Paolo Banchero and the surprising Orlando Magic are way ahead of schedule

Cleveland Cavaliers v Orlando Magic
Cleveland Cavaliers v Orlando Magic / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages
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Paolo Banchero has been key to the Magic's turnaround.

In selecting the former Duke standout, the Magic prioritized “talent” over “fit.” Paced by a backcourt of Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs, Orlando had ended the season ranked near the bottom of the league in shooting percentage, a death knell for any organization hoping to compete in the modern drive-and-kick era of NBA basketball.

Not only was Banchero a streaky shooter at best, hitting behind-the-arc shots at a 33% clip in his lone collegiate season, but Smith—who entered the day as the odds-on favorite to be taken by Orlando—was a proven off-ball, catch-and-shoot assassin tailor-made to improve the cramped spacing that so often befell the Magic.

Still, Banchero possessed an almost supernatural passing ability capable of spacing the floor regardless of his shooting percentage. Standing 6’10 with a 7’1 wingspan, the Seattle native proved himself an ideal offensive fulcrum at Duke, setting hard screens and forcing switches before receiving the ball near the elbow and utilizing his height advantage to find passing angles unavailable to shorter wing players. While the league intelligentsia has long preached the virtue of drafting talent over fit, the reality is far more complicated.