Paolo Banchero: Orlando Magic’s new offensive engine
This is somewhat understandable because he possessed a relatively sleepy attitude on that end. Pair that with his subpar rim deterrence for his size and there are absolutely some legitimate concerns.
That being said, his defensive woes are way overblown. How many instances of super toolsy, big-bodied, high-usage wings who struggle defensively in college only to become excellent defenders in the NBA do we need to see? Ben Simmons and Jayson Tatum faced very similar critiques of their defensive abilities in college only to become elite two-way players.
You often need to examine the tools and not always the effort — though effort is a skill — because the NBA typically extracts effort from players as they mature past their 18-year-old seasons.
Banchero displayed real ability to switch onto guards and thrive with mostly quick feet, especially for his size. He turned it up in big games and showed he can produce some nice late peel-back blocks and sometimes displayed active hands in passing lanes.
There is genuine growth to be had here and his defensive versatility is slightly limited. In a perfect world, he would be able to be a point-center, but that world will likely never exist due to his limitations as an interior defender.
He also needs to improve his K.B.I.F (keep ball in front) ability, as he was a bit soft in letting wings glide by him instead of beating them to the spot. He struggled to execute open and through actions where he was supposed to stick on a cutter and lock in on them through the next screen they set.
In this action, you should shoot the gap by sliding through between the screener and your teammate who opens up, cutting off the ballhandler and allowing for the primary defender to recover.
Banchero would often bail on the screener or shoot the gap softly resulting in easy buckets. This is just one example of many “lazy” defensive habits that Banchero dabbled in.
Thankfully, the Orlando Magic have a near-perfect defensive infrastructure for Banchero to slot into. Wendell Carter’s continued growth as a rim protector will be what vaults Orlando’s defensive ceiling into the stratosphere.
Banchero can simply work on locking into and tagging cutters, pre-rotation and corralling wings. If he continues to slim down and work on his explosiveness there is a legitimate defensive ceiling here as a jumbo-wing point-of-attack defender. His feet and mentality must take a jump, but those are both extremely achievable through coaching and physical/mental maturity that comes with age and reps.
Banchero is a gifted prospect with the highest offensive ceiling in the draft. With expected improvement in shooting efficiency, passing versatility and defensive motor, he has crystal clear All-NBA upside.
He should not be penalized for how polished he is because there is plenty of room to grow — he just has a head start.
While other prospects will be working on the basics of their ball-handling, Banchero will be perfecting his craft and adding dynamic dribble moves. While other prospects will be working on their spot-ups, Banchero will be adding to his movement shooting and shooting off the bounce.
While other prospects will cross their fingers and hope they can add weight or increase their agility and wiggle, Banchero will focus on building on his already explosive set of physical traits.
The Magic are dynamic and exciting for the first time in ages and Banchero is the right man for the job of leading this team into the national stage.