Jahlil Okafor Scouting Report

(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)

During the Nike Hoop Summit, ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla said on air that he thought Jahil Okafor was capable of being thrown into an NBA game right now and log 10-15 minutes. This statement exemplifies the type of hype that surrounds the 18 year old Duke big man, the projected top pick in the 2015 draft.

Part of it is due to his physical profile. He was listed at 6’10, 272 pounds with a 7’5 wingspan at the Hoop Summit last April. If he were European, Okafor would be playing pro ball for a couple of years by now. As we saw him do at the U19 FIBA World Championships last year, when he posted a 41.2 PER in 128 minutes, he’s already able to play older competition.

His athletic ability translates into production on the boards and in transition. Okafor is a difficult body to box out or push around, and has proven able to reach the ball at a higher point than the average opponent due to his leaping ability and long arms. He grabbed 18.5 percent of available rebounds when he was on the floor in the U19 Worlds, which ranked him 12th.

Okafor is not a fast sprinter but gets up the court with ease and looks to present himself an option on the wing. That wasn’t the case just in the exhibition circuit (the McDonald’s All-American game and Jordan Brand Classic), but also in the more competitive setting of the Hoop Summit. He has even looked comfortable handling the ball on the break in a couple of instances, but doesn’t dribble with much speed and can really only go coast-to-coast if the opponent allows him to.

He appears an average pick-and-roll player at this point. Okafor is a good screener who looks to draw contact, and his wide body forces opponents to work to navigate around his picks. He fills the open spot with ease due to his natural agility but doesn’t cut hard to the front of the rim to suck attention. He has soft hands to catch the ball on the move and can finish through contact, but hasn’t shown to be much of a target for lobs yet.

It is not just the thick frame and athletic ability that are well advanced when you consider his age, though. Okafor is the owner of a very well developed post game, the type you don’t see that often even that the pro level in this day and age. His patience surveying the other eight players around him is incredibly impressive and his moves are all very fluid. Eighteen year olds usually have a go-to move they use often or you can notice them taking a second to think what exactly they are going to do. But not Okafor, who has a variety of ways to attack an opponent and makes his decision of which to use in a pinch.

Okafor can set deep position in the post, not only at the high school level but also against players who already log minutes in the pros like Nikola Jankovic and Nikola Milutinov, as you can see in the GIFs surrounding this paragraph. And he has great footwork, which he often puts to full use in a nifty spin move. Aside from that, Okafor has flashed a turnaround baby hook over his right shoulder, a face up power move where he uses his broad shoulders to move the defender and a fadeaway short jumper. Able to get separation due to his strength and with nice touch to finish at rim level, Okafor always (FIBA Americas U16, Worlds U17, Worlds U19, adidas Nations, Hoop Summit) shoots over 50% on a high number of attempts and hit 77% of his 57 shots last summer.

Okafor is not a black hole, and does look to pass out of the post with some regularity but those passes lead to more turnovers than assists. Though he has proven able to wait out double teams, he has not yet developed a sense for when opponents wait to double him when he starts his move and is prone to getting the ball stolen by smaller players. It happened a couple of times in the Worlds U19 final against Serbia last year. Another issue is his foul shooting. Okafor has consistently shot 50% on free throws the past two years.

He is also not as polished a defender as he is on offense at this point. Okafor simply doesn’t play with the same intensity on that end, which is common of players his age. Note on the GIF below how Vasilije Micic goes around Okafor with some ease even though he is guarding the pick-and-roll flat. Okafor has flashed solid lateral mobility but isn’t particularly comfortable showing and recovering in space as of now. Though he is able to play above the rim due to his leaping ability and long arms, Okafor has not blocked many shots in all these events he participated the last three summers.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk Scouting Report

(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)

It’s been an eventful year for Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. He graduated high school in Ukraine, participated at the Nike Hoop Summit as its youngest member, surprisingly committed to play at the Kansas University for the next two years (due to his June birthday, he will only be eligible for the 2016 draft at the earliest), led his country to a second place finish at the European Championships U18 Division B and Mike Fratello kept him on the group that will compete in the FIBA World Cup that starts on Saturday.

