7-footer, Stretch Big

Myles Turner Scouting Report

(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)

CONTEXT

Myles Turner was a very interesting prospect out of high school – the rare seven-footer with a combination of the long wingspan to protect the rim and the touch to hit outside shots.

But despite being a heavily touted prospect, Turner only logged 22.2 minutes per game last season due to intense competition for playing time on Texas’s frontcourt.

Turner also wasn’t used in a way that maximized his skill-set. Texas attempted to run a motion offense that emphasized moving the ball from side-to-side to bend the defense but possessions often ended with Isaiah Taylor isolated on the top or one of the big men isolated on the block.

Then on defense, Turner shared a lot of his playing time with Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh, two true centers that forced him away from below the rim – which is where he could have been more impactful.

I think it is fair to say he was drafted 11th by the Pacers on Thursday mostly due to that interest he generated back in high school than based on any sort of development he showed at Texas.

SHOOTING

What separates Turner from the average seven-footer is his three-point range and he is likely to be a full time stretch big man in his first couple of years at the pro level. He has a smooth shooting stroke and solid mechanics, flexing his elbows comfortably and keeping the off-arm pointed up on the follow through. Turner doesn’t have much lift off the ground but doesn’t need to for a high release point thanks to his seven-foot height and the speed of his release.

Of more significance is the fact that Turner has shown the ability to shoot on the move. He can work out of the pick-and-pop, floating to an open spot and repositioning his body to shoot quickly off the catch. It is quite unfortunate Texas didn’t use him this way as much as it should, especially considering how great a slasher Isaiah Taylor is at the college level.

Turner’s picks can be effective even if he’s a so-so screener who doesn’t disrupt the on-ball defender off his path very much because the threat of his shooting can put the opponent under a great deal off stress as it must make a split-second decision between containing the driver and staying attached to Turner.

He has also proven able to hit shots as the trailer in transition. That is huge for Turner because he does not sprint up the court to fill the lanes in transition fluidly, and making himself an option on the secondary break as he jogs behind the play is how he can add value to a team that attempts to play uptempo.

Nevertheless, as good as the touch on his jump-shot looks, Turner really only hit 27.4 percent of his 62 three-point attempts and 31 percent of his overall jump-shots last season – according to Synergy Sports. Texas didn’t run many plays to get him open, though, and it is likely his percentage improves simply because his looks will now be created by Paul George and George Hill.

RIM PROTECTION

Roy Hibbert is not a very mobile big man but Frank Voegel coached him into the league’s best rim protector by leveraging his size close to the basket. The four defenders around him were told to focus on pressing ball-handlers and taking away their ability to go side-to-side, funneling them towards Hbbert’s help-defense.

There is a lot of hope Voegel can do the same for Turner, who is a far more capable shot blocker with drivers running at him than rotating off the weak-side quickly.

Turner is not explosive off the ground and is not a high leaper but can elevate fairly easy for someone with his mobility issues and has a nine-foot-one standing reach to block the goal. He is also smart in individual defense, using his length extremely well to challenge opponents’ attempts on turnaround hooks. According to basketball-reference, Turner blocked 12.3 percent of opponents’ shots in his 755 minutes – which ranked him ninth in all of college basketball.

GAPS

He becomes a liability on defense if he is forced away from the lane, though. Turner lacks quickness to rotate inside to make plays at the rim in time if he gets too stretched out along the baseline, often getting there a step too late. He struggles to move fluidly in space and is absolutely not an option to pick up guards on switches.

In comparison to the average lottery pick, Turner is a fairly poor athlete. He is not much of an option to score out of the pick-and-roll, as he’s unable to dive down the lane with the sort of speed that can stress the defense and can’t play above the rim as a constant threat for lobs. He also does not have any sort of a floor game to attack closeouts.

With his back to the basket, Turner lacked strength to hold his position on the post against high level competition. Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl Towns, Jr. consistently pushed him off his spot in the game against Kentucky, as Draft Express’ Mike Schimitz detailed in this video, and Stanford’s Stefan Nastic also successfully denied him the ball.

When he caught it below the foul line, Turner looked hesitant to create separation by backing opponents down, often opting for quick turnaround hooks or fadeaway jump-shots. According to Draft Express, 47 percent of his post-ups ended on turnaround jumpers. He shot 47 percent on his post-ups, according to Synergy Sports, but most of those numbers were obtained against low level competition.

Texas played a really tough schedule – Berkeley, Connecticut, Kentucky, Stanford, Kansas twice and Iowa State three times. Turner only had 22 two-point field goals and 19 free-throw attempts on 199 minutes against these opponents.

On the glass, Turner is a very disciplined rebounder – one who looks to box out diligently and can catch the ball at a high point thanks to his seven-foot-four wingspan. Because of that, he made a killing on uncontested rebounds and collected 25 percent of opponents’ misses last season. But Turner struggled badly to muscle his way into inside position against Kentucky’s seven-footers, which raised some concerns regarding his toughness against NBA-level competition.

