Paolo Napoleon James Banchero is a 6-10, 250 pounds power forward who played for the Duke BlueDevils in his freshman year of college. During his younger days he was a multi-sport athlete. Apart from basketball he was also a football player and ran track. For most of his football career he was a top 50 kid in his class and played quarterback. In terms of athletics he ran 100m, 400m , relays and was a long jumper. In a sit-down with Mike Schmitz, he said that long jump was his best discipline and that he feels like all that athleticism he has before his two big growth spurts is slowly trickling back to him. Banchero almost made it to the Junior Olympics in both 4x400m relay and long jump as a 12-year-old.
For most of his basketball career he has been one of the most talented kids in his class and finally ended up as a lock top 5 on most recruiting sites. During his junior year in high school, he was awarded the MaxPrep Junior of the Year Award. He had offers from multiple colleges, including Kentucky and Washington, but picked Duke. Because anytime you can be coached by an elderly warlock, you can’t say no. He finished his freshman year with 17 points 8 rebounds and 3 assists. Among the awards and recognitions gathered during his time at Duke are, First Team All ACC, ACC Rookie of the Year and Consensus Second Team All American. Paolo Banchero is a lock top 4 pick in this draft. Let’s take a deeper look.
The first thing that you notice while watching Paolo Banchero play basketball is the unique combination of skill, footwork and size. At 6-10 ,250 he has such an advanced handle. This makes him a serious threat as a Grab and Go kind of guy, even tho Duke shied away from that often (warlocks work in mysterious ways folks). He can use his handle to beat his man in an ISO or out of the PnR. He moves really well with and without the ball. He is and will also be at the NBA level a mismatch nightmare. There are times when he falls in love with his handle too much, and dribbles in place quite a bit. Sometimes he fails to recognize the advantage created and settles for long 2s. The self-creation looks fluid, but the shot still isn’t going in at an acceptable rate. He was around 38% on long 2s this year. But its really promising. The arsenal of moves and the way he combines them. Its is very easy to imagine that a few years down the line, those long 2s will be off the dribble 3s. And if that 38% on long 2s turns into 36, 37% on off the dribble 3s, there isn’t really a way to keep him under 24, 25 points per game in the NBA.
If he gets past his man due to the combination of skill and size, I mentioned earlier its game over. Not because he will dunk on you after a step like Giannis, but he has such good vision, composure and understanding of how everyone else will react after he got free. These situations usually end up in a attempt at the rim for him or a teammate, or Paolo manipulates defenders and Keels, Wendell Green or AJ Griffin is open in the corner for 3. Its pick your poison with Banchero on offense.
His favorite move and one that seems almost unstoppable is his post turn. It’s really hard to bang against a guy this big and strong, but when you add the effortless way, his feet move and this rapid spin move which leaves defenders in the dust, and dunks with force. Sending double teams is mostly useless. The size and vision combination dismantles defenses with ease. Just ask Mark Williams how many dunks he had thanks to great passes by Paolo out of double or triple teams. He is equally effective playmaking out of the high post and low post. Teammates like to cut when he has the ball in the high post and he rewards them regularly. While he isn’t as creative as Jokic out of that spot, nor is there the same level of flair, the consistency of delivery, the precision and speed of the passes are very reminiscent of elite high post playmakers. The only part of his passing game that I dislike are his entry passes. They mostly resemble helium balloons. In addition to that, there are times when he gets stuck in plays. You feel the wheels turning in his head for a second or two.
The shot still isn’t there. To me it seems a consistency thing. He rushes shots sometimes, mostly in the second half. Could be a stamina thing. He needs to improve his ability to set his feet out of pick and pops most of all, I think. His right leg usually ends up almost a whole step in front of his left, which leads to some ugly misses. I’m quite optimistic about his shooting long term, mostly due to his FTs. The vast majority of them are splashed or shot with a lot of gentle feel. The release can get a bit low later in game, which lowers the arc and causes clunker misses.
The defense is a worry, to some extent. He does have good levels of concentration. Early in the season he was really susceptible to backdoor cuts, but that improved later in the year. The effort isn’t’ always there, nor are the boxouts. Can be caught ball watching and players who really grind on the glass can give him problems and make him give up additional possessions. Can be a bit lackluster in defensive transition. But he communicates well and consistently. His post defense is his best attribute. Strong base and good anticipation make him really hard to beat. While he can get beat by guards in ISO or After a switch in PnR, I like his recovery. Has decent hands-on defense and has a knack for picking pockets from behind his guy, something Sixers one way player Thybulle does quite often as well. Had a few possessions where he really did a good job bothering explosive scorers, like Alondes Williams for example.
To be ignorant of what occurred before your Time is to always remain the Sacramento Kings – Marcus Tullius Cicero
There isn’t really anything overtly awesome or bad in either the advanced stats or his per 100 stats. Looking at them holistically, he projects at someone who should be above average or great at every single thing one can do on the court. The only reasons to be pessimistic are his low true shooting and effective field goal percentages.