Mykhailiuk is a gunner, capable of pulling up from anywhere on the court but not yet consistently able to hit these shots at a high rate. He was mostly responsible for creating his own shot playing in his age group and because of his strong confidence, his shot selection was erratic and responsible for the very average shooting percentages he posts on every summer competition he plays; 38 percent shooting on 193 attempts in the Euro U16 last year, 42 percent shooting on 122 attempts in the Euro U18 B last month.

He is better off the catch, hitting 44 percent of 45 three-point attempts in his 460 minutes in the Ukrainian pro league last season, according to RealGM. Mykhailiuk has an unusual motion in the sense that he doesn’t angle his body straight towards the basket, which is something you usually see from left handed shooters, which is not his case. He doesn’t get much elevation, though, and the American athletes effectively bothered his shot when they closed out at him on a couple of his attempts at the Hoop Summit.

Mykhailiuk has an average first step and isn’t particularly explosive on straight line drives, but has good side-to-side dribbling speed and has flashed a nifty hesitation move to attack the basket in isolation. He hasn’t played above the rim against length yet, but looks to finish strong in transition and has flashed the ability to be a target for lobs on the weak side, which suggests he could at some point. With the ball, Mykhailiuk hangs in the air with good balance and has nice touch to finish at rim level.

Mykhailiuk also displays a nice handle in transition and impresses with his passing out of pressure, not just at the European junior level but also in a couple of instances against a higher level of athleticism at the Hoop Summit. In the half court, he is a decent passer out of dribble penetration but can also be careless with the ball, averaging over three turnovers per game these last two summers and giving it away on 20 percent of his possessions at the Ukrainian pro league last season.

He has taken players his own age into the post, where he created separation through very good footwork. It was another vehicle for him to launch the stepback and fadeaway jumpers he loves so much but also led to efficient scoring at the foul line. Mykhailiuk drew 72 fouls and took 75 free throws in nine appearances at the Euro U16 last summer and 36 fouls and 39 free throws at the Euro U18 B last month. As a result, he led one tournament in total scoring and ranked second in the other.

Regarding his defense, what’s impressive is how he plays with his arms up when pressing full court. It seems like a small thing, but most players don’t really do it and it often led to deflections that net him some steals. Mykhailiuk has posted a high steal rate in every tournament he’s played. Due to his (confirmed) six-foot-six wingspan and short range quickness, Roy Rana played him at the top of a 1-2-2 zone he broke out for a few possessions at the Hoop Summit. That’s interesting because Bill Self used a 1-3-1 zone with Andrew Wiggins at the top in some instances last season.

It has been said Mykhailiuk isn’t particularly consistent with his effort and focus on this end but that’s usually the case with most 17-year-olds. At the Hoop Summit, he looked engaged and worked hard to help and recover when Team USA swung the ball against the zone. A superior athlete in these last two summer tournaments in Europe, Mykhailiuk has flashed the ability to play above the basket as an asset in rim protection and contributed on the boards. We’ll see how much of his athleticism translates at the highest level of college basketball.

It has been rumored Mykhailiuk could potentially redshirt his first year at Kansas. The Jayhawks certainly have a lot of options on the wing, with Wayne Selden, Jr. and Brannen Green returning for their sophomore seasons and the highly touted Kelly Oubre joining the team. Conner Frankamp and Frank Mason sharing minutes is also always a possibility with Self. It’s also worth mentioning that Myhailiuk seems to have grown to at least 6’7, and possibly even 6’8, which means the Jayhawks may be able to find unique ways to get him on the floor even with their guard depth.

Ultimately, I think Mykhailiuk is simply too talented to sit out a full year, unless he struggles adapting with the move to the United States. We should see him suit up for the Jayhawks at some point in the near future.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.

Damien Inglis Scouting Report

(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)

The Bucks have a very intriguing collection of athletes for Jason Kidd to work with. The least touted among them is second round pick Damien Inglis. The 19-year-old wingman of French citizenship has a superb physical profile for his age; measured at six-foot-eight and 240 pounds at the Nike Hoop Summit. His effort and intensity on defense is also impressive in the context of his youth. You rarely see 19-year-olds busting their asses on that end of the court.

