Tag Archives: Scouting Report

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.

Scouting Report: RJ Barrett (Rank 8, Tier 3)

Scouting Report:

RJ Barrett (Rank 8, Tier 3)

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

6’7/6’10 wingspan/202 pounds/19 years/FR

I guess I have some explaining to do.  Typically every year there’s at least one overhyped prospect and my choice this draft is RJ Barrett.  I understand that he might not have been in the best situation at Duke since they didn’t have much shooting so let’s just focus on the facts.  Barrett shot 30.8% from three, 66.5% from the free throw line and excluding post-ups 52.2% around the basket.  He wasn’t a particularly good off-ball player posting a .952 points per possession on all catch-and-shoot chances which ranked 41st percentile, .689 points per possession on “off-screen” situations which ranked 22nd percentile and .949 points per possession on all “cut” plays which ranked 24th percentile.  So he wasn’t a good shooter, has questionable touch and can’t do much off ball?  Basically he better be the primary creator on whatever team he goes to because if not I question what role he’s going to play.  I guess either people are just hoping for substantial improvement or they really think the Duke situation was that bad.

So let’s go over the tape.  One of Barrett’s skills are his playmaking ability.  He uses his height to look over the defense and toss skip, pocket and over the top passes around the floor.  He’s pretty solid at the two-man game between ball handler and roll man.  Though I wouldn’t call him a primary ball handler but more of a tertiary ball handler due to his average feel and problems with misdiagnosing plays.  He’s decent at live-dribble but he’s not really a shifty ball handler.  He can use euro steps, cross steps and behind the back dribble drive moves but make no mistake Barrett is a power driver. He has long, strong strides on his drive and can dip his shoulder into the defender to dislodge for space.  His hips aren’t that fluid and he tends to straight line drive in the paint with his left hand.  A lot of times on layups he would switch the ball from right to left hand while midair wasting motion in this manner.  I guess he doesn’t trust his right hand all that much yet but that will be a problem if not remedied.

On defense he’s a decent on-ball defender, a questionable team defender and below average at defensive creation.  He’s best when on-ball locked in, sitting down in his stance and remaining balanced. He’s listed at 6’7 with a 6’10 wingspan and a good not great athlete.  That physical profile helps him well defending dribble drive moves. Although at times his positioning and footwork would be off giving Barrett a tough time to adjust on the fly.  He can make initial rotations weak side and help defense but struggles to process the next move.  He’s slow to identify his man off a scramble, will lazily fly by for closeouts at times and get lost looking for his matchup while defending early offense.  He has average instincts on defense and isn’t much for creating events.  He averaged 1.5 blocks+steals per 40 minutes.  Not impressive numbers for an NBA wing.

One of the reasons why I like Jarrett Culver so much is growth potential.  If you look at his high school senior season, freshman season and this past season he grew exponentially.  If you look at Barrett since the FIBA U19 World Cup in 2017 how much has he grown since then?  He’s pretty much the same player while Culver was the 43rd ranked shooting guard in ESPN’s 2017 class and now he’s a possible top five pick.  I just think this is who Barrett is. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that but I just think at pick three you want more growth potential.  I mean he’s still in my top 10 so it’s not like I’m going overboard with criticism…I think.

* All stats provided by Synergy Sports Tech and Hoop-Math*

Scouting Report: Darius Bazley (Rank 5, Tier 2)

Scouting Report:

Darius Bazley (Rank 5, Tier 2)

6’9/7’ wingspan/209 pounds/19 years

~ Sometimes you have to put your name on a couple prospects.  Especially in a draft as uncertain as this one there seems to be a few potential gems hidden outside the lottery.  That’s where Darius Bazley steps in for me.  He was the 13th ranked player coming out of high school by ESPN and decided to skip college and play in the g-league.  For whatever reason, he changed his mind about entering the g-league and planned to work on his body and skills leading up to the draft.  I obviously didn’t know much about him until I saw his performance at the NBA combine 5-on-5 scrimmages portion.  What really impressed me was the fact that he was 19 years old, hasn’t played organized basketball in over a year going up against a bunch of players who were 19-23 years old who just played college basketball 2-3 months prior and became one of the standouts nonetheless.

He stands in at 6’9 with a 7’ wingspan and an impressive 8’11 standing reach.  He also proved to be a bouncy athlete with a 37 inch max vertical and quick change-of-direction potential sporting a 2.95 shuttle run which was sixth best.  The thing that got me to start taking Bazley more seriously was his handle.  He had a pretty low, tight and in control handle with combo dribble drive moves.  He took players off the bounce with either a pump fake or decently quick first step.  He made turnaround two point jumpers, one dribble pull-ups and and-1 buckets.  He was quick off his feet for offensive putbacks, reverse layups and one-legged lay-ins.  His passing ability took me by surprise too.  It wasn’t all good with some forced passes and misguided transition throw aheads but he did make some standout plays.  One of them being an off-the-dribble behind-the-back pass to Ignas Brazdekis and the other being an off-the-bounce drop off pass to the man at the dunker spot.  When I watched some of his high school tape he showed pretty solid passing skills, it’s the instincts that need to improve.

