The plan for Orlando to choose Paolo Banchero with the No. 1 choice in the Draft lottery was maintained a closely guarded secret.
Banchero was one among those who didn’t know.
Banchero said that he was kept out of the Magic’s choice until around 30 seconds before NBA commissioner Adam Silver walked to the stage to reveal his name to the basketball world. Mike Miller, Banchero’s agent, leaned forward and simply said, “Congratulations.”
“It all happened pretty fast,” Banchero said.
He was off and running with that. Banchero landed in Orlando on Friday, only one day after his name was firmly inscribed on the list of first-round selection picks. The 6-foot-10 forward from Duke will formally begin training next week for Orlando’s NBA Summer League debut on July 7.
“There’s going to be high expectations for myself that I’m going to hold myself to and that everyone is going to hold myself to,” Banchero said. “But I feel like it’s nothing I’m not used to. It was the same thing for me heading into college, throughout high school, a lot of expectations. It’s been like that my whole life.”
With the first pick, the Magic considered all of their options. Teams contacted them to inquire about trading. Orlando players who attended the practice with Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. gushed about it. Chet Holmgren of Gonzaga spent a couple days last week with the Magic. The group maintained that additional players were given careful consideration.
There were many factors to take into account, including both short- and long-term considerations.
“There’s things that you’re grabbing from each one that you’re like, ‘Oh, man, wow, that can be great for us,'” Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley said. “But then it ultimately comes down to, ‘How does that fit for us? How do we jell with them in the locker room? How are they treating people when they’re walking in?’ Because all those pieces play a factor. And I think we’ve done an incredible job with those details.”
The Magic claimed that by the time the collegiate season was over, they were certain that Banchero was the top player competing at that level that year. However, the precise date they chose to make him No. 1 is still a mystery.
Miller, who in Orlando earned the NBA Rookie of the Year award, said he began receiving signals about a half-hour prior to the selection and will now try to assist Banchero in doing the same as an agent.
The coming days will be a frenzy of activity. Banchero and Michigan second-round pick Caleb Houstan are also planning to participate in Summer League practice. The first made-for-TV game in Las Vegas, which pairs Orlando against Houston, the team that selected Smith with the third overall choice after many predicted he would go to Orlando, will draw a lot of attention to that right away.
Mosley said he doesn’t expect to teach Banchero any more than any other player. Mosley will oversee some practices leading up to Summer League but will delegate Jesse Mermuys, a Magic assistant, the responsibility for the games in Las Vegas. However, Banchero will undoubtedly be treated differently this season than other rookies. For the first pick in any draft, such is life.
“Right now, the level of expectation of what people outside view as what the No. 1 pick should do and should be may be different,” Mosley said. “But we also understand, when you walk into this building, you’re an Orlando Magic and there’s a standard and a set of things that we’re going to need to do night in and night out to make everyone successful.”
That ended up being one of the Magic’s main deciding considerations. Smith clearly has talent. Holmgren clearly has talent. Both players have boundless potential. But in their views, Banchero stood out because of the way Orlando feels he makes his teammates’ jobs simpler.