Inglis has displayed good lateral mobility to defend smaller players in isolation and uses his frame to contain dribble penetration through contact. He didn’t allow much separation and contested shots very effectively due to his eight-foot-11 standing reach, which was a handful for opponents in the French league at this point. His team allowed 110 points per 100 possessions last season but only 104.2 with him in the game.

Because of his size, Inglis is a prototypical wing for coaches to use as a stretch four in smaller lineups. He was attentive to his help responsibilities and showed decent, though not great, speed closing out to shooters on the perimeter. Inglis wasn’t a real asset in rim protection for Roanne but is capable, able to get off the ground in a pinch, and posted good blocking rates as a big man at the junior level. He is particularly impressive as a rebounder and has proven himself able to box out bigger players, collecting almost 24% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor, which led the French league among small forwards.

The concerns regard how well he will translate on offense. Inglis was a hesitant shooter in his first year as a full time pro, taking just 31 three-point attempts in 412 minutes. He doesn’t get good elevation off the ground and his release is slow. Inglis can attack closeouts effectively due to his quality passing out of dribble penetration but has an average-at-best first step, doesn’t have the long strides players of his size usually do and struggles to create separation. He dribbles the ball high in traffic, which makes him susceptible to getting the ball stripped; his 23.5% turnover rate is sky high in the context of his 17.2% usage rate.

What Inglis does particularly well on offense at this point is overwhelming smaller players in isolation and scoring in transition. He’s able to maintain his balance through contact due to his strength, which makes it difficult to contain him on straight line drives. Inglis used to run point at the junior level, which is why he is comfortable handling the ball on the break. He has flashed an intriguing hesitation move to get to the basket in isolation but is more often looking to pass off the bounce. Inglis didn’t draw fouls at a high rate (fewer than two free throws per 28 minutes) but shot 55% on his 61 two-point attempts.

In the future, Inglis should become a solid role player for the Bucks. However, his overall impact will most likely depend on the development of his shot. The best comparison to him might be DeMarre Carroll of the Hawks. Carroll has always been a high-effort, high-energy defensive player, but didn’t become the excellent role player that he is now until his shot became a weapon from the perimeter. Overall, Inglis plays with the type of effort that coaches love, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him step into the Bucks’ rotation for next season at any point because of it.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.

Jerrelle Benimon Scouting Report

Jerrelle Benimon was one of the most interesting players in college basketball last season. He was the only forward listed as a senior to grab 25% of opponents’ misses and assist on 20% of his team’s scores when he was on the floor. Benimon’s versatility was put to full use in his two years at Towson, after two run-of-the-mill seasons at Georgetown, and it’s no surprise the Denver Nuggets signed him to a training camp deal to take a longer look at how much of his skill-set can be translated to the NBA.

Benimon did a lot of ball handling for Towson, constantly bringing it up the court. When they played Kansas early in the season, he essentially initiated all plays from up top since it was the Tigers’ best chance of running any sort of set against the Jayhawks’ combination of length and athleticism. Benimon has great court vision for someone his size. He proved himself a very good passer facing the defense and flashed some quality instincts passing out of dribble penetration.

Benimon has a nifty handle dribbling from side to side and showed decent speed on straight line drives, mostly thanks to his long strides, but often dribbles the ball too high in traffic, which makes him susceptible to getting the ball stripped. He turned it over on 18% of Towson’s possessions when he was on the floor. Smaller players were able to keep pace with him but Benimon countered with pretty great pull-up shooting, hitting 43.8% of his 146 two-point jump-shots with fewer than five percent of them assisted.

He’s a good screener who looks to make contact but doesn’t dive hard to the front of rim (just 16% of his scores at the basket were assisted last season) and is merely a capable set shooter, hitting only 32 of 110 three-point attempts the last two seasons. Benimon is not a fluid shooter. He has a slow release, mechanically bringing the ball up before elevating. He was good enough that opponents closed out so he could take them off the bounce in college but defenders would proactively sag off him at the pro level at this point.

His skill facing the basket is what distinguished him but Benimon still got most of his scoring from the low post. He is able to set deep position due to his 245-pound frame and showed good touch to finish at rim level. 55% of his shots were at the rim and he finished them at a 63.8% clip. Benimon is not lengthy enough to shoot over every defender but showed a lot of patience working against Kansas’ taller frontline and uses his lower body strength well to create separation. He tends to rely on his shot fake a bit too much but that led to positive results in the conference he played, as Benimon averaged nine free throws per 40 minutes last season.

