Early season play spawned a critical conversation about Banchero’s unwillingness or inability to pass. Through great improvement — and simply watching the tape — Banchero beat the ball-hog allegations. In fact, he established himself as possibly the best passer in the class, incredible at his size.
It cannot be overstated how gifted of a playmaker he is at his size. He is the same height and weight as Dwight Howard — keep that in mind when watching him.
Right now, Banchero is not a full-on offensive conductor, but he is a lead member of the orchestra. President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman recently stated on the Ryen Russillo Podcast that by Orlando’s metrics, Banchero ranked in the 90th percentile in both creating shots for himself and creating shots for others.
These are directly proportional.
His scoring gravity will be his greatest playmaking asset. He forces teams to load the ball — where all help defenders get in position on the strong side forming a defensive wall, leaving the skip pass to the weak side corner open (A.J. Griffin plans to send thank-you notes to Paolo Banchero each time his paycheck cashes).
Banchero was reluctant to hit this pass early in the season, but he grew into it and projects to become excellent at it.
Where Banchero’s playing truly thrives though is his interior and short-roll passing. There are zero prospects in this draft who can hit cutters like Banchero. He attracts so much attention and is legitimately gifted and creative at finding his teammates when they are active off-ball.
He uses his huge frame to pass over defenses and create angles that are only available to him.
This disproportionally bends defenses and causes fractures along seams that typically do not exist.
Pairing this ability with the current Magic personnel will be a phantasmagoric experience. Attempting to reconcile Franz Wagner’s celestially brilliant cutting ability with Paolo Banchero’s elegant interior passing will make opposing coaches break out in hives.
Banchero needs to continue to improve his passing. He could be a much better entry-passer, especially since his size should allow him to create easy angles. He also is not particularly excellent yet at manipulating defenses with his passing and hitting crisp pocket passes to rollers, typically opting for a more over-the-top approach.
These will come in time. He possesses the IQ, feel, vision, and coordination which are the less-teachable aspects of playmaking.
Duke’s offense severely lacked the creativity to fully unlock Banchero’s playmaking abilities. There were limited dribble hand-offs and smaller players setting picks for Banchero.
This will also change in the pros.
Wagner and Banchero will set screens for each other, putting defenses in a real bind if they do not have multiple huge wing defenders. Throw Wendell Carter’s spacing and passing into the mix and this front court is already one of the most gifted and versatile in the entire NBA.
Orlando’s backcourt severely lacking shooting will be a limiting factor on this team’s ceiling. While having three bigs who can all shoot relatively well allows for one non-shooter at guard, it is untenable to maintain a quality NBA offense with two non-shooters at guard.
Orlando needs to pray for shooting improvement or look for it outside of the current roster. That is an OK spot to be in. Ultimately, you can find shooting in free agency. You cannot find under 21, 6-foot-10, self-creating, playmaking, three-level scoring, apex-predator wings.
Orlando now has two.