UPSIDE

Turner has the potential of being the rare center who contributes with floor spacing on offense and rim protection on defense. There aren’t many of those out there.

But that can only be the case if he becomes an actual good shooter rather than simply a shooter who looks good and if Voegel can maximize his size and minimize his mobility issues the same way he did with Hibbert’s.

It must also be said Turner has looked for help trying to fix his mobility issues and some clips have circulated of him running far more fluidly than he ever did at Texas, raising the possibility that an improvement in athleticism might actually be on the table.

RISK

The risk associated to Turner regards him not developing any sort of power moves in the post. If he cannot keep opponents from going small against him, Turner could become unplayable considering how much a liability he is defending away from the lane.

FIT

Indiana’s roster is a bit fluid at the moment. David West has opted out and is not expected to return unless the Pacers overpay. Hibbert has opted in but Larry Bird has suggested the team would like to move on from him and play a bit faster. George has commented on a couple of interviews he expects to play more time as a power forward next season.

The Pacers probably view Turner as the long term option at center but that might not necessarily mean the future starts now. Hibbert will be tough to move, especially if Indiana is reluctant to give him up for free or for a very small return, and Ian Mahinmi is still under contract. Voegel also has a history of not playing rookies right away. It is quite probable we won’t see Turner as part of the rotation in his first year.

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.

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7-footer, Post Scorer, Shot Creator, Stretch Big, Tall Passer

Frank Kaminsky Scouting Report

CONTEXT

There was heavy speculation regarding Frank Kaminsky III on Thursday. Multiple reports stated just about everyone wanted to trade into the top 10 in order to draft him and that the Knicks were seriously considering taking him at fourth overall. Most of these rumors were smokescreens but in the end, the Hornets still picked him high at ninth, rumored to have declined a package of six draft picks from the Celtics for that slot.

This concluded his remarkable rise to the pros. Kaminsky was named the player of the year last season and led Wisconsin to the national title game but was not heavily touted out of high school and logged just 600 minutes in his first two seasons in Madison. His development into a lottery pick is a testament to his work ethic and the type of coaching he received from Bo Ryan’s staff.

VERSATILITY ON OFFENSE

What makes Kaminsky so interesting is the versatility of his skill-set on offense. He has very well polished ball skills for someone who stands at seven feet tall and just about enough agility to maximize them. Wisconsin also used him in so many different ways on offense that Kaminsky was involved in a lot of possessions, which helped him develop great feel for the game.

The key to unlock his all-around game is his jump-shot, even if Kaminsky is more of a capable shooter willing to pull the trigger than an actual gunner. He takes enough three-pointers and makes them at an above average clip for a player of any position, let alone a center, that it’s unquestionable he’s a legit floor spacer.

That is especially the case because Kaminsky has proven able to shoot on the move, working out of the pick-and-pop often. This skill makes him a great asset against defenses that attempt to load up the strong side because he can put the opponent under a great deal off stress as it must make a split-second decision between containing the driver and staying attached to Kaminsky.

He doesn’t have much lift elevating off the ground but has a high point in his release because of his height and the speed on his trigger is decent considering his frame. Kaminsky hit 41.6% of his 101 three-point shots last season, averaging about three attempts per game.

But what separates him from the average stretch big man is his floor game. Despite his prolificacy making shots from the outside, Kaminsky always seemed more focused on taking advantage of the threat of his jump-shot to attack closeouts. His pump- and head-fakes were always effective enough to get the opponent off balance and help him get some momentum when he put the ball on the floor.

Kaminsky has good handles. Because of his height, he is unable to dribble the ball low in traffic but he uses his body well to protect himself from getting it stripped from him on the move. His 9.8% turnover rate is quite low in the context of his 28.6% usage-rate. Kaminsky often even got the ball on the top of the key and created shots off the bounce against a set defense. That is something you don’t see seven-footers do on a whole lot.

He is not explosive and his first step does not often get him separation. Jahlil Okafor managed to stay attached to him better than expected. Nevertheless, Kaminsky is well coordinated and impressed with his agility when he got around Rondae Hollis-Jefferson a couple of times. He gets to the rim by absorbing contact and maintaining his balance, and at times has flashed a slick spin move.

Kaminsky was a so-so finisher off the dribble against NBA-caliber length and athleticism due to his lack of explosiveness but by forcing the opponent to guard him in space, he puts him under a good deal of stress. Mostly because of his drives, he averaged 6.1 free throws per 40 minutes last season, converting them at a 78% clip.

When he could not get past his man, Kaminsky passed very well on the move. He has proven to be a quick thinker with the defense converging on him and able to see the floor around him great thanks to his high vantage point. According to basketball-reference, Kaminsky assisted on 21.9% of Wisconsin’s scores when he was on the floor last season – an exceptional rate for a center. He has tremendous upside as a playmaker on four-on-threes and out of the short roll.

That sort of face-up skill-set would already make him a prospect of interest but Kaminsky is also a functional scorer diving to the rim and with his back to the basket.

