Orlando makes Paolo Banchero its number one

The Orlando Magic surprised Thursday by retaining in first position in the NBA draft Paolo Banchero, a recently naturalized Italian interior who announced his choice to play with the transalpine selection.

New York also surprised with the selection, in eleventh position, of French winger Ousmane Dieng, who was immediately transferred to Oklahoma City.

For weeks, the midfielder had been announcing inside Jabari Smith in Orlando, but it was ultimately the former Duke varsity No. 5 who was called first.

Mobile, powerful, Paolo Banchero (2.08m) has often been presented as one of the most accomplished players of this draft: impeccable fundamentals, above-average sense of placement and passing for a player of his cut.

He was ahead of Chet Holmgren, considered the biggest potential of this 2022 vintage, chosen by Oklahoma City, and Jabari Smith, who scowled when he learned that he would join Houston, in third position.

Paoo Banchero (19) is part of the prestigious line of players selected in the first row by the Florida franchise, namely Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber and Dwight Howard.

Great-grandson of an Italian national, Paolo Banchero, born in the United States, obtained the nationality in 2020 and indicated that he wanted to wear the colors of the Italian national team.

– “Italian roots” –

He joins a young Magic formation, which decided last year to rebuild and separated from veterans Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier.

“I want to win, bring Orlando back to the playoffs,” said the former Duke No. 5, who even talked about taking the Magic to the Finals, like Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard before him.

Technically, this former American football quarterback in high school becomes the second Italian number one in the draft, after Andrea Bargnani, selected in 2006 by Toronto.

“Bargnani was born and raised in Italy” and “I was born and raised in Seattle”, recalled Paolo Banchero, in his purple suit, after his passage on the podium to shake hands with the NBA boss, Adam Silver.

“I don’t want to take anything away from him,” he continued, “but I’m really proud to have Italian roots and to be able to represent Italy.”

A young team in overhaul like Orlando, Oklahoma City has set its sights on Chet Holmgren, rod (88 kg for 2.13 m) with striking agility for a player of his size.

The U19 world champion last summer with the United States fascinates as much for his possibilities in attack as in defense, capable of sowing disorder in the four corners of the field.

He was joined a few minutes later under the OKC banner by French winger Ousmane Dieng (2.06m), who is coming off a season in the Australian NBL league and is one of the few players in this draft to have professional experience.

“I think it can help me,” he told reporters. “I was already playing with adults last year, with ex-NBA players, ex-Euroleague players.”

Passed by the France pole from 2019 to 2021, the child of Lot-et-Garonne who took his first license in Villeneuve-sur-Lot was first called by the Knicks, to finally learn shortly after that he was transferred in Oklahoma City.

“I grew up watching a lot of Kobe” (Bryant), Dieng said of his inspirations, “and now it’s more players like Kevin Durant, Paul George, Brandon Ingram, those kind of players.”

In addition to the transfer of Dieng, the evening knew, as usual, its share of transactions, with in particular the transfer of the leader of New York Kemba Walker in Detroit.


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