Before the college basketball season even ended, three names have been considered the three prospects expected to draw consideration for the NBA draft’s No. 1 pick: Former Gonzaga big man Chet Holmgren, Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr. and Duke forward Paolo Banchero.
But since the Magic won the draft lottery and the rights to the top pick, most rival executives and scouts have believed Holmgren and Smith will be the first two players drafted, leaving Banchero as the most likely option for the third pick.
Smith and Holmgren have been considered the favorites, and at one point the heavy favorites, to be the top-two picks since mid-May but Banchero’s odds to be the top pick have improved significantly this week, according to betonline.com.
The argument for the Magic to select Banchero? He may be the closest thing to a go-to offensive option in this draft class.
Banchero can score in myriad ways — post-ups, lobs, cuts, in transition, off offensive rebounds, off pull-ups from midrange and as a ball handler in the pick and roll.
At 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds, he has the size and strength to finish through contact while also having the footwork to get to his spots with finesse.
Banchero is a smart playmaker who makes good passes from the post or on the move (3.2 assists as a forward) and could serve can serve as an offensive hub, which the Magic could use after having the league’s second-worst offensive rating in 2021-22.
He averaged 17.2 points (47.8% from the field — 52.5% on 2s, 33.8% on 3s), 7.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals en route to being named a second-team All-American and the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year.
Banchero stepped up his play in the NCAA tournament, averaging 18.8 points (50% from the field — 49% on 2s, 52.6% on 3s), 7.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1 steal before the Blue Devils fell to North Carolina in the Final Four.
“He showed flashes of greatness late during the tournament — spreading the defense, running the court, hitting 3s,” Ryan Blake, who’s helped direct scouting services for the NBA since 1996, said in a recent phone call with the Orlando Sentinel. “I think teams will be a little bit concerned about his defense. You have to play both ends of the floor.”
The concerns stem from Banchero not consistently locked in as a defender at Duke and not showing great lateral quickness as a perimeter defender. There are questions about how switchable he’ll be defensively and what his ideal role is on that end.
“His potential offensively is great, but you’re not going to find minutes on the hardwood if you’re not going to play defense,” Blake said. “During this process, you’re going to see the top three teams taking in to see how hard he’s going to work out. If he wants to climb that ladder, he’s definitely going to have to show that part — the conditioning, the defensive part and that type of intensity with consistency. You could call that nitpicking, too. He’s got such a great offensive repertoire.”
It isn’t clear how much contact Banchero has had with the Magic.
Orlando president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman on Monday declined to say whether Banchero visited or worked out for the Magic in Orlando.
Sports Illustrated reported the Magic “brought in” Banchero in addition to Holmgren and Smith, among others.
Smith worked out for the Magic on June 9 and Holmgren met with Orlando’s basketball operations leadership on June 15 and 16.
“There’s so much subterfuge going on and gamesmanship that I think one of the things we’ve done well, do well and I’m proud of our guys for being able to say this, is we are buttoned-up,” Weltman said. “It’s really important to act that way. Whatever the chatter is and rumors are, I’ll never get involved in that. I’ll tell you we’ve had more players in than have been reported, but I will not ever get into speaking about details of visits or this or that.
“Honestly, that serves a good purpose because not only is it important for us to keep our information discreet so the players know they can trust us, but it’s also important when teams call because I believe we’re a team that other teams know they can make discreet phone calls to and it won’t get out. The way you manage information is a big part of this business, so I’m not going to comment on any of [those] kind of things.”
Source: Berkshire mont