Paolo Banchero Bests Jabari Smith Jr. In NBA Summer League Debut

Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic, NBA Summer League
NBA Analysis Network

The 2022 Las Vegas Summer League got started with a big-time matchup in Game 1 of the NBA event between the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets. This pitted the No. 1 overall pick, Paolo Banchero, against the No. 3 overall pick, Jabari Smith Jr. from the 2022 NBA Draft in their first of what will be many matchups.

The Magic got the most of the Houston Rockets, winning the game 91-77. While these are just glorified exhibitions, there is some pressure, especially for top picks in the draft, to perform well. This is the first time fans are getting to see some of the young guys play and you want to make a good first impression.

“I’ve always dealt with pressure well,” Banchero said. “Been able to handle it. At the end of the day, it’s just basketball. There can be all the noise, all the pressure in the world, but at the end of the day you’ve got to go out there and hoop against five other guys.”

This was the first time in a few months that Banchero was on the court as there are a lot of media obligations and things of that nature leading up to and after the draft and throughout the weeks before things got underway for NBA Summer League. While there was some rust, Banchero played rather well in his debut.

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He scored 17 points to go along with four rebounds and six assists. He got the best of Jabari Smith Jr. a few times, who scored 10 points with seven rebounds and three assists, but Smith had some nice plays at Banchero’s expense as well.

“I think I did all right,” Banchero said. “I missed some easy shots, missed a layup, couple in-and-outs. But I think I did solid. I got my teammates involved. Could have been better on defense. Just warming my body back up, getting back into playing shape, that’s kind of what I’m using Summer League for and getting back right.”

Coming into the NBA, everyone knows that Banchero can score the ball. The offense can be run through him because he is also an adept playmaker. What will separate him is if he can figure things out on the defensive end of the court.

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At least for one game, the effort was there. But, there is still plenty of work left to do for Banchero.

“He wasn’t perfect,” Magic summer coach Jesse Mermuys said. “But he did obviously make some really nice plays for us. And I thought he was trying defensively really hard. He did some silly fouls, and as a coach I’m looking at the things he didn’t do, but he obviously had a nice game.”

A solid stat line and a victory for the team is about all you can ask for in a debut as anticipated as Paolo Banchero’s. He and the Orlando Magic will be back on the court Saturday when they face off with the Sacramento Kings.