Duke’s Paolo Banchero entered his rookie season with high expectations as he dueled Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren for the No. 1 overall pick.
As the season went on, other players, most notably Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr., also jumped into the conversation, and now all signs seem to indicate that Smith was the first to hear NBA commissioner Adam call his name. Silver.
But that doesn’t mean Banchero was disappointed with his only college basketball season. The star freshman averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game to help Duke reach the Final Four.
Even if he doesn’t become No. 1, Banchero should be among the first four names selected in the draft. What exactly will the outstanding forward Duke bring to the NBA?
Here is the full scouting report with a few examples showing what makes Banchero such a special prospect.
Paolo Banchero Scouting Report: Strengths
What makes Banchero so special is his dual ability to threaten the defense as a shotmaker and playmaker. At 6’10” tall and weighing 250 pounds, Banchero is not suitable for walking because he is too fast and agile for the big ones, but too strong and physically fit for the guards.
He spends a lot of time on the perimeter looking for inconsistencies, and he did a particularly good job using all his tools as a scorer and passer in Duke’s NCAA tournament game against Michigan State. While many point to the first half of Duke’s matchup with Gonzaga earlier in the season as Banchero’s most important moment, the tournament game against the Spartans highlighted Banchero’s growth not yet apparent in that earlier high-profile matchup.
There were three games against Michigan State that I particularly remember as high-level moves and NBA-level readings that led to buckets.
Ability to score one on one
It all started with that play early in the first half, when Banchero realized he had room to work and could take a slower defender out of dribble to get to an open spot and take the shot down.
First, Banchero is right-handed. While that little left wobble wasn’t exactly worthy of an And-1 mixtape, it’s impressive that he has the ball control to enter a half-spin from a standing position, as he does with his left hand. He finishes the playoffs with balanced footwork and a ridiculously skillful exit that you don’t usually see in 19-year-old big men.
Pass and play
Later in the first half, Banchero found himself in a similar situation, but this time he attacked a slower defender who covered him too much on the three-point line.
When he puts the ball on the floor to dribble, he could easily force a mid-range shot or try to get to the rim. Instead, when Michigan’s defenses collapsed, he gave Mark Williams a shiny nondescript coin (in traffic!) for a much lighter basket.
It’s a drop in the ocean for his decision making, real-time processing of the game to read correctly and know when to score himself or set others up. It was also a sign of growth for Banchero, who didn’t make those kind of reads earlier in the season.
In order for Banchero to truly reach his full potential, he is expected to read regularly with the ball in his hands. Any team choosing Banchero will end up expecting him to have such a consistent gameplay experience.
Driving and finishing inside
And on that topic, with Duke’s season on the line and desperate for a bucket to end the streak 9-0 at Michigan State, Banchero called his own number to stop the bleeding.
Note that this time it’s upside down Another shoulder compared to disappearing after rotation in the first half, which is impressive in itself.
But it’s also worth mentioning that although Duke’s best player attacked the basket, no Michigan State player helped their player knowing that Banchero could now beat you as a passer as well. (The Michigan State quarterback even threw up his hands after the bucket, apparently wondering “what else could I do?” or “where the hell was help?”).
It’s three separate draws like the ones that make it easy to see why Banchero deserves the first pick in the 2022 NBA draft. There just aren’t many 6ft 10, 250lb playmakers making shots, let alone 19 year olds.
Paolo Banchero Scouting Report: Weaknesses
Banchero’s biggest perceived weakness is that he doesn’t always play at maximum defensive intensity. He had moments where he fell asleep on that side of the ball and missed spin or didn’t help, but there were also moments when he was heavily involved in interceptions and assist blocks.
He has all the tools to be an effective and versatile defender with good maneuverability at 6ft 10in with a 7ft wingspan, it will all come down to his attitude and desire to stay in the game.
On offense, Banchero’s stability as a shooter can determine his ceiling as a scorer at the next level. He shot 33.8% from threes during his first season, but how will his jumper adjust to the NBA’s three-point line? It has a smooth throw, so there’s little reason to believe it won’t work.
Bunchero handled the ball a lot in Duke, but he’s going to have to work hard to keep the same workload and style of play in the NBA. If he is faster with the ball in his hands, it will only make him a more dynamic scorer and playmaker at the next level.
Comparison of Paolo Bankero players
At the start of his first season, I compared Banchero to Hawks forward John Collins because of his agile athleticism and fitness.
Watching his developed play and ability to create his own shots, I began to see shades of what we saw with Knicks forward Julius Randle during his 2020-21 All-Star season.
If you told any fan of a team that picks Bunchero that he would someday average 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game and shoot over 40% from the three-point line, they would take it in the blink of an eye. Well, that’s exactly what Randle did in 2020-21, leading the Knicks to the playoffs.
Banchero production projects at the All-NBA level. The question is, does it have the engine and consistency to deliver.