After many seemed to count Paolo Banchero out of the 1st overall pick conversation, he’s come out during the NCAA Tournament and shown precisely why he’s very much still in the conversation. While he’s seen his fair share of struggles during the regular season, he’s continued to adjust his game to better fit Duke’s other personnel, and the adjustments have produced some compelling results. He’s clearly improved as a playmaker and defender since our first mock draft despite struggling to score a bit, and since the beginning of the ACC Tournament, his 3-point shooting has been coming along very nicely.
I’m very confident in saying, particularly after his standout performance against Texas Tech, that Banchero has the most well-rounded and NBA-ready offensive skillset out of all prospects in and around the top five, and he could have a day-one impact as a scorer in the NBA. While I don’t particularly love the comparisons he’s getting to Jayson Tatum and Carmelo Anthony, he certainly has the size, ball-handling ability, and shot-creation skills necessary to have a similar impact.
His defense will need to be a bit more consistent, but in the times he has shown more attentiveness on that end of the floor, very good things have happened for Duke. His functional athleticism, feel for the game, and basketball IQ make me fairly confident that better defense will come in due time.
Some claim that Banchero won’t fit well with the current Magic roster, but I beg to differ. Even if the fit is a bit finicky, though, I think Orlando desperately needs a player with true superstar upside, and looking at their available choices, Banchero has the clearest path to realizing that potential.