Paolo Banchero has won the 2022-23 NBA Rookie of the Year award, the NBA announced on Tuesday. Banchero, the No. 1 overall pick in last June's NBA Draft, is the third member of the Orlando Magic to win the award, following Shaquille O'Neal in 1993 and Mike Miller in 2001. He is the fourth former Duke Blue Devil to take home the trophy, following Grant Hill in 1995, Elton Brand in 1999 and Kyrie Irving in 2012.
Banchero averaged 20 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game in his debut season as Orlando's featured offensive option. He was the wire-to-wire favorite to win the award, excelling from opening night through the end of the regular season on a Magic team that proved surprisingly competitive by finishing the season 28-28 in its past 56 games. Orlando improved by 12 wins on the season as a whole, finishing with a 34-48 record thanks in large part to Banchero's performance.
That doesn't mean he didn't face competition for the award as the season progressed, though. Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler emerged as one of the best defensive centers in the NBA once he started playing significant minutes, and many analytical models treated him as the best player from this rookie class. Voters who preferred a candidate from a postseason-bound team also considered Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jalen Williams, who started slow but eventually grew into a key player on a Thunder team that made a surprising run into the play-in tournament.
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But neither was able to gain serious ground on Banchero by the time the dust had settled. He ultimately won the award relatively comfortably. Now he faces the greater challenge of leading the Magic into the playoffs next season. Fortunately, five of the past six Rookie of the Year winners have managed to do just that in their second seasons, so Banchero and the Magic should be ready to take their next step in 2024.