Signs of Duke basketball greatness: What to expect from Paolo Banchero

Duke basketball freshman Paolo Banchero (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Duke basketball freshman Paolo Banchero (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Paolo Banchero can be the star to lead Duke basketball to a national title.

The top-rated Duke basketball rookie and No. 2-ranked prospect in his class by 247Sports and Rivals, Paolo Banchero is ready to solidify himself as a Blue Devil great.

Banchero comes to Duke with high hopes placed upon him. It is head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 42nd and final season in Durham, and there is no better sendoff for a legend than to win a national championship.

If there was a team that was capable of doing so, it is the 2021-22 Blue Devils.

Paired alongside talented incoming recruits such as fellow top 20 five-star prospects AJ Griffin and Trevor Keels, with four-star Jaylen Blakes as a tremendous complementary piece, Banchero has one of the premier supporting casts in all of college basketball. However, this doesn’t scream what the 6-foot-10 power forward alone can bring to the table.

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In his junior season at O’Dea (Wash.), Banchero displayed to the world what he can do on the basketball court. He averaged 22.6 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.6 blocks per game. Not only is the Seattle native a great talent on offense, but he can also hold his own on the defensive side of the ball.

His ability to hit the pull-up jumper at his height and position will make him a matchup nightmare for opposing defenders. However, one of the most underrated aspects of Banchero’s game is his playmaking ability.

By no means is the former MaxPreps Junior Player of the Year an elite passer. But he is nowhere close to being selfish. Rather, Banchero thrives at finding teammates who are cutting to the basket. O’Dea took advantage of that, running a lot of sets that showcased his passing ability in the optimal light.

Banchero is exceptional at connecting on a high-low pass in the paint when standing at the foul line. That skill should be quite useful in Durham, especially when alongside 7-foot sophomore center Mark Williams.

What does Paolo Banchero bring to Duke basketball?

Paolo Banchero brings star-level talent and skill to the Duke basketball program. And he has one of the most admirable traits to find within stars: the ability to make those around him better.

He’s a confident shooter for his position, which is a great luxury to have in stretching the court. This ought to enable guys like Jeremy Roach, Trevor Keels, AJ Griffin, and Jaylen Blakes to be more effective driving to the basket since the paint won’t be clogged up.

Just the presence of Banchero on the court is enough to open up so many offensive opportunities for the Blue Devils.

To picture it in a better light, not necessarily comparing Banchero to Zion Williamson, but Paolo could mirror the impact that Zion had on the game for Duke.

It’s plausible this team will see multiple defenders sent out to guard Banchero game in and game out. One key is seeing how he handles those types of coverages, which will either propel him to elite-level status or hinder him from being as great as he could be.

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In totality, the Blue Devils have one of, if not, the most skilled players in the country. In what is Coach K’s farewell campaign, Banchero can solidify his place as a Duke basketball great by giving one of the greatest coaches in sports history one last championship.