Dalano Banton is a 21-year-old point guard from the Rexdale area of Toronto. He is the first Canadian draft pick in Toronto Raptors history and, at 6-foot-9 and with a 6-foot-10.25 wingspan, he embodies the Raptors newfound identity of what i’m calling “length and strength.”
But Banton wasn’t hyped in the same way that Scottie Barnes or even David Johnson were during the 2021 NBA Draft process. Even after being selected 46th overall by the Raptors, he projected to be a fun story as the first Canadian to be drafted by the Raptors and a true Toronto Man, but most fans had low (if any) expectations for Banton, who flew under the radar until putting on a show at Las Vegas Summer League.
While his numbers from 5 summer league games were uninspiring and inefficient, with a 37.3 true shooting percentage including 0/12 from three, Banton showed flashes of playmaking creativity that we just don’t see from most players his age, proving to be ahead of schedule for a second round draft pick. In fact, he even surprised his coaches and teammate Matt Morgan, who said Banton surprised him most out of everyone on the roster, “Just cause his size, length, passing ability with that type of height.”
The Raptors clearly agree, signing Banton to a guaranteed two-year NBA deal (rather than a two-way deal) half-way through summer league. And while Banton will probably start the season with the Raptors 905 as their lead creator (which will be must-watch basketball), don’t be surprised if he moves up to the big club at some point in the 2021-22 season.
Banton has skills that will seamlessly translate to the NBA game, but he also has a couple areas of improvement that he needs to work on in order to be an effective all-around player in the NBA. Let’s break down his strengths and weaknesses, including film from his final summer league game against the Brooklyn Nets.
Banton’s best, most developed skill is his playmaking, and that’s the skill that will enable him to get NBA minutes at such a young age even without a tight handle or effective outside shot.
Due to his size, Banton is able to see over the top of the defense and thread passes to all levels of the floor. But he’s not just a big kid who can pass; he’s an elite playmaker who happens to be big. And it’s his instinct and feel for the game that really stands out, making quick reads and improvising so well in unscripted plays that teammates often find the ball in their hands without understanding how it got there.
Banton enters the league with pretty much every pass in the book, including the ability to hit weakside shooters if the help sags into the paint. Or he can hit the roll man with bounces or passes over the top. in fact, Banton has great patience in the pick-and-roll, waiting for his screen to connect or slip before reacting to the defense and instantly picking out the best pass.
“I think his length helps him see above the defence, see above the crowd, and he’s able to make passes that are maybe a little bit more difficult for other players to make,” Raptors summer league coach Patrick Mutombo said about Banton. And it can’t be understated: Banton’s passing ability is rare and it’s special; it’s the skill that will enable him to play in the NBA for years to come if only he refines a few smaller areas of his game.
Banton isn’t the quickest athlete, but he has a shiftiness to his game that sometimes allows him to get past his man and, once he’s in the paint, good luck stopping him. Banton gets to the rim in just a couple long strides and can finish their at all angles. He’ll likely thrive around NBA spacing even more than he did in summer league, because with an open pathway to the rim, Banton is lethal.
Defensively, Banton isn’t the quickest lateral defender when it comes to keeping smaller point guards in front of him, but he can make up for that lack of quickness with his long wingspan, enabling him to poke the ball away from ball-handlers who think they are past him.
He is also long and bouncy enough to challenge drivers at the rim, finishing summer league with an impressive steal percentage of 4.00 and block percentage of 6.00, averaging 3.4 stocks in summer league. Banton is also a really good rebounder for his position, which makes him a threat to grab the ball off the rim and immediately push it up the floor for a transition opportunity.
Banton’s handle is good for his size but not great for his position: point guard. After all, Banton is without an outside shot as of right now, shooting 24.7 percent in college and 0.00 percent in summer league, so he needs the ball in his hands in order to be effective (he is a smart cutter off-ball but teams will sag off him so much that it will be hard to survive without a shot).
Unfortunately for Banton, he has trouble dribbling past defenders and into tight spaces, and small guards can pick his pocket because he is so much taller than them and needs to dribble the ball so high off the ground. Banton avoids getting picked by getting into a really low stance in the half court, but it’s a problem in transition when he struggles to push the pace due while maintaining his dribble. Plus, the more opposing defenders know that he struggles with his handle, the more they will pester him full-court to try to steal the ball and disrupt actions.
Offensively, Banton either needs to tighten up the handle and be more comfortable dribbling the ball into tight spaces in the half court and with speed in transition so that he can play point guard at the NBA level, or he needs to develop an outside shot in order to be a secondary-playmaker who excels even without the ball in his hands. If he improves on either of those skills, Banton should see time in the NBA, and he would immediately become one of the most creative playmakers on the Raptors.
On the defensive end of the floor, Banton is already solid due to his length and speed moving up and down the court. But he often lets ball handlers blow by him and relies on his length and bounce to meet them at the rim instead of beating them to their spot as a way to avoid the drive altogether.
Plus, Banton is not used to fighting over screens. He likely never had to in his life because he always had the length and speed to go under and still contest shots, but it won’t be that way in the NBA, so it’s an area he will need to improve, and strength will help.
“With the NBA’s transitioning into a positionless sport, it gives me a lot of advantage being able to see at the defensive end, make plays at the point guard position,” Banton said about himself. “Wherever I’m needed most, I’m going to be. It definitely gives me a little bit of edge, just being this tall with that size and versatility.”
That’s certainly what the Raptors thought when the drafted the 21-year-old Torontonian 46th overall. Now, with just a few small tweaks to his game, Banton will be able to make his dream come true and play in the NBA for his hometown team.