Tagged in: magic

Orlando Magic make Duke’s Paolo Banchero No. 1 pick in 2022 NBA draft

After months of speculation, Duke’s Paolo Banchero was a surprise selection by the Orlando Magic with the top overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft on Thursday night at Barclays Center.

The Oklahoma City Thunder started a busy first round by taking Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren with the second pick, then got 11th pick Ousmane Dieng of France in a trade with the New York Knicks and took Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams at No. 12.

Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr. went No. 3 overall to the Houston Rockets.

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Smith had been widely expected to be the top selection. But the Magic turned things upside down by taking Banchero, who sported a bright purple suit with sequins, along with even brighter shoes, as he took to the stage and shook hands with NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

“I had a feeling, from the information I was being told, that it was just kind of up in the air,” Banchero told ESPN of going first. “Orlando wasn’t really sure yet, and just to be ready for whatever.

“I didn’t find out, though, that I was actually getting picked until about 20 seconds before the commissioner got on the stage. I didn’t even have time to really think about it or anything. It just kind of happened. I can’t believe it, but I’m ready. I’m ready.”

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Banchero, a 6-foot-10 forward from Duke, averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists across 39 games for the Blue Devils, who reached the Final Four before losing to their forever rival in North Carolina.

Banchero, who might be the most NBA-ready prospect in this draft, will now be looked to as the anchor of Orlando’s nascent rebuild, which includes guards Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony, forwards Franz Wagner and Jonathan Isaac and center Wendell Carter Jr.

While Banchero was a surprise at No. 1, Holmgren was always expected to go to Oklahoma City with the second pick. A 7-footer from Gonzaga, Holmgren flashed a wide array of skills in his lone season in college, averaging 14.1 points on 60% shooting overall and 39% from 3-point range while grabbing 9.9 rebounds and blocking 3.7 shots in 26.9 minutes across 32 games.

Oklahoma City now has an interior anchor to go with its promising young backcourt of rising star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Australian Josh Giddey, the sixth overall pick in last year’s draft and a first-team All-Rookie selection.

The Thunder also got Dieng, the 11th pick, by sending three conditional first-round picks to the Knicks. Dieng, who turned 19 last month, averaged 8.8 points for the New Zealand Breakers in Australia’s National Basketball League this past campaign.

Oklahoma City then took Williams with the 12th pick, making him the first player drafted from Santa Clara since Hall of Famer Steve Nash in 1996. And the Thunder rounded out their first-round selections by taking UCLA’s Peyton Watson with pick No. 30.

Smith, a sweet-shooting 6-foot-10 forward from Auburn, averaged 16.9 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting 42% from behind the 3-point arc. After drafting Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Josh Christopher and Usman Garuba in the first round of last year’s draft, the Rockets kept their rebuild in the wake of moving on from franchise icon James Harden at the start of the 2021-22 season by selecting Smith. Houston also took LSU forward Tari Eason with the 17th pick.

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Orlando Magic still evaluating all options with No. 1 pick in NBA draft

College basketball season ended almost three months ago, the NBA draft lottery was more than a month ago and the draft itself is later this week.

Seems like the process should be winding down.

Orlando Magic president Jeff Weltman sees it differently.

“I tell you, it’s still early in the process,” Weltman stated Monday.

Translated: The Magic haven’t decided yet what they’ll do on Thursday night when the draft rolls around and they have the No. 1 pick. Other teams have called to gauge what the asking price would be if they want to trade for that selection, and the Magic have evaluated all the top candidates.

But Weltman sees no reason to decide anything before it’s absolutely necessary, especially given the opportunity that Orlando has by holding this No. 1 pick.

“Dialogue is always ongoing,” Weltman said. “But most importantly, we get to do what we want. That’s the real benefit of having the No. 1 pick.”

The top candidates for the pick are well-known: Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. worked out for Orlando earlier this month, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren met with the Magic for multiple days last week and Duke’s Paolo Banchero has been working out with former Magic guard Mike Miller.

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Holmgren stated he came away convinced that “great people” are leading the Magic.

“They’ve got a vision for what they’re trying to put together in Orlando,” Holmgren said.

Weltman wouldn’t say that those are the only three candidates Orlando would consider at No. 1.

“It’s confirmed that there are a lot of talented players at the top of this draft, that’s for sure,” Weltman said.

This is the fourth time that Orlando will be making the No. 1 pick. The Magic took Shaquille O’Neal with the top selection in 1992. Chris Webber was the No. 1 pick by Orlando in 1993, and he got traded that same night for Penny Hardaway and a package of future picks that were eventually turned into Vince Carter and, later, Miller. And in 2004, the Magic selected Dwight Howard with the first pick.

