How Duke Plans to Replace Paolo Banchero

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Paolo Banchero #5 of the Duke Blue Devils. Jamie Squire/Getty Images/AFP.

The Duke Blue Devils were a solid team last year, and they reached the Final Four. One of the big reasons was Paolo Banchero, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder.

Banchero raised Duke’s ceiling, and he played a pivotal role in the NCAA Tournament. While it wasn’t enough to win Duke a title, he was still one of the best players in college basketball.

Most of Duke’s focus this offseason revolves around replacing Coach K, one of the most successful coaches in the history of sports. However, replacing Banchero will be just as important for the Blue Devils for the upcoming season.

Banchero could be the first player drafted in the 2022 NBA Draft, and that type of talent is hard to replace.

Still, Duke is tied for the favorite to win the national title next season. To do that, they have to have a plan for replacing the most productive player from last year’s team.

Winning a title is always hard, but replacing Coach K and Banchero in the same offseason exacerbates this situation. Here are some details on how Duke plans to replace Banchero.

How Did Banchero Play for Duke?

It’s not just the stats that Banchero provided Duke. There are plenty of scorers in college basketball. Banchero added athleticism to Duke’s frontcourt. He could stretch the floor with the occasional three, and he was strong enough to get to the rim. He got opponents into foul trouble, and he could convert at the line.

Banchero was trusted with the ball in his hands, and he distributed well for a big. Duke has to replace his size and athleticism, but the team also needs someone to step up as a distributor. He didn’t lead the team in assists, but he was capable of finding the open shooter.

The gravity that Banchero played with was massive. By that, I mean that players constantly shaded toward him to keep him from scoring. This gave his teammates room to make a move off the dribble or shoot without a defender. Duke needs someone who can be the focal point of the opponent’s defensive game plan.

When Duke was in trouble, the team turned to Banchero. This is underrated, but it matters in the NCAA Tournament. Duke made it through some tough moments to reach the Final Four, and Banchero was a big reason why.

Duke’s New Players

If you were worried about Duke replacing the size of Banchero, you should be excited about the upcoming season. Duke has the best recruiting class in the country, and it is mostly due to two centers joining the team. Both provide more size than Banchero, and both were in the top four prospects of the 2022 recruiting class.

Dereck Lively II and Kyle Filipowski will be key contributors on defense, and they should provide scoring in the post. While they most likely won’t be playing more than one season, they can still fill the hole that Banchero leaves on the roster.

Dariq Whitehead will provide more scoring, but he will play as a guard/wing instead of in the post. Still, you have to replace Banchero’s production somehow. If he can distribute the ball as well as score from the perimeter, then Duke should have a strong squad this season.

You can’t replace Banchero with one player, but you don’t have to. Duke is losing a ton of talent, but the Blue Devils are used to this level of roster turnover. With upgrades at other positions, the future should be bright.

Can Duke Win a Title?

We’ve seen head coaches have success in their inaugural seasons in charge, and we could see that at Duke this year. The loss of Banchero hurts, but the additions across the board make up for it. This team should be more versatile, and that will help them when they reach the postseason.

It’s hard to measure the loss of Coach K in one season, but the majority of the staff worked for him. He helped recruit players, and every returning player received his coaching. The floor should be high, and the replacements here should be enough to keep them competitive.