Magic choose Duke’s Paolo Banchero with No. 1 NBA Draft pick

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Orlando Magic ended weeks of speculation Thursday by using the team’s first No. 1 NBA Draft pick since 2004 to select Duke forward Paolo Banchero.

What You Need To Know

  • The Orlando Magic made the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday night
  • They choose Duke forward Paola Banchero
  • As late as Monday, an Orlando executive said the team hadn’t decided which player they would pick 
  • The Magic also have the No. 32 pick, which is near the top of the second round

The Magic chose him over Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith Jr., whose names had also been floated as possible No. 1 picks.

Banchero is a 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward who averaged 17.2 points while leading Duke to the Final Four, but he put off a meeting scheduled with the Magic. Many scouts considered him the most NBA-ready player in the draft.

After making the selection, Magic President of Basketball Operations said he was “thrilled” to pick Banchero to join the team.

According to Weltman, Banchero had completed all the Magic’s protocols before the draft.

Banchero said on Twitter that he can’t wait to get to Orlando.

Banchero’s agent is former Magic forward Mike Miller, who Orlando selected No. 5 overall in 2000. Miller, a former Florida Gator, was a versatile player and a good 3-point shooter.

In the second round, the Magic chose freshman forward Caleb Houstan of Michigan with the 32nd pick, which was the second selection of the second round. Houstan averaged 10.1 points and four rebounds per game while shooting 38.4% from the floor and 35.5% from 3-point range. Orlando’s No. 8 pick overall last year, Franz Wagner, as well as center/power forward Mo Wagner and forward Ignas Brazdeikis also played at Michigan.

Both of the Magic’s draft picks are expected in town soon to meet with the media.

Most NBA sources had said they expected the Magic to choose Smith. He averaged 16.9 points and 7.4 rebounds in his lone season at Auburn and had made a high-profile visit to Orlando, where he met with the media after a workout on June 9. It was one of two workouts that Smith said he would conduct for teams ahead of the draft. Smith shot 43% from the field and 42% from 3-point range and was considered a good defensive player during college basketball season.

“I think I can fit in it really well,” Smith said after his visit with the Magic. “Seeing the guys and seeing the players, this is a young team, one of the youngest in the league. So, adding me would just add another young player who was hungry and got a lot left in the tank.

“So, I’ll add some energy and just another person wants to come in and work and get this organization where it needs to be.”

Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman maintained as late as Monday that the team had not made a decision about who they would select. 

“Dialogue is always ongoing,” Weltman said at the time. “But, most importantly, we get to do what we want. That’s the real benefit of having the No. 1 pick.”

Holmgren is a 7-footer from Gonzaga who has the mobility and shooting range to play on the perimeter, but some scouts are concerned because he only weighs 195 pounds.

He also visited Orlando, but the Magic did not disclose whether he worked out for the team.

The Magic finished the 2021-22 regular season with a 22-60 record, second-worst in the NBA.

They entered the day also holding the Nos. 32 and 35 picks, which are near the top of the second round, but they sent the 35th pick to the Los Angeles Lakers before the draft for a future second-round pick and cash considerations.

“We do want to get better but not at the expense of rushing back to mediocrity,” Weltman said. “And we do want to have something sustainable. But you have to elevate the standard to do that. You can’t just stay at the basement level, you know, interminably.

“So those are conversations that we’re having, which players do that for us.”

The Magic have not had the No. 1 pick in the draft since they selected Dwight Howard in 2004. In earlier drafts, they selected Shaquille O’Neal with the top pick in the 1992 draft, and in 1993, they chose Chris Webber but traded his draft rights to the Golden State Warriors for the draft rights to Penny Hardaway and three future first-round draft picks.

Following the team’s pick Thursday night, the Orlando Magic released the following statement:

Banchero (6’10”, 250, 11/12/02) played and started in all 39 games last season as a freshman at Duke University, averaging 17.2 ppg., 7.8 rpg., 3.2 apg. and 1.05 stlpg. in 33.0 minpg., while shooting .478 (245-513) from the floor. He led all true freshmen in the nation in scoring. Banchero led the Blue Devils in scoring and rebounding, while ranking second in minutes played. He also ranked fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in rebounding and sixth in the conference in scoring.

Banchero was named Second Team All-America by the NABC and USBWA, while being a Third Team All-America selection by The Associated Press and The Sporting News. Among his many accolades, he was one of 15 finalists for the John R. Wooden Award, given to the nation’s most outstanding player, and one of five finalists for the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award. Banchero was named to the All-ACC First Team, the ACC All-Freshmen Team and was the ACC Freshman of the Year. He was also named to the ACC All-Tournament Team, the NCAA All-Tournament Team and the NCAA West Region’s Most Outstanding Player, leading Duke to the 2022 NCAA Final Four.

While at O’Dea High School in Seattle, WA, Banchero led the team to the Class 3A state championship as a sophomore (2018-19) and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. As a junior (2019-20), he was named Washington’s Gatorade Player of the Year, a MaxPreps Junior All-American and the MaxPreps National Junior Player of the Year. Despite his senior season being postponed due to the pandemic, Banchero was named a 2021 McDonald’s All-American, a Naismith First Team All-American and a Sports Illustrated All-American.

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