His left-handed long distance shot looked workable.  I watched some of his high school games at Princeton (OH) and his mechanics have definitely improved since.  In high school they were really slow, his elbow had inconsistent arrangements and the shot came out at an angle.  His shot at the combine was quicker, his elbow placement was much smoother and the shot was actually lined up with the basket.  Obviously he still needs to tinker with his mechanics but making progress at this young of an age is a positive indication of shooting success.

He was a decidedly better on-ball defender than team defender.  At times he missed rotations, misread angles and lost his man.  His ability to cover ground in a timely fashion does give Bazley upside as a developing team defender and considering this was his first organized game in over a year it’s tough to judge but questioning his feel for the game is an inevitable concern.  On the other hand he was defending smaller, quicker players well, had a solid time playing different pick-and-roll coverages and was able to defend in the post. His long lanky legs gave him a big base to work with and his wide shoulders shoulders should fill out over time.  Add that to his length and athleticism and we’re talking about a potentially versatile swing forward on defense.  There was one play where he pressed the ball handler on a side pick-and-roll, the ball handler threw a pocket pass to the screener slipping, Bazley recovered well, picked up the screener at the free throw line and contested a post attempt for a miss.  That one play alone showed why I think he has tremendous upside on defense.

The transition to the NBA will take time.  His last taste of organized basketball was a year ago in a high school gym.  It’s probably going to take him at least a season or two to acclimate to pro speed.  On a few instances during the combine it looked like he was averse to the physical nature of the game.  Gaining strength and bulking up will be very important for Bazley.  He did just turn 19 years old.  As long as the franchise who drafts him is patient then they could reap major benefits.  Is ranking Bazley at five too high?  Probably.  But with so much skepticism towards this draft a player who is long, active with quick feet, has a budding shot, solid handle and passing skills…well, that sounds like a player to take a risk on.

Scouting Report: Darius Garland (Rank 9, Tier 3)

Scouting Report:

Darius Garland (Rank 9, Tier 3)

6’3/6’5 Wingspan/175 pounds/19.4 years/FR

 

Darius Garland tore his left meniscus five games into his freshman season.  That was unfortunate since he was on a roll offensively through four games.  It’s frustrating to grade him with the lack of game tape.  At times I think he’s a top five talent due to his shooting skills but other times I question his defense and wonder what role will he have on a championship caliber team.  He’s listed as 6’3 with a 6’5 wingspan and weighs in at 175 pounds.  A meniscus tear isn’t an athleticism altering injury but if Garland’s frame can’t mange NBA punishment that’s a long term problem.  Just like with most smaller stature players, Garland will need to add strength and bulk up.  Since he’s super agile and fast with solid quick twitch reactions he will need to be careful with paint drives and laying out his body on finishes.  Smaller players bodies tend to break down fast in the NBA and hopefully whoever drafts Garland will properly monitor his conditioning.

The main reason why he’s ranked number nine on my big board even though he’s only played four games has to deal with his shooting.  Unlike Ja Morant and Coby White, Garland has a more capable translatable shot.  His mechanics are the most natural out of the three guards; nice quick motion, power comes from the lower body and hips, loads up off his toes, set point has variances but seems high enough and solid touch.  He shot 47.8% from three and 1.441 points per possession on all jump shots which ranked 99th percentile albeit on a small sample size.  He was deadly off the dribble shooting 56.2% on his two point jumpers.  He can step back off either foot, sharp pull up, side step and pull back with nimble shake to his rhythm.  He can use change-of-pace dribble moves to influence defenders habits and dictate which angle to exploit.  His abrupt stop-and-go movements off the bounce and combo dribble drives moves help create separation for himself.  He also can use his shooting gravity off-ball, cut off screen and make movement three pointers.  That’s something I want to see more of in the NBA.

Entering the paint is one of Garland’s pluses but his finishing ability needs some improving.  He isn’t terrible around the rim sporting a 60% field goal percentage but the physical nature of the middle modifies his timing and power around the rim.  It felt like he would short arm some lay in’s and mostly jump off two feet around the hoop not trusting his body control on one legged leaps.  I also think he’s a better playmaker than he gets credit for.  He had a 13 assist to 15 turnover ratio and sported .647 points per possession on passes out of the pick-and-roll which ranked 9th percentile.  He clearly looks for his shot first, has tunnel vision and can’t identify the simple pass in a timely fashion.  The numbers don’t support his playmaking ability and the tape doesn’t either but in spurts I’ve seen good creation.  A lot of that has to deal with keeping his head up, trusting his teammates and not over dribbling.  Sometimes he will pick up his dribble too early if he sees a second man come his way.  Continuing his dribble and prolonging the play will also help in terms of playmaking.