He does not cut down the lane with the sort of speed that sucks attention and opens up shots for others, and he also does not play above the rim as a constant threat for lobs but Kaminsky can catch the ball on the move and has great touch to finish at rim level. According to hoop-math.com, he converted 70% of his 140 shots in the restricted area last season. That said, he should only be a real threat out of the pick-and-roll if/when he plays at center and the offense is well spaced around him.

Kaminsky does not project like a volume post scorer in the NBA but he should definitely be good enough to punish opponents who try going small against him. It is noteworthy that he sometimes struggled giving teammates an angle for the pass when opponents with long arms challenged the post feed and might be successfully fronted by smaller players. But once he caught the ball, Kaminsky showed good footwork, patience working his defender, lower-body strength on his 231-pound frame to absorb contact and maintain his balance, suddenness of movement to get his shot off via turnaround hooks over either shoulder and touch on his finishes. According to Synergy Sports, Kaminsky averaged 1.101 points per possession on 78 post-ups last season.

GAPS

The most significant gap in Kaminsky’s game is his defense. He offers no rim protection. Ryan made sure he guarded pick-and-rolls flat, rarely stepping foot outside the lane. While he moves fine for a player his size, Kaminsky is not quick enough to keep drivers from going around him if he is asked to go too high and isn’t explosive off the ground to stop them at the rim when they run at him. Kaminsky picked up some blocks due to opportunity at Wisconsin because he stayed so close to the rim, but does not project as an asset rotating off the weak-side in time and making plays at the basket on help-defense.

Since he is not quick enough to keep drivers from going around him, Kaminsky is not suited to switch on guards. If Charlotte plays him as a stretch four rather than center, opponents should proactively go small against him to try forcing the issue. While they will have to deal with Kaminsky’s post-ups on one end, they will a significant quickness advantage on the other.

He is also an average defensive rebounder at best. Kaminsky looks to box out diligently but can get outworked by better athletes because he is not a high leaper and has short arms (six-foot-eleven wingspan), which provides opponents the opportunity to reach the ball at a higher point than him.

UPSIDE

Kaminsky’s upside is as a center. Any sort of shooting threat at that position can stress the opposing center because he is forced away from the basket, and Kaminsky will absolutely be the sort of shooter coaches instruct their centers not to leave open.

But it’s his floor game that can make him a truly unique type. While it might not be so effective against most of the power forwards in the NBA, he might take advantage of several centers who simply aren’t used to dealing with many players who are triple threats. Aside from that, when a center is away from the lane, many help-defense principles are compromised and Kaminsky has the passing to take advantage of defenses who don’t know how to react in such instances.

RISK

We are witnessing in Orlando how hard it is to build a good defense with such a poor rim protector at center, even with great athletes around him. Steve Clifford might be discouraged from trying him at that position. Even if he is a gold mine as a center on offense, it is hard to envision Kaminsky as the anchor of an above average defense. The drivers in the NBA are just too athletic.

He will likely be used as a stretch four for a long time, and the risk associated to Kaminsky lies on his floor game being far less impactful in the NBA than it was in college. The power forwards are more athletic to stay with him stride-for-stride and many are strong enough to contain his dribble penetration through contact, limiting the need for help. If Kaminsky isn’t much of a threat off the bounce, no one will converge and the opportunities to pass on the move won’t be there.

His ability to facilitate offense from the high post and on four-on-threes out of the pick-and-short will still make him a valuable asset to keep things moving on offense, but there is also the risk of Kaminsky becoming a Kevin Martin type – someone who gives up as many points on defense as he helps contribute to on offense. As a power forward, he will be asked to venture outside the lane far more than what he was used to do at Wisconsin and the results might not be pretty.

FIT

ESPN’s Amin Elhassan mentioned on his appearance on the ‘Russillo Show’ on Friday that a potential reason why Charlotte wanted Kaminsky so much was his similarity to Josh McRoberts. McRoberts helped the Hornets’ offense flow a lot more freely when he was there a couple of years ago, and without him there last season, that unity disintegrated.

That makes a lot of sense. Kaminsky’s perimeter skills should fit well with Al Jefferson’s low post-oriented game. He will provide space for Jefferson to work in the post with his shooting and add a high-low dynamic that wasn’t really there with Cody Zeller and Marvin Williams last season.

Charlotte probably won’t take great advantage of the three-point shots Kaminsky can create on four-on-threes out of the pick-and-short, though. It will be challenging building a league average defense with Kaminsky and Jefferson sharing the court for a lot of minutes, which should mean Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gildchrist will be out there with them a lot. There is still concern about the wrist injury that hurt Batum’s shooting so bad last season and Kidd-Gildchrist is developing his outside shot at a very slow pace.

The Hornets have kind of a logjam upfront. They just got Spencer Hawes as the price to get rid of Lance Stephenson, Marvin Williams is still under contract and they were unable to unload Cody Zeller on draft night. They are also rumored to be interested on retaining Bismack Biyombo, now that he appears ready to start providing some return on investment. How they eventually figure out whom among those stay on the team and how many minutes they get will probably not affect Kaminsky, though.

