2022 Draft Watch: First Look at Paolo Banchero, Nolan Hickman, and Shane Nowell

April 18th, 2021

By Alan Lu

This time around, I decided to watch Seattle’s own, 6-9 forward, Paolo Banchero play for O’Dea in a high school basketball game against Eastside Catholic that was played on January 20th, 2020, with thanks to YouTube via Al Ward.  Banchero is a highly touted recruit that recently signed on to play for Duke, but it’s been hard to access full game footage of him playing.

So I decided to watch this game that was played a year ago instead, even though it’s more of a highlight reel, so what I saw was really more of a showcase.  There were very few misses, and even fewer rebounds shown, so this write-up may not get the full picture of this match.  Therefore, Banchero was bound to stand out in this game.  Even still, there were still some things to pick at his defense, and Eastside Catholic’s then guards Nolan Hickman and Shane Nowell both played very well to lead them to a win over O’Dea.  Here are my thoughts on how Banchero, Hickman, and Nowell fared, as well as how their games may translate to the NBA.

Duke’s incoming freshman big man, Paolo Banchero scored 29 points for O’Dea in this game, but his team lost to Eastside Catholic in a January 20th, 2020 high school basketball game that was played last season.
(Photo:
Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

Duke’s 6-9 incoming freshman big man, Paolo Banchero is a tough, physical bruiser that showed off versatile scoring skills, and he is a surprisingly good passer on offense.  He showed a knack for racking up points, even though there’s not really a loud flair to his game, and even though he would quietly score in a variety of ways, he was both very efficient and effective in doing so.

He showed that he can use either hand to score on strong drives to the hoop.  Banchero is an above average athlete that can capably handle the ball.  Plus, he also has good upper body strength, and he can absorb the contact to get extra free throws on his defenders.  He did appear to get away with a walk on a left-handed drive, but he primarily seemed to excel at going to his left to score off the dribble. Banchero also has a strong drop step move that he can use in the post, and he can overpower his defenders when going to his left to score around the basket.  Plus, he also will actively crash the glass, and he ran in to score on a tip-in after grabbing an offensive rebound early on.

Also, he showed that he was comfortable in shooting the basketball from outside the paint to score on mid to long-range jumpers.  Banchero has a solid pump fake move that he can use to draw defenders in the air, and he showed a knack for scoring on pull-up jumpers, especially from the mid-range.  He even managed to score on a fade-away, one-legged mid-range jumper early on.  Plus, he also is an effective shooter and ball handler that can knock down threes both off the catch and dribble to score from beyond the arc.

Plus, he also showed off satisfactory playmaking skills.  Banchero didn’t really look to make fancy moves, but he is an unselfish player that would often look to find the open man to rack up assists.  He is a good passer that would throw crisp, accurate interior passes to find teammates on the move, and he also can find cutters.  He consistently would throw long outlet passes to get the ball to his teammates on the break, and he also can throw accurate passes off the dribble. 

On the downside, early on, he brought the ball up, but he mishandled the ball on a crossover attempt, as he then lost the ball to an opponent to commit a turnover.  He also appeared to get away with lowering a shoulder to clear out, and he tended to get away with charging into defenders without calls being made, as those plays could’ve potentially have been offensive fouls called against him instead.  He also appeared to get away with a walk, as he took plenty of steps on a left-handed drive prior to scoring, but it may be doubtful that he would get away with making these questionable plays at higher levels. Though I didn’t see him grab many rebounds in this game, there just weren’t many rebounds in the footage I saw overall, so he might be a good rebounder.  He also managed to get boards on both ends of the floor.

Defensively, Banchero appeared to have struggled considerably in this game.  While he showed decent defensive potential, and he was able to make some good plays when he was engaged, too often he tended to have lapses, and sometimes he seemed to be disinterested and his effort seemed to be lackluster at times in this contest.

For the positives, Banchero was able to rotate to block a mid-range shot to himself, and he showed solid quickness, length, and timing to swat the shot to himself.  He also managed to actively defend a smaller ball-handler out on the perimeter, and he stayed in front of him while using solid length and footwork, and he managed to actively contest a pull-up three to force the miss on that possession. 

On the downside, he showed a surprisingly low motor on the defensive end.  There were too many possessions where he would make no attempt to run back on defense, as his team would allow opponents to score in transition.  Sometimes, he would be in the area but not make much of an attempt at all to rotate to contest a shot on a drive, as his team would give up baskets at the rim.  Other times, he and his teammates would chase the ball too often, and end up losing track of cutters from the weak side to allow scores to them.  Also, he would tend to sag too far off of shooters, which would lead his team to allow opponents to score on open threes.

