Orlando Magic rookie Paolo Banchero has been crowned the 2022-23 NBA Rookie of the Year, making him the third player in Magic’s history to receive this honor. He followed in the footsteps of Mike Miller in 2000-01 and Shaquille O’Neal in 1992-93.
The 20-year-old outshined other top contenders, including Walker Kessler of the Utah Jazz and Jalen Williams of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Banchero’s performance earned him 98 out of 100 first-place votes, with Kessler receiving the remaining two. Williams, meanwhile, garnered 75 second-place votes.
Banchero averaged an impressive 20.0 points per game, making him the first qualified player since Luka Doncic in 2019 and Blake Griffin in 2011 to achieve such a feat. He also led the Magic in scoring, showcasing his ability to be a consistent offensive force for his young team.
The forward recorded 40 games with 20 or more points, matching the likes of LeBron James in his rookie year. His most remarkable performance came in November when he recorded career-highs of 33 points and 16 rebounds in a single game.
Banchero is also a versatile player, ranking fifth in rebounds with 6.9 rebounds per game and third in assists with 3.7 per game. Standing at an impressive 6-foot-10, Banchero’s physicality and skillset at his age have drawn widespread admiration from around the league.
Despite his individual success, the Magic still has hurdles to overcome as a team. They finished 13th in the Eastern Conference with a 34-48 record, marking their fourth consecutive losing season and the tenth in the last eleven years. Regardless, Banchero’s emergence as a rising star provides hope for the team’s rebuilding efforts.
Banchero reflects on winning Rookie of the Year Award
After the Magic drafted him with the first overall pick in 2022, many had high expectations for Banchero. Fans and pundits alike eagerly anticipated seeing him dominate the league and capture the coveted Rookie of the Year Award, and The Duke alum did not disappoint.
Banchero, however, remains humble and acknowledges that he is not a finished product. Magic coach Jamahl Mosley revealed that the team had identified areas for the Seattle native to improve upon during the offseason, and the young player is eager to focus on those aspects to continue his growth.
The American-Italian player expressed his desire to be more consistent and improve his three-point shooting in the coming season while also aiming to elevate his overall fitness to another level.
When asked about his upbringing, Banchero credited his mother for instilling a strong work ethic and emphasizing the importance of fundamentals in his game. He recalled practicing “boring stuff” — drop steps, using the backboard and developing his left hand — which has helped shape his skills on the court.
Looking ahead to the 2023-24 season, Banchero understands that there are high expectations placed upon him as an experienced ball player for the Magic. He is determined to continue honing his skills and living up to the hype as he sets his sights on achieving even greater success in his career.