6-10, 250 lbs
Duke Freshman Big
Paolo Banchero has had many unfair critiques during his Freshman season at Duke. The failure of many of the top shot-creating fours in the league, especially over this last year, has cast Paolo in a more negative light than the film seems to suggest. People have become too focused on what he does in college and not what he does well.
Duke used Paolo much like how the Knicks have used Julius Randle over the past two years. This is not Paolo’s ideal role. His skill as a passer, ball-handler, and finisher/shooter theoretically allows him to be the perfect roll man next to a skilled guard. In an NBA context, guarding someone like Paolo will be extremely difficult. How do you guard someone who is a powerful roller, a solid popper, can pound mismatches and pass out of doubles? Duke didn’t exactly have the personnel to show that side of his game in college.
Paolo’s shot creation is just a bonus. It gives Paolo an insanely high ceiling to pair with his ridiculous floor. Juxtaposing Paolo to Randle just is not right because of Paolo’s vision and willingness to pass the ball. Randle is a low-level All-Star who constantly needs the ball and severely limits teambuilding on the floor and the cap sheet. Paolo is more than a poor man’s Randle.
Oh, and Paolo can shoot the ball too
Don’t let Paolo’s raw percentages fool you. The man is sitting around 34% from the field on a diet of difficult pull-ups and self-created looks. The only other freshman shooting 33% or better on 3’s this year (minimum 100 attempts) are the other two top forward/big prospects in Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith. That is pretty elite company to be in.
But does Houston have too many bigs?
A lot has been made of Paolo’s pretty poor fit with Alperen Sengun. It would be a massive blunder to miss on such a talented offensive player over someone who may never even be a starter (in Sengun). Paolo’s defensive limitations are apparent but are overblown. He does more minor things well, stays vertical at the rim, and rotates. He played in a scheme where his only job was to funnel guys into Mark Williams and let him deal with them, but in Houston he will be asked to do more. He’s not a stopper, but he’s a competent team defender who is not an absolute liability.
The other scare with Paolo is that he’s going to demand touches that take the ball away from the other talent. Like a lot of his criticisms, this too is overblown. His screening and passing make him a natural fit with Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green. This ability to make things easier for play-makers could unlock more potential in the Rocket’s youth.
In conclusion, I think that Paolo Banchero has a hidden side to his game that could be unlocked next to the Rockets’ young backcourt that guarantees a high floor. The shot-making and passing are just the upside icing on the cake. What do you think? Leave us a comment below!