(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)
I’m not very optimistic about Jerrelle Benimon’s chances of being called up this season. Despite playing center for Idaho, he’s slightly undersized at 6-foot-8 and would struggle to fill that position in the NBA. He’s missed 15 of the 18 three-point attempts, so he’s not a stretch four, either. And, currently listed at 245 pounds, Benimon hasn’t adjusted his body to potentially playing a wing position.
All of that is not to say Benimon hasn’t played well in his first D-League season, however. In fact, he’s been impressive enough to earn a spot on the Western Conference All-Star team. The Stampede have lost 27 of their 31 games and have the worst pace-adjusted point differential in the league, but Benimon remains a prospect of interest due to the combination of his feel for the game and rebounding prowess.
Benimon has exhibited great court vision and ball skills passing on post-to-post action and out of double teams. Idaho plays through him as a hub to initiate offense on the perimeter from time-to-time, too. With this skill-set, Benimon would be best suited playing a Boris Diaw and Draymond Green sort of role in the NBA. According to Basketball Reference, he has assisted on 19 percent of Idaho’s scores in his 994 minutes and ranks in the top 20 in the D-League in assists.
Benimon must improve as a shooter for opponents to respect the threat of his passing even more, though. According to NBA, he’s taken just 20 percent of his shots from outside five-feet and converted them at an unimpressive 41.2 percent clip. Benimon rises with good balance but doesn’t elevate much off the ground and doesn’t have a particularly quick release.
At this point, Benimon does the vast majority of his scoring within close range, leading the league in two-point percentage. Benimon is a fluid runner sprinting up the court in transition and constantly makes himself available as an option on the break. In the half-court, whatever catch-and-finishing he does is by navigating the baseline, sneaking behind the defense on the weak-side or tipping it in on the offensive glass (showcasing second-jump-ability). Benimon’s not a very good pick-and-roll player; an iffy screener whose picks on-ball defenders don’t struggle to navigate around. He doesn’t dive to the front of the rim with much speed, either, and is unable to play above the rim as a target for lobs.
Most of his scoring comes on face-up drives out of the post. Benimon doesn’t play with much physicality and struggles establishing deep position but has a quickness advantage against most of the big men he’s faced at the D-League level. He doesn’t have a particularly explosive first step but has solid footwork, a nice handle and great touch to finish around length. Benimon has converted 69.2 percent of his 308 shots within five-feet, with less than half assisted. Despite being bound to the ground, he’s been blocked on just eight percent of such close range looks and is drawing shooting fouls at a decent clip, averaging 4.5 free throws per 36 minutes.
Benimon is susceptible to getting the ball stripped in traffic, though. And all that passing out of double teams also lead to the ball getting deflected at times. His 3.1 turnovers per 36 minutes are mostly the cost of his playmaking. Nonetheless, Benimon is a far more positive presence in a team that doesn’t have many, leading Idaho in offensive rating among rotation players.
On the other end, Benimon is a far less impactful player. Idaho switches on ball-screens and Benimon puts in the effort, bending his knees and getting on his stance guarding on the perimeter. But he doesn’t have the lateral mobility or use his body well enough to stay in front of smaller players in isolation. He doesn’t contain dribble penetration through contact and lacks the length to contest shots effectively. Benimon plays with good attention as a weak-side defender, aggressively rotating to the front of the rim in a timely manner, but isn’t much of a presence because he can’t play above the rim as a shot blocker, denying just 29 shots in 28 appearances.
Benimon plays with active arms and is able to make plays in the passing lanes, ranking in the top 35 in steals. But his biggest contribution is on the glass, where Benimon has collected 25.6 percent of opponents misses, which ranks fifth in the league. Despite this, opposing teams score at the same rate with or without him on the floor and Idaho ranks second-to-last in scoring allowed per 100 possessions.
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.