Kris Dunn Scouting Report

(First posted at Upside & Motor.)


Kris Dunn led the country in assist percentage last season and was perceived as a late lottery pick in the 2015 draft. He took a risk by returning to Providence for another year of college ball. Most players fail to keep or improve their status the longer they stay in the junior ranks.

But that gamble is now very likely to pay off for Dunn, who currently ranks fourth on Draft Express’s mock draft. He has managed to improve some of the aspects of his skill-set that were considered weaknesses a year ago, aside from proving able to elevate the level of play of those around him – leading Providence to 17 wins in 20 games and a top 20 ranking in the Associated Press poll so far this season.

His age (he will be 22 by the time of the draft) may cause some decision makers to question how much better he is yet to get but Dunn has now become one of the prospects with the highest floors among those that are candidates to be selected in the top 10.

Providence has decent talent on the team, with a couple of other guys that are worth keeping track of long term, but Dunn is the only clear cut NBA prospect at the moment and the team’s successful campaign is mostly driven by his prolificacy.

Ed Cooley runs a nice offense, one that provides Dunn a good opportunity to succeed. Despite being the team’s most talented player, he does not monopolize possession of the ball and is not necessarily relied on to create against a set defense on an every possession-basis. Dunn sometimes doesn’t even bring the ball up the floor and initiate the offense, as Junior Lamomba and Kyron Cartwright are able to do so. He often catches the ball after running his man through one or a couple of screens and the ball has already moved from side-to-side.

Providence also offers Dunn a well-spaced floor. It shoots a healthy amount of three-point shots, though it’s not necessarily prolific at making them at an above average rate. Its big men, Rodney Bullock and Ben Bentil, are both able to roll to the three-point line on the pick-and-pop or spot up from beyond the arc on the weak-side. The only other two players who stand at or above six-foot-seven and get regular playing time are pure outside shooters, and the rest of the rotation is built of guards. As a result, Dunn has plenty of space to get into the lane attacking off the bounce.

As far as level of competition goes, Providence unfortunately hasn’t played any opponent with a perimeter player projected to become the sort of NBA player Dunn is. Even Arizona doesn’t have one this season, despite the fact Alonzo Trier is a Team USA guy with some status to him. Denzel Valentine missed most of the first half due to foul trouble in the game against Michigan State, then did not guard Dunn in the second half, except for a possession here and there.

He had the chance to play Notre Dame and Kentucky last season, going against NBA types like Demetrius Jackson, Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton, the Harrison twins, Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker. Dunn did not do particularly well in 50 minutes of playing time against these two teams, though it’s worth bringing up that this was early in the season and he was just returning to competitive play after missing the majority of the previous season recovering from undergoing surgery in his shoulder.

Overall, Dunn has averaged a healthy 15 points per 40 minutes on 44.1% shooting and posted 96 assists against 54 turnovers in 485 minutes on 16 appearances against opponents ranked in the AP top 25 (prior to Sunday’s game) over the last four years, according to RealGM.


What’s most appealing about Dunn is the fact that he is a legit primary ball-handler who stands at six-foot-four with a six-foot-nine wingspan and well developed upper-body strength in his 205-pound frame. He is bigger than his matchup at point guard almost every night, while also possessing the agility to stay in front of these smaller players.

His size translates mostly on his ability to maintain his balance through on contact on his way to the basket, as he attacks length with explosiveness to finish at the rim with power thanks to his athleticism – even flashing the ability to dunk in traffic elevating out of two feet. His frame also invites contact, as he’s averaged seven foul shots per 40 minutes this season – according to basketball-reference.

Another way he’s able to explore his size advantage is by taking opposing point guards into the post, either setting position in the low block or the elbow. And Dunn is a legit asset from those areas, not just somebody who is sent there because he is bigger than his competition. He looks comfortable backing opponents down, has flashed a smooth turnaround fade-away jump-shot and can also explore his court vision passing out of these spots when he draws help, as Providence can space the floor properly around his post-ups thanks to everyone’s ability to spot-up outside the arc.

On the other end, Dunn is not a particularly polished defender. He gets on a stance more often than not defending on the ball but can be caught standing flat-footed more than a few times when the opponent isn’t an immediate threat to pull-up from long range and that’s definitely the case on an every possession-basis when he is off the ball.

But Dunn is an impact defender thanks to his size and athletic ability. He does not contain dribble penetration through contact but has lateral agility to keep pace with smaller players in isolation and recovering to them after going under screens (he almost always went under in the games I’ve seen him), then uses his length to contests shots at the rim or deflect passes.

As a weak-side defender, Dunn uses his quickness to closeout to shooters in time for his length to force them to put the ball on the floor. He will at times get there off balance and get beat by his man for a second but has shown he cares enough to use his athleticism to recover. That’s something he’ll need to polish in the pros, though, where his edge in athletic ability won’t exist as much and his opponents will be able to get to the rim before he gets to them.

Dunn is aggressive jumping the passing lanes and his long wingspan helps make these plays takeaways rather than just deflections. He is averaging 3.6 steals per 40 minutes this season. Dunn has also proven tough enough to box out bigger players and has the athleticism to chase the ball off the rim, which makes him an asset to pick up bigs on switches. He is collecting 17.5% of opponents’ misses – an incredible defensive rebounding rate for a point guard.


