Can Duke basketball star Paolo Banchero be better than Zion Williamson?

Duke basketball (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /

Duke basketball freshman star Paolo Banchero has a lot of hype surrounding him, but will he live up to it? 

In recent Duke basketball memory, the best freshman that has walked through the doors of Cameron Indoor Stadium has been Zion Williamson, but can a current Blue Devil rookie have a chance to have a better season than the former No. 1 overall pick?

One public intrasquad scrimmage is in the books for Duke, and the hype surrounding Paolo Banchero is only growing.

The Seattle, Washington native enters Durham as the No. 2 recruit in the Class of 2021, only trailing Gonzaga freshman Chet Holmgren, but Banchero is the current favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick in next season’s NBA Draft, according to the latest mock draft by The Athletic.

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Paolo Banchero was named as the ACC Preseason Player of the Year and the Preseason Freshman of the Year on Tuesday, becoming the first freshman in conference history to earn both honors prior to playing a game.

Friday night showed the playmaking skills of Banchero in driving to the rim, setting up teammates, and running the floor against, in blunt terms, benchwarmers on his own team.

His outside shot was not falling in his first public appearance as a Blue Devil, but his track record shows the outside jumper will be there as he gets more comfortable.

The skills Banchero showed at the high school level will only develop further in his one season at Duke, and he could approach the levels of what Zion Williamson showed in his spectacular year.

What stats would the Duke basketball freshman have to post to challenge Zion?

In just 33 games in a Duke uniform, Zion Williamson averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.1 steals, and 1.8 blocks per game while shooting 68.0-percent from the floor and 33.8-percent from 3-point range.

Williamson also won just about every individual award he was nominated for, including the ACC Player of the Year, Naismith Award, and Wooden Award.

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As a team, Williamson returned from injury to lead the Blue Devils to an ACC Tournament Championship but fell short of the main goal of winning a National Championship as Duke was bounced from the NCAA Tournament in the Elite Eight.

Could a stat line of 21.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game in addition to an ACC and National Championship be enough to have Banchero top Zion on the objective best Duke basketball freshmen list?

Paolo Banchero will have the chance to replicate Zion Williamson’s incredible introduction to the college basketball world as the No. 9 Blue Devils will play No. 10 Kentucky in the State Farm Champions Classic on November 9 in Madison Square Garden.

Next. Duke freshman Paolo Banchero quickly makes history. dark