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

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7-footer, Stretch Big

Kristaps Porzingis Scouting Report

(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)

CONTEXT

Lottery prospects that consider entering the draft but opt out of it tend to actually downgrade their stocks with another season on the radar. Cody Zeller is the rare exception, and now so is Kristaps Porzingis. The Latvian teenager surprisingly declared for the draft as an 18-year-old last year and was expected to rise up the boards once teams started familiarizing themselves with his physical profile and skill-set, but eventually pulled his name out of the process 10 days before the draft, despite generating strong interest from a couple of teams.

That turned out to be a pretty great decision. As I mentioned in his profile from January, Porzingis didn’t necessarily widen his skill-set with another full season of pro ball but more firmly established the things he does well, which were up for debate at this time last year because his minutes were limited. His playing time doubled last season in comparison to 2013-2014, and besides the highly competitive Spanish ACB, his team (Cajasol Seville) also got to play the Eurocup – the continent’s second-tier league, a notch below the Euroleague.

Cajasol wasn’t very good. It lost 22 of 34 games in the Spanish ACB and nine of 16 games in the Eurocup. Veteran NBA assistant Scott Roth started the season as head-coach and did a fairly poor job, trying to pin the entire problem on an ACB rule that prevented him from pacing the sidelines or give in-game instructions while standing, because he didn’t have whatever accreditation was needed to be validated as a head-coach in that league. He was fired mid-season and his replacement did a better job, eventually helping the team avoid relegation with a strong finish.

Porzingis played stretch four the entire season, with a couple of other so-so NBA prospects (Guillermo Hernangomez and Ondrej Balvin) splitting time at center. Hernangomez is likely to be drafted in the second round this year, while Balvin went undrafted a year ago. The team ran decent motion offense with Roth as the coach, with some emphasis on moving the ball from side-to-side to bend the defense before getting into the eventual pick-and-roll that focused on getting the ball into the lane. Porzingis was for the most part used to space the floor.

SHOOTING

Porzingis’ top skill entering the NBA is his shooting. While he looked simply like a capable shooter in a competitive environment two seasons ago, taking just 53 three-point shots in 531 minutes in 2013-2014, Porzingis doubled his three-point attempts with double the minutes last season and there’s no more doubt of what his role is going to be in the NBA.

He looks like a legit pure shooter, fully extending himself on catch-and-shoot opportunities, elevating off the ground with ease and exhibiting textbook mechanics. Standing at seven-foot-one with a seven-foot-six wingspan, his shot is unblockable. His release is noticeably quicker and he’s become more willing to pull the trigger without consciousness.

But what separates Porzingis from the average seven-footer who can shoot is his ability to shoot on the move. He’s proven capable not only of working out of the pick-and-pop, adjusting his body position very naturally once he runs to an open spot after screening, but also running off pindown screens from others. According to Synergy Sports, Porzingis hit 53% of his shots coming off perimeter screens last season.

That was on perfect display on his first score in the first meeting of the season against Barcelona, when Porzingis got a screen from Hernangomez, who chipped his defender Justin Doellman, and the step of separation was enough for Porzingis to catch, turn, set and release a wing three-pointer without contest.

Porzingis does not have a great handle, and is prone to getting the ball stripped, but has proven able to attack closeouts well enough to generate decent bail-out looks from mid-range. He uses the hop to get good elevation and create space for his fade-away pull-ups. Due to the high point in his release, he doesn’t need a lot of separation to avoid effective challenges. And when he has taken all the way, he’s drawn shooting fouls at an appealing rate, averaging 4.6 free throws per 40 minutes, which he converted at a 75.2 percent clip.

It must be mentioned, though, that while he does look really good shooting, Porzingis hit only 35.8 percent of his 117 three-point shots and failed to hit a three-pointer in 22 of his 40 appearances. Shot creation on his team was iffy, even though one of his point guards is also likely to be drafted (Nikola Radicevic), so it’s possible his unimpressive percentage and indicator of streaky shooting could be simply fixed by getting him around NBA-caliber shot creation. Nonetheless, it’s something to keep in mind that the impact of his shooting might depend on what kind of looks are created for him.

ATHLETICISM

What separates Porzingis from the average seven-foot-one big man is his mobility. He moves very naturally in space, which manifests in his ability to sprint up the court to fill the lanes in transition and get off the ground to finish. He can play above the rim as an option for lobs and the passer has a huge target to work with since he can catch the ball at a really high point thanks to his really long arms.

That combination of fluidity and leaping ability also make him an option for runs at the rim out of the pick-and-roll, though he isn’t particularly great at that at this point. Porzingis looks to draw contact on his screens but on-ball defenders managed to navigate around his thin frame without much struggle and he didn’t cut down the lane with the sort of speed that sucks attention and potentially opens shots for others around the perimeter. He’s shown soft hands to catch the ball on the move but didn’t often finish strong in traffic and is unable to finish through contact at this point.

