Deservedly, and in our opinion the only correct choice it has been announced that the NBA’s 2023 Rookie of the Year is Paolo Banchero.
The 20-year-old Banchero, is now the third Magic player to win this honour along with Shaquille O’Neal (1992-93) and Mike Miller (2000-01). Banchero received 98 out of the possible 100 first-place votes. Jalen Williams of the Oklahoma City Thunder came in second place and Walker Kessler of the Utah Jazz finished third.
The Number 1 Draft Pick
Paolo Banchero came into the NBA as the over all number 1 pick in the 2022 Draft. Having played a single year of college basketball at Duke under legendary Coach Mike Krzyzewski.
He was seen as an offensive talent and he quickly went about proving that.
In his NBA debut Banchero recorded 27 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists in a 109-113 loss to the Detroit Pistons. Despite the disappointment of the loss Paolo’s stat line saw him become the first rookie with 25-5-5 debut game since LeBron James in 2003.
The early surprise with Paolo was not his high level play on offence but his defensive acumen. Defence was seen pre-draft as a weakness, both in terms of awareness and IQ.
By season’s end Banchero played and started in 72 games, averaging a team-high 20 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. The 20-year-old scored at least 30 points six times this season, the most by any NBA rookie.
During this stellar season, Banchero led all NBA rookies in scoring and minutes played. He also ranked highly in rebounding (fifth), assists (third), free throw percentage (seventh), steals (fourth) and blocked shots (seventh) amongst rookies.
How The Rookie Of The Year Is Paolo Banchero
The things Paolo Banchero has done in the season is mind blowing:
- He became the sixth player in NBA history to score 20-plus points in each of his first six games. The others to do it were Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Elvin Hayes, Dominique Wilkins and Grant Hill.
- Banchero finished with 40 games of 20-plus point, the same number LeBron James had during his NBA rookie campaign with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003-04.
- He also became the second teenager in NBA history to put up at least 30 points and 15 rebounds in a game, joining LeBron James.
- Banchero is just the sixth rookie in the last 50 seasons to average at least 20 points, six rebounds and three assists per game across a minimum of 50 games.
- Banchero was named the Kia NBA’s Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month four consecutive. The accolade is awarded 5 times during the season. From December 2022 through March/April 2023 Paolo took the award. He joins Shaquille O’Neal (1992-93) as the only players in franchise history to win the honour four straight times.
There are other great statistics about Paolo’s season but you get the picture.
What It Means For Orlando
Simply put Orlando have a star! Paolo is the face of the franchise, it is his team.
Orlando lacked a clear leader, that player who puts the team on his back. Paolo is that man, though ably supported by Franz Wagner. Throw in Markelle Fultz and others and it is easy to see why the optimism and excitement exists around this Magic rebuild.
Banchero helped the team to 12 additional wins on the season. After the disastrous 5-20 start (thank you injuries!) the Magic were playing at a .500+ level.
The final result of Paolo’s rookie season will be media attention. It is inconceivable to believe that Orlando will not feature more prominently in the television scheduling both in the US and on games carried internationally.