It’s probably safe to say the Orlando Magic have no regrets about taking 6-foot-10 forward Paolo Banchero with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
Banchero, 19, tossed in 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds on Friday in Orlando’s 108-98 loss to the host Atlanta Hawks. That came after he had 27 points, nine rebounds and five assists in his first NBA game, a 113-109 setback against the host Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.
Banchero’s next test will come Saturday night, when the Magic play their home opener against the Boston Celtics.
The 27 points Banchero tossed in against Detroit were the most points a Magic player has scored in his NBA debut. It was also the most points by a No. 1 overall pick in his initial game since Allen Iverson scored 30 points for the Philadelphia 76ers in 1996.
“Credit to my teammates for finding me,” Banchero said following the Wednesday contest. “It’s always nice to see the ball get in that early, get easy buckets around the rim. That’s how I try to play, inside out. Try to get easy stuff around the basket and expand out and do more stuff throughout the game.”
Banchero spent one season at Duke before he entered the NBA draft. He was named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Rookie of the Year in 2022, when he averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.
Orlando’s Jalen Suggs, the No. 5 overall pick in 2021, left the Friday game with a sprained ankle in the third quarter. The score was 64-64 when he exited. The Magic had a double-digit lead early, but Atlanta outscored Orlando 28-17 in the fourth quarter to pull away.
The Celtics aren’t short on young stars either. Jayson Tatum, 24, and Jaylen Brown, 25, each scored 35 points in on Tuesday in Boston’s 126-117 victory over the 76ers. Tatum added 29 and Brown finished with 28 on Friday in the Celtics’ 111-104 road victory against the Miami Heat.
The Celtics made 14 of 23 3-point attempts on Friday during the first game of a three-game road trip. Miami cut a 14-point deficit to five in the fourth quarter, but Tatum responded with back-to-back baskets to help the Celtics regain control.
“It’s hard to win in this league,” Brown said. “We got the win as a team. They stormed back on us a little bit. There was some pressure there, so it was a good team win.”
Boston has won both games under Joe Mazzulla, who was elevated to interim head coach after the Celtics gave Ime Udoka a season-long suspension for violating team policies. Mazzulla played college basketball at West Virginia and helped the Mountaineers win the 2007 NIT. The Celtics hired him as an assistant coach in 2019.
“He’s done a great job so far, but we have more work to do,” Brown said. “I’m looking forward to that.”
Former Celtics coach Brad Stevens, now the team’s president of basketball operations, said Thursday during a radio interview with Boston’s 98.5 The Sports Hub that the timetable for center Robert Williams’ return to basketball activities remains eight to 12 weeks from Sept. 22, when Williams had knee surgery.
Williams, 25, was named to the NBA All-Defensive second team last season.
–Field Level Media