Paolo Banchero's Case for #1
Jabari Smith and Chet Holmgren seem to be the odds on favorites to go #1 to the Orlando Magic—but what about Paolo Banchero? I make the case for why he deserves to still be in the conversation.
Now that everyone and their mother has put out a post-lottery mock draft, the dust has settled, and it appears that consensus has the Orlando Magic eyeing either Jabari Smith or Chet Holmgren. While I don’t think you could go wrong with either guy, it seems Paolo Banchero has been left behind and just automatically slotted to go third in this draft. So being one of the resident Paolo Banchero defenders here at No Ceilings, I wanted to make the case for him and present his case for being back in the #1 pick conversation. Outside of the debate on who is the best prospect, I believe Paolo has a case to be one of the best fits on the Orlando Magic as well and can help alleviate some of the glaring holes on the roster.
There is no denying Paolo Banchero’s frame and physicality; when you pair that with the skill set he has on the court, I find it hard to believe that he shouldn’t at least be mentioned in the conversation at the top of this draft alongside Jabari and Chet. So sit back and relax as I plead the case for why Paolo Banchero should still be in contention for the #1 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
The Physical Profile
Paolo Banchero is listed at 6’10” and 250 pounds with a 7’1” wingspan. He will step in from day one in the NBA and be able to hold up with the physicality and strength of opposing players. All while only being 19 years old. Everyone knows that the number one concern with Chet is his frame and how it will hold up in the NBA. I think those concerns are often overblown, but there’s no denying them. We also saw Jabari struggle with physicality this past season with Auburn with his less-than-stellar finishing numbers. I’m not saying that Paolo doesn’t have weaknesses; I’m just saying that weakness is not one of them.
Everybody knows that Jabari Smith is the best shooter of this group, and probably this entire draft. There is almost no arguing that. But outside of a one or two dribble pull-up, he isn’t that versatile of a scorer. True self-creation is a key component late in playoff games, and when you are drafting at the top of the draft, you ideally want a guy you can give the ball to late in games, and he’ll deliver. Paolo Banchero has the highest chance to be that guy out of this group, and he has a chance to do it at all three levels.
The Orlando Magic ranked 29th in offensive rating this past season, so it’s paramount for them to add a bonafide scorer to their roster, and Paolo Banchero fits that need. Let’s go to the tape to see exactly how Paolo creates advantages to score.
Paolo has a ridiculous spin move. He uses it in different situations but has such control while utilizing it that it’s almost unstoppable.
Here you can see Paolo face up and size up his man with a quick jab and rip through. This is how he wins so often without having that elite first step. This is actually solid defense; however, once Paolo whips out that spin move, he’s able to get right around his defender and finishes through the help with ease.
In this example, we see Paolo bringing the ball up on the break, taking a hesitation dribble before driving on his man, stopping on a dime, and spinning right around the defender again without ease. The way he’s able to rotate his body around so quickly after such downhill momentum going the other direction is very impressive for a player his size.
The last spin move clip here shows more patience, sizing up his man and sort of lulling him to sleep a bit before backing him down quickly before going right back to that spin move. It’s one of the more impressive go-to moves from a prospect in this class.
However, the spin isn’t the only way he can get to the basket.
As we can see in the above clip, he has the ability to put the ball on the floor and beat his man with dribble moves. This is a great example of his hang dribble into a fierce crossover, which allows him to get downhill; at that point, he’s almost impossible to stop.
Aside from his driving and finishing ability, Paolo is one of the best mid-range shooters in this class. Per Synergy, he averaged 0.975 Points Per Possession (PPP) on mid-range jumpers in the half-court, which ranks in the 88th percentile. Many of these attempts were self-created, and the threat of his driving ability really opens up this part of his game.
This is one of my favorite clips. Paolo uses the threat of the spin move to set his defender up, leading to a fadeaway jumper that few basketball players in the NBA can hit, let alone college. This is the move of a star.
