Tag Archives: College Basketball

UPDATE

I just wanted to give an update since it’s been a bit since I posted an article.  I’m shifting my focus towards the NBA draft and scouting rather than NBA topics although I’ll still talk about free agency, the playoffs and events I deem worthy of a post.  For quick hit thoughts on the NBA check out my twitter.  I don’t post on there that much either but I’ll try to do so more usual.  My twitter will just be strictly scouting, NBA draft and NBA topics. (@oldmanbball1)

In the meantime I’ve been doing nothing but taking notes for scouting grades and scouting reports.  I’ve briefly shared some thoughts on a couple of players on my twitter.  I should’ve been sharing my reactions more frequently but I wanted to lock down my grading criteria for my new scouting grades.  No more draft big boards since I think my bias will undoubtedly show through and cloud my judgement.  Read my last article about my thoughts on draft biases.  I also don’t think draft big boards reliably emphasize my true analysis about particular prospects.  That’s why I wanted to minimize bias as much as possible, broaden my assessment and sticking purely to grades was the best option.

I wanted to scout 5-10 games per player before I published anything online and considering I’m at 100 players scouted to date it’s taking me a bit.  Next season I’ll have articles up more regularly once the college season begins, talking about initial impressions and being more engaged.  I was just really focused on making my grading system as legit as possible even though over time changes will inevitably be made.

I wondered if I should grade prospects Pro Football Focus style and grade based on a per play expectancy.  Every play is graded on a sliding -2 to +2 point scale.  I decided against that since so much of basketball is communication driven and a lot of that data could be noisy.  Instead I went with a list of criteria and certain markers to meet.  Over the last four years I’ve taken a substantial amount of notes and have complied a grading rubric.  The players will be graded on “offense”, “defense”, “star potential”, “role potential” and “system dependence” all on a 1-99 scale.  The grading system will have slight differences and weights for ball handlers, combo guards, wings, small ball fours and bigs.

“Offense” will be broken down into these categories: shooting, scoring, finishing, screen setting/roll-man, driving/handle, feel, off-ball movement and passing/creation.  Each category will have certain set markers and the more the player fulfills the better the grade.  For example on “finishing” certain markers include extension around the rim, fast-to-slow two step gather, one step gather, off hand finishes, off foot finishes, euro steps, side steps, body control etc.  Obviously something like screen setting will hold more weight for bigs and creation more for ball handlers.

“Defense” will be broken down into team defense, creation, on-ball defense and IQ.  Just how it was with “offense” the more markers the player meets the better the grade.  For example on team defense certain set markers include communication, how do they defend at the nail, low-man position, overall weak side principles, can they cycle through rotations or do they just make the initial rotation, do they go vertical at the rim or stay grounded etc.  Things like straddling the line between ball handler and roll man on pick-and-roll contain defense will be graded with more weight for bigs rather than ball handlers.  Pick-and-roll defense will fall under team defense.

The next three grades are pretty experimental.  “Star potential” deals with upside but not how likely they’ll meet that upside and “role potential” deals with what NBA role they can attain and how likely they can achieve that selected role.  For example someone like Cam Reddish last year would’ve had a high “star potential” grade with 3-and-D swing forward as their potential role BUT a not too flattering “role potential” grade.  Someone like Matisse Thybulle would’ve had a not too flattering “star potential” grade and a 3-and-D wing role with a high “role potential” grade.  Now someone like Zion Williamson would’ve obviously had a high “star potential” grade AND “role potential” grade as a do-it-all combo big.  

The reason why I wanted to make “star potential” and “role potential” was to give more context to the grades.  Just because a player has a high “offense” and “defense” grade doesn’t automatically make them a candidate to be a star player at the next level.  Someone like Ty Jerome would’ve had high “offense” and “defense” grades but that wouldn’t have met I think he’s some star player in the making.  I think making that distinction was important.  Obviously this is new and something I’m tinkering around with.  It won’t be perfect from the start and errors will be made.  If it ends up confusing a bunch of people then I might second guess myself.  My hope is that in time it will be a nice component to scouting.

