The Portland Trail Blazers’ forgettable 2021-22 season is in the books and it is time to turn our attention to the 2022 NBA Draft. Unlike recent years, Portland has multiple picks in this year’s process. After finishing the regular season with a 27-55 record, the Blazers enter the lottery draw with the sixth-best odds in the NBA. Buoyed by those odds, the Blazers are poised to exit the draft with the rights to a marquee prospect.
Duke star Paolo Banchero is the prospect featured in this profile. During his lone season at Duke, Banchero established himself as a premier talent.
- Height: 6’10”
- WT: 250
- Wingspan: 7’1”
- Shooting Hand: Right
- Position: F
- Age: 19
- Projected draft range: 1-3
- PTS: 17.2 | Per 40: 20.9
- REB: 7.8 | Per 40: 9.5
- STL: 1.1 | Per 40: 1.3
- BLK: 0.9 | Per 40: 1.1
- AST: 3.2 | Per 40: 3.9
- FG%: 47.8
- 3P%: 33.8
- FT%: 72.9
Banchero has an NBA-ready frame, upside, and developed offensive game. He is dangerous in both half-court and transition opportunities. On the break, his natural guard skills allow him to turn rebounds into easy scoring opportunities. Banchero is comfortable acting as the primary option once the action slows down. His footwork and body control are truly impressive. In the post, he pieces together several moves with expert timing to create open windows.
Banchero’s blend of inside-the-arc talents create matchup nightmares across the board. Smaller defenders struggle to hold position on the block and they lack the length to interrupt his shot attempts. Traditional post players routinely fail to match Banchero’s speed and agility. Banchero’s multi-layered post moves shine against larger defenders. In either scenario, he finishes through contact with ease. He connected on 70.5 percent of his 132 attempts at the rim, per CBB Analytics.
Outside of his own scoring, Banchero’s court vision sets the table for his teammates. He does not panic when defenses send extra help. Banchero routinely makes the right pass out of pressure. On drives and in the paint, Banchero’s pocket passing is right on target. Moving forward, he has real potential to dismantle defenses from the high post.
Defensively, Banchero has the athleticism and size to cover multiple positions. He switched comfortably in space and avoided fouls in one-on-one situations. In the post, Banchero tracks the ball effectively for blocks and rebounds.
Banchero’s three-point efficiency fluctuated throughout the season. His pull-up attempts from distance were too often contested and rushed. Along with his three-point struggles, Banchero took an abundance of midrange shots. In the NBA, he will likely be asked to eliminate those low efficiency shots.
Defensively, Banchero was not always engaged. He carried a massive offensive load as a freshman, and it showed on the other end of the floor at times. It was not uncommon to find Banchero a step late in half-court situations.
Athletically, Banchero is more powerful than explosive. That could limit his ability to fully exploit high-level perimeter defenders in the NBA.
Banchero led a talented crop of freshmen at Duke to a 32-7 record. The Blue Devils entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 2 seed and marched all the way to the Final Four. During postseason play, Banchero crossed the 20-point threshold twice. Banchero’s tournament run came to an end when Duke exited with a four-point loss to rival North Carolina.
Banchero earned a spot on the All-ACC First Team and the Consensus All-American Second Team. He also took home the ACC Rookie of the Year award.
Banchero’s blend of NBA-ready size and skills make him the safest pick in the 2022 draft. Even if his three-point shot fails to develop, he has a sturdy foundation of other half-court strengths to fall back on. His fundamentals and calm-under-pressure attitude will add value to multiple rotation combinations.
If his three-point shooting improves, Banchero is a true three-level threat. In that scenario, he fits the mold of a player that could carry a title-contending offense. Defensively, all the physical tools are there. In the right situation and role, he shouldn’t be a liability on that end of the floor.
Banchero’s high usage at Duke has tainted his potential value for the Blazers. Of the top three players, Banchero’s game is the one that is most likely to take possessions away from Portland’s current cast. While that assessment certainly appears true on paper, Banchero’s passing and decision making could make him an ideal fit for an immediate role as a tertiary option.
As a rookie starter in a modest role, Banchero is a strong candidate to impact the game in a positive way from the baseline. He is an athletic finisher and a strong decision maker. That blend should translate nicely to the dunker’s spot. In minutes with reserve players, Banchero has the potential to undertake a central role as a primary option.
Overall, Banchero fits on Damian Lillard’s timeline and he has the potential to operate as a franchise cornerstone down the road.