Benimon’s strength translates into toughness on post defense as well. He is not easily moved thanks to his strong base. But he struggled guarding in space due to below average lateral quickness. That essentially takes a shift to the perimeter out of the question, which could have been in play if Benimon shed some 20 pounds from his frame. His leaping ability not only fueled his dominance on the boards but also helped him as an asset in rim protection. Benimon was active rotating from the weak side in help defense and ranked fifth in the conference in block percentage. Towson allowed less than a point per possession with him on the floor.

Editor’s Note: Statistical data for this post was researched at basketball-reference and hoop-math

Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.

Aleksandar Vezenkov Scouting Report

(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)

Aleksandar Vezenkov did what was expected of him in the European Championships U20 last month. He logged 704 minutes against grown men in 25 appearances for Aris in the Greek league last season, so he should have dominated his age group once he stepped down a level. But it was mighty impressive nonetheless. Vezenkov scored 174 points in 323 minutes, meaning he actually dropped a point every other minute. And that’s with him missing three quarters of his 53 three-point attempts, which is actually his best skill.

The six-foot-eight combo forward is a gunner who does most of his damage from beyond the arc. Over half of his shots were from three-point range in the Greek league and he hit them at a 38.4% clip while averaging over two makes per 36 minutes. Vezenkov has very good mechanics and a quick trigger off the catch. Like most left-handed shooters, he doesn’t angle his body straight towards the basket but rather on a 45-degree angle. Good elevation leads to a high release point that makes it hard for opponents to contest his shot effectively.

Vezenkov was played as a stretch four at Aris. He got a chance to run a pick-and-roll here and there but mostly screened for the pick-and-pop (poorly; doesn’t look to draw contact but rather focuses on slipping towards a shooting spot too quickly) and spaced the defense as a spot up threat. He is able to put the ball on the floor and attack closeouts, but possesses an average first step, isn’t quick even on straight line drives and still isn’t consistent dribbling the ball lower than hip level, which makes him susceptible to getting stripped in traffic; his 15.8% turnover rate is rather high in the context of his 18.1% usage rate.

Vezenkov was still a very effective player off the bounce, though, due to his pull-up shooting and finishing touch at rim level the times he was able to get to the basket, where he proved himself able to finish around length. Only two of his 204 attempts were blocked and he finished 63% of his two-point attempts. Most of them were of the jump-shot variety, which led to a low free throw rate (he averaged just 1.8 foul shots per 28 minutes) but Vezenkov was so prolific at them that he ranked in the top 20 among all players in offensive rating, according to RealGM.com.

He has proven himself a very willing passer, both making the extra pass out of dribble penetration and entering the ball to the post facing the defense from the perimeter. His 16.8% led the Greek league in assist rate among power forwards. Vezenkov did well from the post in the European Championships U20 but smaller opponents were able to front and successfully deny him the ball at the pro level. When he got the ball, Vezenkov flashed a turnaround, fadeaway that could become a money maker. Spending the vast majority of his time away from the lane at Aris, he was a non-factor on the offensive glass.

He’s a poor individual defender due to limited foot speed. Vezenkov can bend his knees and get on his stance but lacks lateral mobility to defend in isolation and offers very little resistance in space. He was a tougher defender on the post than on the perimeter, where he was unable to contain dribble penetration through contact despite his frame. Vezenkov was not an asset in rim protection (blocking just three shots in the Greek league and zero in the European Championships U20) or playing the passing lane to manufacture turnovers and struggled to closeout on shooters. He was, however, very active on the glass, controlling almost 20% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor.

Ultimately, Vezenkov is probably more of a potential European star than an NBA player right now. Down the road, Vezenkov may be able to make the NBA as a spot-up shooting threat from the combo forward position in the way that Kostas Papanikolaou will hope to help the Rockets this season. Given that, right now Vezenkov profiles as a good second round prospect for someone to take a chance on.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.

