Duke basketball: Paolo Banchero effortlessly affirms selection in debut

Duke basketball forward Paolo Banchero (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Duke basketball forward Paolo Banchero (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

It was a debut to remember for Duke basketball superstar Paolo Banchero. 

NBA Summer League games should always be looked at cautiously but it was hard to ignore Duke basketball standout Paolo Banchero on Thursday night in Las Vegas.

Arguably the juiciest matchup of the ten days began the iconic event as Banchero and the Orlando Magic matched up against Jabari Smith and the Houston Rockets.

Nearly the entire basketball world expected the Magic to draft Smith with the No. 1 overall selection until minutes before the NBA Draft began when it was reported that Orlando was going to select Banchero.

The Duke star was expected to go to Houston should Smith have been the top pick.

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Nevertheless, the NBA was kind enough to pin the two against each other in their professional “debuts” and it was clear who the better player was, Paolo Banchero.

The game came effortlessly to Banchero as he showed off his scoring ability from all three levels and exhibited many of the characteristics that made him the ACC Rookie of the Year and a consensus Second-Team All-American in his only season with the Blue Devils.

His first made basket on the night was a side-step arching 3-pointer that, once again, proved that he is a much better shooter than his numbers at Duke showed.

Banchero shot 33.8-percent from 3-point range in Durham but was 52.6-percent (10-for-19) from deep in the NCAA Tournament and isolated Smith at the top of the arc while putting the Auburn star on his heels for another triple.

The Seattle, Washington native played 26 minutes on the night and poured in 17 points, four rebounds, six assists, and a steal while only committing two turnovers and shooting 5-of-12 from the floor, 2-of-3 from deep, and a perfect 5-of-5 from the free throw line.

Paolo Banchero committed six fouls on the evening, which typically signals a player fouling out in a regular season game, but Summer League rules allow up to ten fouls per player in a game.

Jabari Smith finished the night with 10 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and a steal on 4-of-10 shooting, 1-of-4 from 3-point range.

Remainder of Duke basketball star’s schedule remains unknown

Paolo Banchero might not be ready for an NBA regular season game to start tomorrow but it would be smart of the Orlando Magic to keep a close eye on the future star’s minutes going forward this summer.

Orlando is scheduled to return to the court on Saturday, July 9 against the Sacramento Kings (4:00pm EST, ESPN) but its following game is one many have circled on their calendars against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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Oklahoma City selected Gonzaga star Chet Holmgren with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft as the 7-foot-1 slender forward has claimed that he believes he was the best player available in late June.

Holmgren exploded in his Summer League debut in Utah for 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and six blocks on 7-of-9 shooting from the floor, 4-of-6 from 3-point range, and 5-of-5 from the charity stripe.

However, the Gonzaga center only made 3-of-11 shots in his second game of the summer but still finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds before the Thunder held its young star out of its third game in Utah before boarding the plane to Las Vegas.

Orlando and Oklahoma City will play on Monday, July 11 at 9:00 p.m. EST on ESPN.

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