The last grade is the one I’m on the fence on.  “System dependence” is all about system fit and situation.  Both factors play such a crucial role in a players success that I thought it needed a grade on it’s own.  It’s one thing to identify system fit and situation as important in terms of scouting, it’s another to approximate a grade.  That was the original plan, to give “system dependence” a 1-99 grade just like the other four grades.  This was partially the reason why I’ve delayed posting.  But the more I thought about it, the more I nixed the 1-99 grade.  Instead I’ll just list the teams I think the prospect would flourish under and the teams the prospect would deteriorate or stagnate under.  For example I would’ve listed Tyler Herro Philadelphia, Boston, Atlanta favorably and Orlando, Detroit and Charlotte unfavorably.  “System dependence” is still a work in progress but nevertheless think incorporating situation and fit are vital to a players prosperity.

Switching from a draft big board to a grading scale will hopefully minimize bias, improve clarity, enhance accuracy, and expand on details.  Like with every other test run there will be bugs to fix and things to get better at.  Along the way I’ll give more updates to clarify any irregular matters.  I do have a twitter (@oldmanbball1) account now so if there are any questions contact me there.

My Favorite “Breakout/Sleeper” Candidates (Returning to College)

Last season’s returning college class was great.  There were four upperclassmen taken in the top ten and six taken in the lottery.   Players like Ja Morant, De’Andre Hunter, Jarrett Culver exceeded expectations but were still projected to be potential lottery picks even before the college season started.  Even players like Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke and PJ Washington had lottery buzz before the season started.  This years crop of players returning to college as of now is looking pretty…meh.  When looking at NBAdraft.net and ESPN.com’s 2020 NBA mock draft there are no returning players mocked in the top ten.  Heck, the first college returnee on ESPN.com’s 2020 mock draft is Tre Jones at 16 and there’s five in total mocked in the first round.  This year’s incoming freshmen/international class is deep in terms of quality NBA starting talent.  There isn’t a generational talent like Zion Williamson but there’s plenty of rotational players with upside. The closest thing to a sure fire number one pick would be Cole Anthony but as of now that’s something that will need to play itself out during the season.

Typically speaking, are all of these highly touted freshmen/international prospects going to have as good of a season as most are expecting?  No.  There are overhyped freshmen every season that fall out of favor when it comes to talent evaluation or physical ability.  Players like Bol Bol, Trevon Duval, Skal Labissiere, Louis King, Luguentz Dort and much more know this fact all too well.  That means either some lower graded freshmen/international player will have a surprisingly good season or a returning upperclassmen has an unexpected breakout season; enough so to launch themselves in serious draft consideration.  

The list of players that I’m about to talk about aren’t the college returnee favorites like Tre Jones, Tyrese Haliburton, Charles Bassey, Jalen Smith, Ashton Hagans, AJ Lawson or Ayo Dosunmu that are listed highly on NBAdraft.net and ESPN.com’s mock draft.  I wanted to identify my personal favorite “breakout/sleeper” candidates for the upcoming 2020 season, ones that I’m most looking forward to watch.  Even though I have these players listed under “breakout/sleeper” that doesn’t mean they aren’t on people’s draft radar already.  It just means players who aren’t being heavily considered on current popular mock draft boards (NBAdraft.net and ESPN.com) that have the potential by seasons end to boost their draft stock significantly: 

 

Obi Toppin, 6’9, PF/C, (RS)SO, Dayton, 21.4 years

(ESPN.com: 43, NBAdraft.net: not mocked)