Wayne Selden, Jr. Scouting Report

(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)

By the end of the college season, Wayne Selden, Jr. was considered by most a likely first round pick in the 2014 draft. So he surprised a bit with his decision to return to Kansas for a second year. But a longer look suggests it was probably a wise choice. Though his physical profile appears suited for the pro level right now, Selden, Jr. didn’t do enough in his 1,023 minutes as a freshman to secure that first round status and probably would have been downgraded once teams got caught up to the evaluation process.

It’s important to mention the context. Selden, Jr. was part of a team that had two players that ended up going first and third in the draft, aside from Perry Ellis who is one of the best scorers per minute in college basketball. It’s also relevant to point out that he played in an offense that didn’t provide many opportunities for perimeter players to thrive, as Grantland’s Brett Koremeros detailed in this post. As a result, Selden, Jr. finished just 18.7 percent of Kansas’ possessions with a shot, free throw or turnover.

Part of what makes him an interesting pro prospect is his passing out of the pick-and-roll. The Spurs just won the title by making sure every lineup they used featured multiple players capable of assisting out of dribble penetration. In the Tom Thibodeau Era, offenses need driving-and-kicking and shooting to stretch the hybrid man-zone, and Selden, Jr. could be a commodity that the league is looking for. However, he was only sporadically allowed to flash those pick-and-roll chops throughout the season.

His 3.4 assists per 40 minutes were in large part a result of his ability to enter the ball to the low post very well. Selden, Jr. made high IQ passes every now and again but it’s unclear how polished a playmaker he really is at this point. He turned it over on 17.1 percent of Kansas’ possessions when he was on the floor, which is a really high percentage in the context of his low usage rate.

His role on offense was mostly limited to spacing the floor. According to hoop-math.com, three quarters of his 277 attempts were jump-shots, and among those over half were from three-point range. Selden, Jr. proved himself a capable set shooter but has the tendency of flexing his elbow a bit too much and releasing the ball from the top of his head, which limited his accuracy to just 32.8% on 128 three-point attempts.

Selden, Jr. didn’t really show much speed off the bounce, without an explosive first step to attack closeouts and struggling to get separation when he drove it to the basket, always favoring going left. He took just 68 attempts at the rim in 35 appearances (though finishing them at a 69.1 percent clip) and averaged 3.5 free throws per 40 minutes. It has been reported he played most of last season with an injured left knee, which required offseason surgery and surely must have impacted his explosiveness.

Selden, Jr. was, however, a good pull up jump-shooter if left uncontested, hitting a solid 39.5 percent of his 81 mid-range attempts. He didn’t have a particularly quick trigger but nice balance and elevation led to a high release point. It wasn’t good enough for him to be a significant positive, though. The combination of not scoring at the rim in volume, missing 77.2 percent of his three-pointers and 37 percent of his free throws led to Kansas averaging only 107.1 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, the lowest offensive rating among the team’s eight rotation players and a mark that would have ranked the Jayhawks 121st in the country in offensive efficiency rather than the 20th they did overall.

Despite Wiggins’ presence on the team, Bill Self viewed Selden, Jr. as his pet perimeter defender. He was often asked to defend smaller players but also drew the Marcus Smart assignment when they faced Oklahoma State. Selden, Jr. showed very decent lateral quickness to go over and around screens, but didn’t really manage to use his 223-pound frame to contain dribble penetration through contact. His transition defense was very impressive and his long arms (Selden’s the owner of a 6’10 wingspan) permit him to adequately contest shots, though.

Often guarding on the ball, he wasn’t much of a factor playing the passing lanes to manufacture turnovers, recording only 25 steals all year. Selden, Jr. did look to contribute on the glass but didn’t secure many misses, since Kansas’ big men were pretty much all prolific in that area. He was an aggressive help defender crashing in from the weak side but didn’t really make much of an impact. The Jayhawks allowed about the same scoring on a per-possession basis with or without him on the floor.

Even with Wiggins gone to (likely) Minnesota and Naadir Tharpe leaving the program, Kansas’ wing situation is a bit crowded with Brannen Greene still there and the arrivals of Kelly Oubre and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. But Selden, Jr. is undoubtedly the top talent of that group. If healthier and perhaps given more freedom to create on the ball, he has potential to rise into lottery status again.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.