Another mid-range pull-up clip here, this time highlighting Paolo’s face-up ability. He’s great at utilizing those jab-steps to create enough driving space for him to get his hang dribble off right into a comfortable pull-up over the defender. Smooth.
All of these things I have mentioned put defenders on their heels and tend to have them back off Paolo on the perimeter, opening up opportunities for pull-up three-point jumpers. This is where he will need to get more consistent and comfortable. There were some flashes like the below clip, but shooting off the dribble from deep is the one area in his scoring package that needs the most work.
However, I do think he’s a better overall shooter from deep than he’s given credit for being. More on that later.
I don’t think this is even much of a debate at this point. Paolo is just clearly the best passer in the Top 3 of this draft class. The playmaking versatility was also on display at Duke as Paolo showcased his ability to find open teammates in a variety of situations. His ability to draw multiple defenders to him and make quick decisions really stood out. While passing may be a weakness for Jabari, and Chet to an extent, it’s actually a strength in Paolo’s game that makes him a dangerous offensive weapon.
Don’t believe me? I’ll just let the tape speak for itself on this one. Here is a cut of almost four minutes of passing clips from Paolo Banchero, and I guarantee you’ll come away impressed.
Defense: Not as bad as advertised
I will preface this by saying that both Jabari Smith and Chet Holmgren are currently better defenders than Paolo Banchero. I will also say that overall, Paolo was not a great defender this past season at Duke, and the effort wasn’t always there; HOWEVER, he was nowhere close to as bad as some people like to claim. One part of his defense that goes unnoticed by many is his communication. I think Paolo is actually a pretty smart off-ball defender. There were many games where you saw him pointing and directing teammates to different spots on the court. That type of stuff typically isn’t highlighted in the mainstream media because it’s not sexy unless you’re Draymond Green level. And while I may be higher on Paolo’s team defense than most people, I also don’t think he’s a lost cause.
Here we see Paolo executing perfect drop coverage against UNC. Caleb Love is a dangerous scorer, so Paolo ensures he’s close enough where Keels has time to recover after Armando Bacot’s screen. Once Love passes to Bacot, Paolo is able to flip his hips and cover a ton of ground, enabling him to recover and block the shot at the rim.
This is another great example of Paolo’s help defense ability and weak-side rim protection. He starts off on the guard before switching with Mark Williams and taking the big. Paolo knows that Williams is out on an island guarding a quicker guard, so he keeps his head up and in position to rotate over. And what do you know? Williams gets beat, and Paolo is in the perfect position to erase the layup attempt.
And lastly, the above clip is an example of his point of attack (POA) defense. Not perfect, but still good. While he does get a little off-balance as he approaches Jake LaRavia at the POA, he’s able to slide his feet and wall off the driving lane forcing LaRavia into a wild shot that Paolo blocks.
Shooting: Also, not as bad as advertised
It may surprise some of you, but Paolo Banchero was actually a perfect spot-up shooter at Duke. That’s not even my opinion—that’s what the stats show. Per Synergy, Paolo averaged 1.146PPP on all Catch & Shoot jumpers in the halfcourt this past season, which ranks in the 77th percentile. He’s actually pretty good at relocating, which is nice to see for such a ball-dominant scorer.
When reviewing the tape, almost every time he misses open jumpers is because he hesitates at first before launching, and most of the time, he misses short. The mechanics aren’t broken, and he’s shown the ability to knock down shots; he just needs to get more comfortable taking more of them without hesitation.
The mix of size, strength, and skill that Paolo Banchero boasts is impressive and fits what a typical #1 pick possesses. He is one of the best on-ball scorers in this class as well as one of the best passers, which is a rare combination to have—especially at 6’10”. The key areas of improvement for Paolo are consistency on defense and with the shot. Both will obviously be important aspects of the game to iron out, but I believe he’s farther along in both than what people give him credit for being. I am not here making the case that Paolo Banchero is the clear #1 pick in this draft (I have him, Chet, Jabari, and Ivey in the same tier), but he deserves to be in the conversation for that top spot.