The Orlando Magic have been searching for a franchise player since trading Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers before the 2012-2013 season. In the nine years since then, Orlando has an overall record of 255-464, the worst record in the NBA at the time.
The Magic have had four top-five and three top-eight picks in the draft since the Howard trade. None of those players have made All-Star appearances with Orlando. The top pick of that batch, 2013 No. 2 Victor Oladipo, didn’t become a star until he was on his third team with the Indiana Pacers. Aaron Gordon, the 2014 No. 4, was always more of a role player than a centerpiece. Mario Hezonja was a bust at No. 5 in 2015. Jonathan Isaac – No. 6 in 2017 – emerged as an incredible defender, but now hasn’t played in two years due to injuries and strange off-pitch chases. Mo Bamba became a solid player last season as the former No. 6 pick in 2018, but the team declined to give him an early contract extension.
The Magic had two top eight picks last year, taking guard Jalen Suggs at No. 5 and forward Franz Wagner at No. 8. Wagner was particularly impressive as a rookie, and he should be a big piece going forward. There’s also a lot of hope for Suggs, but neither looks like a future All-NBA player.
The Magic, by getting the number 1 in 2022, have a golden opportunity to finally find their franchise player. Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith Jr. and Paolo Banchero are all legitimate No. 1 picks, but only one player really fits what the Magic need.
That player is Paolo Banchero. Read our full analysis on why Banchero is our top prospect in this draft. This is why the Magic should pick Banchero at No. 1 in the 2022 NBA Draft.
Paolo Banchero has a better chance of becoming a top starter than anyone else in the 2022 NBA Draft.
Banchero, Holmgren and Smith are top prospects with varying abilities. Holmgren is an elite rim protector on defense who will provide offensive value by moving the ball, hitting 3-pointers and finishing impressively at the rim. Smith is perhaps the best shooter in the draft, a 6-foot-3 sharpshooter who can take and make extremely difficult shots.
The reason Banchero has been our No. 1 prospect since the start of the cycle is because he’s the only one of the three who projects as a top offensive option in the NBA.
At 1.90 meters and 250 pounds, Banchero handles the ball very well thanks to his advanced handling and excellent passing ability for a player of his size. Banchero is capable of fabricating an attack for himself and his teammates off the rebound, while Holmgren and Smith need someone else to get them going. Holmgren and Smith don’t bend the opposing defense and find their teammates to score with ease. There aren’t many (some?) NBA players who can do it at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds.
Banchero can also score on the rebound. If you put a bigger player on top of Banchero, he will often break free using his handle. If you put a smaller, faster defender on Banchero, he will use his size and strength to score inside. If you put two on the ball, Paolo can be counted on to make the correct pass.
Again, neither Smith nor Holmgren can create a separation off the dribble like this against an established defense in midfield.
Banchero’s ability to create advantages with his size is what separates him from his peers in this draft class. He’s a wonderful fit with what Orlando’s roster needs.
The Magic are still looking for a primary creator
The Magic have a lot of good pieces right now. What they lack is a star creator to help fit everyone into the right roles and maximize their strengths. Here are the main pieces on Orlando’s roster right now:
- G Jalen Suggs: The 6’4 combo guard that does a bit of everything. Suggs projects as an ideal secondary option for the pick-and-roll, a transition killer, a feisty point-of-attack defender, and should be around a league 3-point shooter next year (say, the 35 percent) after hitting just 21 percent of his 3s this season. Suggs shot 39 percent of his shots last season, a mark that ranked in the 88th percentile among combo guards, according to Cleaning the Glass. While that’s certainly impressive, he’s more comfortable attacking defenses that are already compromised rather than being the main man to create rebounding advantages.
- G Cole Anthony: Anthony just turned 22, and he’s coming off an encouraging season in his second season in the NBA. The 6-foot-3 shooting guard is a better shooter than his 33.7% mark indicates, and he’s a good athlete who goes to the rim. He also ranked in the 42nd percentile as a ball handler in the pick-and-roll, and had some difficulty finishing. He is another player who would benefit from playing alongside a star who could make his shots easier.
- F Franz Wagner: The No. 8 on last year’s selection is a 6-foot-3 small forward who’s good at a lot of things rather than great at anything. He is a reliable defender both on the perimeter and inside, has shown promise in handling the ball and passing, and has made 35% of his 3-pointers. Every team in the league covets big wings with Wagner’s skill set. He may be the best roster creator right now, but it seems too ambitious to put him as the No. 1 option long-term.
- F/C Wendell Carter Jr.: Carter is a big combo coming off a career year in his fourth season as a pro. His size is similar to Banchero’s, at 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds, but he doesn’t believe in rebounding like Paolo. Instead, Carter is primarily an undersized center with flashes of passing and shooting ability who can stay solid on defense and compete on the glass. He’s a good player, but you’re not going to pass up a potential lead creator because of him.
- C Mo Bamba: Bamba is a restricted free agent and may not be around next season. His build is similar to Holmgren’s, with a 7’7 wingspan, and he’s made 38% of his 3s this season, mostly on spot shots. Bamba’s skill set would be a nice complement to Banchero if Orlando takes him at No. 1.
You can also add Markelle Fultz, Chuma Okeke and RJ Hampton. The eight players mentioned will be 24 years old or younger next season. Orlando has hit on some good young pieces in the draft, but all of them would look much better playing alongside an offensive option.
Paolo Banchero is both the Magic’s best fit and the top overall talent in the 2022 NBA Draft
Here’s a rule of thumb I try to follow: If an NBA team doesn’t have a primary creator, their biggest need is to find one. Holmgren is an impressive talent who would immediately provide a huge boost to Orlando’s defense, but he’s not creating easy offensive opportunities for himself and his teammates. Smith is an unreal shooter, but he is at his best when someone sets him up for the shot. Smith’s biggest weakness is scoring off the dribble and finishing inside the arc after he made just 43 percent of his 2-point field goals at Auburn. Holmgren’s one-on-one scoring remains a question mark despite all of his strengths that contribute to winning basketball.
The Magic will get a very good player if they draft either one, but it looks like they’ll still be looking for their top creator if that happens. Of course, it’s possible that Suggs or Wagner will become that guy. Anthony and Fultz could also fill that role. He just feels a little too optimistic to think that any of the four can really be the type for a franchise.
banker can be the type in the right environment. This is a star move.
This is a star move:
This is also a star move:
Banchero is not a perfect player. He is not an amazing athlete who runs and jumps. This year he has only made 33% of his 3-pointers, and his ability to catch and shoot from the NBA line remains unknown. His lack of elite speed or surprising length limits his defense to a “medium” level, making him the worst defender of all possible top 3 candidates.
At the same time, Banchero can create an attack on the rebound in a way that Holmgren and Smith can’t dream of. He is by far the best ball handler in the half court, and by far the best live passer. He also has an excellent mid-range scoring package, and some good post moves.
Early reports are that Orlando will choose between Smith and Holmgrenbut, to me at least, Banchero’s skill set is exactly what the Magic lack.