His defense is somewhat concerning.  Obviously his frame doesn’t do him any favors, his on-ball defense waivers even though he has lateral quickness and his team defense is still a question mark.  I sometimes wonder how much of a difference there is between Garland and Carsen Edwards due to the fact they have similar builds and offensive styles.  Ja Morant is an elite play maker and Coby White is 6’5 with some play making ability.  On the other hand if Garland can’t playmake at the next level why is he ranked so much higher than Carsen Edwards who he compares well with?  That’s a question I’ve been wrestling with and I always fall back to dribbling ability and lateral movement.  I also can’t get the 2018 NBA combine scrimmages out of my head when it comes to Carsen Edwards.  He didn’t play well in a simulated NBA environment and became a motive for him to return for his junior season.  I trust Garland to be that much better of a shooter, scorer than Edwards as well.  Still it’s a valid question and part of my concern with Garland’s value.

 

* All stats provided by Synergy Sports Tech and Hoop-Math *

Scouting Report: Coby White (Rank 4, Tier 2)

Scouting Report:

Coby White (Rank 4, Tier 2)

6’5/6’5 wingspan/191 pounds/19.3 years/FR

 

Coby White is one of my biggest movers on this ranking.  A lot of that has to do with his scoring prowess.  For this draft class Coby has top level scoring instincts, can shoot threes in a variety of ways and is an improving play maker.  Being long, athletic with a good frame is great for potential but if you can’t dribble, shoot and create for yourself then that potential’s value is cut in half.  Even though Coby is listed at 6’5 he doesn’t have that big of a frame.  His shoulders are pretty slight with average size hands and a build that might not fill out.  The hope is that over time he will develop strength albeit with a slender frame.  His physical advantage is speed and quickness.  Coby might even be faster than Ja Morant but doesn’t have the vertical explosion to match.

Coby might not be an above the rim player but has craft and touch in his arsenal.  He shot 67% on all his attempts around the rim and only 17.9% of those were assisted.  He can change hands mid air on lay up attempts, go up-and-under for stealthy finishes and put soft english on the ball to fit over longer players.  He’s a decently versatile leaper around the rim with same foot, same hand lay in’s but tends to jump off two feet around rim.  I think as soon as he gains longer body strength he should use one footed leaps around the rim more frequently.  He has a quick first step with speed down hill with a multitude of hang dribbles, push crossovers, behind the back moves and hezi jimbos.  His sudden stop-and-go movements get defenders leaning and his blazing speed gets himself into the lane.  When he gets into the lane he likes to use a left-to-right spin move for separation and uses his momentum wisely to carry his body in space creating angles whether that be on step-backs or fallaways.  Unfortunately his handle can be too high, leaving the ball out in front exposed for deflections.  He needs better control and a steadier center of gravity.  Moving side to side can be an issue as well as White can be loose with his dribble.  As I said earlier, the hope is that additional core strength will improve control.

White is a score first guard that needs to see the court better but can make plays off the pick-and-roll since the game is slowed down.  Possessions that include passes off the pick-and-roll, White sported a 1.407 points per possession which ranked 97th percentile.  When he gets sped up White doesn’t see the court as well as he could but with a ball screen he does a good job looking for cutters and weak side action with one handed skip passes on occasion.  He can turn the corner off a hedge even with a dribble that’s high but what’s most impressive are his splits through doubles or hedges.  That was probably one of the first things I noticed about White, his ability to split pick-and-roll coverage’s.  That’s such a useful move to get the offense a 5-on-4 advantage on his way to the rim.  Although when he did split the coverage when he pulled up off the dribble White sported a .629 points per possession which ranked 27th percentile. Having better shot selection, more strength and body control should help with his off dribble game.

Just like with Ja Morant, White has a lower release point.  White had an inconsistent release point though and at times it was as low as his chin and as high as over his head.  Having a fluid set point definitely quickens your shooting mechanics but unless you get the ball high enough on the follow through and develop core strength then the shot may be prone to contests.  Luckily for White he does a good job of step backs, pull ups and momentum altering shots that create space to get the shot off.  He also sported a 1.339 points per possession on catch-and-shoot situations which ranked 93rd percentile.  Even in a limited fashion at North Carolina White displayed good instincts off-ball.  He set good cross and up screens plus pin-downs using his shooting gravity at times to distort the angles of the court.  He was more active off-ball than Morant and it’s something that I think is underrated when talked about Coby White.

White also tried on defense unlike Morant did this past season.  Coby isn’t the biggest, strongest or most vertically explosive player but he gave multiple efforts, fought over screens and used his quickness to his advantage.  Yes, when he did get caught up in a screen it took him time to recover but remarkably White did a solid job whipping his inside foot over screen setters to get skinny over screens.  He would then stay attached to the ball handler and hustle even if he was behind some.  White was actually a decent team defender collapsing middle on drives, walling off weak side attacks and cutting off drives at the nail then recovering back to his own.  Sometimes after making the initial rotation Coby would get stuck in the muck and at times he missed his sink-and-fill assignments but overall Coby was an above average team defender.  His quickness allowed him to stay in front of players but at times he over gambled and lost position.  Playing on his toes more, working on his lower body and strengthening his butt would help in terms of on-ball defense.

