The Orlando Magic selected Paolo Banchero, a forward from Duke University, with the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.
Banchero is a 6-foot-10, 250-pound power forward, whose mother, Rhonda Smith-Banchero, played in the WNBA He was a guard earlier in his basketball career, and played both football and basketball at O’Dea High School in Seattle.
In the minutes before his name was called, Banchero sat at a table on the floor of Barclays Center in Brooklyn showing no emotion on his face. The Magic were on the clock and word began to spread that Banchero might be their pick. Cameras crowded around him, but he didn’t outwardly react. Only when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced his name did his expression change.
He lowered his head, looked up and smiled.
In his one season at Duke, Banchero averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game and was named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s rookie of the year.
Three prospects were thought to have separated themselves at the top of this year’s draft: Banchero, Chet Holmgren of Gonzaga and Jabari Smith Jr. of Auburn.
The Magic won this year’s draft lottery after finishing the season at 22-60, the worst record in the Eastern Conference and the second-worst record in the league. Only the Houston Rockets, who had the third pick in this year’s draft after a 20 -62 season, won fewer games than the Magic.
This year marked the fourth time in the franchise’s history that it made the first overall pick. The Magic drafted Shaquille O’Neal with the first pick in 1992; Chris Webber, whom they immediately traded for Penny Hardaway, in 1993; and Dwight Howard in 2004.
The pairing of Hardaway and O’Neal yielded one NBA finals appearance, but no championships for the Magic. Howard also led the Magic to one finals appearance, in 2009.
Later in their careers, O’Neal and Howard won championships while playing for the Los Angeles Lakers — O’Neal in 2000, 2001 and 2002, and Howard in 2020.
Before Banchero, the last Duke player selected No. 1 overall in the NBA draft was Zion Williamson in 2019. Banchero follows two guards — Anthony Edwards (2020) and Cade Cunningham (2021) — in earning the distinction of being the top pick.