Juan Carlos Navarro Scouting Report

Juan Carlos Navarro’s health is always a topic of discussion but Barcelona’s captain managed to log 1,612 minutes over 68 appearances in his age-34 season. Perhaps more impressive is how effective a player on offense he remains at this point of his career.

Navarro is still mostly a gunner, with three-pointers accounting for 56.3% of his shots last season, and a damn good one. He hit his 340 attempts at a 34.7% clip but while averaging three makes per 40 minutes. His shooting motion is unusual in the sense he prefers elevating off balance, without his body angled straight towards the basket, but Navarro is tremendous on catch-and-shoots, thanks to his natural stroke and quick trigger, and remains a legit threat off the bounce if given space, hitting 40.6% of his 64 mid-range attempts in 580 Euroleague minutes. His patented floater is no longer an automatic money maker but he still flashes it with sporadic efficiency.

The speed to create separation sprinting around baseline and staggered screens is still there, as is a decent first step to attack closeouts against the average competition. The quickness to get to the rim consistently isn’t, especially if he is forced left. Navarro took fewer than 15% of his attempts at the basket in the Euroleague and struggled to score there due to his thin frame, finishing at a below average 58.1% clip. He has always been a player who looked for the contact to try drawing fouls but the reliance on his flopping has increased over the last few years. That was a successful strategy thanks to his reputation with European referees and Navarro averaged 4.8 free throws pr 40 minutes.

Navarro was still a very effective player on the pick-and-roll, not just for his pull-up shooting and foul drawing but also because of his instincts passing out of dribble penetration, assisting on 21.3% of Barcelona’s baskets when he was on the floor. He has a tight handle, uses his body to protect the ball in traffic and rarely makes erratic passes. Navarro’s turnover rate (1.5 giveaways per 28 minutes) is average to below-average in the context of his 24% usage rate. Barcelona scored 114 points per 100 possessions with him in the lineup in the Euroleague and 118.3 in the Spanish league, way above average offensive ratings in each league.

His decline in athleticism is more evident on the other end. Navarro still has the speed to chase shooters around the same baseline screens he utilizes on offense but has pretty much no lateral quickness to keep pace with elite opponents off the bounce at this point. His navigation through screens is very problematic for Barcelona’s defense, as it triggers a number of rotations. He is not really a factor playing the passing lanes to manufacture turnovers and recorded a charge every six games in the Euroleague. Barcelona allowed nine points per 100 possessions more in his 640 minutes on the floor in the Spanish league in comparison to when he hit the bench.

Editor’s Note: Statistical data for this post was researched at in-the-game.org, basketball.realgm.com , ACB.com and baloncestostatsacb.es

Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.

Caris LeVert Scouting Report

(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)

Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Nik Stauskas developed into first round picks in their last years playing for John Beilein, and Caris LeVert looks poised to do the same. Michigan is currently listing the 6’7 wing at 200 pounds, a 15-pound gain from where he was listed when the season ended. Its strength and conditioning program had already done something similar for Stauskas but the improvement on LeVert’s physical profile is particularly more impressive considering he enrolled in Ann Arbor two years ago at 165 pounds. A stronger physique should certainly help LeVert’s development since some of the things he did not do well could be justified by his weak frame.

LeVert was a decent isolation player, possessing a nifty crossover as go-to move. He proved himself very quick on straight line drives, fueled by an explosive first step to attack closeouts. But he struggled to absorb contact and maintain his balance, unable to create separation against stronger players with enough lateral mobility to keep pace with him – such as Michigan State’s and Illinois’ wings. When forced to change direction, LeVert showed a good deal of indecisiveness, often picking up his dribble before he had to. According to hoop-math.com, only a fifth of his shots were at the rim.

He finished those at a 72% clip but that still only resulted in three points at the rim per game. LeVert was unable to score through contact and around length against the best competition, and he struggled getting to the line only earning 3.8 free throws per 40 minutes.