Because of his role as a floor spacer, Porzingis has below average numbers crashing the offensive glass but he plays with good energy when he’s below the rim fighting for tip balls, can reach the ball at a higher point than the average opponent and outside of his area due to that massive seven-foot-six wingspan.

His defensive rebounding has improved, as he’s looked to box out more diligently rather than rely on his athleticism to track the ball off the rim quicker than the opposition. His lack of strength still hurts him some, as he can get pushed off his spot at times, but Porzingis still has a big rebounding area even if he doesn’t have a wide frame for now. According to Real GM, he collected 18.7 percent of opponents’ misses last season, compared to 14 percent the year before.

Porzingis is a very aggressive help-defender and can play above the rim as a shot blocker rotating off the weak-side, but he’s not the sort of volume shot blocker his highlight clips suggest. He’s blocked 52 shots on 40 appearances last season and 31 shots on 35 games the season before.

GAPS

That magnificent one-on-zero workout Porzingis had in Las Vegas the other day has unfortunately made some people get the wrong impression about him and overlook some gaps he has in the game. These gaps, in my opinion, make him a less appealing prospect than the top three shot creators (Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay) and the top two rim protectors (Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein).

Porzingis is not any sort of direct shot creator, for himself or others. His handle is good enough for him to attack closeouts on straight line drives, pulling up from mid-range or taking a free path to the basket. But he’s susceptible to getting the ball stripped in traffic, averaging 2.6 turnovers per 40 minutes. And he hasn’t shown early indicators he’s able to pass on the move when the defense converges on him, assisting on just 5.2 percent of Cajasol’s scores when he was on the floor last season.

Porzingis’ shooting is really valuable because any sort of shooting is these days but it would have been more valuable three years ago. At this point, we are seeing more and more teams simply play wings at that position. And Porzingis does not enter the league with the skill-set to force teams out of playing small against him. Due to his lack of strength, he’s not a very good post player, mostly relying on his turnaround jump-shot as go-to move because he is unable to set deep post position and back opponents down. Barcelona guarded him with Doellman, who plays stretch four there but has the size of a wing for NBA comparison purposes, and Porzingis couldn’t really take advantage.

On defense, he does not have the strength to hold ground against bigger types in the post and is only so-so guarding drives. Porzingis showed enough lateral mobility to stay in front of slower types like Andres Nocioni and Will Thomas in space but couldn’t contain dribble penetration through contact and guys like Doellman and Bostjan Nachbar went around him without a lot of struggle. He’s always going to be a threat for chase-down blocks but in the NBA, once they get by you, it’s far more likely they’ll get to the rim before you get back to them.

Porzingis is 19 years old now, so there’s plenty of time for him to close these gaps on his game or for his future team to learn how to play him in a way to minimizes his weaknesses. My issue with how he’s been covered these last two weeks is that he’s being perceived as the sort of difference maker a team can expect out of the second or third pick in a loaded class like this one. I disagree with that, based on the direction the NBA has indicated it intends to go but mostly because Towns, Okafor, Russell, Mudiay and Cauley-Stein are on the board. Porzingis is a great prospect, but as a finisher, while three of those guys are great prospects as shot creators and two of them as guys who can directly prevent scoring. I simply think they represent more value.

UPSIDE

One thing that Porzingis can do that the average wing masking as a stretch four can’t is help with additional rim protector. While he has not blocked shots in volume at the pro level, he has been very aggressive rotating off the weak-side and has the quickness to make plays at the rim in time. It must be said he’s done that to a fault sometimes, and smart teams have taken advantage of him to get his man open three-pointers, but it should also be mentioned that his center (Hernangomez) was a poor rim protector and maybe Porzingis felt the need or was coached to prioritize helping inside at the expense of sometimes getting burned if the opponent did find his man open.

But the real upside with Porzingis lies on if he can develop into a center. He didn’t guard all that many pick-and-rolls with Cajasol because opponents always focused on exposing Hernangomez but he has shown the ability to contain-and-recover, moving from side-to-side fluidly. I don’t think Porzingis is the sort of presence that intimidates opponents from driving but if he’s well taught and absorbs the principles of positional defense, he does have the agility to cover a lot of ground. He’ll obviously have to continue gaining muscles (he’s up 10 pounds in comparison to his listed weight last season) but we have seen how effective a seven-footer who is lean but has great feet can be on defense when Joakim Noah won defensive player of the year two seasons ago. If Porzingis can develop into a center on defense, the level of shooting he could provide at that position on offense would in fact make him a difference maker. If Pero Antic has value as a stretch five, imagine someone who can actually shoot.

RISK

The risk associated to Porzingis is if he does not develop any sort of a post game. Teams will just go small against him and while these wings might not be able to put a hand in his face as he shoots, they can stay closer when puts the ball on the floor and prevent him from pulling-up in balance or even pulling-up at all. While he’s very agile in the context of being a big man, he has not proven agile enough to defend smaller players in space, so he’ll be attacked.