The No. 1 pick on Thursday will join a young core in Orlando that already involves 2017 top pick Markelle Fultz, a pair of top-eight picks from the 2021 draft in Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs, and Cole Anthony — the No. 15 pick in the 2020 draft.

Orlando also has the No. 6 picks from the 2017 and 2018 draft, Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba. It’s possible that when next season starts Orlando could have as many as six lottery picks, nine top-16 selections and 12 first-rounders on its roster.

This is all part of the challenge for the Magic — who also have the No. 32 and No. 35 picks this year — going into Thursday: Finding more youth that fits with the current core, finding ways to be better next season and sustainably better for years to come.

“We do want to get better, but not at the expense of rushing back to mediocrity,” Weltman said.

“And we do want to have something sustainable. But you have to elevate the standard to do that. You can’t just stay at the basement level, you know, interminably. So those are conversations that we’re having, which players do that for us.”

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Bulls hold off Magic’s 4th quarter rally for 126-115 win

DeMar DeRozan scored a game-high 29 points, and Zach LaVine added 24, and the Chicago Bulls defeated the Orlando Magic 126-115 on Tuesday night.

DeRozan scored 20 of his points in the first half, and then the Bulls survived a frantic rally by the Magic midway through the fourth quarter.

Wendell Carter Jr. scored 24 points to lead the Magic, including 11 in the first quarter.

The Bulls, who were up 113-103 with 7:38 left in the game, failed to score a field goal in the next four minutes. The Magic tied the game, but LaVine’s baseline shot with 3:35 left snapped the Bulls’ drought and enabled them to regain a 117-115 lead.

Ayo Dosunmu made two shots to highlight an 11-0 run to finish the match. The Bulls have won four of their last five. The Magic have dropped four of their last six.

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DeRozan has scored 70 points in his last two games versus the Magic.

The Bulls led the Magic by nine on three occasions in the third quarter, highlighted by a fadeaway shot by DeRozan with seven-seconds left for a 103-94 lead.

Baskets by Coby White and DeRozan enabled the Bulls to lead for the first time in double figures to open the fourth quarter.

Orlando shot 60.9% in the first quarter and made 28-of-50 field-goal attempts in the first half. But the Magic didn’t shoot their first free throw until 3:17 left in the second quarter, when Cole Anthony sank a shot to complete a three-point play.

The Bulls went on a 7-2 run in the final 1:09 to take a 70-63 halftime lead. Anthony was assessed a technical foul after hanging on the rim too long following his dunk of a missed shot.

DeRozan added two baskets, including a three-point play with 36.6 left, and Carter. Jr. was called for a technical after throwing the ball against the stanchion. The Bulls avenged a 114-95 loss to the Magic on Jan. 23 and won the season series 3-1.

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Strong fourth quarter carries San Francisco 49ers past Green Bay Packers, into NFC Championship Game

The San Francisco 49ers simply will not go away.

The same Niners that were once 3-5 and headed for a long offseason full of questions are now headed to the NFC Championship match for the second time in three seasons.

To get there, San Francisco had to pull out the type of late-game magic that has been a hallmark of its late-season surge to the playoffs. The result was a wild 13-10 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night at Lambeau Field.

The 49ers await the winner of Sunday’s NFC divisional game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams.

After a disappointing offensive performance, the Niners pieced together the drive they needed at the biggest moment, with wide receiver Deebo Samuel taking a handoff nine yards for a first down on third-and-7 at Green Bay’s 38.

Samuel’s run set up place-kicker Robbie Gould’s winning 45-yard field goal as time expired.

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“This team has been through a lot,” San Francisco tight end George Kittle said. “We’ve been through a lot of adversity. We’ve dealt with a lot. We’ve lost games by making mistakes. We’ve won games dirty. This is a gritty team. It’s a salty team, and we just keep bouncing back.”

That toughness has been on display a lot over the past couple of months.

The Niners went 7-2 over their final nine games to get into the postseason.

That run culminated in a 17-point comeback triumph over the Rams in the final week that clinched a playoff spot.

The Niners went 7-2 over their final nine games to get into the postseason. That run culminated in a 17-point comeback triumph over the Rams in the final week that clinched a playoff spot.

It continued versus the Dallas Cowboys last weekend, when the Niners nearly coughed up a 16-point advantage but managed to squeeze by to advance to the divisional round against the Packers.

But Green Bay presented a unique challenge, one that for most of Saturday looked like it would be too much for the 49ers to overcome. As they’ve done for most of the past 2½ months, the Niners didn’t flinch.

It has become the signature trait of a team that is not as dominant as the 2019 juggernaut but that makes up for its shortcomings with an unrelenting will to win.

The Niners became the first team since the 1988 Buffalo Bills to block a punt and a field goal in the same playoff game. San Francisco also became just the fourth team to win a postseason contest without an offensive touchdown since 2000.

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