Overall, Paolo Banchero is a tough, physical scoring big man that can knock down shots in a variety of ways, and he also is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man.  On the other hand, he can tend to be unfocused defensively, and he doesn’t always seem to give great effort on that end of the floor.  Right now, he may be a candidate to go in the lottery in the 2022 draft, but he will need to improve his defensive skills considerably.  Even still, his solid offensive skills could enable him to excel as a role player similar to current Los Angeles Clippers’ forward, Marcus Morris in the NBA.

Kentucky’s incoming freshman point guard, Nolan Hickman showed off deft handles and he scored 29 points for Eastside Catholic to lead them to a win over O’Dea in a January 20th, 2020 high school basketball game last season.
(Photo:
Jason Redmond/Seattle Times)

Kentucky’s 6-2 incoming freshman point guard, Nolan Hickman put forth a tremendous performance for Eastside Catholic in his team’s win over O’Dea.  Hickman is an agile, skilled playmaker that can really score the basketball, and he is a gifted ball handler that can get any shot he wants on offense. Hickman is a gifted scorer off the dribble.  He is a very good ball handler that has a wealth of ball-handling moves that he can use to get past his opponents, as he would use hesitation moves, spin moves, behind-the-back dribble moves, and crossovers to consistently score on quick layups around the basket.  He has good foot-speed, and he can routinely get to the rim, and he can use either hand to score on aggressive drives to the hoop.  He also managed to score on an acrobatic, switch of hands layup after using a series of dribble moves to get to the hoop.

He also shot the ball well, especially from beyond the arc.  Hickman showed a knack for making pull-up jumpers, especially from behind the three-point line, and he also was able to make an open, spot-up three.  On the downside, he would sometimes tend to take contested, long two-point shots off the dribble, and he would occasionally take tough, off-balanced shots that would lead to misses.

Also, he displayed satisfactory playmaking skills in this game.  Though Hickman looked to score quite often, he showed that he can make an assortment of passes to get the ball to his teammates, and he would throw sharp interior passes to set up scores for them.  Plus, he is a very good ball handler that would get to anywhere he wanted on the court. There weren’t a whole lot of rebounds that I saw in this contest, but Hickman was able to chase down a ball to get a defensive board, and he might be a solid rebounder for his size.

Defensively, he also appeared to about average at best.  For the positives, Hickman was able to block a mid-range jumper to himself due to possessing good athleticism, hops, and timing.  He also was active defensively.  On the downside, his lack of size would make it tough for him to guard shooters, as he would allow three-point baskets to them.  Another time, he was caught ball watching, as he trailed the play and didn’t recover or contest the shot, and it led his team to allow a pass and a dunk in transition.  On a separate play, he got beat off the dribble to allow a score.

Overall, Nolan Hickman is an athletic, very skilled combo guard that can shoot and score the basketball, and he is a highly skilled playmaker that could make an immediate impact on Kentucky’s team as a freshman.  He will definitely be a prospect to watch, and if he plays well in college basketball next season, he could end up being a first round pick in the 2022 draft.

Arizona’s 6-5 incoming freshman swingman, Shane Nowell also played well for Eastside Catholic in his team’s win over O’Dea.  He is a very athletic guard that showed off versatile scoring skills, and he was able to make plenty of solid hustle plays on both ends of the floor.  He didn’t look to shoot the ball enough, but he was still quite effective nonetheless, and he looked to be the best athlete on the floor in this game. Nowell is a high-flyer that showed a knack for scoring on drives as well as in transition.  He ran the floor to score on a high-flying, two-handed dunk on the break.  He also managed to score on a thunderous, one-handed jam on a drive in transition.  Plus, he also drove quickly to his left to score on a crafty, finger roll layup.

He also pulled up to make a couple of threes to show his shooting skills from beyond the arc, and Nowell is a more than capable outside shooter that can knock down pull-up threes off the dribble. Also, Nowell is an unselfish player that can throw solid interior passes to find teammates on the move due to possessing good court vision.  He also was able to leap up high to get a defensive rebound once, and he might be a decent rebounder for his size.

Plus, he also appeared to play relatively adequate defense. Nowell is an active help defender that can get steals and blocks in games.  He was able to hustle back to make a high-flying, chase down block on a drive in transition.  He also managed to intercept a pass and he also poked a ball away when doubling an opponent to get steals for his team.  On the downside, he would sometimes get beat on moves to the hoop to allow scores, and he also would tend to over-help in the paint and sag too far off of shooters to allow them to score on corner threes.

Overall, Shane Nowell had a solid showing, as he was able to quietly have a good all-around game to help Eastside Catholic get the win over O’Dea.  He was a good get for Arizona, and he is a talented prospect that, if he plays well in college, could project to go in the late first to the second round range whenever he declares to enter the NBA draft one day.

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