Paolo Banchero Declares for 2022 NBA Draft After 1 Season at Duke

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 20, 2022

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - JANUARY 29: Paolo Banchero #5 of the Duke Blue Devils against the Louisville Cardinals at KFC YUM! Center on January 29, 2022 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Duke star Paolo Banchero is declaring for the 2022 NBA draft, he announced via social media Wednesday.

Paolo Banchero🇮🇹 @Pp_doesit

<a href="https://t.co/d7yqZlDrsm">pic.twitter.com/d7yqZlDrsm</a>

The news was widely expected because the 6'10" forward was the No. 2 overall player in 247Sports' composite rankings for the 2021 recruiting class. He'd inevitably make the jump to the pros at the earliest opportunity.

Banchero also affirmed his status as a possible top-five pick through his performance with the Blue Devils. In 39 games, he averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists. He also shot 47.8 percent from the field.

In his most recent mock draft, Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman projected the 19-year-old to be the No. 2 pick:

"Banchero has Duke in the Final Four after averaging 18.5 points through four NCAA tournament games. He's taken over key stretches with confident shot-making and self-creation while also getting teammates involved throughout games. It's worth questioning his iso-heavy game, ball-stopping tendencies, defensive motor and why he's fourth on the Blue Devils in box plus-minus."

Banchero's shooting leaves a little to be desired. He averaged 3.3 three-point attempts per game and connected on 33.8 percent of those chances. But there's enough evidence to think he can help space the floor and keep opposing defenses honest from deep as he improves on the court.

While it would be a nice luxury, he doesn't need to be a dead-eye sharpshooter in order to be an effective scorer.

The dynamic forward can create his own shot off the dribble or operate out of the post. He's also a great fit in the pick-and-roll as either the roll man or the ball-handler.

Banchero is athletic for his size and can quickly run the floor in transition, boasting the ability to finish himself or find an open teammate if the defender looks to cut off his route to the rim.

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

Paolo Banchero showing off the handles and tossing this oop to Mark Williams for the slam 🤩 <a href="https://t.co/kpylp31ACB">pic.twitter.com/kpylp31ACB</a>

Scrutinizing Banchero's game last November, Wasserman wrote he "spends a lot of time in the mid-range attempting contested looks" and "lacks some explosiveness in traffic, where he's forced to frequently operate when playing the 4."

Auburn's Jabari Smith and Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren will be stiff competition for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 draft. In the event he isn't the first player off the board, Banchero won't have to wait too long to hear his name called.

Barring an unforeseen setback, he won't regret his decision to leave Duke now.