Last week former Duke basketball freshman forward Paolo Banchero claimed he was the best player entering the 2022 NBA Draft.
Turns out the Orlando Magic agreed with him.
In a surprising turn of events, the Magic selected the 19-year-old Seattle native as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Banchero becomes the fifth Duke player to be drafted No. 1 and first since Zion Williamson in 2019.
“I can’t believe what just happened, honestly,” Banchero told ESPN after he was drafted. “I can’t speak right now.”
It was Orlando’s fifth lottery pick in the past six drafts, and its first No. 1 pick since it selected Dwight Howard in 2004.
The 6-foot-10, 235-pound Banchero is as NBA-ready as any player in the draft and will be on the shortlist for NBA Rookie of the Year next season. He was the anchor during Duke’s run to the Final Four, averaging 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists while earning ACC Freshman of the Year honors.
Banchero showed up to the draft in a bright purple suit featuring rhinestones on it, capped off by a shiny watch and bracelets, suede shoes and a chain around his neck with “P5” encrusted in diamonds.
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DRESSED TO IMPRESS: Banchero shines in a purple rhinestone suit on draft
Banchero told The Athletic that the purple color of his suit is for the University of Washington (“like a, ‘I’m Sorry!'”) after he did not stay home and attended Duke.
“When you get to the playoffs (in the NBA) you got to have a guy who can make and create shots,” Duke assistant Chris Carrawell said of Banchero last week. “When the shot clock goes down, you’ve got to be able to throw the ball to a guy and have him create something. Paolo can do that right now.”
The positives and negatives of the Magic taking Banchero No. 1 overall:
Banchero has all the skills needed to be a rising star in the NBA.
He’s a mobile big man that can drive to the basket, post-up, hit a mid-range jumper and has a keen ability to find the open man while attracting a double team. His physical attributes make him a mismatch as well as his speed off the dribble. Banchero is seen to have one of the biggest upsides of any player in the 2022 draft.
He showed plenty of growth during his one and only season at Duke under Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski and played some of his best basketball when the spotlight shined the brightest.
He averaged 18.5 points, 7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.6 steals and a block over the four NCAA Tournament wins.
There is room for improvement when it comes to his 3-point shot. Banchero hit 33.8% of his 3s at Duke, and while that seems good for a big man, if it does not improve, it’ll allow NBA defenders to dare him to hit those shots if he can’t be consistent.
If Banchero gets better in that category, there won’t be any part of the court where he can’t score.
David Thompson is an award-winning reporter for the USA Today Network covering NC State and Duke athletics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @daveth89.