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Player Preview: Dalano Banton could be another hidden gem

The Raptors’ first hometown draft pick has an intriguing collection of skills, but will they come together?

NBA: Preseason-Philadelphia 76ers at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Anderson came into the NBA as something of an object of curiosity — here was a 6’9, 200’ish pound... forward? Point guard? He had ball-handling skills, definitely, but he couldn’t really shoot. He was also so unathletic (for a high-end college prospect), that his nickname became “Slo Mo.” At the same time, he stuffed the box-score to the extent that he was called the: “bigest triple double threat in college basketball.”

What the heck was this guy? Where he should he play? What should he be expected to do on the court?

Flash forward and Kyle Anderson, now in his seventh season, just put up a five and a half-win season, with a win shares per 48 minutes that ranked him 45th in the NBA. The short answer to the questions was — he’ll play anywhere, and he’ll give you a nice piece of everything.

This isn’t to say that Toronto Raptors rookie (and pride of the 6ix) Dalano Banton is going to one day put up a Top-50 season in the NBA, but if you’d ever wondered what “a more athletic Kyle Anderson” might look like — well, the Raps are going to try to help Banton find out.

The appeal is obvious. Banton has basically the same frame as Anderson did coming into the NBA, with, a very similar set of skills. He’s clearly a point-guard, but he can rebound and get blocks like a big wing (which he also is).

But judging by how quickly he gets up and down the court, it’s a safe bet no one will ever call him Slo Mo.

The big red flag, and stop me if you’ve heard this about a Raptors prospect before, is that Banton can’t shoot. At least, not yet — let’s see what the famed Raptors development program can do — but a .408/.237/.631 line in college doesn’t provide any obvious optimism.

(For reference, Anderson, despite his rep, put up a .452/.375/.736 line in college, which exlains why he played at UCLA, and not Western Kentucky and Nebraska, and why the defending champion Spurs took him in the first round, not half-way through the second.)

Still, Banton shows enough touch at times to suggest there is a shot-maker in there, somewhere. If there is, then Banton can leverage his major strength, a high basketball IQ, and excellent passing skills and things get interesting.

Banton has shown the ability to make high-end reads in the pick and roll, using his size to see over the defender; in fact he was second in college basketball in assist rate for a player 6’7 or taller. Just behind a fellow named... Scottie Barnes.

Banton possesses that natural ability to see a pass just before the defense does. A great example is in this two-possession sequence in the summer league against Brooklyn.

Banton attacks downhill, and between that momentum and his length, the Nets can’t keep him out of the paint. He makes a nice dump-off pass, and then when the play resets, he immediately attacks again, not waiting for the screen, to totally throw off an already scrambling Nets defense before making another nice dump-off pass.

While Banton is a better athlete than Anderson, with a surprisingly quick step, he isn’t such a great athlete that he can just burn guys; it’s why the previous clip is so encouraging. Banton KNOWS what he needs to do to get his edge, once he’s in the lane, that size and vision is incredibly tough to stop. In college he shot close to 70% in the paint, a ridiculous mark for a “guard”.

Banton needs that help because right now his dribble can get a little high, meaning he exposes the ball — something high-level NBA defenders can exploit. While his first step his quick, he isn’t so dynamic that he can just go at NBA defenders and expect to get the separation needed to get easy shots. In college, 40-percent of his makes at the rim were assisted.

Thankully, the Raps and coach Nick Nurse have a deep bag of tricks with dribble hand-offs, double screens and more, to get a guy like Banton moving to the rim where he can receive the ball and use his size and finishing effectively at the NBA level.

Aside from shooting, this is probably the thing the Raptors will work most with Banton on. If he can develop his odd herky-jerky style, ala Anderson, or former Raptor Delon Wright, then Banton will be able to attack NBA defenders without always needing an extra edge. If that comes along, then even if the shooting basically tops out just below average, Banton has the offensive upside of a rotation-calibre player on a good team.

On defense, Banton has a good foundation to build from. He’s long, he’s smart, and he likes to compete. Check this play from Toronto’s first exhibition game against the Philadelphia 76ers:

If you watch many of Banton’s college highlights, this looks familiar. A smaller, quicker guard blows into the lane and Banton, as a helper, takes away the shot. Opposing guards don’t expect that a 6’9 guy to picks up their drive will have the quickness to stay with them AND the body control to get the block without fouling.

In college, Banton generally showed a strong ability to read the game as a defender, getting hands on balls, and digging down the way Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry have done for so many years. The difference of course is if Banton’s rip move doesn’t work, he might just block the ensuing shot anyway.

However, he’s going to be vulnerable to better NBA athletes on the perimeter, and he may not have the strength to stick in the post against muscly wings. Some of this can be taken care of by the Raptors strength and conditioning team, but some of it is just who Banton is.

He also struggled at times in college in navigating screens, getting pushed out of the play too easily, and, like many young players gets caught napping at times when off-the-ball.

The Raptors will want to see Banton quickly grasp their defensive principles. If he can do that, he has the size, length, and theoretical defensive IQ, to be able to be, if not an individual positive on that end, then at least someone who can fill his role in a scheme well.

Banton is almost assuredly going to spend most of the year in the G-League. He’s only played 58 basketball games in the past three years, due to needing to redshirt a year when he transferred to Nebraska. He needs reps, he needs NBA level conditioning and he needs to work on his shooting and handle in order to make good on his promise.

The promise is there, however, If Banton becomes a fast “Slo Mo,” he could end up having a similarly long and productive NBA career,