~ It’s tough putting Obi Toppin on this list since he’s mocked 43rd on ESPN.com’s 2020 mock draft.  I guess since I consider Toppin the best returning bigman (only because Killian Tillie never stays healthy) and would mock him in the first round.  He’s also pretty old for a player who only played one season of division one basketball.  I don’t even know if he’s going to have a proper “breakout” season since the offensive system at Dayton doesn’t exactly highlight his skills.  The Dayton offense looks to be a Princeton styled offense which has Toppin cutting most of the time.  Personally I’d like to see him more as a ball screener in a spread offense, whether that be pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop.  His screen setting ability does need to improve since he tends to avoid contact and dive early.  He does have great timing on his dives to the rim but hardly ever did I see him delay his roll and break open extra passing lanes.  Still, his length, athleticism, soft hands, touch around the rim and one foot leaping ability help with his overall rim-running prowess.  Toppin actually has a solid intermediate game displaying movement two point jumpers now and again.  I would like to see his decision making improve when being the release value but he still can make plays with his respectable feel for the game.  I would also like to see Toppin spot up more.  He rarely shot from distance and when he did showed capable rhythm and touch.  I want to see him attack closeouts and display his dribble drive game more often next season.  With the offense that’s being run at Dayton I don’t know if Toppin will get that opportunity but on the rare occasion of him doing those actions he looks more than adequate.

On defense Toppin showed his positional versatility being able to bang down low with burly bigs and stay in front of jitterbug guards.  He still needs to gain more muscle if he wants to consistently go toe-to-toe with NBA frontline players.  But his ability to play on the balls off his feet, his lateral quickness, end-to-end speed and length help when defending multiple positions.  For the most part he’s a solid team and on-ball defender.  Nothing special but won’t beat himself. At times he has bit on fakes and lost position but made up for it with great recovery speed.  He’s the type of player who will thrive chasing down blocks.  I would like to see him fight at the rebounds apex more often.  I don’t know if that’s to prevent an injury but sometimes he seems too grounded.  I think he’s being somewhat undervalued due to the offense ran at Dayton and personally have a first round grade for him.  Until Killian Tillie shows me he can stay healthy the best returning bigman is Toppin.

 

Keyontae Johnson, 6’5, SF/PF, SO, Florida, 20.2 years

(ESPN.com: not mocked, NBAdraft.net: not mocked)

~ Keyontae Johnson really is an undersized power forward.  Heck, I think he can play some small-ball center as well.  Even though he’s listed at 6’5 he weighs 225 pounds, has wide shoulders, strong bulky frame, ample butt, lengthy arms and large hands.  He also apparently measured his vertical at 41” but even without that recording his explosion on tape shouldn’t be up for debate.  That explosion and his intuitive ability to track down rebounds helped Johnson post 10.7 rebounds per 40 minutes, 9.4% offensive rebounding percentage and 16% total rebounding percentage.  His defense was the first thing that I took note of.  He’s definitely a better on-ball defender compared to a team defender.  It’s not like he’a a bad team defender, it’s just that more times then I would’ve liked Johnson was a split second late on his assignments.  Sometimes he’s too locked in on the ball and has to quicken his recognition on back end rotations.  He can cover ground at a fast pace so as long as he aligns his head with his movement Johnson should become a more than suitable team defender.  But his on-ball defense and switchability really stood out. Johnson has a big, muscular frame and is still quick at the same time.  He has decently fluid hips and does a good job staying attached even when he gets beat.  He can be taken to the post by bigger forwards and do an admirable job holding his ground.

On offense Johnson is pretty limited.  He’s more of a straight line driver with little wiggle and finishes most of his drives with jump stops.  He has an average first step but is still able to draw fouls at a fair clip.  Johnson does a good job playing the game low so when he’s able to get a beat on his defender does a good job creating distance with his shoulders and chest and finishing around the bucket.  He has a good feel for off-ball cutting and does most of his damage around the basket.  His jump shot probably needs more extension on his set/release point to raise his follow through.  He did manage to catch-and-shoot at an average clip but anything off the dribble needs to improve.  He’s more of a ball mover on offense but at times has made some nice passes with anticipation.  Johnson probably doesn’t have the upside of some of the other returning upperclassmen and really maxes out around high level role player. With a quality freshman class and the transfer of Kerry Blackshear the Florida Gators should be a lot more talented this year compared with last season.  That should only boost Johnson’s role on the team and could be someone by seasons end with more hype.

