Paolo Banchero was named the NBA's Rookie of the Year on Tuesday.
A 6-foot-10 forward out of Duke, Banchero averaged 20 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 72 games. He experienced typical rookie struggles with efficiency while shooting 42.7% from the floor and 29.8% from 3-point distance. But his scoring prowess and ability to contribute across the board made him the overwhelming choice as the league's top rookie. The Magic improved to 34-48 this season after a 20-62 campaign in 2021-22.
Banchero continues to live up to high expectations. An elite prospect who arrived at Duke as the No. 2 player in his high school class behind Chet Holmgren, Banchero earned ACC Rookie of the Year honors in his single season in college in 2021-22. He was a projected top-three pick in the 2022 draft before a surprise jump over anticipated No. 1 pick Jabari Smith Jr. as the top pick by the Magic. Holmgren went second to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Houston Rockets selected Smith at No. 3.
While the investment in Banchero yielded a Rookie of the Year campaign, Holmgren missed his rookie season due to a Lisfranc injury in his right foot. He hopes to be ready to play by the start of next season. Smith had a volatile season in Houston, averaging 12.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game while shooting 40.8% from the field and 30.7% from 3-point distance.
Williams and Kessler, meanwhile, emerged as the strongest rookies in their class alongside Banchero. Williams — the No. 12 pick out of Santa Clara — averaged 14.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.4 steals while shooting 52.1% from the floor and 35.6% from 3-point distance. He was a valuable starter on a Thunder team that made a surprise run to the NBA play-in tournament.
Kessler was acquired by the Minnesota Timberwolves in a draft-day deal after the Memphis Grizzlies selected him with the No. 22 pick out of Auburn. Minnesota then sent him to the Utah Jazz in the trade that acquired Rudy Gobert. Kessler emerged in Utah as an elite post defender and efficient scorer, averaging 9.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game while shooting 72% from the field, the highest field-goal percentage by a rookie in NBA history.