Paolo Banchero as Top Spurs Draft Prospect: Why He Fits So Well

If the San Antonio Spurs are lucky enough to win the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery on May 17th, I believe that Paolo Banchero is the player the Spurs will select. Cases can be made for Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith but — after factoring in what San Antonio needs most — I’d be close to impossible to pass on Banchero.

As a freshman at Duke, Banchero averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.9 blocks in 33.0 minutes per game. I had him in the top spot of my Spurs Big Board 1.0 and I’m keeping him there after doing a deep dive on him. 

While the Spurs have talent on their roster, they’re missing a top tier offensive hub. They not only need a true go-to scorer, San Antonio needs a player who can reliably create for others in the halfcourt setting. Of all the players in the draft, Banchero is far and away the most qualified to fit that role.

At 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds, Banchero is a powerful yet nimble forward with stellar footwork. Considering he’s only 19 years old, the amount of polish he already exhibits is phenomenal. Each move he makes is with both purpose and force.

Banchero will be able to step into the NBA and produce right away. On the Spurs, his fit would be seamless.

Paolo Banchero’s Role on the San Antonio Spurs

Banchero would slide right into the power forward spot in the starting lineup between Jakob Poeltl and Keldon Johnson. While he might need time to adjust, it wouldn’t take long before he becomes the No. 1 option on the offensive end.

Not only is Banchero a talented scorer, he’s a fantastic passer. He sees the court well and he isn’t timid about lasering passes through pinholes in the defense.

When you have the top pick in the draft, fit on the current roster typically isn’t much of a concern. But it just so happens that Banchero fills what the Spurs need most: a jumbo playmaker who can act as an offensive centerpiece. From his rookie season, he’s going to be a walking mismatch who will demand constant attention from the defense.

I see Banchero and Dejounte Murray working really well together. You don’t want Banchero being a full-time ballhandler, so Murray will still be a focal point of the offense. Conversely, Murray’s game loses functionality within halfcourt sets — and that’s exactly where Banchero will likely thrive.

On Twitter, Paolo Banchero said he wants to play with Dejounte Murray

Paolo Banchero: Concerns and Weaknesses

As good as Banchero looks like he’ll be on paper, there are legitimate concerns about how he will translate to the NBA. First of all, his fit on the defensive end isn’t a natural one. He’s a really good athlete in most facets of the sport but his feet aren’t the quickest, which means he could have trouble defending out on the perimeter. And while Banchero is a big hombre, he’s not a natural rim protector and he’s only an average rebounder — so you don’t want him to spend too much time at center early in his career.

On the Spurs, I imagine Banchero starting at power forward and spending most of his time at that position. When other teams go small, San Antonio can adjust by moving him to center. He will also likely be a center in closing lineups in the fourth quarter. 

Overall, I think Banchero can develop into an average or perhaps even an above average defender. You might have to put specialized pieces around him but he’s a smart player who processes the game well. Add in his elite strength and that’s a recipe for a player who should be able to figure it out on that end.

The other leading concern is Banchero’s three-point shooting. He shot 33.8% from downtown at Duke on 3.3 attempts per game. Since Banchero doesn’t have the quickest feet, his efficiency on offense will take a hit if defenses are able to sag off him. 

Personally, though, I’m reasonably confident that Banchero will be able to shoot it. His midrange jumper is already silky smooth and he was 10-for-19 from three-point land when the pressure was on during the NCAA tournament. Even if he’s a league average three-point shooter, that’d be enough to unlock the rest of Banchero’s offensive potential.

What are the chances that the Spurs draft Paolo Banchero?

The Spurs have a 4.5% chance of winning the draft lottery. With that top pick, I think Banchero is the guy. San Antonio also has a 4.8% chance of getting the second pick in the draft and a 5.2% chance of getting the third pick. As much as Banchero makes sense for the Spurs, other teams could be more focused on Holmgren’s vast defensive potential and Smith’s shot-making ability. Thus, it’s possible for the Spurs to still land Banchero even if they end up picking second or third in the draft.