Channing Frye was really valuable his last season in Phoenix because they leveraged his shooting very well, especially using him as a stretch five some of his playing time. Then last season we saw him make a lot less of a difference strictly as a spot-up stretch four on a poorly coached team in Orlando. Porzingis can make shots but he depends on others getting him to his spots (the coaches) and getting him the ball (the shot creators). And as we saw in Orlando last season, that isn’t as simple as it sounds.

FITS

-After his magnificent one-on-zero workout in Vegas, some reports have come out that the Lakers have considered drafting Porzingis with the second pick. Pairing him with Julius Randle would be interesting, considering Porzingis could provide the space Randle needs to work with in the post. But Byron Scott isn’t necessarily a coach that has kept up with the times. Floor spacing is such a foreign concept to him that he played Ryan Kelly as a wing last season. While I don’t think Scott does the same with Porzingis, I don’t doubt he prefers pairing Randle with another prototypical big they sign in free agency, and ends up utilizing Porzingis as a bit player who just spots-up on the weak-side.

-Draft Express floated the idea of the 76ers taking Porzingis third last week and has on its report that Philadelphia was one of the teams that pushed for Porzingis to stay in the draft last year. With so much uncertainty regarding Joel Embiid’s future, it doesn’t sound so crazy for them to draft a third big man for the third straight year and Porzingis could fit very well with Nerlens Noel, who continues to project as a catch-and-finish big.

-Chad Ford had the Knicks drafting Porzingis in his fake mock draft with Jay Billas the other day and I think that would be a terrible fit. It’s a misunderstanding of who Porzingis is and what the Knicks are looking for. Phil Jackson has re-emphasized this last week that he’s all in on installing the triangle and needs a big man who can initiate offense out of the mid-post. Porzingis is simply not that guy at this point, and New York probably doesn’t feel like waiting to see if he can become that.

-The Magic actually have a pretty decent collection of talent in place, so whomever they draft is going to overlap with someone who is already there. If Orlando takes Porzingis, having Frye on the roster wouldn’t make a lot of sense but getting rid of him won’t be so easy. Selecting Porzingis also almost guarantees Nikola Vucevic will spend most of his playing time at center for the next few years, and we have enough evidence by now that this doesn’t work.

-The Kings are such a dysfunctional mess that I hope for Porzingis’ sake they don’t take him but he would actually be a great fit here. He’s a good transition player, matching with the preferred style of play by George Karl, and would provide space for DeMarcus Cousins to work with in the half-court. Cousins is also such a great passer and quietly elite mid-range shooter, that Porzingis won’t be pigeonholed into a role as floor spacer and can develop his interior scoring with time.

-There isn’t much certainty regarding the Nuggets, but they already have Jusuf Nurkic, Nikola Jokic and Joffrey Lauvergne as big men, with a good chance Kenneth Farried will still be on the team and Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler are also options to take some minutes at stretch four. Drafting Porzingis would be confusing.

-The Pistons seem like a good fit. Porzingis does have the skill-set Stan Van Gundy appears to be looking for in the guy he wants to pair Andre Drummond with upfront. He did just trade for Ersan Ilyasova but given the chance to lock up a player who provides higher upside, Van Gundy very well might take Porzingis.

-Similarly to the Nuggets, the Hornets also have way too many options upfront, with Al Jefferson, Cody Zeller, Noah Vonleh and Marvin Williams under contract and there’s a strong assumption out there they’ll try re-signing Bismack Biyombo.

-Falling to the Heat is probably the most appealing option for Porzingis. Erik Spoelstra is a very creative coach and given the way he has utilized his shooters in the past, he’ll probably take the most out of Porzingis. The downside would be pairing Porzingis with another notoriously poor passer in Hassan Whiteside, but both guys could be exceptional finishers in given the looks. Goran Dragic looked like an All-Star a couple of seasons ago driving off screens by Frye and Porzingis could have that same effect for him. If he’s on the board, this seems like a no-brainer for Miami and is probably as low as Porzingis could drop.

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.

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7-footer, Catch&Score Finisher, Post Scorer, Shot Creator, Stretch Big

Karl-Anthony Towns Scouting Report

(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)

CONTEXT

Karl-Anthony Towns joined Kentucky as the ninth-rated prospect coming out of high school, according to ESPN.com. He was one of the very few players entering college basketball with some pro experience, since he spent the previous summers with the Dominican national team (also coached by John Calipari), where he had the opportunity to practice against Al Horford.

Despite two veterans returning at his position – Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson, Towns established himself as Kentucky’s top option at center from day one, eventually logging 822 minutes in 39 games – many against really good competition such as Cliff Alexander, Myles Turner, Cameron Ridley, Kennedy Meeks, Joel James, Tony Parker, Montrezl Harrell, Jarrell Martin, Jordan Mickey and Frank Kaminsky.

