With the 2022-23 NBA season approaching, the Orlando Sentinel is unveiling a five-part series of Orlando Magic storylines to keep an eye on heading into training camp, which tips off Tuesday at their new state-of-the-art AdventHealth Training Center. Part one addressed whether the Magic did enough to turn around their shooting woes, while part two focused on injury-related questions.
Part Three: The Rookies
Paolo Banchero and Caleb Houstan took the first step in their NBA careers on the same night. But the outside expectations surrounding them couldn’t be more stark entering their rookies seasons.
Houstan faces minimal external pressure as the Magic’s second-round pick (No. 32).
As the top pick in June’s NBA draft, all eyes on are Banchero.
Banchero’s used to attention after being a 5-star and playing at Duke during coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final season.
He’s accustomed to high expectations and has embraced the pressure.
Banchero used summer league to help show he can be the kind of go-to guy people expect most No. 1 picks to be.
That process will continue once the Magic start camp.
Orlando’s tried not to publicly place too many expectations for Banchero, but he’s the preseason favorite to win Rookie of the Year for a reason: he may be the closest thing to a go-to offensive option in this draft class.
It’s the bet the Magic are taking while also understanding whether Banchero will live up to the long-term expectations won’t be answered immediately.
“We’re going to ask him to do a lot of things,” coach Jamahl Mosley said on the Magic’s official podcast, Pod Squad. “He’ll be at the elbow, he’ll handle the basketball, he’ll be on the post, he’ll be on the wing — there will be all these spots he’ll be in, but he’s going to have to learn the pace in each spot. Physically, he’s going to be able to get to the basket [and] punish defenses.”
Banchero’s physical attributes (6-10, 250 pounds) are eye-popping and should help make the adjustment to the NBA’s physicality compared to college easier.
“He’s going to be a guy who can get to the paint when he needs to,” Mosley added. “Get to the free throw line when he needs to and that’s what we’ll keep imploring him to do. He has that gift. It’s not a selfish gift because once he gets there, teams are going to start collapsing and he has the mentality to find the open man.”
To Mosley, the way Banchero sees and reads the game is just as, if not more, impressive than his physical gifts.
It’s why Banchero is expected to be one of the Magic’s top decision-makers — not just as a scorer, but as a passer, playmaker/offensive hub and off the ball.
“He’s just physically so gifted,” Mosley said, “but his mind is so similar to the way Franz [Wagner] sees the game, the way Markelle [Fultz] sees the game, the way Wendell [Carter Jr.] can see the game.
“The ability to know when, where, why I’m doing it and how to do it, [Banchero] has that in him already. We watched film together during summer league and we’d sit and pause the film and say, ‘Tell me what you see.’ And he’s breaking things down, ‘If he comes in here, I can move this guy there. If I can turn the corner, I can go for the lob.’ He’s breaking things down right away now. Because he has the pass-first mentality, it’s going to be another decision-maker.”
It’s unknown where Houstan, a 5-star out of Montverde Academy, will fall on the Magic’s “decision-maker” hierarchy.
Unlike Banchero, who’s expected to start from Day One, Houstan’s role is unclear.
Houstan has the potential to knock down 3s and defend at a high level, making him a strong fit for the Magic on the wings.
Gary Harris having arthroscopic surgery on Aug. 31 to perform a meniscectomy in his left knee after tearing cartilage leaves his status for camp and the start of season unknown. That could open opportunities for Houstan.
It also wouldn’t be surprising if the Magic had Houstan spend time with their G League affiliate, the Lakeland Magic, so he could get more playing time.
Banchero will get to showcase himself in 2022-23, with his rookie season being about gaining a better understanding of his skillset and getting comfortable in the league.
The same will be true for Houstan regarding understanding the league and his skillset. How and when those opportunities will come for him is unknown.
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.