Southeast Notes: Banchero, Adebayo, O. Robinson, Hunter

Magic coach Jamahl Mosley was surprised to learn that some media members believe Paolo Banchero has a legitimate challenger for Rookie of the Year honors, writes Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel. Speaking to reporters before Friday’s game, Mosley scoffed at the suggestion that the Thunder‘s Jalen Williams is being considered as an alternative to Banchero.

“With all due respect, it’s not a race in my opinion,” Mosley said. “[Banchero] has impacted winning. His ability to help us get to the free throw line [is] huge. Our paint touches have been huge. We talked about the tough month he had shooting — his ability to bounce back from that month and shoot the ball well again. For me, it comes back to a young man on a young team that impacted winning the way he has and the environment the way it is.”

Banchero rewarded Mosley’s confidence Friday with his sixth 30-point game, the most among all rookies. He has been considered a clear choice as Rookie of the Year for most of the season, but a February slump, combined with Williams’ expanding role in Oklahoma City, may produce a closer vote than originally expected. Price points out that Banchero’s numbers are better across the board and he has a 27.7% usage rate, compared to 18.5% for Williams.

“You can just see how our team’s winning, especially from last year to this year,” Markelle Fultz said. “Obviously, it’s a lot of guys who contributed to that. But picking him up was a big part of it. I don’t really think it’s any discussion about it, but of course, people got to vote.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Heat center Bam Adebayo will miss Saturday’s game due to a hip injury, with coach Erik Spoelstra saying, “He’s just not able to move,” tweets Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Adebayo will undergo treatment on the hip for most of the first half, Spoelstra added.
  • It’s surprising that the Heat didn’t recall center Orlando Robinson to help fill in for Adebayo, notes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel (Twitter link). Robinson, who served as the primary backup earlier in the season, still has four games of eligibility left on his two-way contract. However, he’s involved in the G League playoffs as Sioux Falls will host the Western Conference finals on Sunday night.
  • An MRI conducted Saturday morning on Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter showed a bone bruise and muscle strain in his left knee, the team announced in a press release. Hunter has been ruled out for Sunday’s game against Dallas and is considered day-to-day.
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