Paolo Banchero isn’t a new name for NBA Draft nuts. In fact, the baby-faced assassin was the No. 2 pick in ESNY’s first 2022 NBA Mock Draft. Banchero is the next one-and-done Duke Blue Devil on track to become a star at the next level.
There are areas for Banchero to improve, but it almost feels like nitpicking after a full-on examination of his game. He’s the most polished offensive player in the draft and is a lock to go in the top five.
Will the New York Knicks be there to take him? We have to wait for the NBA Lottery to see. As it stands, the Knicks have a 9.4% chance to jump into the top four and a 2.0% chance to lock up the top overall pick.
6’10”, 250, F, Duke (2002)
Strengths: Isolation Scoring, Footwork
There are no two ways about it: Banchero is the best offensive player in this draft. There are one or two guys with higher ceilings on that end of the floor, but no one in this class is as polished as the Washington native.
He dominated in isolation at Duke, using an array of moves to outsmart or overpower defenders. Don’t say the mid-range is dead because that part of the floor brings life to Banchero’s game. His size and skill make him a mismatch waiting to happen.
The mid-range and paint are where Banchero flourishes as a scorer, but he also has a strong feel for when to pass out of the double team. Although he won’t see as many double teams at the next level, he will need that playmaking ability when going up against better defenders.
Pristine footwork is a big part of the reason why I love Banchero so much. Footwork is one of the most overlooked skills in basketball because everyone is so focused on what is going on above the waist.
Banchero’s footwork is so good that it’s good when it’s not good. Feel free to read that sentence again. It’s a bit confusing, but essentially, the point is that Banchero can maintain balance and poise even when his footwork is a bit off.
He’s adept at jumping off the wrong foot to attack the rim or pulling up for a jumper when his feet are slightly misaligned. Again, even when his footwork isn’t perfect, he can make it work.
Footwork, footwork, footwork.
Weaknesses: Three-Point Shooting, Defense
Again, these “weaknesses” are nitpicking. Banchero showed promise as a catch-and-shoot guy, but his three-point shooting isn’t quite there yet. Extending that range and becoming more consistent from beyond the arc will help open up his deadly mid-range game. With that said, 33.8% from downtown in his one year at Duke isn’t terrible by any standard.
As for the defense, we saw flashes of defensive brilliance from Banchero during his freshman year. He’s not going to be a dominant rim protector, but he is athletic and instinctive on that end of the floor. He can provide solid over-the-top help in a strong scheme.
His offensive upside overwhelms any of the defensive concerns that are floating out there, but he still needs to improve that area of his game.
Fit With the Knicks
The fit is a bit wonky given the Knicks’ current roster construction. Would they feel comfortable playing him at the three spot instead of the four? If not, Knicks president Leon Rose would need to make a decision on Julius Randle. Banchero is too good to bury on the bench like Tom Thibodeau has done with Obi Toppin the last two years.
If New York is in a position to take Banchero, they shouldn’t hesitate. Gifted scorers don’t come around like this very often and he’s the type of player who can change the course of a franchise. The Knicks will need lucky ping pong balls in the lottery or a compelling trade-up package to get Banchero.
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