What we’ve learned through one week of Orlando Magic’s FIBA friendlies

Paolo Banchero is still getting comfortable with his role with the United States. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO/AFP via Getty Images)
Paolo Banchero is still getting comfortable with his role with the United States. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Paolo Banchero, United States
Paolo Banchero showed some good signs in the United States’ win over Puerto Rico. Banchero logged significant minutes at center as the team starts to come together. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

What we’ve learned from one week of FIBA play

Paolo Banchero and Team USA

Nobody really knew what to expect from Paolo Banchero when he announced he was joining Team USA. We all assumed Banchero will have his one-on-one scoring ability fine-tuned.

But that is not what Team USA would ask of him. He would be essentially a stretch-5 in a lot of ways and he would have to improve his defense and his outside shooting.

That would ultimately be a good thing for him as he expands his game. And it appears the U.S. has the same ideas of trying to use all of Banchero’s versatility.

In Monday’s game against Puerto Rico, the U.S. used Banchero as the team’s backup center for an extended period of time. They did it again in both games against Slovenia and Spain. It was an interesting experiment considering the Orlando Magic only used Banchero at center for three percent of his minutes according to Basketball-Reference — and most of those minutes were alongside Bol Bol.

This puts some special pressure on Banchero in addition to his learning how to play more off the ball and pick his spots better. And the thing we have learned in the first week is that Banchero still has a lot of rough edges to shave down to be a complete player.

We all know Banchero can be a dominant scorer. He is still getting to the line an impressive number of times during his limited on-ball touches offensively. That will still be there when he returns to Orlando.

What this summer has truly been about are the other things.

Banchero has shown some interesting things. He still soaks up a lot of attention on his rolls to the basket, even when he does not get the ball. And he has been solid setting screens. He has also been pretty attentive switching onto perimeter players — although there are plenty of miscommunication issues plaguing this team when they are switching that much.

But Banchero has still been rough in a lot of areas.

He has forced some of his drives and had turnover problems — especially in Sunday’s win over Spain as Spain packed the paint and frustrated the U.S. with some pressure defense.

More importantly, Banchero has struggled a ton on the glass. He is not gobbling up rebounds in his minutes at center. You have to give him credit for boxing out and trying to be physical, but even Santi Aldama was finding holes against him defensively.

Overall, Team USA still has to clean up a lot of details. They clearly have the talent to win. But everything will come down to trusting each other and knowing to move the ball and switch more seamlessly on defense.

That is what these exhibition games are for though. They have a week and two more games to get themselves ready for the games to count.