The importance of creating a shot for yourself can’t be understated.  It’s obviously important to have other skills and a baseline of NBA athletic ability but during the playoffs players who can’t dribble, shoot and create buckets for themselves are impossible to play.  White got better as the season went on and considering we’re talking about ACC play that was highly impressive.  I don’t know if White will ever be a starting point guard on a title team but can he be a highly productive rotational piece on a title team?  I think so.

 

* All stats provided by Synergy Sports Tech and Hoop-Math*

 

 

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 *

Scouting Report: Jarrett Culver (Rank 2, Tier 2)

Scouting Report:

Jarrett Culver (Rank 2, Tier 2)

6’7/6’9.5 wingspan/194 pounds/20.3 years/SO

 

Jarrett Culver started off ranked number two in my pre-tournament rankings and that’s where he’ll finish off.  The overall growth potential that Culver has is too enticing.  The combination of good size, decent frame, budding skill, workable shot and defensive prowess makes Culver a perfect upside play for today’s NBA.  He isn’t overly long and has a pretty mediocre standing reach at 8’4.5. To put that in perspective, Tyler Herro, who has a shorter wingspan than height sports the same standing reach as Culver.  If Culver wants to guard the best wing scorers in the game today he’ll need to pack on a few more pounds and bulk up.  His great athleticism and height is his saving grace.  Culver had a recent growth spurt since he measured in at 6’5 entering college and now leaves Texas Tech closer near 6’7.  Those additional inches will help in terms of getting shots up over pressure, defending multiple positions and seeing over the top of the defense.  Culver is quick off his feet around the rim, covers the court with his speed and shows slippery hips on point of attack defense.  His physical profile isn’t great but good enough to warrant the hype he’s getting.

On offense Culver is a solid play maker.  After being blitzed off a ball screen he can hit weak side shooters with an over the top pass or pocket pass to the release value.  He finds back action shooters with space coming of high side pick-and-roll’s or finds the roll-man with lob passes on side pick-and-roll’s.  Culver had 209 assists to 160 turnovers for his career at Texas Tech.  There’s still room for improvement as at times he gets careless with the ball and reads a play that was never going to open in the first place.  During the national championship game Culver forced some of these plays for boneheaded turnovers.  All in all Culver is a pretty heady play maker off the bounce or with a ball screen but needs to identify actions with more caution before making a silly turnover.

His long range shot is a hot topic.  He shot 68.7% from the free throw line and 34.1% from the three point line in his two years at Texas Tech.  He also shot 33.9% on his two point jumpers.  On catch-and-shoot situations Culver sported a .908 points per possession which ranked 34th percentile and on all jump shot opportunities he sported a .848 points per possession which ranked 37th percentile.  From a numbers perceptive Culver seems like a below average to average jump shooter.  His shooting mechanics look tense with no flow.  They aren’t compact or repeatable and it seems like he needs to work out the hitch in his release.  At times on the load up he generates power while flat footed but needs to spring off his toes to allow the power from his lower body and not his shoulders.  His shot clearly needs work and his shooting percentages are weak but considering he has solid touch around the basket shooting 67% around the rim and makes a fair amount of unassisted tough shots, there is some indication that he can improve his shot at the next level.  For Culver to reach full potential his shot is priority number one to fix.

His handle is solid but needs to be upgraded.  He lacks an elite first step, is sometimes hunched over when he dribbles, too high of a dribble and needs a consistent low center of gravity.  He uses a variety of rips, pumps and jab steps out of the triple threat to create separation with his slightly above average first step.  He tends to be more of a straight line driver and doesn’t possess enough side-to-side wiggle in the lane.  He can throw down off two feet from a spin move in the lane for some space creation or use a combination of push crosses and behind the back dribbles to change direction.  As long as he keeps the ball low, has a good anchor underneath him and use his left hand more frequently then he’s capable of having a much better handle.  A lot of things on offense for Culver need to be worked on but are definitely manageable.  Nothing he does is broken and has shown spurts of greatness in all areas on offense.

Overall as a defender Culver is one of the better one’s in this draft.  He’s good at creating events on defense and on-ball and team defense.  He isn’t afraid to leave his man weak side to take a charge in the lane or crash down on some strong side action causing havoc.  He has solid anticipation and hand eye coordination on deflections covering a lot of ground quickly in the process.  At times I noticed him staring at the ball one second too long and be late to process as a result.  But overall he does a fine job with his low man rotations and weak side contests.  He’s also a good live ball defender with long lanky legs creating a wide base and good anchor to contain dribble penetration.  He’ll stay attached to his man’s hip, doesn’t bite on fakes for the most part and funnels his man into help defense. Sometimes he needs to finish out the play since I’ve seen him gear up for a box-out while he should be gathering for a rim contest.  Getting stronger with better core strength will help with contact, rebounding and switching.

The year-over-year improvement for Culver is a reason why I’m betting on his growth potential.  Depending on how his body develops he could conceivably play positions one through four on offense and defend one through 5.  The biggest question I will monitor will be his shot process. That’s going to be key for him. Culver to me projects nicely as a two-way big wing with play making ability.  If that’s the ceiling then why not take the gamble?

