Paolo Banchero Can Solidify NBA Draft Stock With Strong Final Four Showing for Duke

Paolo Banchero of the Duke Devils will be the best player on the floor when his team takes on their biter rivals, the North Carolina Tar Heels, in the Final Four. In fact, he’s arguably the best college basketball player in the country, and he soon could be the best player in the 2022 NBA Draft.

If he’s not the best, he’s one of them, along with Chet Holmgren from Gonzaga and Auburn big man Jabari Smith Jr.

Banchero can prove his worth as the top prospect in the upcoming NBA Draft by continuing what has been an excellent tournament run so far with a strong showing in the Final Four.

Paolo Banchero has been excellent in March Madness for Duke 

To be fair to Banchero, he’s already made a strong case for going No. 1 overall because of his body of work throughout the season and so far in the tournament.

Players like him, 6-foot-10, 250-pound forwards with extreme athleticism and the ability to score both inside and out, don’t just grow on trees. 

He’s put up 17.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game this season, proving to be a true playmaker who can get his own while facilitating for the players around him. 

Much like Cade Cunningham has done for the Detroit Pistons as last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Banchero is the type of talent who can quickly raise the floor for a team. He can make it better because of his talent, but also because he can make the players around him better.

He was already impressive enough heading into March Madness, but NBA scouts are sure to notice that he’s stepped up when Duke has needed him most.

The Blue Devils have gone through teams like No. 7 Michigan State, No. 3 Texas Tech, and No. 4 Arkansas on this run, and Banchero has been excellent.

He’s averaging 18.5 points, seven rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game in the tournament.

Banchero has some impressive NBA comparisons 

Paolo Banchero, Duke Blue Devils
Paolo Banchero #5 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after drawing a foul against E.J. Anosike #24 of the Cal State Fullerton Titans | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Kevin O’Connor, who writes The Ringer’s NBA Draft Guide, recently moved Banchero to No. 1 on his big board, and he explained that the Duke star’s play in the tournament has been a big reason why.

More specifically, it’s the fact that legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has given Banchero the keys to the offense and has asked him to be the primary ballhandler. Again, we’re talking about a 6-foot-10 freshman. Krzyzewski has seen a lot of great basketball players. It says something that he’s trusting Banchero with this moment, especially considering the historical implications for his own career.

In terms of how Banchero’s game translates to the NBA, O’Connor came up with some pretty impressive comps.

“When Banchero spins into the paint, he can seamlessly transition into layups or passes to teammates. He has a feel for drawing defenders in to open up a passing lane. There’s a little Blake Griffin in him, or maybe Julius Randle at his best,” O’Connor wrote. “He can post up with his back to the basket or face up. But he’s most dangerous as a scorer off the dribble. In a way, he looks like a tall kid who grew up watching Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James with the way he looks to attack.”

Banchero can solidify himself as the No. 1 overall pick in the Final Four

Paolo Banchero, Final Four
Paolo Banchero #5 of the Duke Blue Devils looks to shoot as Jimmy Boeheim #0 of the Syracuse Orange defends | Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Talent aside, the one thing all NBA scouts and general managers look for is that X-factor. Can this player be the face of my franchise and come up big when the moment calls for it?

“Teams wonder whether Banchero can be the face of a franchise or whether he’s more of a supporting star,” O’Connor relayed.

Banchero has no better opportunity than the Final Four to prove that he can be a franchise player. 

If he comes up big for Duke in arguably the most anticipated college basketball game in history, the first matchup between Duke and UNC in NCAA Tournament history, teams like the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, and Pistons (all in contention for the No. 1 overall pick) will have definitive proof that he’s a player who can be trusted to help turn around a franchise.

Krzyzewski has seen that “it” factor in Banchero, and that’s worth a lot. Beating North Carolina in the biggest game of his young career to date would be another step towards proving that the moment is not too big.

NBA teams will take notice.

Stats courtesy of ESPN.

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