A rookie’s NBA debut is always unpredictable. In some cases, nerves may get the best of first-year players, resulting in shaky debuts that they’d rather soon forget. Then there’s the performances that have the ability to jumpstart a player’s career — think Blake Griffin (20 points) and Damian Lillard (23 points) when they were in the infancy of their careers. There’s a whole new level of pressure added when you’re the No. 1 overall pick, with everyone watching to see if you were really worth the draft selection.
On Wednesday night against the Pistons, Paolo Banchero showed exactly why the Orlando Magic took him No. 1 overall. The rookie forward finished with 27 points, nine rebounds and five assists, on an efficient 11 of 18 from the field. Banchero’s 27 points were the most points scored by a No. 1 overall pick since Allen Iverson in 1996. He also became just the third No. 1 overall pick since 1969 to post 25 points, five rebounds and five assists, joining LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Banchero came out of the gates in attack mode, scoring six of Orlando’s first eight points in the first three minutes of the game. He didn’t slow up, either. He showed off some of his post game, worked in a mid-range jumper here and there, and then there were the dunks…well the dunk, rather. Just look at this:
Banchero had zero regard for Cory Joseph, who tried to get the charge call but his heel was just inside the restricted area. As a result, Joseph ended up on the wrong end of a poster.
But it was more than just the scoring that made Banchero’s NBA debut special. He showed great composure and a feel for the game that isn’t common with most rookies. He was patient in his approach, was relentless when crashing the boards and came up with some timely blocks, too. He was a terror in transition, handling the ball like a guard and finishing with effortless finesse around the rim.
While the Magic ultimately lost to the Pistons in a close 113-109 contest, Banchero’s performance was a win in itself. He put on a performance to show why he was worth that No. 1 draft selection, and combined with Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs — who each scored 20-plus points as well — it shows that the Magic are headed in the right direction of their rebuild. Banchero started his rookie year with a bang, and now we’ll see where he can go from here as the season carries on.