Southeast Notes: Banchero, Ross, Kuzma, Porzingis, Heat

Magic forward Paolo Banchero, the No. 1 overall pick of last June’s draft, is looking like a strong favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award, according to Kelly Iko, Eric Nehm and Josh Robbins of The Athletic. The three beat writers for The Athletic all had votes for the award last season.

Robbins points out that Banchero ranks first among rookies in points per game (19.9), fourth in rebounds (6.6) and third in assists (3.6), a sign of his all-around game. The 20-year-old has been in a major shooting slump in February, going 1-of-27 from 3-point range, but many of his rookie peers have gone through peaks and valleys as well.

The three writers would have Indiana’s Bennedict Mathurin second and Utah’s Walker Kessler third on their ballots at the All-Star break.

Here’s more from the Southeast:

  • Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel (subscriber link) believes the Magic and Terrence Ross did right by each other. Instead of trading him to a random team for a second-round pick, the Magic bought Ross out and waived him to let him pick his next destination (Phoenix). As Bianchi writes, when the team started rebuilding a couple years ago, Ross was one of the few veterans left on the roster, but instead of publicly complaining or being a distraction he served as a positive mentor for the younger players. Bianchi believes players and agents around the NBA will notice that Orlando treated Ross well after a seven-year stint with the team.
  • Both Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis are having career years in 2022/23 and both players can enter free agency in the summer if they decline their player options (Kuzma has already publicly said he’s going to). What does that mean for the Wizards going forward? Chase Hughes explores that topic for NBC Sports Washington.
  • The Heat intend to bolster their frontcourt depth by signing Kevin Love and Cody Zeller. Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald reports that Love is expected to receive part of the Heat’s mid-level exception, while Zeller will likely receive a minimum-salary deal for the rest of the season, though the details were still being finalized as of Sunday afternoon.
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