I had looked forward to being in the Magic Kingdom this week for several months for the sole purpose of seeing former Spur Dejounte Murray and how well (or not well) he is working with Trae Young in the Hawks’ attempt to get to the playoffs this season.
Unfortunately, Murray was nowhere to be found during the warm-ups and when starting lineups were announced since he’s currently out for at least two weeks with a sprained ankle. The other thing I had been looking forward to was seeing Orlando’s rookie Paolo Banchero live and assessing someone that I thought should have been selected after Jabari Smith, Jr. and Chet Holmgren in the draft.
In a dominating win by the Magic that started with a 50-22 opening salvo, Banchero’s yeoman efforts (20 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and +15) seemed lost in the wash of Bol Bol’s amazing transformation (see the below rampage) that probably has more than one Spurs fan wondering if the same would happen with Victor Wembanyama next season.
However, several of Paolo’s contributions stood out as to why his Rookie of the Year credentials make sense (at least for now).
His first move coming out the gates looked more like he glided, rather than flew, by the Atlanta defender for an and-1:
Paolo banchero up close pic.twitter.com/p7P0JfvpU7— Keldon Johnson's Big Body of Work (@pattythrills) December 15, 2022
As Orlando continue to pile up the points on the helpless Hawks, Banchero found it easier to set up teammates:
Paolo Banchero - willing sharer pic.twitter.com/KqEX1Szwyf— Keldon Johnson's Big Body of Work (@pattythrills) December 15, 2022
The few times that Orlando was stuck in late shot-clock situations, Banchero fearlessly knew what to do instinctually. Here he sought out the contact to get some free throws:
Paolo banchero - unafraid of tight quarters pic.twitter.com/aa4V9VtUba— Keldon Johnson's Big Body of Work (@pattythrills) December 15, 2022
Finally, Orlando grabbed Banchero with the first pick primarily for his ability to put the ball in the bucket and he used all of his 250 pounds to muscle this shot home easily:
Paolo Banchero catch and shoot pic.twitter.com/ZaANKwGI4n— Keldon Johnson's Big Body of Work (@pattythrills) December 15, 2022
Even though the trio of Banchero, Holgrem and Smith could have gone in any order in the draft, most mocks didn’t have Paolo going first, so while Orlando may have surprised some when they selected him, so far the decision seems to be paying off for them.