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Paolo Banchero's On-Ball Creation | The Friday Screener
Paolo Banchero has some of the highest star upside in the 2022 NBA Draft because of his unique ability to play as an on-ball creator at his position.
Paolo Banchero entered the season as one of the top prospects in the country for the 2022 NBA Draft because of his unusual offensive capabilities. At 6’10” 250lbs., the Duke Blue Devil forward’s combination of agility, strength, and skill is unique. He can knock down pull-up jumpers, play bully ball in the post, and take defenders off the dribble. Even though Banchero may have cooled off in the eyes of many evaluators over the season due to inconsistent shooting, defensive concerns, and stretches of questionable decision making, there is one skill that sets him apart from his peers at his position: his on-ball creation.
At the top of the draft, it is understandable if you prefer Chet Holmgren or Jabari Smith; however, neither of those prospects comes close to Banchero in terms of being able to get his team a bucket. Much of Banchero’s shot selection can be puzzling and frustrating, but the fact that he can even attempt half the shots he does at his size is astounding. He doesn’t need to be a deadeye shooter from outside because his ability to get to the rim and dissect defenses in the mid-range is unparalleled in this draft class.
What stands out immediately with Banchero’s on-ball creation is the physicality he uses when he attacks the basket. Banchero knows how big and strong he is, and he isn’t afraid to impose his will. This season, Banchero ranked in the 74th percentile with 1.25 points per possession (PPP) on shots at the rim in non-post-up situations, per Synergy. Banchero’s acceptance of physicality is a significant reason for this success.
Here, Banchero gets a matchup in the post against a slightly smaller defender and immediately goes to work. Banchero quickly eyes the lane and sees the help defender isn’t fully sunk down in the lane. With a quick first step, Banchero lowers his shoulder and attacks the lane. Banchero’s defender tries to bump him off his route, but Banchero absorbs the contact before further displacing the defender to set up the layup.
While seeing someone Banchero’s size play with that level of physicality shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise, it is encouraging when you try to forecast how he’ll adapt to NBA physicality. What’s even more encouraging, though, is how Banchero pairs his bully ball with his exquisite footwork and agility.
Here, Banchero sets up in the mid-post and uses a series of jab steps before attacking (we’ll see much more of this). After getting his defender to switch his stance, Banchero attempts to attack the defender’s high foot and the middle of the floor. The defender moves his feet well to cut off the drive, but Banchero counters with a perfectly timed spin against the defender’s momentum. The help defender is there in time on the rotation, but Banchero’s strength is too much as he finishes through the contact.
Players that are Banchero’s size shouldn’t be able to move like he so frequently does. With regularity, Banchero gets his defender leaning in one direction before hitting them with a spin move that you’d think came from a guard.
Here, Banchero quickly crosses over and drives. Once his defender begins to turn his hips, Banchero hits him with a perfect spin move that removes the defender from the play, and the defense has to resort to fouling Banchero to prevent the layup.
At first glance, Banchero’s perfect execution of the spin move may seem like happenstance. It’s like any video game—if you spam the same move enough times, it’s bound to produce at least some great results. That’s not the case, though, as Banchero’s spin moves rarely mirror each other. They are thoughtful, well-timed, and not just a symptom of extraordinary physical gifts.
The below move initially left me underwhelmed as I chalked it up to a physical specimen taking advantage of a slower-footed defender. While there is some of that in play, there is also an impressive level of processing speed. As Banchero approaches the lane, he simulates initiating a post-up. When he does so, we can see the defender lean in on him to absorb the contact and create an obstacle. Instead of trying to overpower the defender, Banchero feels the pressure and spins off it for an easy layup.
