Ranking Banchero’s rookie season among the five most recent No. 1 picks

Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic - Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic - Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports /
1 of 5

No matter how bad a season gets for an NBA team and its fans, the draft lottery offers such a brilliant glimmer of hope that there’s a reason to watch the overproduced ping-pong ball reveal. With the right bounces, a team’s trajectory can be changed forever, like it was for the Orlando Magic last year when they selected Paolo Banchero first overall.

Banchero was a stunning late riser in the draft process and was rarely pegged as a top overall pick candidate, but that’s not to say he was a complete shock; he was third in the country in scoring for NCAA freshman, the best player on a two seed in March Madness, and measured almost seven feet tall at the NBA Draft Combine. He’s quickly parlayed that buzz into tangible stardom in the NBA.

That made him a compelling pick at #1 for the Magic, who had the second-worst record in the league last year and were desperate for an infusion of young star talent. By nabbing the first overall pick, Orlando was, statistically speaking, in the best position possible to grab a player who could positively impact their team for years to come.

With only the end of the season left, there’s enough evidence on Banchero to make a comparison between him and the past #1 overall picks of the last few years to see where he shakes out. Of note, none of the past top picks, Banchero included, have played a team that was higher than 13th overall in their respective conferences, so this ranking only applies to their play on the court in their rookie year for their respective teams.

5. Anthony Edwards, 2020 Minnesota Timberwolves

This season, Anthony Edwards was named to his first NBA All-Star team, an impressive honor as he joined LaMelo Ball and Tyrese Haliburton as the only players drafted in 2020 to have made a team so far.

Back in his rookie year, however, Edwards had a more difficult time adjusting to the pace of the NBA. That’s understandable, given he graduated early from high school to play for Tom Crean at Georgia and only spent one season there, but Edwards’ youth certainly showed in his first NBA campaign.

While his counting stats were impressive at 19.3 points a game, a figure that ranked third on the Timberwolves, Edwards was wildly inefficient. He ranked 11th on the team in effective field goal percentage, chucking up a number of bad shots while only having a barely above 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio due to inaccurate passes like this:


It didn’t help the Wolves that Edwards, like most rookies in the NBA, struggled on defense, which hurt his overall value to the team. Despite his gaudy numbers, Edwards was mostly a net negative for Minnesota when he was on the floor.

That makes his subsequent two seasons in the league that much more impressive, as Edwards has become the unquestionable leader for the Timberwolves. Even with his ho-hum first year, he’s risen above that mediocrity and turned into the type of player that Minnesota dreamed about drafting with the first overall pick. He just didn’t show it in his rookie year.