He didn’t separate himself much over the first couple of months but by the end of the season, Towns developed into the team’s top option on offense, in part because of the unimaginative style of play installed by Calipari but also because no defender in college basketball could keep him from getting to his spots and getting a quality shot off.

POST GAME

Towns surpassed Jahlil Okafor as the best prospect in this year’s draft in most people’s minds with his last two appearances in the NCAA tournament, when he scored 41 points on 24 shots against Notre Dame and Wisconsin. He did so by dominating in the post.

Towns uses his 250-pound frame to establish deep position within six feet. Catching the ball so close to the basket is part of the reason why he was such an effective post scorer at the collegiate level, averaging 0.92 point per possession on what amounted to 43 percent of his offense (according to research by Draft Express) and 6.5 free throws per 40 minutes.

But Towns also exhibited really good touch on his finishes. He did not show smooth footwork or a wide variety of moves but was extremely efficient with his go-to move; a turnaround, short hook with either hand after one dribble and dropping his shoulder into the chest of the defender to create separation. It’s easy to dismiss him looking so dominant against Notre Dame because Zach Auguste was just so much smaller, but Towns also scored fairly well against NBA-caliber prospects such as Kaminsky, Turner, Alexander, Martin and Mickey.

And Towns did so without much help from those around him. Kentucky rarely gave him flex screens to occupy his defender while he moved towards the block. There was never any primary action to move the ball from side to side and bend the defense either. The guards often just dribbled into a position and waited for the time to feed the post. It was always on him to navigate the lane and be physical fighting for position.

Towns also didn’t have much space to work with. He spent the majority of his minutes in lineups with two non-shooters (Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles) and two capable but not particularly good shooters (the Harrison twins).

But despite not having shooters around him, Towns was not a black hole. He proved a very willing passer, utilizing his high vantage point to see over the top of double teams and soft hands to deliver on target. According to basketball-reference, Towns assisted on 11.6 percent of Kentucky’s scores while he was on the floor – an above average mark among centers. The downside was turning it over on almost 18 percent of his possessions with his back to the basket, according to the report by Jonathan Givony of Draft Express.

Kentucky ran a really nice set in the first play of the game against Notre Dame, when Towns got the ball in the high post and lobbied to Lyles at the rim, freed by a weak-side screen from Cauley-Stein. It’s the sort of play that suggests Towns could be an asset facilitating offense from the elbows, something that we’re likely to see more teams seeking after the Spurs and the Warriors won the last two titles having big men who were capable of doing just that.

It’s unclear if Towns will be the sort of shot creator from the post in the NBA that he was at Kentucky, though. His passing and court vision are likely to translate; to which extent depending on his ability to command double teams. But it’s questionable he’ll command those double teams unless he develops counter moves. Towns is really big and should be able to establish deep position in the NBA as well but every defender will be aware of his overreliance on power moves to get his scoring and they will be more prepared to try taking that away from him. As far as those counters go, he’ll need a lot of work to develop the footwork Jahlil Okafor already has but many expect him to add a fade-away, turnaround jump-shot to his arsenal fairly soon. That’s because…

SHOOTING

Towns projected as a stretch big out of high school. According to the New York Times, he hit 127 three-point shots in three seasons at Saint Joseph High School. But he did not show his range at Kentucky, taking just eight shots from beyond the arc and 28 jump-shots total in his 39 appearances last season.

There are anecdotes of how he’s looked shooting the ball from deep in practices and workouts, but there is no substantial video of him in a competitive setting demonstrating what kind of shooter he is; someone capable of spotting up in the corner or a guy who could be able to shoot on the move and work out of the pick-and-pop. Nonetheless, there is expectation he’ll be a threat from long range in the pros.

Towns converted 81.7 percent of his 131 free throws, which tend to be an indicator of potential outside shot development. In his limited jump-shot attempts, he’s looked like a capable open-shot shooter with solid mechanics, elevating up-and-down, keeping his guide hand pointed up, flicking his wrist naturally and following through but also like one who needs time and space for his release.

ATHLETICISM

Towns moves very freely in space for someone his size. He can sprint up the court to fill the lane in transition and play above the rim as a target for lobs. Unfortunately we did not get to see him dive down the lane with momentum and catch the ball on the move out of the pick-and-roll much because Kentucky seemed allergic to the set that has become the heart of every NBA offense.
But because of his leaping ability and soft hands, Towns projects to be a constant threat running at the rim if he gets to play in an offense that affords him those chances. He finished his 111 shots at the basket at a 75.7 percent clip last season.

Towns also has the potential to mix in some playmaking cutting his rolls short. He’s flashed some quick thinking on the go. Midway through the second half at Louisiana State, he caught the ball out of the pick-and-roll and lobbied on the move, on target to Cauley-Stein at the rim when three opponents converged on him.

