Paolo Banchero

Walker Kessler, Paolo Banchero Named Rookies Of The Month

Jazz center Walker Kessler and Magic forward Paolo Banchero have been named the NBA’s rookies of the month, the league announced on Thursday (via Twitter).

In 11 February games (29.1 MPG), Kessler, the No. 22 overall pick of last year’s draft, averaged 10.6 PPG, 11.4 RPG and 3.2 BPG while shooting 68.9% from the floor and 51.9% from the line. The 21-year-old ranks second in the league in block percentage at 8.2%, only trailing Jaren Jackson Jr., per Kessler won for the Western Conference.

Banchero, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2022 draft, has now won the award three consecutive months for the East. He averaged 16.6 PPG, 7.5 RPG and 3.3 APG, though he did struggle with scoring efficiency, posting a .374/.030/.711 shooting line in 11 games (33.7 MPG). Banchero is considered a strong frontrunner for Rookie of the Year.

According to the NBA (Twitter link), the other nominees in the West were Malaki Branham, Tari Eason, Jabari Smith Jr., Keegan Murray and Jalen Williams, while Jaden Ivey and Bennedict Mathurin were nominated in the East.

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.

NBA Announces All-Star Saturday Night Participants

It was quite a Valentine’s Day for Mac McClung. He was signed to a two-way contract by the Sixers and, hours later, was named as one of the four participants in this year’s Slam Dunk competition during All-Star weekend, according to an NBA press release.

He’ll be joined by the Rockets’ Kenyon Martin Jr., the Pelicans’ Trey Murphy III and the Knicks’ Jericho Sims.

The Skills Challenge will feature a brother act. Team Antetokounmpo, predictably, will include Giannis Antetokounmpo and Thanasis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks and Alex Antetokounmpo of the G League’s Wisconsin Herd.

Team Jazz will include Jordan Clarkson, Walker Kessler and Collin Sexton, while Team Rookies will feature top pick Paolo Banchero of the Magic, as well as the Pistons’ Jaden Ivey and the Rockets’ Jabari Smith Jr. 

The participants in this year’s 3-point contest can be found here.

Paolo Banchero, Keegan Murray Named Rookies Of The Month

Magic forward Paolo Banchero and Kings forward Keegan Murray have been named the NBA’s rookies of the month, the league announced (via Twitter). It’s the second straight rookie of the month honor for both players.

Banchero, the Eastern Conference winner, averaged 20.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.3 steals on .429/.329/.781 in 14 January games (32.7 minutes per contest). He was the No. 1 overall pick of last June’s draft.

Murray, the No. 4 overall pick, averaged 14.0 points and 5.9 rebounds on an extremely efficient .510/.495/.933 shooting slash line in 15 games (32.2 minutes). He won for the Western Conference.

Banchero and Murray also won the award in December after Pacers guard Bennedict Mathurin and Thunder wing Jalen Williams earned the honor for October/November.

According to the NBA (Twitter link), the other nominees in the West were Tari Eason, Jabari Smith Jr., Walker Kessler, Jeremy Sochan and Williams, while Jaden Ivey and Mathurin were nominated in the East.

NBA Announces Player Pool For Rising Stars Event

The NBA officially unveiled the 28-player pool for this year’s Rising Stars event on Tuesday, making the announcement via the NBA App. The following players made the cut:



G League players:

As was the case last season, the Rising Stars event will consist of four teams and three games. The seven G League players will comprise one team, coached by longtime NBA guard Jason Terry. The other 21 players will be drafted to three squads coached by former NBA stars Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, and Deron Williams.

The four teams will be split into two first-round matchups and the winners of those two games will face one another for the Rising Stars championship. The two semifinals will be played to a target score of 40 points, while the final will be played to a target score of 25 points.

All three contests will take place on Friday, February 17 as part of All-Star weekend in Salt Lake City. The NBA’s full press release with more information on the event can be found right here.

Eastern Notes: Antetokounmpo, Banchero, Yurtseven, Caruso

Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo has full faith in general manager Jon Horst’s decision-making as the trade deadline approaches, he told Eric Nehm of The Athletic in a wide-ranging interview.

“I feel really good about this team,” Antetokounmpo said. “I feel this team has a chance to win a championship and that’s all you can ask for. Now, what Jon’s going to do, that’s in his hands. He’s really good at his job. GM of the Year in 2019. He’s made incredible trades, some of those trades helped us win a championship. We’ve just got to trust him. We’ve got to trust his judgment and what he sees and what he feels.”