Paolo Banchero posted a defensive box plus minus of 1,6. In terms of defensive playmaking he posted a steal rate of 1,9 and block rate of 2,7. He had a slightly underwhelming offensive rebounding percentage of 6,5 and good defensive rebounding rate of 19. I think his offensive rebounds and block rate would have been higher if he wasn’t playing next to Mark Williams, a projected first round pick, maybe even top 15 pick himself. Williams was one of the best rim protectors in the class. Duke also barely played him at the five, electing to go with a heavy dose of Theo John minutes next to Paolo.
If we look at players with similar stature and who have posted a similar defensive box plus minus in their freshman year, we get the following group of guys:
He’s not athletic or long enough to be a five the way Jalen Smith or Thomas Bryant are. I don’t think he has the motor that Siakam has on the defensive end to have the same level of impact that Siakam has had for most of his career. But, maybe in the playoffs he turns it on and impacts the defensive end to a similar degree. He could be a small ball five with the same level of impact that Looney has, but he needs to up his work rate by some margin to reach his level of grit and grind.
Will He Be Able To Space the Floor
Paolo shot 33,8% from three, while taking almost 6 threes per 100 possessions. He also shot 72,9% from the free throw line. If we look for college freshmen who posted similar shooting split and volume at the same size we get the following group of guys:
First, the good news, none of them were non shooters. All of them were around 34% or higher from three with good volume, 8 attempts per 100 possessions or more. Knox had a really bad rookie season shooting wise, but his three has bounced back since then, and he’s slowly but surely trending towards 35 or 36% for his career. The best case out of this group of guys is by far Kevin Love. He also struggled a bit from 3 earlier in his career, but in the second part turned into quite the floor spacer. The last few years he as been lights out even. The average outcome for Paolo is probably a slightly under 35% on good volume guy. But I’m optimistic that he could get around Kevin Love’s volume and percentages as his career progresses.
Creation for Others
Paolo posted an assist percentage of 17,5 combined with an assist to turnover ratio of 1,36. Both very encouraging numbers, which go nicely along with the tape which makes his passing to be outlier good for his size. If we look for drafted freshmen who posted similar numbers and are of similar size, we get this group of players:
Just three guys, but all three really good passers. And I think Paolo will be better than all of them. While Blake had good vision and also combined it with immense scoring volume, I think Paolo might even post more impressive passing numbers. The biggest reason for my optimism is Paolo’s advanced handle. Blake was a superior athlete, but he never developed a handle that allowed him to just take guys of the dribble and dunk. Paolo also has that knack of not just finding open teammates, but finding them at the right time at the right place (around the rim or open in the corner).
In terms of creating for himself and scoring gravity, Banchero posted usage of 27,2% and a true shooting percentage of 55,7. Freshmen of similar size and stats were:
Just an awesome list of guys! Every single one of them an all star, and every single one of them scored 25+ for multiple seasons. Randle would be my floor for Banchero. While they are similar athlete, with Paolo slightly better, I think Paolo is much more advanced skill wise. Blake was a much more dominant athlete, and also played with a all time great point guard. But thanks to the combination of size and skill Paolo could end up having the scoring of Detroit era Blake Griffin. Cousins seems hard to attain. Boogie was just a monster, so skilled and such a mismatch. If everything goes right for Paolo, he might reach that level. But in any case, Paolo seems like a guy who could score 20+ for most of his career and have multiple seasons of 25+ points per game.
Four Modern Prometheuses
When we line up all the advance stats comps we get 3 possible outcomes
The Scoring Gravity of Detroit era Blake Griffin, The Creation of Blake Griffin, The Floor Spacing of Kevin Knox, the defensive impact of Kevon Looney
Or in per 75 possession stats
23 points on +1 TS, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 34% from three on 6,5 attempts
The Scoring Gravity of Boogie Cousins, The Creation of Blake Griffin with more feel and handle, The Floor Spacing of Kevin Love, the defensive impact of Pascal Siakam
Or in per 75 possession stats
25 points on League Average TS, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 37,5% from three on 6 attempts,
The Scoring Gravity of Julius Randle, The Creation of Kyle Anderson, The Floor Spacing of Henry Ellenson, the defensive impact of Anthony Randolph
Or in per 75 possession stats
21 points on -1 TS, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 33,6% from three on 6 attempts
When I put tape and stats together, I predict X as the fusion of the following parts:
The Scoring Gravity of Detroit era Blake Griffin, The Creation of Blake Griffin with more feel and handle, The Floor Spacing of Kevin Love, the defensive impact of Pascal Siakam
Or in per 75 possession stats
23 points on +1 TS, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 37,5% from three on 6 attempts
Projected Rookie Season Numbers per 75 possessions