How Paolo Banchero stacks up against HoopsHype's Top 25 Under 25
Zion Williamson (23), New Orleans Pelicans
Ranked 11th on HoopsHype's list, Zion Williamson is the most interesting comparison on this list. A fellow former number one overall pick out of Duke himself, Williamson has been under a microscope since he first stepped into the league, touted as next up in the line of NBA superstars.
Four years in, it has been an up-and-down ride.
Injuries have been the biggest thing holding him back. The most amount of games he has played in a season was 61 back in 2020 when he was voted to his first All-Star team.
Bookending that season, however, is a 24-game rookie season and a 21-game season last year, in addition to an entire season missed in 2021 after undergoing foot surgery.
At his peak as a player, Williamson is an All-NBA caliber player. He has made the All-Star team in his last two seasons (2021 and 2023) with averages of 26.5 points per game, 7.1 rebounds per game and 4.2 assists per game. He is one of the top inside scorers in the NBA without a doubt.
Weight and conditioning concerns aside, Williamson's bag on the block is pretty large. Similar to Giannis Antetokounmpo's skill set, it looks as though Antetokounmpo simply uses his force and length to rip through and score inside. But both his and Williamson's craftiness and variety of post moves, combined with their strength, is a wrecking ball in the paint.
It is an interesting comparison between Zion Williamson and Paolo Banchero. They are both listed as frontcourt players (both forwards) but are vastly different in play style.
2x All-Star, 2019 All-Rookie
Williamson, with the few extra years in the league, has wrapped up a couple of All-Stars over Banchero. But outside of that, it is a pretty fair fight between the last two superstar Duke Blue Devils.
They have not faced each other in the regular season yet (March 5 will be their first career meeting in regular season action assuming both are healthy).
It is a fair assessment of both players to say that where Banchero clears is in his perimeter scoring and playmaking.
At 40 pounds lighter, Banchero's shiftiness on the wing is one of his key strengths. He is a great ball-handler and able to get to his spots on the outside and use it to attack the basket. As a three-point scorer, he is not among the very best but is right around league average from deep this year.
Williamson's outside scoring is a long-term concern for him with the league being perimeter-first on offense. He is simply an inside scorer first.
That is not a knock on his game but a positive on Banchero's end in comparison with Banchero's ability to be a three-level scorer. His touch around the rim combined with his raw power is an absolute force in the league but as a true three-level scorer, Banchero edges him here.
On the defensive end, Williamson showed up on the stat sheet right out of the gate. Blocks into the third row and ripaways turned into dunks were a problem for the league in his rookie year.
Again, Williamson's size makes him great on defense inside. But on the perimeter, Williamson's lateral quickness just is not enough to keep up with smaller forwards and guards on switches.
Granted, this was a preseason game, but Banchero's speed coming out of the transition was a lot for Williamson to handle. That, combined with his shiftiness, blew him by Williamson for the dunk.
As individual defenders, it is comparing apples and oranges. Williamson clears on interior defense, whereas Banchero's defense on the perimeter is much more effective.