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Top pick Paolo Banchero says he’s appreciates the tough love approach of his Magic coaches and veteran players, he told Alex Kennedy of Basketball News. “Everyone is here to help me — all of the coaches and a lot of the guys on the team, they all hold me accountable,” Banchero said. “They don’t just let me [do what I want]. If I’m out there making mistakes or not playing up to my abilities, they’re going to let me know about it.  They’re going to challenge me, and that’s why I love them. They don’t hand anything to me.”
  • Heat center Omer Yurtseven‘s surgically repaired ankle has fully healed, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets. Yurtseven is preparing for his season debut, which is expected to come shortly after the All-Star break. He’s been cleared for high impact work and is rehabbing in Miami while the team is on a road trip this week.
  • The Bulls have put such a high price tag on Alex Caruso that he’s virtually untouchable. His value goes far beyond the stat sheet, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. “He’s one of those classic guys that if you’re watching the game and you really understand the game, then you look at the stat sheet, you’re like, ‘You know what, don’t tell me about the stat sheet. That guy impacts the game, he impacts winning,’” coach Billy Donovan said. “To me, the stat sheet never really tells the story about the guys that are really impacting the outcome of the game with different things they do.’’

Paolo Banchero, Keegan Murray Named Rookies Of The Month

Magic forward Paolo Banchero and Kings forward Keegan Murray have been named the NBA’s Rookies of the Month for January, the league announced today (via Twitter).

It’s the first time either player has won the award. Pacers guard Bennedict Mathurin and Thunder guard Jalen Williams were the winners for October/November.

The No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, Banchero averaged 19.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game in 15 December appearances (33.5 MPG) for the Magic, who enjoyed a rare winning month. Orlando’s 8-7 record in December was its best mark in a month since the team went 4-1 in Dec. 2020, per Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel (Twitter link).

Murray’s Kings, meanwhile, went 8-6 in December as the rookie forward started all 14 of the team’s games. This year’s No. 4 overall pick, Murray averaged 12.7 PPG and 3.5 RPG in 28.6 MPG and made an impressive 46.4% of his three-point attempts (2.8 makes per game).

Mathurin and Williams were among the nominees for this month’s award. Hawks wing AJ Griffin, Pistons guard Jaden Ivey, and Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard were the other nominees in the Eastern Conference, while Jazz big man Walker Kessler, Rockets forward Jabari Smith, and Spurs forward Jeremy Sochan were nominated in the West (Twitter link).

And-Ones: Paul, Anthony, Title Contenders, Bold Predictions, WNBA

Suns guard Chris Paul is disappointed that longtime All-Star Carmelo Anthony remains unsigned, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News tweets.

“Somebody of that caliber, with that ability, with the heart that he has, and the stuff he’s done for the game – he should be able to walk off the court when he’s ready,” Paul said.

Anthony averaged 13.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 69 games with the Lakers last season.

We have more from the basketball world:

  • How could the Celtics, Bucks, Heat, Nuggets, Clippers and Grizzlies enhance their chances of winning the title? Cole Huff of The Athletic explores that topic, including a recommendation that Memphis should add another perimeter shooter.
  • The Nets will re-sign Kyrie Irving to a two-year contract and Sixers superstar Joel Embiid will demand a trade this summer. Those are some of the bold predictions made by The Ringer’s Michael Pina for 2023.
  • Rhonda Smith-Banchero – mother of top pick and Magic forward Paolo Banchero – played one season for the WNBA’s Sacramento Monarchs in 2000. Niele Ivey, mother of Pistons lottery pick Jaden Ivey, played four seasons in the WNBA. ESPN’s Jamal Collier takes a closer look at the increasing group of NBA players whose mothers also played ball professionally.

Southeast Notes: Hawks, Heat, Banchero, Magic, Beal

Hawks point guard Trae Young was ruled out of Wednesday’s game against Brooklyn due to a left calf contusion, per Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). Starting small forward De’Andre Hunter will also be sidelined for the second straight game with a left ankle sprain.

Young, who is averaging 27.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG and 9.9 APG on .414/.316/.896 shooting through 31 games, was injured in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s loss to Indiana, which dropped the Hawks to 17-17 on the season.

