Paolo Banchero on the Draft, Coach K, and His Mom’s Biggest Critique of His Game

Do you find any comparisons in your game to older players when you watch film? Any inspiration from watching old tape?

For sure, there’s a lot of guys I’ve been watching my whole life and a lot of guys I watch today. Some of those players like: Carmelo [Anthony], LeBron, Jayson Tatum, Anthony Davis, Giannis [Antetokounmpo] in how he gets downhill and attacks the rim. Players like that who are bigger forwards, but are skilled and can go out to the perimeter. That’s the mold I see myself coming from.

I try and take parts of their games and put it in mine. But, also, I feel like I’m really unique in my own way and can be my own kind of player. I want people to eventually say “he plays like Paolo” or “he reminds me of Paolo.” I want to be unique in my own way.

If I’m an NBA GM, why should I pick you over Chet Holmgren or Jabari Smith? What puts you over them?

My versatility—my ability to be anywhere on the floor and be comfortable. There’s nowhere on the floor that a coach or a team could put me where I wouldn’t be comfortable or wouldn’t be able to operate. I think being a great leader with the ability to be the star and carry that load, I think I’m built for that and ready to carry that weight on my shoulders. Not being afraid of that and not being afraid to fail, those are my biggest qualities.

Coming into the college season I had the most expectations and lived up to them. I helped Duke get to a Final Four for the first time in eight years. I feel like I showed everything throughout the year: the ability to score inside or outside, distribute to my teammates, defend and guard the best players while switching on guards. I feel like I really don’t have any weaknesses. There’s nothing that a coach could do to expose me. There’s parts of my game that might not be as strong as others, but there’s no area of my game that you can expose, all my skills are polished and ready to translate to the NBA.

What have you disliked the most about the draft process?

Definitely only being able to do 1 vs 0 workouts. Not really being able to play 1v1 or 3v3 or 5v5—what an offseason usually looks like for me—that’s been the [worst] part. Not being able to go live against anybody. Just being able to compete with myself…not being able to have a challenge or having to defend or score that person and figure out how to beat them, that’s my least favorite part.

I saw a funny video of you at F1 Miami and some white man thought you were Patrick Mahomes.

[laughs] No one’s ever mistaken me for Patrick Mahomes, so that’s a first. Everywhere I go now people recognize me and want to take a picture. I’m not really used to that.

Are you used to being compared to Matisse Thybulle, at least?

I was gonna say! That’s the one guy most people mistake me for and come up to me and ask me if I’m Matisse Thybulle. Like, people have called me “Mattise!” It’s funny that people get us confused since we from the same place.

What makes you truly happy off the court?

Being around my friends and family, playing video games, watching basketball and I’ve been bowling lately, so I like bowling now. That’s my new hobby. When I’m in Seattle, especially during summer time, there’s a lot of water. So I’m always trying to get in the water or be on a boat.

Klay Thompson said the “ocean has healing powers.” Is it the same for you?

[makes a face, laughs] I wouldn’t say….[laughs]….I would say I’m on Klay’s level, but….I feel like he’s a little more connected to it, you know? I wouldn’t be against buying a boat and being able to go out there, though, because being on the water is dope.

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