Paolo Banchero’s efficiency starts with his dribbling

Paolo Banchero still has a lot to learn about how to be more efficient with his scoring. It starts with his dribbling. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Paolo Banchero still has a lot to learn about how to be more efficient with his scoring. It starts with his dribbling. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

Paolo Banchero is ready to reset.

The FIBA World Cup is over and so is his time as a backup center. Indeed, it is back to his regularly scheduled programming.

The programming where Banchero averaged 20.0 points per game as a rookie, took 15.6 field goal attempts per game, lived at the line for 7.4 free throw attempts per game and generally looks like an All-Star.

Team USA was great for showing Banchero could be more of a two-way player and supporting player. It certainly should have given the Orlando Magic ideas on how to put Banchero in different positions to maximize his strengths and the team’s strengths.

This appeared to be a summer of expansion for Banchero into some other skills outside of his scoring.

Make no mistake about it though, Bancero’s greatest value in this league is that he can be an elite scorer, able to step out and hit jumpers in a variety of ways and bully his way to the basket and to the foul line. The Magic did not have a non-center average 20 points per game in a season since Steve Francis in 2005 before Paolo Banchero’s season last year. And he was a rookie.

Paolo Banchero will look to build on a stellar rookie year. His rise to stardom starts with his efficiency and that starts with the basics: His economy of dribbling.

Paolo Banchero had a rookie year that had him compared with Hall of Fame players. Those are lofty expectations for him to reach and get to.

The question everyone has for his second year is how does Banchero take steps to get there.

Being a star and being among the best in the league is a precise practice. It is understanding how to use all the strengths a player has to beat the defense with its attention trained directly on you. There is no time for a star player to waste movement and energy.

If you watch the best players in the league, what stands out quickly about them is how efficient their movements are. This is what they practice in their drills — they are working on how many dribbles it takes to get to a spot or the efficiency of their movement as much as the shot itself.

Banchero’s need to improve his efficiency is not simply about shooting better. It is about being more efficient with his movements and more intentional with how he gets to his spots and into his shots.

Banchero’s biggest blemish in his rookie was his expected struggles as a shooter. It was the only hole anyone was able to poke in his Rookie of the Year campaign (and maybe cost him two first-place votes in his bid to be unanimous Rookie of the Year).

He had shooting splits of 42.7/29.8/73.8. His 3-point percentage is often cited as a point of main concern, but those numbers are heavily weighed down by a 1-for-33 performance from beyond the arc in February when he was reportedly dealing with a nerve issue. Take that out and Banchero shot a more respectable 33.3 percent from deep.

That is at least something to build on — although always take out large swaths of games at your own peril.

Banchero needs to be able to hit 3-pointers to keep opponents honest. But that is not the main way that he will attack.

A good chunk of Banchero’s attacks came in isolation and off the dribble. He had 3.2 isolation possessions per game scoring a mediocre 0.85 points per possession in those scenarios. He shot only 38.3 percent on his isolation plays.

He shot 35.1 percent on 5.6 pull-up shots per game and 48.4 percent on 4.7 field goal attempts per game when he dribbled it 4-6 times.

Banchero liked to take plenty of dribbles to set himself up. Clearly, that could get him in trouble even if he was an effective shooter off multiple dribbles and by slowing the game down. None of these stats include his ability to get to the foul line in those situations.

Banchero’s efficiency is going to be reflected in his ability to make more shots on fewer attempts. But getting to that efficiency is the trick. And you can see how he can refine his game with how he gets those shots.

Banchero was second on the team with 64.8 touches per game, trailing only Markelle Fultz. He averaged 2.80 dribbles per touch, trailing only the Magic’s point guards and ball handlers and Franz Wagner.

Every player is obviously different. And Banchero is going to have the ball in his hands a lot. So being better and more effective with the ball in his hands is going to become that much more important to his increasing all of his relevant counting stats.

It is best to look at this by comparison then.

Here is a fairly simple play from Paolo Banchero as he sizes up Al Horford on a switch in the January game against the Boston Celtics.

Banchero is able to rock players to sleep with his rhythmic dribble, but really sit down and ask: What is the purpose of each dribble? How efficient is this movement?

He dribbles around the screen to get the matchup he wants and then resets to begin sizing Horford up. But Horford holds his ground. Banchero seems to lose his handle a bit as he tries to figure out what to do before settling for this pull-up jumper.

In total, Banchero dribbles it four times and does not really seem to get anywhere and settles for the jumper.

Horford is an excellent defender, but none of Banchero’s dribbles really did anything to set up Horford. Banchero was seemingly waiting for Horford to lean. And Banchero found no cracks in that defensive foundation.

This is the extra layer of thinking Banchero has to ask himself as he drives and attacks now. How can he more effectively set up his man and get to his spots. Perhaps as a rookie, Banchero is still figuring out where his spots are.

Compare this to a shot from Jayson Tatum in the same game.

Notice how much quicker Tatum is with his movements and how he gets to the basket with seemingly the fewest dribbles possible.

From the time Tatum resets to size Banchero up, he is at the basket in four dribbles. And each dribble has a purpose to twist the defense — especially the in-and-out dribble that gets Markelle Fultz leaning back toward the middle of the paint.

Tatum averaged 74.9 touches per game with 2.85 dribbles per touch according to data from Second Spectrum. He scored 0.401 points per touch (Banchero was at 0.308 points per touch).

Elite players like Jayson Tatum — and Kevin Durant for another instance (66.3 touches per game, 2.55 dribbles per touch and 0.438 points per touch) — are experts at maximizing their touches and their attacks on as few dribbles as possible.

It should be no coincidence that these are the players Banchero worked with and tried to learn from this offseason as he learns how to be a star on their level.

It is an economy of efficiency for these elite players. That is one of the things Banchero is going to have to learn.

Banchero was still very good. There was a lot to build on and work with for him. But like most rookies, Banchero had a lot to learn about playing the NBA game.

Banchero should see shooting percentage bumps everyone this season. He has been through the NBA wringer once and should be able to lean on the experience to make himself better this offseason.

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But getting better at the kinds of shots Banchero takes will start from the foundation first. It starts with his ability to dribble and set up his shots in a more efficient and cleaner manner.

For the best players, efficiency starts with these details above all else.