How No. 1 NBA draft pick Paolo Banchero combines the skill-sets of Giannis, LeBron and Kevin Durant | Opinion

LAS VEGAS – Paolo Banchero looked like a mixture of a few guys in his two NBA Summer League games.

He’s similar in size to Giannis Antetokounmpo, can create for others like LeBron James and Luka Doncic and is comfortable handling the ball on the perimeter like those three and Kevin Durant.

The late, great Kobe Bryant would appreciate Banchero’s fadeaway out of the post he hit over Keegan Murray in Saturday’s overtime win over Sacramento. So would DeMar DeRozan and Jayson Tatum.

The Magic have shut Banchero down after two games. But Banchero showed in his two games why he was the top overall pick in last month’s draft out of Duke.

Averaging 20 points in two games, Banchero has a special, versatile offensive skill-set.

Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said he's seen enough of the No. 1 pick and wants to evaluate other players.

"I want to give these other guys an opportunity to play, to kind of be able to show what they're capable of doing," Mosley said. "That's the point of summer league, you know, give them a chance ... an opportunity for these other guys to see what they're capable of doing. And we've seen what Paolo was capable of doing."

Orlando's Paolo Banchero (5) drives against Houston's Jabari Smith Jr. during the 2022 NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Orlando's Paolo Banchero (5) drives against Houston's Jabari Smith Jr. during the 2022 NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center.

But before he was shut down, Banchero showed he can score out of the post with baseline moves or jumpers, get to the rim with the spin dribble, drive left and finish at the basket, knock down 3s and find the open man. The spin moves aren’t as forceful as James or Antetokounmpo in their prime, but he can finish in a variety of ways around the basket like those two.

Banchero only attempted four 3-pointers in the two games, hitting two of them. Nice looking stroke. Banchero will take enough 3s in what will hopefully be a long NBA career, but him being able to score without relying on the 3 or settling for 3s is a good thing.

At 6-10, 250 pounds, Banchero isn’t as chiseled or explosive as say Antetokounmpo, but he can play downhill and draw fouls. Banchero attempted 15 free throws in a game on Saturday (made 11). Like most rookies, his defense leaves something to be desired, but that shot block in sudden death against Sacramento that was later ruled a clean swat after he was whistled for a foul showed Banchero can make a play on that end when it really matters.

“I thought I got it clean,” Banchero said. “So, when they called a foul, I was upset, but obviously they overturned it. So, I was happy.”

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This is after giving up a free drive to the basket to Keon Ellis, who fooled him with a fake handoff, at the end of the first overtime. Lucky for Banchero, Emanuel Terry came over and rejected Ellis to force a second overtime.

Banchero also had six assists in his first NBA Summer League game against the Rockets.

Banchero will have his share of high-turnover games, especially if he’s going to be handling the ball a lot, but him taking ownership of the miscues is a good sign. Then to make a play at the end shows he’s not shying away from the moment even after turning the ball over that many times.

“I was trying to get to the rim, but I knew they were going to load up,” said Banchero about his game-winning assist. “I think Keon Ellis ducked in and hit the ball out of my hands. Soon as I picked it up, I wanted to look and see what was available.”

James has been criticized over the course of his career for passing the ball instead of shooting it in late-game situations, but Magic summer league coach Jesse Mermuys loves seeing Banchero have that “make the right play” mentality like James.

“I love that he’s looking to pass as a young person in his first two Summer League games when the game is on the line, looking to share the basketball and sacrifice all that attention that he’s getting to get somebody a shot is really, really impressive,” Mermuys said.

The game went into overtime when Banchero turned the ball over on an inbounds play with 1.9 seconds left in regulation that led to rookie Murray, the fourth overall pick in the draft out of Iowa, hitting a game-tying 3 with 0.2 seconds left.

For Banchero to overcome those two turnovers and still want the ball in his hands with the game on the line shows he wants the responsibility of being the guy. “It’s added intensity, added pressure when the whole crowd is clapping and standing up as you have the ball,” Banchero said. “It’s just stuff that you dream of. The arena, the whole crowd’s eyes are on you. You just want that moment and it’s what I live for.”

That’s Antetokounmpo and James.  That’s Doncic and Durant. That’s DeRozan and Tatum, too. Banchero looked like a mixture of those greats in his two Summer League games.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Magic's Paolo Banchero shows combo of LeBron, Durant in Summer League