What LeVert did rather well off the bounce was passing, averaging 3.5 assists per 40 minutes. His dribble is too high, which makes him susceptible to getting the ball stripped in traffic, but did not try to force assists that weren’t there, which held his turnovers in control. He gave it away twice per 40 minutes, which was manageable in the context of his 21.2% usage rate. LeVert is a streaky pull-up jump-shooter but mostly lousy at this point, hitting just 31.1% of his 148 mid-range attempts last season. His issue seems to be same as Andrew Wiggins’; he gets great elevation off the dribble but perhaps a little too great. Yet, he ranked in the top 10 in the Big Ten in pick-and-roll efficiency including assists, flashing some good instincts passing out of dribble penetration, as his height provided him good angles on the move.

But his most significant contributions were in transition and from three-point range. According to research by shotanalytics.com, LeVert was the seventh most efficient player (defined by scoring per possessions ‘plus’ assists) in his conference on fast breaks, thanks to his 30.4% assist rate in the open court. He proved himself a very good catch-and-shoot option on the weak side, thanks to a natural stroke off the catch and a quick trigger. LeVert hit 40.8 percent of his 147 three-point attempts, including 62% from the left corner and 47 percent from the top of the key. Michigan averaged 114.1 points per 100 possessions in his 1,258 minutes on the floor.

LeVert’s quickness translates into lateral mobility on defense and he proved himself capable of keeping pace with smaller players in isolation. He was unable to contain dribble penetration through contact due to his lack of strength and struggled navigating screens, as all picks knocked him off his path, but excelled manufacturing turnovers due to his active hands both pressuring the ball and playing the passing lanes, averaging 1.4 steals per 40 minutes, which ranked him ninth in the conference. LeVert showed to be an attentive defender off the ball, often crashing in from the weak side on help defense but wasn’t really impactful due to his inability to play above the rim on this end. He was, however, very helpful on the glass, controlling 14.5% of opponents’ misses. He was neither a plus nor a negative but Michigan allowed 104.1 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, a mark that would have ranked them outside the top 150 in defensive efficiency.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.

Domantas Sabonis Scouting Report

(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)

It was always a possibility Domantas Sabonis would go to college in the United States, since he declined to earn a salary in Spain specifically in order to maintain his eligibility. But it was nonetheless surprising when the son of the great Lithuanian legend confirmed he would be joining the Gonzaga Bulldogs for next season, after he was just given 521 minutes of quality pro level experience with Unicaja Malaga in the Spanish league and the Euroleague at age 17. In an interview with FIBA’s YouTube channel, he revealed the option to play for Mark Few’s coaching staff was made with the intention to work on his individual skill-set.

But before moving to Spokane, Sabonis led the Lithuanian national team to a seventh-place finish in the FIBA European championships U18, which ended on Sunday. And he was dominant in the aspects you would expect someone who already played against grown men to be against teenagers. Listed at six-foot-eight and 215 pounds, Sabonis was an elite athlete for this level of competition, which translated best in transition, in the post and on the glass.

He was able to establish deep position on the block due his quickness navigating the baseline in order to set up on the opposite side of where he was when the play began and also due to his core strength on straight post ups with his back to the basket. Sabonis displayed very good footwork and decent touch to score at rim level but struggled against Croatia and Serbia, two teams with elite size, which lowered his efficiency at the rim to an underwhelming 61.4% on 57 attempts. He strongly favored finishing with his left hand; hooking over his left shoulder or laying it in when he turned left and throwing a little push-up shot when he opted to go right.

Sabonis drew fouls at a very high rate, averaging 5.4 per 28 minutes, but didn’t materialize it into a real significant plus for Lithuania’s scoring as he made just 23 of his 40 free throws. Though left-handed, he shoots his free throws with his right hand. He impressed with his passing, especially out of the low post to the weak side, and averaged 3.6 assists per 28 minutes, which was well above average among positional peers. He was a really impactful force on the glass thanks to his general activity and edge in athleticism against the average competition, averaging three offensive rebounds per 28 minutes, which ranked sixth in the tournament.

Sabonis looked great in the open court, sprinting very fluidly, and even flashed the ability to lead the break. On the pick-and-roll, he was a good screener who looked to draw contact and showed good hands to catch the ball on the move but didn’t really play above the rim. Sabonis proved himself a good face-up driver at this level, with long strides attacking from the perimeter and looking to dribble the ball low in traffic. But he struggled with his handle and passing on the move, turning it over 3.2 times per 28 minutes, with those two aspects accounting for 16 of his 29 giveaways in the play-by-play data.