Like I said earlier, no two Banchero spin moves are made the same. Some require rapid processing, while others combine strength with speed. Here, we see how Banchero pairs his stellar ball-handling with his physical ability to become a nearly impossible defensive assignment. Banchero strings together a series of violent crossovers to get his defender’s momentum shifting from side to side. As he crosses over towards the middle of the floor, the defender flips his stance, which is precisely when Banchero spins back against the defender’s momentum. The defender has no chance of recovering as Banchero finishes with the layup.
Banchero’s sense of momentum manipulation is unique for a player at his size and position. We saw it with his drives to the rim, but it is also evident when he attacks in the post and intermediate area in a more methodical fashion. This season, Banchero scored 1.143 PPP on floaters (94th percentile) and 0.917 PPP on post-ups (69th percentile).
Here, Banchero attacks the right block and semi-initiates a post-up. Once he gets to his spot, Banchero uses a simple shot fake that the defender bites on before laying it in.
Like the earlier clips, this seems like a routine play, and in some instances, it is. However, when you look at the different angles Banchero attacks at throughout the play and how he moves his feet without losing balance, it becomes much more impressive.
Again, we see Banchero attack his spot and then use his patience, craft, and footwork to set up the easy score. After getting to the block, Banchero simulates a baseline fadeaway, one of his favorite shots, and the defender bites on the fake. Instead of attempting the tougher shot, Banchero keeps his balance, steps through, and finishes with the easy layup.
Not all of Banchero’s on-ball creation results in shots at the rim. While there are some promising signs for his space creation on outside shots, Banchero has the tools to be a killer in the mid-range. The mid-range jumper had a bit of a PR hit the last few seasons, but it was never a bad shot for primary scoring options.
This season, Banchero scored 0.88 PPP on all jumpers within 17 feet (70th percentile) and 1.026 PPP on all jumpers between 17 feet and the three-point line (93rd percentile). You may get frustrated by the prevalence of Banchero’s mid-range pull-up, but it is a shot that he will thrive on.
Banchero is much more comfortable getting into his mid-range pull-up than his outside jumper. His size gives him a significant advantage in terms of creating space, but his threat of getting to the basket is equally important, as we can see below.
Banchero yet again uses a stutter step rip through to unbalance his defender. With conviction, Banchero attacks the free-throw line, which gets his defender to rapidly retreat to cut off the drive. Instead, Banchero rises up for the uncontested mid-range jumper.
There are so many different elements that go into on-ball creation, and scoring is the most prominent one. At the end of the day, basketball is about getting more buckets than your opponent—an area in which Banchero often thrives. In the NBA, though, players who are exclusively scorers frequently get minimized. While Banchero’s scoring should translate seamlessly, he isn’t just a scorer on offense. What makes Banchero’s on-ball creation so special is his ability to use his scoring gravity to create for others.
Here, we see Banchero attack in a similar fashion as we did earlier. He drives hard to the block and spins against his defender’s momentum. This time, though, Banchero is immediately met by a help defender. Instead of panicking, Banchero keeps his balance and uses a shot fake, which gets the help defender to raise his hands. Banchero proceeds to change the angle and deliver a scoop pass to his teammate for the easy dunk.
This time, we see Banchero break out the lightning-quick spin move to force the rotation. Unlike the previous play, Banchero is a bit more out of control and is already elevating out of his spin before he sees the rotation. As he elevates, though, Banchero processes the situation, brings the ball down to change the angle of his pass, and kicks out to the open corner shooter.
Like his scoring, Banchero’s passing also has a sense of flair to it. Here, Banchero attacks baseline, and his scoring gravity forces the defense to collapse. Banchero stares down his teammate on the opposite wing, which moves the defender at the top of the key. After moving the defender, Banchero delivers a perfect no-look pass to set up the open three.
Paolo Banchero isn’t a perfect prospect, but few, if any, prospects in the 2022 NBA Draft come close to matching his on-ball creation. Banchero uses a unique blend of skill, size, strength, and speed that is rare for players his size. Banchero will face early scoring struggles as all young players do, but there isn’t much in terms of on-ball creation that he can’t do.