* All stats provided by Synergy Sports Tech *

Scouting Report: Zion Williamson (Rank: 1, Tier: 1)

Scouting Report:

Zion Williamson (Rank: 1, Tier: 1)

6’7/6’10 wingspan/280 pounds/18.9 years/FR

 

Who else would be number one on my prospect rankings?  No offense to every other player in this draft but it isn’t even close.  Could Zion stand to lose a few pounds?  Sure.  Does he need to get in better shape?  No doubt.  Do I wish he had a longer wingspan and standing reach?  Who doesn’t.  But in terms of physical profile Zion isn’t just elite, he’s generational.  It’s his body control on rim attacks, his coordination on vertical hops, his fluidity off his back foot, his delicate footwork and his ability to catch, gather and accelerate in little wasted motion.  No man should be able to do what Zion does at his weight.  A lot of players have busted out of the league with elite athleticism.  They didn’t know how to harness it into basketball related activities.  Zion takes his elite athleticism and turns it into functional basketball movement.  He moves on a string inside the courts dimensions.  It’s one thing to be athletic, it’s another to couple that with skill.

One of the major points of contention about Zion is his long distance shooting.  He shot 33.8% from three for the season which isn’t terrible but his 64% free throw percentage didn’t do him any favors in terms of future predictors of success.  On all jump shot attempts Zion sported a .925 points per possession which ranked 52nd percentile and .966 points per possession on all catch-and-shoot opportunities which ranked 44th percentile.  Mechanically speaking his release is really flat and it doesn’t get much air underneath the ball.  He needs more extension on his follow thru and the shot to be released at it’s apex point.  Luckily, Zion possesses good touch around the rim.  His FG% at the rim was 79.2% and considering that 72% of his shot attempts came at the rim that’s great touch.  He also made 47.1% of his two point jumpers.  Some of those were movement two point jumpers off fallaways, fadeaways or while drawing fouls.  He was also capable of making pull-up threes off the 1-2 step or hitting step-back threes.  It isn’t a guarantee that Zion becomes a proficient three point shooter at the next level but considering his solid touch, two point percentage and difficult shot making ability, those pluses lead me to believe that it’s totally conceivable for Zion to become an above average shooter at the next level.  

Even if Zion becomes an average three point shooter, the overall skill that Zion possesses is still very advanced for someone his age.  While he can be too reliant on left hand finishes or left side drives, he has shown the capability to drive off the right side or with the right hand.  It’s the frequency of right handed attempts that Zion needs to increase.  He has displayed change-of-direction, change-of-speed, shifty moves on his drives with either hand.  He makes sharp, fluid dribble drive moves off the bounce using a cross move, between the legs or going behind his back, changing his driving angle, jump stop and finish through traffic.  The amount of wiggle the man has for a player that size is pretty remarkable.

I’ve seen him drive into the three defenders waiting for him in the paint, miss the shot, get his own rebound and finish off the play.  Saying that Zion absorbs contact in the lane is an understatement. Even though he has less than impressive wingspan, around the basket Zion still fits the shot over longer players, puts solid zip on the ball and contorts his body with great control to finish verses length.  Zion can leap off his left or right foot with solid coordination but too often does he rely on his two foot leaping ability.  Being more versatile around the rim would help throw off defenders trying to contest his shot rhythm.  He can also be more careful on how he lands after vertical leaps.  Too often did I see him land on one foot after a monster slam which made me fear a torn muscle.  To avoid injury he needs to start landing on two foot with more regularity to evenly disperse his weight throughout his lower body.

Zion is an underrated playmaker.  He can create off pick-and-roll, closeout or live-dribble.  Zion will read all levels of the defense and can promptly find corner cutters, roll-men or weak side shooters.  He obviously isn’t perfect at shot creation and will be out of control at times.  Zion has the IQ to be a high quality playmaker but needs to let the play breathe before he can take action.  He didn’t have much space or shooting at Duke so that improvement at the next level will surely balance his shot creation skills some.  I don’t know how often Zion will be stationed in the post in the NBA but he will fight for his spots on the court.  If you give up his preferred post position call it a wrap.  He draws fouls too easily at that point.  It’s tough to stop Zion in the paint after a post feed with his momentum and touch.

On defense Zion graded mostly positive.  Like all young players though he did show his lapses on team defense.  He sometimes will sink too far down on defense when he should be pressing the shooters on the perimeter or checking one man over but instead he gears up for block.  Don’t get me wrong he’s an excellent weak side shot blocker.  He has a fantastic second jump on blocks, quicker than most players one jump.  The amount of space he covers in a short period of time is elite.  He can be sitting under the basket, take two long strides and be in position to block a shot above the break.  He takes powerful but nimble strides on his closeouts.  He can make up for mistakes in a hurry with how quick he covers space; sometimes relying on his athleticism too often in the process.  But in certain instances he does stick to the perimeter when he should be tagging the roll-man or helping the helper.  He was still overall a good team defender playing the game low and making reads on the ball.  He could jump a pass for the steal or choke the action off-ball stalling the play.  As an on-ball defender Zion could possess the ever elusive switchable skill factor.  His hips are on a swivel, changing direction to stay attached to quicker guards.  He does a nice job kick sliding back with his man on dribble penetration making sure he doesn’t double step.  He will use his off-arm staying attached to his man on an attack to alter driving angles but at times can be too touchy drawing checking fouls.  