 

Aaron Henry, 6’6, SF, SO, Michigan State, 20 years

(ESPN.com: not mocked, NBAdraft.net: not mocked)

~ As the season went along last year Henry got better and better.  He ended up starting and contributing for a team that went to the final four.  Henry plays the game with such balance and has a good center of gravity it helps him move about the court with as little wasted motion as possible.  He is a sound defender that plays well on-ball and team defense.  His low defensive stance helps defend 1 through 4 and his communication skills help him process the game.  Having a strong defensive anchor supports his upside as a total package defender.  There is still room for improvement as he can float on defense, ball watch and commit silly fouls.  He was a freshmen under Tom Izzo last year and Izzo doesn’t give much rope.  I mean during Jaren Jackson’s freshman season he barely cracked 20 minutes per game at the end of the season.  Henry should be able to afford more leeway his sophomore season.

Henry impressed me the more I watched him on offense.  I thought he was just going to be a straight line driver and floor spacer but I was pleasantly surprised by his skill set.  For starters his dribble drive game is more diverse than I expected with variations of pivots, jabs, step offs and pump fakes.  He can use this array of set ups while attacking closeouts.  He can finish with touch, hit runners and make jumpers on the move.  Even with all that said Henry is still pretty limited as a live-ball creator but has shown these flashes of skill which is a good place to start from.  He’s not really quick twitch in the lane and is still developing counter dribble drive moves.  His passing is pretty underrated making some pin-point passes right before the play breaks open.  His overall sharp IQ should help in aiding his developmental process.  Henry will be getting a greater opportunity to showcase his skills this season and has a chance to make the sophomore leap. 

 

Nate Hinton, 6’5, SG/SF, SO, Houston, 20.2 years

(ESPN.com: not mocked, NBAdraft.net: not mocked)

~ I really like Hinton.  The guy is just a good basketball player on both sides of the ball.  His handle in comparison to the other wings on my list (Johnson and Henry) is probably the furthest along in his progression.  He can actually grab-and-go defensive rebounds and jump start the offense.  He has a serviceable go-to live-ball move with a right-to-left push cross, has decent stop and go moves with balance and can accelerate/decelerate in the lane.  This could be a reason why he gets to the line at a good clip with a 32% free throw rate.  With that said he still doesn’t have the most advanced handle and still needs more counters, shiftiness plus more rim attacks.  Also, his first step seems to be pretty average but his solid control and stability help him with downhill speed.  But the bottom line is that his handle and live-ball skills are further along when compared with his peers and gives him a head start with his maturation.  Additionally, he’s growing his off the bounce pull-up game and can make tough movement two point field goals.  That will help enhance his overall scoring ability.  He also has some appeal as a playmaker even though it sparsely happens displaying passes on the move, out of the pick-and-roll and one hand passes cross court.  It kind of feels like a skill laying dormant and could be a huge x-factor in his development.  Maybe he never showcases his passing capability but from what I’ve seen there’s potential gains.

He should improve upon his 33.7% three point shooting percentage this season.  Mechanically speaking he does dip the ball down pretty low at times but has a quick trigger with his follow through.  Developing core strength and getting stronger in general should help with power and accuracy which should improve his shot.  His 85.7% free throw percentage is a fair indicator of potential shooing success in the future as well.  On defense Hinton plays with energy and hustle.  He’s a hard nose defender using his brawn and leverage to body up his man.  Off-ball he can get his assignments mixed up occasionally but overall has a manageable IQ plugging up the gaps and shrinking the court.  It also helps that he has good timing in the passing lanes and creates events on defense.  Overall Hinton has two-way wing ability.  His role should expand with Houston and so to should his draft stock.  

