Why the Magic were comfortable drafting Paolo Banchero despite him not visiting Orlando – The Mercury News

Jeff Weltman had a point to make.

The point wasn’t defending the Magic’s picking of Paolo Banchero at No. 1 in last Thursday’s NBA draft.

That wasn’t necessary. Banchero entered the draft viewed as a top-three prospect. Most well-respected media mock draft boards had him being drafted at No. 3 by the Houston Rockets, who wound up with Jabari Smith Jr. — the prospect most mock drafts had going No. One.

Instead, the point the Magic’s president of basketball operations was trying to make clear was that they had the requisite information to feel more than comfortable drafting Banchero despite him not coming to Orlando for a pre-draft workout.

“I know there’s a lot being made right now that Paolo didn’t come in to visit,” Weltman said to reporters in his opening comments Thursday. “I want to let everybody know we’ve had several touch points. There’s a lot of strategy that goes into the draft. There’s a lot of secret-keeping and misdirection.”

A part of that misdirection was the Magic not commenting on whether they had a pre-draft visit with Banchero leading up to the draft. Orlando’s secrecy during the draft process could lead to long-term benefits.

The Magic’s basketball operations may not have gotten a formal visit in Orlando with Banchero, but they didn’t lack intel.

They had 39 college basketball games Banchero played in for Duke to scout. It doesn’t take long to see why he was a consensus second-team All-American and the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year.

There were multiple live and Zoom meetings with Banchero and constant dialogue with his agent Mike Miller, the former NBA player the Magic drafted with the No. 5 pick out of the University of Florida in 2000.

Weltman told the Orlando Sentinel that the Magic spent time with Banchero during the NBA’s mid-May draft combine in Chicago.

Paolo submitted to all of the Magic’s pre-draft protocols, including medicals, personality profiles and anything else Orlando needed, according to Weltman.

“We’ve seen Paolo so many times,” Weltman told the Orlando Sentinel. “We’ve had so many touch points with him. We got to spend a lot of time with him in different facets. We got all of the data points we asked him to provide for us. We had everything we needed to feel we’re making a well-rounded decision.”

The Magic didn’t lock themselves in on Banchero early, according to Weltman.

They worked out several prospects leading into the draft, including Chet Holmgren, Keegan Murray, Jaden Ivey and Smith. Orlando ultimately drafted whom Weltman referred to as “the best player in college basketball.”

It’s not unusual for Orlando to not host a future draft pick for a pre-draft workout. Jalen Suggs, the No. 5 pick in the 2021 draft, didn’t work out for the Magic last summer.

Why Banchero didn’t work out for the Magic in Orlando may not be known by outsiders, but what was also known by Weltman was that Banchero wanted to be a part of what they’re building with coach Jamahl Mosley.

“Paolo’s always expressed a great interest in us and he’s talked with us at length — myself, coach Mosley and various staff members,” Weltman said. “We were super comfortable with the process, and most importantly, thrilled to have him on the team.”

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at khprice@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.

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