Magic’s Rookie Paolo Banchero Has NBA Debut Not Seen Since LeBron James

Paolo Banchero with Duke in January 2022
Paolo Banchero with Duke in January 2022. Photo by Scott Kinser/CSM/Shutterstock (12776039h)

The Orlando Magic raised quite a few eyebrows in the summer with their decision to take Duke’s power forward Paolo Banchero with the first overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. However, it looks like the Magic might have made the best possible decision considering Banchero’s spectacular NBA debut against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.

Playing in his first official game as a pro, Banchero finished the night with 27 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and two blocks. This made him the first player since LeBron James to have 25-5-5 stats in his NBA debut.

The 19-year-old player made history in other ways in his debut, becoming the player with most points in his first NBA game in Magic’s franchise history. His 29 points were also the most by a first-overall pick since Allen Iverson dropped 30 in his debut for the Philadelphia 76ers in 1996.

Banchero’s stellar performance unfortunately wasn’t enough for the Magic, as the Pistons walked away with a narrow 113-109 win.

“It means a lot, I guess,” Banchero said about his achievement. “Obviously, would have liked to win. But I just wanted to play hard, play for the team, and that happened, so it’s a blessing.”

Paolo Banchero played one year of college basketball with Duke, averaging 17.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. He was widely projected as a third-overall pick, behind Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. and Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, but instead went to Magic at No. 1 despite not even having a workout with the team.

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