3 ways Paolo Banchero will improve in 2024
At 6-foot-10 and weighing 250 pounds, Paolo Banchero has the physical attributes to be impactful on the defensive end of the floor.
A lot of the focus has been on his offense, but his defense certainly could improve. You expect rookies to be poor defensively, but Banchero clearly still has a ways to go to be an impactful defender and eventually a two-way player.
He averaged less than both one steal and one block per game in 2023. His steal and block percentage were down to 0.2 and 0.3 percent respectively. These numbers could be higher if he wants to contribute more toward Orlando’s defensive efforts.
The Magic could use it as they ranked in the bottom half of the league on team defensive rating (18th). They were in the middle of the road in the NBA in other defensive stat categories like defensive rebounding percentage, and opponents’ second-chance points.
Orlando did build itself defensively after the 5-20 start, finishing eighth in the league in defensive rating although there was a marginal improvement from their season average (113.1 points allowed per 100 possessions for the season compared to 113.0 after Dec. 7).
The Magic struggled while Banchero was on the floor though. For the season, the Magic had a 115.3 defensive rating with Paolo Banchero on the floor — only Gary Harris had a worse season-long mark among rotation players.
Even after Dec. 7 and the 5-20 start, the Magic had a 115.1 defensive rating with Banchero on the floor. That was the worst mark on the team among starters.
He might have had an offensive surge later in the season, but his defense slipped even as the team itself played better overall.
When it comes to points given up by opponents, there are certain extents to which Banchero struggles. Opponents shot 65.9 percent at the rim on 4.0 attempts per game against Banchero according to data from Second Spectrum — although opponents shot 3.10 percentage points worse at the rim than expected against him according to Basketball-Index.
Banchero does not rate as a good defender with a -0.19 on-ball perimeter defense rating, 1.35 deflections per 75 possessions and a +0.03 percent rim deterrence rating (meaning players are not afraid to attack the rim when he is there) according to Basketball Index.
Rookies always struggle with defense. And part of Banchero’s pre-Draft concerns centered on his defense. He has shown himself plenty capable of making defensive plays — just as Puerto Rico from Monday — but this is an area where he can be more attentive and more focused.
If Banchero can begin to realize the potential he has with his size when it comes to being more impactful defensively. It will really up his game and create more opportunities for him within the game.
In year two, the reigning rookie of the year is trying to accomplish bigger things. This may include an All-Star appearance.
To get there, fine-tuning the shooting from the free throw line as well as from beyond the arc will be key. He also could find a base defensively to help set him up for a lot more opportunities on the offensive end.