Orlando Magic face of the franchise Paolo Banchero’a skillset is eerily reminiscent of former NBA star Grant Hill’s.

In his heyday, Hill was one of the most versatile players in the league. To this day, his point-forward abilities, defensive playmaking, and three-level are the stuff of legend. Indeed, after winning Rookie of the Year in 1995, Hill earned five straight top-10 finishes in MVP voting.

Until the voting results are released for the 2023-24 NBA MVP Award, there’s no way to know if Banchero garnered any recognition for that honor.

He’s not a finalist. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic will be vying for that title. Nonetheless, the Magic won 47 games last season, their highest win total since 2010-11.

Banchero very well could earn a few votes.

Paolo Banchero ‘One of the Ultimate Positionless Players’

Like Hill, Banchero won Rookie of the Year and was named an All-Star by his second season.

There are also remarkable similarities in their statistical output. By the time Hill entered his third season, he was averaging 20.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 1.5 steals per game on .469-.170-.742 shooting splits. Now in his second season, Banchero has career averages of 21.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 0.9 steals per game on .442-.321-.731 shooting splits.

The last major similarity that Banchero and Hill have is that they were guided through college by the same man: former Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Known fondly as ‘Coach K,’ the Hall of Famer led Hill to two championships while at Duke. Leaving the blue collar program as a two-time Consensus All-American and 1994 ACC Player of the Year, Hill is one of Duke’s most successful players.

Coach K only had Banchero for one season, the one-and-done era fully in tow by the time the Seattle native graduated from high school. Yet, leaving Duke as a Consensus All-American and 2022 ACC Rookie of the Year, he left quite the impression on Krzyzewski.

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Believing Banchero could be a No. 1 draft pick, Krzyzewski coached him hard. The son of a former WNBA center, Rhonda Banchero, even his mother got in on the teaming. All of it pushed Banchero towards not just being the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, but a player that Coach K believes “has a chance to be one of the truly elite players in the NBA.”

“There isn’t a part of the game that he cannot be really outstanding at,” Krzyzewski says, per ESPN’s Tyler R. Tynes. “He’s one of the ultimate positionless players. There aren’t as many that attain that level of status and achievement. And he’s got it. He’s got it.”

What’s Next for Paolo Banchero?

Going back to the Hill comparison, the former No. 3 pick manned both forward positions while being able to operate as the primary facilitator. This essentially made him a three-position player.

Banchero has those same capabilities. Yet, he’s a better off-ball threat, shooting 36.4 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s this season. He also stands at 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds. To that point, Banchero hasn’t played center minutes. Yet, he’s been the biggest player the Magic have had on the court on multiple occasions.

As Coach K says, he’s basically a positionless player.

Because of that, it’s easy to compare him to similarly dynamic players. Aside from Hill, Hall of Fame forwards Kevin Garnett and Larry Bird were ultimately positionless. With their size, skill, and defensive capabilities, both players were able to win championships.

In the modern era, the league has sought to become positionless in a general sense.

However, few players are capable of being go-to scorers and two-way playmakers while having the positional versatility to guard at least three positions. Among active players, only Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo are considered to be the archetypal positionless players. There are six MVP awards between them.

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Only time will tell what Banchero’s fate will be but he seems bound to have a storied career, one way or another.

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