Not a lot needs to be said about Zion.  I probably wrote too much as is.  Zion is a generational talent at a time where the league benefits from the skill set that Zion owns.  There’s been some comparison to Lebron: a two-way, big wing scorer with playmaking ability.  That class belongs to players like Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard.  The best of the best.  Those are lofty comparisons that I won’t make. Instead I could see Zion in the mold of Blake Griffin meets Draymond Green.  The physical profile, offensive skill set and athletic gifts of Blake while having the IQ and defensive prowess of a Draymond Green.  Hopefully New Orleans does right by Zion and surround him with enough shooting, versatility and ball handling to succeed.  I could easily see New Orleans screw that up though and waste another superstar players talents.  For the sake of the league I hope I’m wrong.

*All stats provided by Synergy Sports Tech*

Season In Review: Jontay Porter

Jontay Porter,  Missouri,  Freshmen

PF/C,  6’11.5”,  7’0.25” wingspan

9’1” standing reach,  236 pounds,  18.8 years old

 

After last season Jontay Porter decided to enter the NBA draft and participate in the draft combine.  He ended up withdrawing his name from the 2018 NBA draft and returning to Missouri for his sophomore season.  During the pre-draft process many NBA draft websites had Porter as a first round selection, some even lottery bound.  Now that he’s projected to enter the 2019 NBA draft these same websites have Porter as a lottery selection in what amounts to a potentially weak draft.  I really didn’t watch Missouri games last season except for the Michael Porter games, so my level of Jontay Porter knowledge is novice like.  With so many draft websites that I respect having Porter as a 2019 lottery pick I decided to go over as much game tape as possible, breakdown Porters abilities and determine if he really warrants a lottery selection next draft:

 

Jontay Porter has good not great length for a center standing at 6’11.5” but with a 7’.025” wingspan.  His 9’1” standing reach could be his most important physical attribute since it helps him cover ground best in comparison to his lackluster athleticism.  Porter has a 13.85% body fat percentage worst at the 2018 combine.  Porter was out of shape as a freshmen and is partial reasoning as to why he didn’t play more minutes.  Draymond Green serves as a good example of a frontcourt player who suffered from weight issues and redefined his body at the pro level.  Reportedly Green lost about 20 pounds from his rookie to sophomore season with the Warriors (Link).  Green was also a senior when he came out of college and Porter will be a sophomore giving more time for Porter to make enhancements to his diet and exercise.  

Porter is going to need to be in better shape at the next level if he wants to make up for his lack of recovery speed.  Porter was in last place at the 2018 combine when he ran a 3.40 three quarter sprint. Testing his foot speed Porter ran the eighth worst lane agility test at 11.90 seconds.  Porter did score well at the shuttle run so he does have solid body control and change of direction.  To cap off his below average athleticism Porter had the worst max vertical with 31”.  Porter is subpar when it comes down to lower body explosion, back foot burst and lateral movement.  Porter is another candidate for functional athleticism versus actual athleticism.  Clearly not every great basketball player was a great athlete.  Testing well at the combine versus game speed aren’t mutually exclusive abilities.  However the danger lies in the fact that the position of center is increasingly becoming harder to play if you lack actual athleticism.

Even though I have Porter listed as “PF/C” it would be in his best interest if he played center at the next level.  As a center shooting is becoming more relevant in today’s NBA and Porter looks to become apart of the growing trend.  He shot 36.4% from three, 75% from the free throw line and posted a 1.153 PPP (points per possession) at all half court jump shots which ranks 88th percentile.  His shooting mechanics for a bigman are very encouraging; shoots lefty, feet are tilted on the load and sways on the follow thru to generate power, doesn’t strain shoulders for distance, dip is pretty quick around the stomach area at times, inconsistent set point and follow thru.  Sometimes the set point will be below the eye and the next it will be above the eye, needs to find a repeatable spot.  His follow thru is either an extended upwards release or a short choppy wrist motion. As soon as he finds harmony on those motions Porter should become an even more reliable shooter.  

He doesn’t have a face-up game or can create for others off live dribble yet.  His handle is actually solid for a man his size using crossovers and spin moves off the bounce but he doesn’t bend the defender with his live dribble.  61.7% of his shot attempts came from spot-up, post-up or roll-man type actions.  He’s a good screen setter that doesn’t shy away from contact.  Tends to pick-and-pop mostly, rarely dives.  Out of 66 roll-man shot attempts he finished on a dive only 9 times.  Since he doesn’t have lower body explosion, a quick second jump or a large catch radius he becomes more planted on his roll attempts.  He has to use his timing and manipulate the gaps between the ball handler to his advantage if he wants to become a good roll-man at the next level.