But the best evidence we have of his athleticism is from the offensive glass. Towns collected 14.2 percent of Kentucky’s misses when he was on the floor, which ranked him second in the SEC. According to hoop-math, he converted 41 of his 92 offensive rebounds into putbacks. Towns can rebound outside of his area due to his seven-foot-three wingspan and has a lot of strength in his 250-pound frame to fight for 50-50 balls.

On the defensive glass, Towns is diligent with his boxout responsibilities. He’s very aggressive looking to make plays at the rim as a shot blocker and sometimes that comes at the expense of boxing out the opponent but he’s consistent getting physical when the shot comes from the perimeter. Towns will tangle arms with the opponent from time to time rather than back him out of his rebounding area but consistently looks to establish inside position. He has pretty great leaping ability for someone his size and sound instincts tracking the ball off the rim, collecting 22.8 percent of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor, which also ranked second in the SEC.

Towns proved himself an excellent shot blocker rotating off the weak-side and also using his nine-foot-one standing reach to protect the basket with guards running at him, averaging 4.3 blocks per 40 minutes. That said, there is more room for him to grow smarter as a shot blocker. He’s sometimes in a hurry to leave his feet, which makes him prone to getting beat by up-and-under moves and leaves him vulnerable to fouling. Towns averaged 6.3 personal fouls per 40 minutes at Kentucky, which is very concerning.

PICK-AND-ROLL DEFENSE

Due his size, mobility and rim protection skills, Towns is expected to develop into a really high end pick-and-roll defender with some good coaching. There were flashes of that potential at Kentucky but he was mostly so-so when pushed by impact players.

He looked comfortable defending in space, showing-and-recovering in control against Texas and flashing good closing speed to effectively contest shots on the perimeter against Louisville. But Notre Dame and Wisconsin really put him under a good deal off stress.

Towns backpedaled well to challenge Jerian Grant and Demetrius Jackson when they turned the corner and attacked the rim but missed Auguste getting behind him a few times in that game and those resulted in scores at the rim.

Against Wisconsin, Towns was tasked with defending Kaminsky and failed to closeout in time on a couple of three-point attempts, one of them out of the pick-and-pop when he stayed with the guard driving all the way to the elbow and wasn’t explosive enough to run back and contest Kaminsky taking a 25-footer.

Towns does have decent lateral mobility for someone his size and a long wingspan that gives him some margin of error to not necessarily stay attached, yet still contest a mid-range jump-shot effectively. But he’s probably not suited to defend smaller players on switches since the sudden change of direction just isn’t there.

UPSIDE

Towns is the best prospect on the board because he’s the one that can do the most if he fully develops. He’s done enough to suggest that everything could be on the table with him. He enters the league as a nice passer for someone his size and his age, who rebounds in volume on both glasses and can protect the rim. That alone would be enough for him to be the top prospect but the idea that he might also become a legit scorer from the post and from three-point range makes him seem as if he’s been created in a video game.

If Towns really becomes a guy who can space the floor while also keeping the opponent from going small against him because if they do, he’ll burn them by scoring or assisting cutters and shooters from the post, Towns will essentially be an offense all to himself. All of that while offering rim protection on the other end. Seems ridiculous to even think about it.

RISK

As a seven-footer who can protect the rim and rebound in volume, Towns is almost assured to be of value even if his scoring doesn’t translate and he’s not put in a position to make full use of his passing. That probably wouldn’t be the expected return on the number one pick in the draft, though. Towns is only 19 but I think it’s fair to say that he has shown enough ball skills and awareness of the game by this point that it would be mildly disappointing if he doesn’t develop into either a shot creator or a shot maker in time.

And if he doesn’t grow out of being in constant foul trouble, that could really minimize his impact.

FITS

According to several reports, Towns has only worked out for the Timberwolves and expects to be drafted first. Based on how the team played last season, he would probably be used the same way he was at Kentucky, with most of his usage coming out of the low post. Maybe Flip Saunders watched the NBA Finals and suddenly realized how important spacing and three-point shooting are these days, but it’s far more likely he’ll continue invested in that outdated style of play.

Towns is even likely to spend most of his time on the court in lineups with other true centers like Nikola Pekovic or Gorgui Dieng alongside him. Many believe Towns to be a fit playing with another big, since he’s expected to become a threat from the outside, but I feel like the floor spacing he provides would be best maximized if he played center, especially considering how invested in posting up Andrew Wiggins and Shabbaz Muhammad Saunders was last season.

With Ricky Rubio at the point, Wiggins on the wing and Towns at center, Minnesota ought to develop a top five defense really soon.

But based on how the Timberwolves played last season, I think there’s still a chance Saunders surprises everyone and drafts Okafor. If that’s the case, he won’t fall any further than the Lakers. Unfortunately Byron Scott isn’t much more likely to develop Towns’ entire skill-set, though. Floor spacing seems like such a foreign concept to Scott that he played Ryan Kelly as a wing last season. He would also probably use Towns mostly as a post player. LA would at least be assured the fit with Julius Randle would be more natural than if last year’s pick end paired up with Okafor, a player of a similar skill-set.

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.

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