Here’s more from the Southeast:

  • Heat stars Jimmy Butler (right ankle sprain) and Bam Adebayo (illness) were both out for Monday’s victory over the Wolves, but were back in action for Wednesday’s game against the Lakers, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (subscriber link). However, point guard Kyle Lowry was ruled out for personal reasons, the first time he’s missed a game with that designation in 2022/23 after missing extended time last season due to personal reasons. Gabe Vincent was moved into the starting lineup in Lowry’s place, Winderman adds.
  • Head coach Erik Spoelstra suggested that backup center Dewayne Dedmon could miss an extended period of time for the Heat as he continues to be hobbled by plantar fasciitis in his left foot, Winderman writes in another subscriber-only story for The Sun Sentinel. “There’s no point in resting him and then if we’re going to be right back to where he is where we’re managing it every single day,” Spoelstra said. “He would like to put it behind you. I don’t know necessarily if he’ll be able to fully put it behind him the way Gabe [Vincent] was with the week or two weeks rest. But our hope is that it will be a lot better than it was.” Still, being down Adebayo and Dedmon on Monday showed the that Heat might have decent depth in the middle, with rookies Nikola Jovic and Orlando Robinson capably filling in, according to Winderman, who notes that Omer Yurtseven shouldn’t be overlooked going forward either, despite being sidelined following ankle surgery.
  • The Magic have won eight of their past 10 games, and No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero has played a big part in their recent surge, as Kelly Iko of The Athletic details. The 6’10” forward says he’s hoping for both team and individual success for the rest of ’22/23. “Hopefully we can make the playoffs or the play-in, get there and win Rookie of the Year. That’s my goal,” he said. The Magic currently trail the Raptors by two-and-a-half games for the final spot in the play-in tournament.
  • Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who exited Tuesday’s win over Philadelphia with left hamstring soreness, likely won’t be out for long, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Beal was officially ruled out of Wednesday’s game against Phoenix (Twitter link via Ava Wallace of The Washington Post), but Charania says he is considered day-to-day and could be back for Friday’s contest in Orlando.

Magic Rumors: Bamba, Ross, Harris, Hampton, Anthony

The Magic lost by a single point in Atlanta on Monday night, but prior to that game, Orlando had reeled off six straight wins, with many of them coming against tough opponents. The Magic won home games against the Clippers, Hawks, and Raptors (twice), then capped off the streak with a pair of victories in Boston.

Orlando is still just 11-21 on the season, but the team seems to be taking the sort of positive step forward that management wanted to see in 2022/23, writes Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

“They have two of the premier positions in the league — play-making forwards — on rookie scale contracts, intriguing young talent around them on solid contracts, no bad money moving forward, and some veterans who could get them back even more draft capital should they choose to trade them,” an Eastern Conference team strategist told Fischer.

While the Magic haven’t been big spenders in free agency during their rebuilding process, league figures familiar with the club’s thinking tell Fischer that ownership will be prepared to open its check book when the time comes to invest in complementary pieces around those two young forwards, Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero.

Here’s more on the Magic:

  • Among potential Orlando trade chips this season, Mohamed Bamba may have the most value, according to Fischer, who says league sources believe the Magic will likely be seeking a first-round pick for Bamba and would settle for a protected or late first-rounder. Fischer notes that the Magic pursued Isaiah Hartenstein in free agency this past summer, which is perhaps an indication that Bamba was a fallback option and isn’t in the team’s long-term plans.
  • Although it’s unclear which teams might have interest in Bamba specifically, front office personnel expect teams like the Clippers, Lakers, Raptors, Kings, and Nets to explore the trade market for big men, Fischer writes.
  • Veteran wings Terrence Ross and R.J. Hampton, both in contract years, are also considered potential trade candidates, as is Gary Harris, who has a non-guaranteed salary for 2023/24. However, their appeal will probably be limited, given their modest production relative to their respective cap hits. Ross has previously drawn interest from the Lakers and Knicks, and the Magic have sought a first-round pick for him in the past, but it’s hard to envision them getting more than a second-rounder if they move him, says Fischer.
  • League personnel think there may be a “sizable gap” between Cole Anthony‘s asking price and what the Magic are willing to offer when the third-year guard becomes eligible for a rookie scale extension next offseason, per Fischer.