Where Do The 2022 Orlando Magic Rookies Fit?

Lucas Oliva, Writer

Paolo Banchero shines through the first week of NBA action, becoming the first teenager in NBA history to post 20+ points in each of his first three games. Something legends such as LeBron James couldn’t even achieve.

Having the Banchero reasonably brings forth discussion as to offensive role and defensive impact for a team that struggled on both ends of the floor last year. Adding Caleb Houstan with Banchero only gives way to more excitement.

When asked on how Banchero affects the offense that placed last in the league last season, Philip Rossman-Reich, Senior Editor for the Orlando Magic Daily, said that “Paolo Banchero is such a gifted player that represents a guy that can create for himself but also for others.”

Since 2017, the Orlando Magic tried to build a team around fringe all-star Nikola Vucevic with little success.

While there were occasional bright spots on a weak Magic team, the front office decided to hit the reset button during the 2021 trade deadline, sending away their all-star Nikola Vucevic to Chicago for picks and Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr.

This set a new tone for the Magic, emphasizing a focus on their young pieces in Cole Anthony and Carter Jr. In next year’s draft they were also able to hit on Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs, adding to the young core.

The cherry on top would come with the 2022 draft lottery, where the Magic were able to net the No. 1 overall pick, selecting Duke forward Paolo Banchero.

Rossman-Reich explains him as “The type of guy the Magic haven’t had in close to 20 years.”

Offense shouldn’t be the sole focus for Banchero though, as he holds incredible defensive upside for a Magic team that struggled defensively.

Carter Sangdahl, page runner of @nbadistrict on Instagram explains, “The defensive upside is there with his frame… [Magic] can experiment with a bunch of lineups so they can use Paolo for his interior defense or perimeter defense.”

Tom Petrini, a writer for the San Antonio Spurs and KENS5, adds on to this point by saying “In moments where Banchero was locked in as the primary defender, he played very well... He would just fall asleep at times off the ball.”

It’s clear the Banchero isn’t the greatest defender now, but as explained by Petrini and Sangdahl, his footwork, lateral speed and frame make him ooze with potential on the defensive end of the ball.

The sole focus shouldn’t only be on Banchero though, as Caleb Houstan has the potential to carve out a role for himself on this Magic team that struggled mightily from three-point range last season.

Regarding Caleb Houstan’s outside shooting and defense, Petrinisays “If [Houstan] can do those things at a high level, every NBA team could use a guy like that, and he can fit into any lineup with those skills.”

Petrini also believes that because Houstan provides such a valuable skillset, he will indeed carve himself a role on the team by the end of the season, becoming an important bench piece.

Houstan gaining his role will come with difficulty though, as every team loaded with young players needs some veterans to help guide the developing team.

Rossman-Reich has his concerns, as he says, “If I have a criticism, one thing the Magic has done, it’s this lack of veteran leadership and veteran poise to take a leap.”

While only having two veterans leaves some room to be desired in the leadership aspect, the door for Houstan and Banchero to make their marks is wide open.

Banchero looks to continue his hot streak next week facing the Dallas Mavericks and the reigning NBA-champion Warriors.