Rookie All-Stars are not uncommon in the NBA. Forty-five (45) rookies have gone on to play in the marquee event of the league’s midseason showcase, with Blake Griffin being the last one to do so back in 2011.
That has, however, been more than a decade ago but we may soon see the 46th rookie play in the 2023 NBA All-Star Game in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Paolo Banchero has been having quite the rookie season after the Orlando Magic drafted him with the first overall selection in the 2022 NBA Draft. Of course, like any other first-year player, he has encountered some ups and downs, but all things considered, the former Duke Blue Devil made quite a good account of himself halfway through Year One.
Banchero is a man of many moves, as he can lull defenses to sleep in the post only to rise up for a fadeaway jumper or blow by defenders for a dunk. Back in Duke, Banchero was largely playing from the inside, bullying his way around smaller opponents and less sophisticated defenses for points. One couldn’t blame him for doing so since the only one who could stop him was pretty much himself.
When he made the jump into the NBA, the Kia NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for December all the more showcased other facets of his game, as he got to work from multiple approaches on the perimeter and continued to be comfortable shooting from the outside. On top of that, Banchero is tough to stop on the break, as he quickly gets to spots and finishes through contact in a variety of ways.
Much of that was on display in the Magic’s 119-109 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. Down by 21 points in the first quarter and trailing by 10 points at halftime, Orlando cut the lead down bit by bit led by Banchero’s 14 points in the quarter. The Seattle, Washington native was relentless in his attack, helping the Magic frustrate Joel Embiid and win the battle in the trenches. When the dust settled, Orlando earned a signature victory with Banchero leading the way with 29 points, nine rebounds, three assists, a steal, and a block.
With averages of 20.7 points (on 43.3/31.6/76.3 shooting splits), 6.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and a steal, Banchero has firmly entrenched himself into the conversation for a spot on the All-Star Game. That he has played well against some of the top teams in the league adds quality to his resume and earned him the respect of his opponents.
Banchero will likely be an All-Star down the road, but the chance of him showing up in the All-Star Game in his first year in the league has risen as he continues to get used to the rigors of the NBA. As it stands, the Rookie of the Year award is pretty much Banchero’s to lose and with his performance as of late, there seems to be no let up from his end.
It may be a bit early to even consider, but an All-Star experience at a young age will do wonders for Banchero. Being in the presence of the league’s best players and absorbing the advice and the habits would help him finish the second half of his rookie year on a great note regardless of where the Magic end the season. Beyond this season, an experience like that during the All-Star Weekend will help the 20-year old assess where he is and what he has to do to bridge the gap between him and those he looked up to. After all, Banchero’s goal is to make his idols his peers.
There is no doubt that Paolo Banchero will be an NBA All-Star someday, but that someday could be in a matter of three weeks. That decision is naturally out of his hands, but his play in his rookie year shouldn’t be lost on the minds of the coaches who will make the final call.