Paolo Banchero began his Duke career with a 22-point, seven-rebound outing vs. then-No. 10 Kentucky that thrust him into frontrunner status to be the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. He finished his Duke career with 20 points and 10 boards vs. North Carolina in the Final Four and retained his standing as a legitimate contender to be this year’s top pick.
The appeal with Banchero lies in his polish. He’s an incredible offensive weapon who thrives in the mid-range. He can create his own separation in tight windows and pull-up over defenders, with a blend of modern and old-age finesse that’s tantalizing. He’s a smart cutter. Makes smart passing reads. You can put him on the elbow and run your offense through him, with his fast processing speed being an ever-present threat for defenses.
Banchero’s background was first as a guard before it was as a dual-threat power forward. He grew up playing guard before hitting a growth spurt of six inches just before high school. He carried those lessons throughout high school and into college, making him one of the better passers at his position in recent memory. When he grabs a board, he can run the break and go coast-to-coast like he’s 6-foot-4.
Shooting it from deep and defending at a high level are the only two things keeping him from becoming the consensus top prospect. He can knock down 3-pointers, but he made just 33.8% of them at Duke. He can defend and hold up physically, but switching onto the perimeter and maintaining effort and focus was hit or miss at times in college.
Whoever takes a bet on him is betting on those coming together. There’s no question he’ll be a dynamic weapon on offense for years to come. The playmaking out of the short roll and scoring in the mid-range are two staples of his game that will translate up to the next level. If he can refine the outside shot and the defense he can become the most productive player of this year’s loaded class and a potential steal should he fall past No. 1.
A scout’s take
We asked NBA scouts, giving them complete anonymity, for their take on Banchero.
“Somehow he’s the one that kind of flew under the radar. If that is at all possible with a prospect out of Duke. You have a unicorn with Chet and this shot-making savant who takes over the field with Jabari. Paolo is the best half-court offensive cog there is. It comes down to the defense and if he can and wants to improve at it and to what level he can get it to. Does his offense overcome his major deficiencies on that end and what other type of big can he play next to? Is Bamba the right fit for him? His lack of length and shot blocking kind of pigeon holes him into the 4 at times.”
Listen to Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander analyze Banchero’s skills on the Eye on College Basketball podcast.
Polished scorer who can create looks for himself anywhere on the court. Has a back-to-the-basket game built for the NBA and has ability to knock down 3-pointers
Grew up playing guard before hitting several growth spurts; his ability to create as a passer and playmaker stuck with him and is a huge asset
Advanced handle for a 6-10 forward; can grab rebounds and run break
Killer scorer in the mid-range, but just-OK as an outside scoring threat. Can he improve his shot and consistently be a floor spacer from 3-point range?
Fluid athlete but not an explosive one; at his size he’s not a lob threat like other 6-10 bigs, and he’s not much of a rim protector on defense, either
Defensive intensity waxes and wanes within games. Needs to improve his focus on that end to become a serviceable defender.
College numbers to know: 33.8% shooter from 3-point range at Duke
- 247Sports Composite recruiting ranking: 5 stars, No. 2 player in the Class of 2021
- MaxPreps: National Junior of the Year for 2019-20