If he has a mismatch on a roll or switch he will instantly get the smaller player on his hip, seal the player and take them down to the block for post entries.  When in the post he uses over the shoulder flick shots, hook shots, dropsteps and fadeaways but can become too left hand dependent at times.  He uses pivots and pump-fakes to create separation in the post sporting a 1.114 PPP on all post-up attempts.  But he’s not very good around the basket (not including post-ups) sporting a .911 PPP which ranks 18th percentile. The problem I’ve noticed is that he will scrunch his shoulders, narrow his body and act smaller then what he actually is due to overusing pump-fakes.  He doesn’t have much lift or a quick jump so he tries to get his man off his feet first before he goes up.  He definitely needs to get stronger, use his shoulders and the rim as his protection.

His specialty on offense is by far his passing and high IQ.  He uses his basketball IQ at passing from all angles on the court and will make incredible one handed pocket passes in transition.  When in the post he will read the double or dig and kick it to the next man on the swing.  He reads the weak side tag-man so well and kicks it to the opposite corner as soon as he notices the defender motion middle. He’s great at high to low post feeds and hardly ever catch-and-holds the ball; is a willing ball mover.  He also uses his IQ reading a defenders actions; cuts to the rim as soon as his defender turns his head or slips the screen on a switch.  Porter is also a great rebounder attacking the ball mid-air.  He may not have the hops but times his jump and fights for position before the opposition gets set.  He is a hustle player that produces second chances.  Porter is the kind of player that even though he didn’t grab the rebound himself his attack of the glass or box-out will lead to one of his teammates getting the board.

Even though we have established that Porter is a below average athlete he was a plus defender his freshman season.  He still has his defensive flaws like not being able to contain penetration, lacks lateral movement on switches, can be too grounded at times and isn’t versatile at pick-and-roll coverage; overuses drop coverages.  Those are definite question marks when talked about at the next level.  But there still is a lot to like.  For starters his communication is amazing being able to point out actions, direct players on rotations and sniff out any misdirection.  Porter may be prone to getting beat at the point of attack but if he can sink his hips and stay with the ball handler since he has enough change of direction ability to distort angles and contest drives at the basket.  He does a fine job staying in an athletic, low stance with good balance at all times.  Sometimes he needs to do a better job closing air space on the perimeter attacking closeouts; can be late on rotations due to lack of quick twitch movement.  He does a good job walling off drives, helping the helper and staying vertical.  He uses his great hand-eye coordination and anticipation on weak side blocks and well timed swipe downs resulting in 4.1 total steals/blocks per 40 minutes.  However he can get too handsy at times and will overextend himself on shot attempts fouling 4.8 times per 40 minutes.  His upside might be limited on defense but uses his IQ and functional athleticism to defend at a high level.

…………………………………..

So now that I had time to digest my breakdown do I think Jontay Porter is a projected lottery selection for this upcoming draft?  If he had come out this past draft the answer would be no.  This upcoming draft on the other hand looks to be weaker than normal.  Porter looks like a Kelly Olynyk type of player: an unathletic big who can shoot threes, pass, screen, dribble hand-off and be sound on defense.  Although I think Porter has more upside then Olynyk the fact is they are solid glue-guys and role players.  As of now the 10-20 range is probably where I have him spotted.  But there is a new crop of players coming in and random prospects always pop up out of nowhere.  This is a discussion that’s tabled for now and will be re-examined for another day.

Scouting Report: Jerome Robinson

 Jerome Robinson                                                                                                Boston College                                                                                                                 Jr.                                                                                                                                                    SG                                                                                                                                                6’5”                                                                                                                                                6’7.25” wingspan                                                                                                                  8’2” standing reach                                                                                                              188.4 pounds                                                                                                                           21.6 years old

Ever since the draft I really wanted to do a legitimate scouting report for Jerome Robinson.  He was the biggest reason why I didn’t like the Clippers draft and yet I’m a huge fan of Shai Gileous-Alexander.  I thought there were better players to draft at pick 13 and wondered if it was a wasted opportunity.  Robinson wasn’t a player I took into consideration for my top 20 prospect rankings so I didn’t do my due diligence properly and knew very little of him to begin with.  I want to do a more comprehensive breakdown so I can give a more informed guess as to what I think he could become.  As of now I think the Clippers should’ve drafted players like Miles Bridges, Lonnie Walker or Zhaire Smith over Robinson.  After this scouting report I’ll decide whether I still agree with that sentiment and how I feel about the Clippers draft now that I’ve broken down his tape some more:

 

To start off with his physical profile it may be average or even below average.  It’s never a good sign that a projected late first round or early second round pick doesn’t go through the athleticism testing portion of the NBA combine.  For instance Robinson’s agility, shuttle run and 40” vertical could’ve validated the perception around the league that he isn’t a good athlete.  But from what I’ve seen on tape he does actually have surprising hops for intended alley-oops but overall displays average at best foot speed, recovery time, burst and length.  Being an amazing athlete isn’t the end all be all for NBA success but it sure does help when you’re on an island defending top notch isolation players with no help behind you.  The way players like Robinson without a great physical profile make it through the NBA is high IQ, fundamentals and functionality.  Robinson will be a nice litmus test when comparing functional athleticism and actual athleticism.  Robinson might not perform well when it comes down to athletic testing but that doesn’t exactly mean he won’t display quality game speed at the next level. 