His jump-shot was a legit weapon against the soft defense played at this level. Sabonis gets very little elevation and has a slow release but hit a high rate when left open. Like most left handed shooters, he doesn’t angle his body straight towards the basket but rather on a 45 degree angle. He hit 47% of his 49 jump-shots, including four of 10 from three-point range.
His core strength translated into tough post defense, even against players with bigger frames such as Marko Arapovic. And he dominated the glass on that end as well, leading the tournament with nine rebounds per 28 minutes. But Sabonis wasn’t a particularly impactful player on defense. He flashed his athleticism on a few blocks and playing the passing lanes to manufacture turnovers but was unable to anchor the talent around him into an above average unit, as Lithuania allowed the sixth most points in the 16-nation tournament.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.

Li Muhao Scouting Report

Li Muhao seems to have taken a step forward in his development last season. He logged a career high 763 minutes for Dongguan and led the Chinese league in scoring per shot, averaging 1.78 on 176 attempts. Dongguan was swept by Xianjing in the semifinals but Li dropped a 17-point outing on eight-of-nine shooting in the elimination game.

But that growing curve stalled a bit in the 2014 Stankovic Cup held in Luoyang, which ended on Monday. With Wang Zhelin available (which wasn’t the case in the Sino-Australia challenge) and Qi Zhou getting a surprising 34 minutes, Li was held to just 24 in three appearances. He was specially limited in the final game against Angola, used for this evaluation.

Li is no longer that skinny kid we saw when Duke visited China a few years ago. He is currently listed at 238 pounds, with noticeable upper body strength, and was even rumored to be out of shape in a pre-draft workout for NBA teams a couple of months ago. With that weight distributed in his seven-foot-two of height, Li now possesses a large frame.

That frame helps him set deep position on the block, where he looked mechanical with his moves and favored finishing with his left hand but flashed rather nice footwork with his back to the basket and touch to score at rim level when he got separation. Li played with some power in the soft environment of the Chinese league, with over a quarter of his field goals coming off dunks, but struggled to finish through contact in this setting. And he is not much of a passer.

His propensity to draw shooting fouls held, though. After averaging 4.6 free throws per 28 minutes last season, he took a foul shot every three minutes last weekend. Li is an OK foul shooter considering his size. He looked capable of bending his knees and flexing his elbows enough, hitting six of his eight attempts in Luoyang and 82 of his 127 in the Chinese league.

Li showed himself an effective screener due to his frame, as defenders struggled to navigate around his wide body. He set numerous illegal picks, though, and was called for them enough times for it to be a problem. Li didn’t prove himself able to cut hard to the basket off the ball-screen and put pressure on the defense but has looked able to catch the ball on the move off a diagonal pass in the past.

He flashed a catch-and-shoot jump-shot from mid-range, which he probably worked harder to develop when he was skinny and limited within close range. Li actually gets off the ground (most players of his size don’t) but gets little elevation and has a slow trigger. He’s capable of hitting it if left completely open, though. Li’s not as effective on the glass as his size would suggest because he simply doesn’t play with enough activity and is therefore unable to rebound outside of his area at this point.

The Chinese head coach had his big men defending the pick-and-roll by hedging way high on the perimeter and Li was absolutely not suited for this strategy. He possesses limited lateral mobility and looked completely exposed in space in several occasions. It’s very difficult to understand the rationale behind intentionally sending a seven-foot-two, 238-pound center away from the rim.

When positioned on the weak side, he was adequate rotating to provide help defense and actively got off the ground to contest shots, which is something you don’t always see from players his size. Li ranked sixth in the Chinese league among centers in block rate last season. He played tough post defense but was very slow running back up the court.

Though a difficult body to rebound around due to his frame and able to get off the ground to grab the ball at a higher point than most of his opponents, Li was still also a poor rebounder on this end. He looked to box out but lacked the quickness reacting off the rim, controlling just four defensive rebounds in his 24 minutes and fewer than 15% of opponents’ misses in the Chinese league, which was below average among position peers.

Editor’s Note: Statistical data for this post was researched at basketball.realgm.com and sina.com

Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.