After weeks of speculation that the Orlando Magic would pick Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren or Auburn’s Jabari Smith at No. 1 in the 2022 NBA Draft, the franchise took Duke’s Paolo Banchero. Sports media legend Dan Patrick took to his microphone the day after the draft and compared the whole misinformation saga to the Jacksonville Jaguars taking Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles in 2014.
And for those who aren’t NFL fans and may not be familiar with Bortles’ work, that’s not a compliment.
The Orlando Magic drafted Paolo Banchero despite not working him out
The 2022 NBA Draft was top-heavy with talent.
Duke’s Paolo Banchero, Auburn’s Jabari Smith, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, and even Purdue’s Jayden Ivey could all be No. 1 selections in a given year.
After finishing 22-60 — the worst record in the Eastern Conference and second-worst in the league — the Orlando Magic got the No. 1 overall pick for the fourth time in franchise history (more on that below).
The franchise is currently loaded with young guards like Cole Anthony, R.J. Hampton, Markelle Fultz, and Jalen Suggs. So, the trio of Banchero (6-foot-10), Holmgren (7-foot), and Smith (6-foot-10) all fit nicely with Orlando.
Throughout the draft process, most experts mocked Holmgren to the Magic. However, Smith was the only one of the three prospects who traveled to Florida for a workout. In fact, it seems not even Banchero believed he was on the Magic’s radar.
According to ESPN NBA draft expert Jonathan Givonay on The Lowe Post podcast, “If Paolo felt he had a chance to go one, he wouldn’t have pushed back his workout with Orlando again and again and again.”
Then on draft night, despite the fact they never brought him to Orlando to work out, the Magic handed Commissioner Adam Silver the card with Banchero’s name on it.
Dan Patrick compared the misinformation around the Banchero pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2014 NFL Draft
On the morning following the NBA draft, during an episode of The Dan Patrick Show, the host discussed some of the “head scratchers” from the night before.
The former Sportscenter host noted that the Orlando Magic picking Paolo Banchero first despite not working him out was one of those head-scratching picks. Then he compared it to the Jacksonville Jaguars selecting a notorious NFL draft bust less than a decade ago:
We thought that the No. 1 overall pick was going to be Auburn’s Jabari Smith. He fell to No. 3. … the Magic didn’t even work out Paolo Banchero of Duke. I don’t know why they were hiding it! You have the No. 1 pick. It’s not like you’re Oklahoma City [at No. 2] where you go, “Hey, don’t tell anybody, but we want to draft Chet Holmgren.” You go back to when the Jacksonville Jaguars did this. Blake Bortles with the No. 3 pick. Now, I get it. It’s the No. 3 pick, not the No. 1 overall pick. But they didn’t tell anybody. Everybody was surprised at that. … Why didn’t you work him out? Just to have a comparison.Dan Patrick on the Orlando Magic picking Paolo Banchero
To give some context surrounding the Jaguars drafting Bortles, ESPN’s Michael DiRocco called it “the first surprise of the NFL draft” that year.
The perennial NFL bottom-feeder picked Bortles over several seemingly (and now with hindsight) better prospects such as Khalil Mack, Odell Beckham Jr., and Aaron Donald. The Jags did at least avoid Johnny Manziel, who went 22 picks later to the Cleveland Browns.
Even though Bortles ended up as a bust, Magic fans should have some confidence in the organization based on history. The team has got the No. 1 overall pick (at least mostly) right each of the previous three times it’s had it.
The Magic have done well with pick No. 1 in the past
The Orlando Magic have won the first pick in the NBA draft three times before.
The first time it happened, the team picked one of the top 15 greatest players in NBA history, Shaquille O’Neal. While this seems like a no-brainer now, two-time national champion Christian Laettner and Alonzo Mourning from the center factory Georgetown both warranted consideration back in 1992.
The following season, the Magic found itself in the top spot again. Michigan’s Chris Webber was the consensus No. 1 prospect, but his fit with Shaq was clunky. The team traded Webber to the Golden State Warriors for the No. 3 overall selection, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway.
While Webber did have the better NBA career, Hardaway was a smart choice for Orlando. For three seasons, he and Shaq made up the most exciting young guard/big duo in the NBA and made the 1995 NBA Finals.
Losing O’Neal in a contract dispute and injuries to Penny derailed the promise, but that doesn’t make it a bad pick.
Finally, in 2004, the Magic took high school center Dwight Howard No. 1. Again, the team couldn’t keep him long-term, but Howard did make six All-Star teams and five All-NBA first-teams in Orlando. He also led the 2008-09 team to the NBA Finals.
If Paolo Banchero is next in line behind Shaq, Penny, and Dwight, that’s not a bad deal, whether the team worked him out or not.
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