On offense the first thing you have to start with is his shooting.  I’m assuming that’s one of the biggest reasons why the Clippers drafted him shooting 40.9% from three his junior season and 1.066 PPP (points per possession) on all jump shots off the dribble which ranked 91st percentile.  His shot mechanics are sound for the most part; dips around the waist, dead eye set point, nice sway, with some inconsistencies involving his follow thru motion.  At times it will be an extended upwards release with a high point, other times it will have an “out” motion with more wrist action.  He did shoot 33% from three his sophomore season so being as consistent as possible with his follow thru will be key moving forward.  To step into his shot he uses the hop or 1-2 but mostly uses the 1-2; will that affect the timing of his release at next level?  He’s a well versed shooter at pull-up, off dribble, catch-and-shoot (1.186 PPP, 77th percentile) or spot-up jump shooting.  He doesn’t use his all-around shooting skill to his advantage off-ball as much as he should though.  He does a good job relocating off ball and filling the gaps for extra passing angles but doesn’t use his gravity to affect spacing whether that be off screen, cutting or being the screen setter.  When a defender lock-and-trails his off ball movement Robinson will use head fakes or hand swipes to create more distance between the two but due to his lack of strength/athleticism needs to be more concise with his footwork and actions to use his off-ball gravity to his advantage.

Robinson will utilize pump fakes the most while attacking closeouts but uses a variation of pivots, rip thrus, step-backs and pull-backs to create separation.  When Robinson drives the lane he narrows his hips and becomes more shifty then one would expect with average athleticism using hang dribbles, crossover moves, in-and-out dribbles and a behind the back handle creating shots for himself in the process.  He needs to develop more combo moves after his initial counter if he wants to get his man leaning for a beat.  He lacks a quick first step off the bounce and can be sloppy with his handle not being precise with his motion.  His handle needs to improve in transition also.  He’s more of a straight line driver when it comes to transition, when a defender walls off his fastbreak lane he struggles to side or euro step.  Would like to see him use jump stops more often.  Robinson has shown trouble dribbling versus length and athleticism but is pretty proficient with either hand helping add to his shimmy.  

As a pick-and-roll ball handler Robinson was one of the most efficient players in college basketball last season sporting a 1.041 PPP on those type of plays which ranked 94th percentile.  He did a good job reading weakside coverage looking for lobs, over-the-top and pocket passes.  Sometimes though he will keep his head down and get stuck baseline with nowhere to go forcing a mid-air jump pass back out.  On pick-and-roll drives he will pick up his dribble getting stuck in no mans land as well, needs to keep head up and continue his dribble as much as possible.  Even though he isn’t the greatest athlete Robinson can create off the bounce using his change-of-pace, change-of direction dribble moves looking for dump or drift passes.  Robinson will take some risky passes, overall he had a 1.14:1 assist-to-turnover ratio for his entire college career which isn’t amazing but solid.  Robinson needs to add more finesse to his around the basket game with more inside hand, inside foot layup attempts to get defenders off rhythm.  Adding floaters, reverse layins, finger rolls, push-shots and hook shots to is game will be paramount for finishing against NBA length.

Defensively Robinson really is a mixed bag.  He’s does a fine job reading weakside pick-and-roll coverages by bumping the roll-man and recovering to his own on time.  Although on his closeouts he needs to be more balanced with better angles taken due to his lack of quickness.  From time to time Robinson will float on defense and lose track of his man; needs to stay focused of his man off-ball.  Robinson is a little too flat footed on rebounds, doesn’t attack the ball while it’s in the air or fight for position; tends to run back more often.  Robinson might have on-ball defensive troubles at the next level.  As soon as Robinson’s hips open up guarding the dribble it’s tough for him to recover because lack of physical profile.  His ability to switch will be questioned as well.  Can he stay with quick point guards?  Can he guard bigger wings?  Can he bang with frontcourt players?  He needs to get stronger if he wants a chance at that plus fighting thru screens wasn’t a strong point of his either.  When Robinson is at his best defensively he gets his butt underneath him, arms balancing his core, not reaching and sliding his feet with anticipation.  Still, an argument can be made that out of the three seasons Robinson played at Boston College only this past year did he show he can defend at an NBA level.

………………………….

Now that I’ve had time to thoroughly breakdown Robinson’s game do I still think the Clippers should’ve drafted Miles Bridges, Zhaire Smith or Lonnie Walker?  My answer is yes.  Robinson doesn’t offer the two-way potential with switch ability and pick-and-roll coverage versatility that those other players do.  Do I still think dislike the Clippers draft?  Even though I still would’ve taken a bunch of players over Robinson, doing this scouting report makes me understand why the Clippers drafted him in the first place.  His pick-and-roll skills, ability to shoot off the dribble, passing, three point shooting and high IQ on defense makes me change my mind towards my original assessment about the Clippers draft.  I’m obviously still skeptical of the Robinson selection but there’s less doubt today than there was yesterday.

*All Stats Provided By Synergy Sports Technology*