It is rare for an NBA rookie to get an automatic spot in the Team USA roster but reigning number one pick Paolo Banchero is no ordinary rookie.
Although USA head coach Steve Kerr is yet to decide his starting five, Magic’s Rookie of the Year Banchero has certainly caught Kerr’s attention.
Coach Kerr thinks Banchero could play a role that will give their FIBA opponents a headache, as it is traditionally one they struggle to guard.
“He’s going to play some 5,” Kerr said after the team’s 117-74 warmup win against Puerto Rico. “One of the things we really found in  in the Tokyo Olympics was having a 5 who can push the ball and transition and create plays is very difficult for FIBA teams to handle.
“So he can play some 4, as he showed, but he’ll play plenty of 5 as well.”
In the 2021 Olympics, Bam Adebayo and Draymond Green shared the center position and although Banchero doesn’t have the same experience as those two, he is a bigger forward and is certainly able to create opportunities in offense.
If Paolo thrives in his role as a small-ball center during the FIBA Basketball World Cup, it will be interesting to see if it translates to his role or style of play when he returns to Orlando for the 2023-24 NBA season.
During the friendly game against Puerto Rico in Las Vegas on Monday, Banchero saw 16 minutes of action off the bench and was able to notch 7 points while spending some time at center.
The FIBA Basketball World Cup will begin on August 25 and will take place in Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines.
USA Group Play Schedule
Aug 26: United States vs. New Zealand (8:40 a.m. ET)
Aug 28: Greece vs. United States (8:40 a.m. ET)
Aug 30: United States vs. Jordan (4:40 a.m. ET)