Paolo Banchero is a unique player.
Everyone can feel it. The world is about to see it come out during his run at the FIBA World Cup with USA Basketball.
There are just so few 6-foot-10 players who can move with the fluidity he can, who can score with the precision he can and pass the ball at his size that he can. The Orlando Magic have always valued versatility and Banchero seemed to build that in his rookie year.
There are a lot of things to like about Banchero obviously — and a lot for him to improve on offensively, especially as he gets more efficient with his shot. He does so many things that a 6-foot-10 forward should not do.
It is sometimes easy to forget there are still traditional responsibilities for a big man. These are not things the team can shrift. These are not things Banchero can shrift. And among the many things Banchero — and by extension the Magic — have to improve is their consistency with their rebounding.
The Orlando Magic could still stand to make little improvements on the glass. Getting better rebounding efforts from forwards like Paolo Banchero could pay big dividends next season.
It is not that Banchero, like so many other players on the Magic, are poor rebounders. It is that they lack a dominant rebounder to control the glass. And so everyone has to do their part. Everyone has to step up.
Banchero finished last year second on the team in raw rebounds with 6.9 rebounds per game. The Magic as a team finished eighth in the league in defensive rebound rate at 73.0 percent. Orlando was fine rebounding overall in many ways. A lot of players contributed to that number.
Banchero definitely did his part. He had a defensive rebound rate of 17.4 percent. That trailed only Jonathan Isaac and Bol Bol among non-centers on the team.
But it is also clear that Banchero’s rebounding was a bit inconsistent. He had 10 or more rebounds only 14 times all season. That is fairly impressive for a rookie. But it is also a sign for improvement.
Still, that 17.4 percent defensive rebound rate was 65th among players 6-foot-10 or taller who played at least 24 minutes per game. Franz Wagner was last in that category.
It is not that Banchero or Wagner or the Magic as a team are poor rebounders, but it is just that they could be better. And the Magic may need them to be better in the long run. It is just hard to win without dominant rebounding center if a team’s forwards are not helping out on the glass.
This is the contradiction of the Magic’s lineup. They have all this size, length and skill. Their forwards have this skill versatility to do things that guards do. But they still need to perform the traditional role of forwards — even though Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs rate really well as rebounders for guards.
With so many threes and potentially long rebounds, maybe rebounding is not as important from any one individual. But there are still some concepts and ideas about positional roles that matter. And this is just an area where Banchero could be better.
The good news is there are all the hints that he can be better. Even just beyond his raw rebounding numbers and the big rebounding games he had last year — his season-high as a rookie was 16 in the November overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings (he scored 33 in that game).
According to data from Second Spectrum and Basketball-Index, Banchero had an adjusted defensive rebound rate of 73.50 percent, putting him in the 87th percentile. According to Basketball Index, he had a +0.45 defensive rebound conversion skill rating (91st percentile) and a +0.26 defensive rebound talent rating (85th percentile).
This all suggests that Banchero can be a pretty good rebounder. When he is chasing after rebounds, especially, he is going to get him.
So much of rebounding is about desire. Banchero has the size to be a rebounder, obviously, but the effort on the glass is not always there.
Banchero had an adjusted box out rate of 0.96 percent according to Basketball Index, putting him in the bottom quarter of the league in that metric.
According to data from Second Spectrum, Banchero was second on the team with 1.4 contested defensive rebounds per game but his contested defensive rebound percentage of 24.5 percent rated worse than Admiral Schofield and Michael Carter-Williams in their small sample sizes.
His average rebounding distance according to data from Second Spectrum was 5.5 feet, one of the shortest in the league — although bigs travel less for rebounds than guards and wings (Carter was at 4.7 feet).
Indeed, according to NBA.com’s tracking stats, Paolo Banchero averaged only 0.7 box outs per game — Wendell Carter led the team at 1.5 per game. That is still near the top of the list for Magic players, but it shows a bit where his defensive energy might be lacking.
The Magic are not going to play two bigs together most likely — they never did that with Carter last year. And Orlando very well could experiment with some more lineups with Paolo Banchero at the 5 or playing alongside another versatile forward like Jonathan Isaac.
If they are going to do this, they are going to need more secure rebounding. And that is going to be incumbent on Banchero to take advantage of his size on the glass too.
Like so many other things with Banchero, it is not anything big that will change him or lead to improvement for the Magic. It is a little thing — something that several players could improve on too to help. And this does not even talk about offensive rebounding which the Magic as a whole did not invest much in last year.
Rebounding will really be a symbol of Banchero’s overall engagement and focus on the defensive end. That is something that can wane in rookies. And so for Banchero this is a matter of focus as much as anything.
Banchero’s run with Team USA may help in this regard. His role with the national team will likely not be as a primary scorer. His value to the team will come from his size and his ability to rebound. That could very well be a deciding factor in whether he gets playing time when the team gets to the FIBA World Cup.
These little things add up. They seem small — getting maybe an extra two or three rebounds per game — but that could shift games and turn losses into wins.
Really this is a symbol of so much of what the Magic are trying to accomplish this season. They need everyone to be a bit more mature and focused fo rthe full 48 minutes and full 82 games. That is a difficult thing to learn but necessary for this young team.