Ahead of Coach K's final season, Duke men's basketball is bringing in several new players to Durham. In this series, we analyze film on each of the Blue Devils' new signees and transfers for the 2021-22 season. Previously, we took a look at Bates Jones, Theo John, Jaylen Blakes, AJ Griffin and Trevor Keels. Finally, we look at Paolo Banchero.
What can this player do on the court? This is the central question people try to figure out when evaluating a player. When evaluating Paolo Banchero, however, the more appropriate question may be, what can’t he do?
The Italian forward, ranked fourth in the 2021 ESPN 100, has already made his presence felt before setting foot on the floor of Cameron, helping recruit fellow freshman Trevor Keels and showcasing his personality in various social media appearances, and he is certainly going to impress more fans when the actual basketball action gets underway in October. Combining his 6-foot-10, 250-pound frame with a versatile skill set, Banchero is the prototypical modern big that today’s NBA teams are looking for.
Though listed as a power forward, Banchero’s offensive impacts extend far beyond the scope of traditional or even most modern big men in this position. As seen in the two preseason scrimmages, Banchero is very adept at utilizing his physical strength to move his defenders around in the post and get easy buckets even against taller opponents like Mark Williams.
In addition to his polished postup game, the Seattle, Wa. native can also create shooting space for himself in a faceup scenario with an efficient dribbling package, and he can knock down deep shots at a respectable rate. Look at how he freezes up his defender with a crossover then hits a smooth stepback trey in this clip.
However, what ultimately elevates the offensive threats of Banchero to another level is his ability to make good reads and facilitate other teammates. A dual athlete in high school, Banchero definitely brings some of his quarterback instincts onto the basketball court. In transition, he is comfortable bringing up the ball from the backcourt and distributing to the shooters waiting on the perimeter. In set offense, he can patiently draw multiple defenders onto him before dishing out a dime to the open man. Watch how quickly and accurately he fires a crosscourt pass to find his teammate on the other end.
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On the defensive end, the freshman can be a formidable presence in the paint for big men and guards alike. He can hold off centers in the post with his excellent lower body strength despite sometimes having a height disadvantage, but speedy guards also have to think twice before attacking the rim against Banchero because he has speed in addition to strength. Watch this clip as he recovers lost ground for a chasedown block, yet another tool in his arsenal.
A special talent on both ends of the floor, Banchero is beyond a doubt the core piece of Coach K’s final Duke team. Regardless of whether the highly touted recruit can lead Duke to glory like his Azzurri did on the soccer field this past summer, it is guaranteed to be an exciting season with him on the court.