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Puzzle Pieces: Paolo Banchero Brings Potential Scoring Machine to OKC Thunder

With a high levels of scoring and ball-handling, Paolo Banchero gels with the OKC Thunder's hodgepodge of handlers.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have held a strong lineage of forwards. From watching the birth of a star in Kevin Durant to watching Paul George charge the franchise to the playoffs – they’ve yielded more success at the three in 13 years than some organizations have in their lifespan.

In Oklahoma City’s current state, the search for their next great scoring forward is on. Sam Presti is armed with a top-tier selection at Pick No. 2, and multiple prospects will be vying for a Thunder cap. Duke’s Paolo Banchero can make that case.

Banchero, age 19, is well-equipped for the jump to the next level. With a 6-foot-10, 250-pound frame, he’s already the ideal slab at the forward spot, he just needs some chiseling. In his lone year with the Blue Devils, he averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists for Duke across 39 games.

On the offensive front, Banchero has the tools to be a lethal scorer in isolation. His dribbling, which holds some semblance to guards, allows him to turn the corner on his matchup. As for the second-level defense, he uses his 250-pound build to its fullest – both absorbing and finishing through contact. Banchero showed the ability to create shots on the ball at all three levels. However, his 33.8% output from distance has been tabbed as a question mark for his range of scoring. But, if he proves his worth from three, he’s a nightmarish matchup.

In Oklahoma City’s system, there are a few jagged edges to Paolo’s puzzle. But, his skill and upside make him worth a look. Paolo primarily needed the ball in his hands to create for himself and others. That could ruffle some feathers with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey. However, if Paolo, or the backcourt figures, hone in as catch-and-shoot players – this combination should work in the long term. He’s a great slasher and playmaker in space. The details just need the fine-tuning.

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Defensively, Banchero carries the hardware to be a good defender. He just needs the proper tools. Most of the flack thrown Banchero’s way to this point comes on the defensive side of the ball. His overall lateral quickness was a weak point at Duke, and he was flat-footed on a good cut of perimeter possessions this year. However, it’s not as atrocious as people have made it out to be. Additionally, his overall athletic and physical frame shed some upside in this area to a trusty job facing forwards.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have prided themselves upon positionless basketball. Banchero will distinctly face forwards. However, he’s not going to gut Mark Daigneualt’s defensive profile. Banchero can be a net positive on this end. And, at the base level, he’s not a drop-off compared to other Thunder players in his position group.

Paolo Banchero carries the skill set as a playmaker and finisher to give defenders headaches. In Oklahoma City, he’ll need to strengthen his three-ball to become Presti’s perfect fit. However, his current levels could make him Bricktown’s target, three-pointer or not.


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