How Paolo Banchero’s rise compares to NBA greats | No Cap Room

Yahoo Sports NBA writer Dan Devine is joined by NBA contributor Tom Haberstroh look at how the second-year forward has helped the Orlando Magic to its best season since 2019. Hear the full conversation on “No Cap Room” - part of the “Ball Don’t Lie” podcast - and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen.

Video Transcript

DAN DEVINE: A pretty wild thing happened on February 13th, 2024. The Orlando Magic played their first nationally televised game since the 2020 bubble.


DAN DEVINE: For the uninitiated, a quick recap on this year's magic. They're good. Head coach, Jamahl Mosley, one of the favorites for the Coach of the Year award this season, currently in fifth in the East. And still, they're a game up on the seventh seeded Sixers. Projection models still give them anywhere from like a 60% to 80% chance of finishing top six, making the playoffs proper, avoiding the play in.

And they've got a guy who is the reigning Rookie of the Year. He's improved just about every per game average from last year. He made his first all-star team. We're talking about Paolo Banchero here. And imagine you have to describe Paolo Banchero, the basketball player. Where is your first point of comparison in doing so?

TOM HABERSTROH: I think that Blake Griffin is a wonderful comp for Paolo Banchero. Felt that when he was at Duke. And a lot of that is just his size and his skill. He, for my taste, he settles for a little too many jumpers. But his passing, his dribbling, his vision, his physical just sheer power reminds me a lot of Blake Griffin. And I know that you see the same sort of thing, right?

DAN DEVINE: Yeah. The game reminds me of like Pistons era Blake, where he'd sort of developed his skills and his craft and moved a little bit more toward the perimeter after some of his injuries. But just the sheer physicality and force that he plays with does feel a little bit like young Blake. Remember that it was that 2015 playoffs for Blake. In that postseason, Blake averaged 25.5 points. Just under 13 rebounds, seven assists, a steal and a block per game on 51% shooting. I remember thinking very vividly, this is probably about as close as we get to LeBron outside of LeBron. When you see Banchero at his best, that's kind of the same picture I have in my brain.

TOM HABERSTROH: Statistically, when you look at Paolo Banchero through two seasons what are the comps? And so what I did at the glorious website that is, I found Paolo Banchero's points per 100 possessions, rebounds and assist rates, which is 30 points. About 9.8 rebounds and 6.6 assists. So 39 and 6. Here are the eight names that cross that Paolo Banchero threshold. You ready for this?

DAN DEVINE: Let's hear it.

TOM HABERSTROH: All right. LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Luka Doncic, Wemby, LaMelo Ball, Vince Carter, Mark Aguirre. In addition to another former piston, Blake Griffin. You nailed it, Dan. Blake Griffin is also in that category of points, rebounds, and assists. Statistically, it is a very fair comp for Paolo Banchero.