Duke basketball: Should Paolo Banchero be the early ACC POY favorite?

Duke basketball freshman Paolo Banchero (USA Today)
Duke basketball freshman Paolo Banchero (USA Today) /

ACC foes won’t find ways to contain Duke basketball forward Paolo Banchero.

It has now been two years in a row that the Duke basketball program hasn’t seen a former player selected at the top of the NBA Draft. According to early draft projections for 2022, that streak will not last much longer.

Freshman Paolo Banchero is already the widely held favorite to be the overall top selection in next summer’s draft. Of course, there is a lot to change between now and then, but he seems primed to be the next one-and-done Blue Devil star that every NBA team would want.

Duke basketball rookie Paolo Banchero already looking like an NBA player

This upcoming Duke basketball season will allow Paolo Banchero to refine and improve all facets of his game. He is a physical and versatile forward with dynamic speed and athleticism. He’s a scoring threat from all three levels. In high school, he did most of his damage in the high and low post but also showed off a unique set of perimeter skills.

As of right now, Banchero doesn’t really have that one thing he does better than almost everybody else, but he also doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. The 6-foot-10, 250-pound five-star prospect plays extremely hard and with a competitive edge. He has that dog mentality, in which he is unafraid of any matchup and never wants to settle for anything other than his best.

Defensively is where Banchero could really make a big impact both next year for the Blue Devils and throughout his pro career. Given his size, strength, and athleticism, he should be able to comfortably guard both wings and big men. He also has the agility and foot speed to defend the perimeter when he gets switched onto guards.

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Over the past couple of weeks, he has been putting in work in his hometown of Seattle. He’s been playing in The Crawsover Pro-Am League, created by former NBA star Jamal Crawford. Banchero has put up monster numbers alongside NBA players, such as Dejounte Murray, Kevin Porter Jr., Marquese Chriss, and Malachi Flynn.

You wouldn’t be able to tell that Banchero is just a college freshman by the way he plays. The 18-year-old is very fundamentally sound, under control but aggressive in looking to make a play for himself or his team.

The ACC will be a very competitive conference next season. There are a lot of good players returning who will be in the mix for ACC Player of the Year. As of right now, though, it is hard to imagine Paolo Banchero as anything but the early favorite.

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He looks like a player who will have no trouble adjusting to the college game and is already at the top of early draft projections.