After just one pick, one Blue Devil is already off the board.
With the first overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft in Brooklyn, N.Y., the Orlando Magic have selected Paolo Banchero, opting for the former Duke superstar in one of the tightest races for the draft’s top honor in recent memory. After propelling the Blue Devils to the Final Four in his lone year in Durham, the Seattle product’s long-awaited professional journey is now set to begin in the Sunshine State.
For a long while, Banchero and the Magic seemed an unlikely match, with Auburn’s Jabari Smith and Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren dominating the conversation surrounding the all-important first pick. But the 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward seemed to creep into Orlando’s consciousness in the moments leading up to Thursday's main event, making commissioner Adam Silver’s first announcement of the night all the more mysterious.
As the top pick, Banchero joins an elite group of former Blue Devils to rise above the rest on draft night. He is the fifth Duke product to come off the board first, joining Art Heyman, Elton Brand, Kyrie Irving and Zion Williamson.
Banchero’s selection kicks off what is likely to be a historic night in Blue Devil lore. Never before have five Duke players been taken in the same draft, but with AJ Griffin, Wendell Moore Jr., Trevor Keels and Mark Williams each still on the board, that could change before the end of the night. Should all join NBA squads within the first 30 picks, Duke will join Kentucky as the only two programs to have five first-round selections in a single draft.
Banchero wasted no time etching his name into Duke history in 2021-22, displaying remarkable consistency on his way to ACC Freshman of the Year, NCAA West Region Most Outstanding Player and NCAA All-Tournament Team recognition. He was most impressive along Duke’s road to the Final Four in New Orleans, powering the Blue Devils to a series of narrow wins while showing off a timely and better-than-ever 3-point stroke.
Down in Orlando, Banchero should instantly become the Magic’s go-to frontcourt option as he joins forces with second-year players Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner, both top-10 picks a year ago, and former Duke standout Wendell Carter Jr. He, his new teammates and head coach Jamahl Mosley will look to send Orlando back to the postseason on the heels of a 22-60 season.
READ MORE on Banchero's path to Orlando:
This is a developing story. Check back here for more updates.
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Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.