 

Paul Reed, 6’9, SF/PF, JR, Depaul, 20.3 years

(ESPN.com: 51, NBAdraft.net: 36)

~ It’s funny.  Out of Toppin, Johnson, Henry, Hinton, Reed and Pickett, Reed is probably the player I favor the least but is still mocked on both ESPN.com and NBAdraft.net.  Go figure.  I debated even having Reed on my list since there’s nothing “sleeper” about him at this point in time.  I’ve been a fan of Reed for a while and think he has major upside nevertheless.  So to keep in theme of upperclassmen that I favor for next season Reed would have to be on that list.  The very first thing that stood out about Reed is his long limbed profile.  His height, length and athletic ability really does fit well with the modern NBA.  Depending on how his skill set develops he could play small forward all the way up to center.  He does have to get stronger if he wants to absorb the heavy blows at the next level however.  I personally would’ve liked to see Reed involved more as the screener in pick-and-roll’s since he can be a devastating dive man and can function better with more space popping out from a ball screen.  He can drive in a straight line and spin back to the basket in the lane.  Most of his live-ball moves are pretty sluggish.  I mean, he does have a crossover but it’s pretty slow.  He has good overall touch, solid leaping power, body control exploding off one foot which makes for efficient finishing.  He didn’t shoot that many three’s but has a high release point along with solid touch gives Reed sufficient room to improve.  He’s more of an extra pass type of player but has made drive-and-kick passes on occasion.  Although he can be a black hole on offense and get tunnel vision.  He needs to do a better job taking advantage of his scoring ability and create for others.

Reed is a mixed bag on defense.  You see his potential and upside as he can traverse through large swaths of ground at a brisk pace.  He displays great creation skills and sports solid block and steal percentages (2.3%steal, 6.8%block).  But the guy just has poor fundamentals.  He can’t flip his hips on defense which hurts defending at the point of attack.  He plays back on his heels too often and needs to play on his toes for better mobility.  He commits careless fouls which can be highly frustrating.  He goes for the ball instead of staying sound with his responsibility which ends up knocking himself out of position.  He has underwhelming recognition skills on defense.  He can make the initial rotation but struggles to cycle through multiple rotations.  Reed is by no means a terrible defender but just infuriating to watch someone with such defensive upside be prone to that lack of detail.  He has the baseline ability and tools to become a lottery pick but until he establishes better habits his future might restricted.         

 

Jalen Pickett, 6’4, PG/SG, SO, Siena, 19.8 years

(ESPN.com: not mocked, NBAdraft.net: not mocked)

~ It feels like most people following the NBA draft knows Pickett by now and the term “breakout/sleeper” really doesn’t apply to him.  I just think there’s a very good chance by season’s end Pickett will have first round draft consideration.  I had to put him on my list especially since Pickett isn’t mocked by either ESPN.com or NBAdraft.net.  Does this mean I like Pickett more than other returning guards like Tre Jones, Ashton Hagans, AJ Lawson and Ayo Dosunmu?  Well, yea.  You can make the argument that those four other point guards have better first steps, better athletic ability and higher ceilings.  But they all have their question marks as well. Lawson is taller but I don’t trust his touch, Hagans and Dosunmu have quick first step’s but need to be a better shot makers and Jones can’t shoot threes.  I guess I favor Pickett more because of offensive versatility.  I think Pickett has more potential to become a Fred VanVleet type combo guard in the NBA in comparison to the others.  Pickett can set firm screens, move well without the ball, make tough movement shots, catch-and-shoot and make good decisions attacking closeouts.  

Pickett might not have a swift first step and top notch athletic ability but is a good leverage scorer using his butt, base, shoulders and footwork to create scoring angles.  He then takes these scoring advantages and uses them to support his ability to create for others.  He does need to tighten his handle as it can be high at times and he needs to finish with his left hand more often.  His long distance shot has a high release point but has a slight hitch in my opinion.  As long as he buffs that out then I think he can raise his three point percentage especially considering he has solid touch and a good unassisted make rate.  His mid-major competition level might be covering up some of his defensive capacity since Pickett doesn’t have explosive athletic ability.  He gets by defending with his strength, broad shoulders, long arms, functional movement and processing speed which helps create on defense.  Those traits will have to carryover at the next level if he wants to be a plus defender. Pickett doesn’t have the upside of some of the other returning guards but his game could translate better to an ever growing versatile league.  

