Paolo Banchero learned his NBA home, and added to Duke’s basketball lore, Thursday night when the Orlando Magic selected the Blue Devils freshman with the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.
Banchero is Duke’s second No. 1 overall pick in the last four NBA drafts and the marks the third time in the last 12 drafts a Blue Devils player went No. 1. The others were Zion Williamson in 2019 by New Orleans and Kyrie Irving in 2011 by Cleveland.
Duke has produced five No. 1 overall picks in NBA draft history, with Art Heyman (1963, New York Knicks) and Elton Brand (1999, Chicago) preceding Irving, Williamson and Banchero.
Entering the draft, Banchero, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Auburn’s Jabari Smith were considered locks for the top three picks. But the order of the picks remained a mystery and the subject of much debate.
In the end, Banchero won out over his fellow freshmen as Holmgren went No. 2 to Oklahoma City and Houston selected Smith at No. 3.
His selection gives Duke six players selected among the top two picks over that same 12-year period beginning with 2011. Jabari Parker (2014, Milwaukee), Brandon Ingram (2016, Los Angeles Lakers) and Marvin Bagley (2018, Sacramento) were No. 2 overall picks following their lone seasons with the Blue Devils.
The selection ends a Duke draft lottery drought that’s modest by national standards but significant in recent Blue Devils history. Prior to Banchero, no Duke players had been selected in the draft’s lottery (first 14 picks) since Williamson (No. 1) and RJ Barrett (No. 3) in 2019.
That’s notable because from 2011 through 2019, Duke produced at least one lottery pick in every draft except 2013. That included a lottery pick in six consecutive drafts from 2014-19.
Banchero averaged 17.2 points and 7.8 rebounds, leading the Blue Devils in both categories last season when they won the ACC regular-season championship and reached the program’s first Final Four since 2015. Hitting 47.2% of his shots and adding 3.2 assists per game, he was named first-team, all-ACC and a consensus second-team, all-American.
Orlando’s selection of Banchero means Duke has produced at least one first-round pick in 11 of the past 12 drafts — with 2020 being the lone exception.
This story was originally published June 23, 2022 8:14 PM.