Paolo Banchero out of Duke is a unique power forward in that at 6-foot-10, 250 pounds he can effectively operate in the pick-and-roll as the ball handler and orchestrator. Very smooth and crafty, the 19-year-old possesses outstanding footwork and coordination while playing at his pace. Relative to others his age, he has a terrific spin move, which in college he used quite often to flee defenders and score near the basket. He relies more on finesse rather than speed and explosiveness. Particularly against overzealous defenders, he’s able to take advantage of mismatches using his size, composure, and body control. It helps, too, that he has great handles considering he doesn’t usually blow by opponents off the dribble.
There isn’t a spot on the floor Banchero can’t shoot from, although he was more efficient from some areas compared to others. At the rim, where 26 percent of his attempts were taken, he shot 70.7 percent. A sweet spot of his was along the left baseline, where he shot 57.7 percent on 26 tries. While erratic from 3-point range overall, he was money from the corners. He made seven of his nine right corner 3-point attempts and six of his 12 tries from the left side. The top of the key is where he must improve from downtown. He only shot 27.8 percent from this region.
Could Banchero become one of the NBA’s next great point power forwards? Not only did he usually make the right reads when choreographing the offense in college, but with his excellent vision, instincts and decision making, his passes were generally sharp and precise. His assist totals steadily climbed as the season went on and he kept his turnovers in check. Over his first 11 games, he dished out fewer than three dimes eight times. But over his final 17 contests, he had three or more assists 14 times, including on Feb. 26 when he handed out a season-best nine of them at Syracuse. In the Blue Devils’ five NCAA Tournament games, he racked up four assists three times and committed more than two turnovers just once. There’s something very Chris Webber-ish about Banchero when he’s operating out of the post or from the elbows. Not only is he a willing passer, but he makes difficult passes look fairly easy.
Areas to Improve
Saying Banchero is a weak defender is probably unfair. He had stretches at Duke when he was locked in and made it difficult for opponents to get clean shots off. His 98.1 defensive rating was 11th best in the ACC and his 36 blocks were 10th most in the conference. But overall, he’s not going to scare anyone on this end. His lateral speed is subpar, making him a potential liability in pick-and-roll switches as opponents will try to force him to guard on the perimeter one-on-one on an island. He got caught napping one too many times in college, although he did recover on some of those possessions to contest a shot near the basket. One example of this was against The Citadel early in the season where the Bulldogs’ Jackson Price made a baseline cut and appeared to have an open layup before Banchero slid over to reject the shot.
3-Point Shooting Consistency
Banchero has his sweet spots. He was pretty much automatic from the 3-point corners, especially on the right side where he shot 78 percent (7-of-9). He also had good touch from the right wing, where he knocked down a shade under 40 percent of his 28 tries. But he was abysmal from the top of the key and left wing, where combined he made just 24.7 percent of his attempts (20-of-81). Overall, he shot 33.8 percent from downtown.
Ceiling: Chris Webber, Detroit Pistons version of Blake Griffin
Others he’s like: Julius Randle, Carlos Boozer, Derrick Coleman and Juwan Howard
Position: Power Forward
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Strengths: Shot Creation, Scoring Versatility, Craftiness, Aggressiveness, Footwork, Ball Handling, Playmaking, Power, Rebounding
Weaknesses: Lateral Foot Speed, Defensive Awareness, Shooting Consistency
College Roundup: Scored in double figures in 37 of his 39 games at Duke, had 15 20-plus-point performances, recorded 12 double-doubles, and dished out five or more assists eight times. As a freshman, he was named a consensus second-team All-American, made first-team All-ACC and earned the ACC Rookie of the Year award.
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