With the NBA draft less than a week away, there’s no consensus on who will be selected No. 1 overall. Duke’s Paolo Banchero could be that player.
Duke assistant coach Chris Carrawell said he’d take the Seattle native with the top pick.
“I agree with him,” Banchero told media members Friday during a virtual news conference. “I feel like I am the best player in the draft. I feel like I showed that throughout the year. I feel like I showed everything, just with my skill set, the intangibles.”
Carrawell, who Banchero called “one of my favorite coaches,” spoke glowingly about Banchero’s dedication to the game and how it separates him.
“I say this about Paolo because you know these GMs call you, scouts call you: Paolo is a gym rat. He’s the guy who you got to kick out of the gym,” Carrawell said. “For a young guy, playing 38, 39 minutes a game, he’ll come back and want to practice and get extra work done.”
Practice sessions against former teammates Theo John and Bates Jones at Duke helped Banchero prepare for the physicality of ACC play coming from high school, where he was often the biggest player on the court. Though Jones and Johns might not play in the NBA, they fought hard and competed in practice, helping push Banchero to be the assertive force that made the NCAA all-tourney team.
“What happened was like (Banchero) struggled a lot in the summertime,” Carrawell said. “We’re playing and Bates would strip him a lot and body him, and Theo would do the same thing, and they kept coming.
“With the reps, I thought he got adjusted to that. In turn, in the games, he was able to get to the foul line and play more physical.”
Carrawell discussed Banchero’s shot-making ability (17.2 points per game last sesason for the Blue Devils) as what separates him from fellow top prospects, Gonzaga forward Chet Holmgren and Auburn forward Jabari Smith.
“When you get to the playoffs, you got to have a guy who can make and can create shots,” Carrawell said. “Paolo can do that right now.
“I think that sky’s the limit, but he can create, man. He can create for a non-guard at his size; he creates shots from the inside and out. That’s rare.”
Banchero’s size and polish could be perceived as a lack of upside. But Carrawell feels that the slights against Banchero will be good for the former Blue Devil.
“(NBA personnel) love to create these storylines and narratives,” Carrawell said, “which is good because now it’s going to keep a guy like Paolo, you know, it’s going to keep him in the gym.”
This story was originally published June 18, 2022 7:10 AM.