrady in his prime on the Orlando Magic and I doubted he could ever fill the shoes McGrady left in Orlando before bolting for Houston to line up with Chinese phenom Yao Ming. But back to Paolo Banchero who if we were to compare to both Tracy McGrady and Dwight Howard he would fall massively short in terms of superstar potential in the NBA. McGrady and Howard were top 5 players in the NBA at their peaks and I would go as far as to say they were even regarded as the best for at least a season or two in their respective careers, can we say the same will be the case for Paolo Banchero? I mean I get it the kid can play, he’s only the ripe age of 20 years old so his best basketball is ahead of him but will he ever become a top 5 player in the NBA? Or forget top 5, will he ever even become a top 10-15 player in the NBA? I’m not so sure, and I hate to sound like Skip Bayless here but Banchero really does nothing great on the floor. He’s a very versatile scorer with great size and a NBA ready body, he’s also a willing passer who can make last second reads in traffic but the biggest knock on his game is he just isn’t a pure shooter and his handle is far from tight. He struggles to get opponents off him in isolation and when he does he doesn’t have the mid-range game let alone a 3-point jumper he could take and make consistently.
And of course I am not expected Paolo Banchero to come out handling and shooting the ball like a Kevin Durant but anyone who watched Banchero in high-school and in his brief stint at Duke would understand that he’s always lacked foot speed and he’s not really aligned with handling the basketball for a substantial portion of a game. Some liken him to Carmelo Anthony but he isn’t close to being the scorer Melo was, he’s more like a beefed up version of Tobias Harris if anything and with all due respect to Tobias who’s carved himself out a decent career at the NBA level he never came close to being an all-star level player and has been tossed around from team to team like a hot potato in his 12-13 year stay at the NBA level. I’ll give Banchero the benefit of the doubt, he will be better than Tobias Harris ever has been assuming he remains healthy over the next 8-10 years in the NBA and will be sure to appear in an all-star game or two but that’s not going to cut it in Orlando. The Magic need a franchise player, someone who will take the organization out of the mediocrity they’ve been in since Dwight Howard departed over a decade ago and Orlando might have to find that face of the franchise caliber player in the 2023 NBA Draft. It could be Victor Wembanyama,Brandon Miller,Amen Thompson, or Scoot Henderson but I’ll tell you this much I don’t see it being Banchero.
Sorry Magic fans, you’re probably thinking Paolo Banchero likely bullied me in high-school since I don’t have the highest of expectations for him but he’s not the player to represent your franchise. Sure he could be the second best player on the team but he’s going to need a brain transplant with Kobe Bryant to become what Magic fans are likely expecting from him. He’s got all the tools to be great but he’s going to have to get up 1000 shots a day for this entire off-season and really tighten up his handle. Banchero could make me eat my words and put together an MVP worthy campaign next season but I’d bank on long-time foes Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas squashing their beef by embracing each other with a hand-shake and hug before buying into Banchero taking it up a few notches next season. It’s been bad for Orlando, they expected Jonathan Isaac to be the savior and he’s had to be one of the most disappointing lottery picks in recent history to say the least. I’d personally buy him a one-way ticket out of Orlando and consider him good riddance, the Magic have two positives going for them Paolo Banchero and Markelle Fultz, everything else is a crap-shoot practically. To conclude Paolo has his work cut out for him this off-season, the climb to superstardom will be quite a steep one, so steep he’s better off envisioning who’s running mate he will be in this coming draft, till next time.