“I think I was the best rookie,” Banchero said during his exit interview earlier this month.
The league’s panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters who voted for the award agreed, with Banchero receiving the top rookie award Tuesday night.
Banchero, choice no. 1 pick in last year’s draft, is the third player in Magic history to win the award, joining Shaquille O’Neal (1993) and Mike Miller (2001). His 34-win team improved 12 games from the previous season.
“It would mean everything,” Banchero said when asked during his exit interview about possibly winning the award. “It was something I wanted to do for a while. I worked very hard for. I just wanted to come out this year and be the best rookie, but also help my team win and have a good effect on my team in terms of wins and overall success.”
Banchero received 98 first place votes and 494 out of a possible 500 voting points, also receiving one second and third place vote.
Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler, one of three finalists for the award, along with Oklahoma City Thunder wing Jalen Williams, received the other first-place votes. Williams finished second with 241 voting points, while Kessler finished third with 114.
Players received five points for a first-place vote, three points for a second-place vote, and one point for a third-place vote.
Averaging 20 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists, Banchero became just 12th rookie in league history to average the statistical benchmarks of at least 20 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists for a season.
Walter Davis (1977-78), Larry Bird (1979-80), Michael Jordan (1984-85), Blake Griffin (2010-11) and Luka Dončić (2018-19) are the only players to reach those averages as rookies then. 1976-77 campaign — the first season after the NBA-ABA merger.
Banchero was appointed Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month four straight timesa feat that only O’Neal has accomplished in Magic history, and was the season-long betting favorite for Rookie of the Year.
“It’s super encouraging to know that you can come into this league as a rookie and be successful, earn the respect of guys that have been in the league,” Banchero said.
Banchero led all rookies in average minutes (33.7), scoring and free throws (5.5), while he was third in assists and fourth in rebounds and steals (0.8).
Even after a February slump in which he struggled with his 3-point shot, Banchero is back. He averaged 20.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists and shot 38.7 percent from 3 (24-of-62) over the last 17 games.
The Magic are even more bullish on Banchero because he’s only 20 years old and has plenty of room to develop.
“There [are] so many ways he can grow,” coach Jamahl Mosley said. “A lot of times newbies will come in and try to do everything. The biggest thing I talk to him about is just having a level of focus on one or two pieces for the summer where he can improve in certain areas.
“It will work. I don’t think that will be a question. But now it’s more of a focus on the little details of things and how we can improve there.”