 

DEEP SLEEPER 

Kessler Edwards, 6’8, PF/C, SO, Pepperdine, 19 years

(Not even close to being mocked anywhere)

~ He’s probably more likely to be a four year player than a second year breakout candidate.  Still, even after his senior season at college I don’t know how credible an NBA prospect he will be then.  He’s definitely a long shot to make the NBA.  But after watching some games from his freshman season there is a slight chance he becomes draft relevant.  For starters his physical profile is the most NBA ready quality about him.  He’s long, with good explosion and closing speed.  He can also cover ground in a hurry.  His overreliance on his athleticism to make plays is a problem though and he needs to develop better functional speed.  On defense his hand eye coordination is probably his best trait.  Add that to his long arms and he creates defensive events at a solid rate.  His defensive footwork is sloppy, his IQ is maybe average and he needs to be more focused off ball.  With that said he did show pick-and-roll versatility, doing an admirable job switching, hedging and recovering, and downing the roll.  That skill alone is in demand around the league and could be what propels his career.

On offense Edwards was mainly a spot up shooter.  He has a low set/release point but since he’s long armed and tall he gets his shot off over most defenders.  Developing core strength will be important to quicken his release over time.  Probably the next best thing he does on offense is diving off pick-and-rolls.  Being a great rim-runner makes sense with his athleticism, length, hand eye coordination, leaping power and touch around the basket.  He doesn’t really have a handle, mostly will attack a closeout with a 1-2 plant and release.  But his overall shot creation and live-dribble game is pretty much non-existent at this point.  I admit this is a long shot but it’s fun following prospects throughout their college career.

 

Honorable Mention

Anthony Lamb, 6’6, SF/PF, SR, Vermont, 21.6 years

(ESPN.com: not mocked, NBAdraft.net: not mocked)

~ Good leverage scorer; dips shoulder into defender, strong base and smooth footwork to create scoring angles.  Promising long distance shooting traits that should help translate to the NBA.  I’d say he’s an average NBA athlete with a strong frame and board shoulders.  Nice touch around the rim, gets to the line at a fairly high clip and makes tough movement two point jumpers.  Average to above average IQ on defense.  Needs to improve processing speed if he wants to consistently defend at the next level.  Overall by years end could be regarded as a second round prospect.  He’s more of an undersized power forward and his role in the NBA could be bench/rotational scorer.

 

Devin Vassell, 6’6, SG/SF, SO, Florida State, 19 years

(ESPN.com: not mocked, NBAdraft.net: not mocked)

~ Vassell didn’t play that much this season, only played in short spurts.  Has a long limbed frame that needs to fill out over time but solid NBA athleticism.  He was mostly a catch-and-shoot three point shooter on offense for Florida State but shot well from deep overall.  Most everything about his game seems at least average: vision, team defense, on-ball defense, finishing and handle.  His shot creation and off the bounce game are probably his bigger question marks.  Overall he looks like a potential 3-and-D wing in the NBA.

 

Quintin Dove, 6’8, SF/PF, SR, UT-Martin, 21.2 years

(Not even close to being mocked)

~ He’s another long shot to make the league like Kessler Edwards.  He transferred from a community college last season so he only has one year division one under his belt.  He’s a questionable defender, extremely foul prone and needs to tighten up his decision making.  So yea, long shot.  I guess what intrigued me about Dove was his physical profile, offensive rebounding, active hands on defense, he’s really good around the rim, actually has somewhat of a straight line handle, got to the free throw line at a good rate, shot 81% from the line, made some difficult shots and his jump shot looks to be translatable to the next level even though he hardly shoots any threes.  He really has to pop on defense, foul less and shoot more threes to get on any draft radar.     

Scouting Report: Ja Morant (Rank 3, Tier 2)

Scouting Report:

Ja Morant (Rank 3, Tier 2)

6’3/6’6 wingspan/175 pounds/19.8 years/SO

 

I’m not as sold on Ja Morant as everyone else seems to be.  Memphis has already announced they are selecting Morant well in advance of the actual draft and he ranks number two on most big boards I’ve seen.  The hype for Morant is for real.  Now you may be asking the question, “Hey OldMan?  If you’re not high on Morant then why rank him number three?”  Fair question random reader.  The number one reason why he ranks so high on my big board is his shot creation ability; whether that be creating for himself or his teammates.  He has one of, if not the best first step in the entire 2019 draft class.  He uses a variety of quick twitch hesitations for his primary dribble drive move that creates separation.  Combine that with an assortment of crossovers with either hand and he breaks down the defense like a pro.

Morant is quick to process on offense, has a good feel for play maturation and solid passing instincts.  If the defense loses a player baseline get ready for an on time lob pass by Morant.  He’ll look off defenders for no look passes, draw defenders in the paint for dump off passes and find cutters with ease.  Morant doesn’t just sit back and take what the defense gives him but rather manipulates defenders into getting the play he wants.  His ability to read the game in layers and play make off it will always be a coveted skill in the NBA.    

He’s pretty ambidextrous with his handle and finishing ability.  He can leap off either foot, two foot leap for power and slam dunk off one foot in transition.  He doesn’t quite have great touch but rather good touch around the rim sporting a 61% field goal percentage around the basket.  His body control can improve on his finishes and I think gaining more strength would help improve his overall touch around the rim.  Morant can make tough shots off the dribble but wasn’t really asked to do much off-ball.  Improving as a movement shooter will be important since he won’t have the ball in his hands as much as he did sophomore season.  He wasn’t that active off-ball on offense but did sport a 1.133 points per possession on all catch-and-shoot situations which ranked 72nd percentile.  He did that on only 45 possessions though so the sample size isn’t hefty.  He also sported a .778 points per possession on all catch-and-shoot plays his freshman season which ranked 20th percentile.  He uses a one motion shooting technique for his follow through on his jump shot.  It lowers the release point but quickens the mechanics.  He needs to gain more lower body and core strength to help him with his long distance accuracy.  Since he shot 81% from the free throw line his two seasons at Murray State, has pretty solid touch around the rim and improved as a shooter from season to season gives me enough indication of potential shooting success in the NBA.

Like I said at the beginning of this report I have my concerns.  For starters he was a far better transition player than half court player which is somewhat concerning.  He scored 1.197 points per possession on all transition plays which ranked 78th percentile but on half court plays scored a .885 points per possession which ranked 58th percentile.  He also took a lot of risky passes through tight seams on the court for a fair amount of turnovers which could make for a messy adjustment period at the next level.  His off-ball offense is cause for pause, his small frame could ultimately be a problem, he needs to work on his strength and his shot isn’t a guarantee that it’ll translate to the pros.  His top tier play making ability and shot creation prowess are what’s holding me back from ranking him any lower.

The biggest concern I have however is his defense.  The amount of times I saw him blatantly let the ball handler he was guarding pass by just to attempt a back tap from behind at the ball was ludicrous.  He was more concerned about making a play on the ball instead of being a sound defender.  He’s done that as an off-ball defender too by reaching and swiping down instead of playing gap protection.  I get that his usage was 33% and he had so much to do on offense.  He was pacing himself throughout the game and expended a lot of energy on the offensive side of the ball.  I’m just worried he developed bad habits his sophomore season.  His defensive stance is either hunched over or straight up.  Rarely did I see him sit in his stance and use his butt as an anchor.  He floated off-ball with lackadaisical effort at times and needs to be more alert on give-and-go’s plus backdoor passes.  He hardly lock-and-trailed his man and shot the gap mostly or avoided screens all together.  It’s not all bad though.  Morant has shown that he’s capable of hugging the lane line and making rotations on help defense.  He also used his quickness and lateral agility to stay in front of ball handlers but only when he felt like it.  His athletic ability was a major redeeming quality on defense as that’s how he made up for his mistakes.

Having a consistent long range shot, gaining strength and putting effort in defensively are points of contention that Morant has to improve upon in the NBA.  Even with all my concerns I have Morant ranked third.  The substantial selling point is obviously his shot creation and play making talent.  Those still are in demand skills and very important for playoff basketball.  Pairing Morant with Jarren Jackson is a nice way to kick off a rebuild and should help with Morant’s progression.  

 

* All Stats provided by Synergy Sports Tech *