Dunn’s combination of size and athleticism provides flexibility for the coach of the team that drafts him to consider playing him as an off guard regularly, especially if you try talking yourself into the small improvement he has made in his outside shooting.

But Dunn is a true point guard by nature. He does like to do his fair share of dribbling late in the shot clock and his 29.8% usage rate is considerable but for the most part, the ball does not stick in his hands and he does play a team-oriented style.

Dunn passes ahead in transition, has good court vision identifying even the smallest of openings for his shooters and looks to pass out of dribble penetration when the defense collapses to him – assisting on 46.4% of Providence’s scores when he’s been on the floor, which once again leads the NCAA. Dunn turns the ball over quite a bit (4.4 giveaways per 40 minutes), sometimes trying to draw the help to him an extra second more than he should, but that’s the cost of doing business with such a volume shot creator.

He is not a speedster turning the corner out of the pick-and-roll but can change speeds and has a hesitation move to get by his man, aside from having a nice handle to go side-to-side and snake the pick-and-roll to put his man in jail. Dunn can attack the basket with explosiveness but has also shown the ability to hang in the air around length and nice touch on non-dunk finishes, converting 61.7% of his 94 shots at the basket – according to hoop-math.

He has taken 42% of his shots in the restricted area, after that number was 46% last season. Since Dunn is such a threat to get to the basket, opponents consistently try to shell his path to the rim. They regularly go under on screens and dare him to beat them from the outside. Dunn is not shy to try it and that leads to questionable shot selection at times.

He is a capable shot maker but not a particularly good one at this point of his development, hitting just 34.2% of his 73 two-point jump-shots entering Sunday’s game. Dunn’s mechanics don’t look broken but he has a strong tendency to fade-away on his release, even with plenty of space to elevate off the bounce or on catch-and-shoots.

His accuracy, though more palatable due to the extra point, is about the same from three-point range – 36.8% on 57 attempts this season. And it seems like most of those come on a pet play Providence runs where Dunn gives up the ball, fakes cutting down the lane, pops back to the top of the key coming off a pindown screen and takes the catch-and-shoot in rhythm.

Dunn has developed into more of an outside threat in comparison to last season mostly because he’s become a more willing shooter, though sometimes to a fault. That’s actually a real small improvement because a poor but capable outside shooter is better than someone is not a threat whatsoever. However, Dunn’s so-so foul shooting (68.8% through his college career) raises concern into how much better of a shooter he’ll be able to develop into in the 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

Ben Bentil Scouting Report

If Ben Bentil was two inches taller, I’m fairly certain he could declare for the NBA draft right now and he’d be picked somewhere in the second round.

That’s the case because Bentil is developing into the sort of multi-dimensional scorer the league is looking for in its centers these days.

He is not a particularly good jump-shooter yet, converting just 26.6% of his 64 attempts from three-point range and 38.5% of his 96 mid-range shots this season – according to hoop-math. His 81.6% foul shooting suggests he could develop into a more capable outside shooter in time, but that time is not now.

Nevertheless, Bentil has proven himself enough of a threat from the perimeter that he must be accounted for stepping outside, not just spotting up on the weak-side but also catch-and-shooting out of the pick-and-pop. He has then offered Kris Dunn plenty of space to attack the lane off the bounce.

Most of his production originates in the interior, though. Bentil has lower-body strength in his 230-pound frame to get a deep seal, fluid (if not necessarily fully polished) footwork with his back to the basket and pretty good touch on turnaround hooks over this left shoulder and on face-up jumpers from the baseline. Opponents don’t have the option of switching a smaller player onto him.

He has not proven able to play above the rim as a constant target for lobs but has shown nice touch on non-dunk finishes around length, converting 65% of his 123 shots at the rim this season.

Bentil has an appealing offensive skill-set for a center but he is also six-foot-eight, which is why it’s tough to project him as an NBA prospect right now. His physical profile is similar to Paul Millsap’s but he is not the sort of dominant rebounder Millsap was when he first got his foot on the door.

Bentil is collecting just 13.5% of available misses, including just 16.8% of opponents’ misses – per basketball-reference, which is disappointing when you consider he is the only true big on Providence’s rotation.

Part of this is that Dunn is a great rebounder for a point guard and profits of Bentil doing the dirty work boxing out opponents, but he has nonetheless not shown he can be a dominant rebounder so far. Providence has played three NBA-caliber frontlines this season and Bentil was so-so in these matchups. He did well against Michigan State, OK against Marquette and poorly against Arizona.

Bentil has enough athletic ability to rotate off the weak-side and pick up some blocks coming from behind but he has not shown to be the sort of rim protector an NBA team would feel comfortable relying on to anchor its defense for consistent stretches. Providence has not asked of him to pick up smaller players on switches, so I can’t tell if he could potentially be an asset in that role.

Bentil simply lacks enough size or superior athleticism to project as even a zero defender at best as a center in the NBA. So, he will have to move down a position and play “power-forward” (whatever that means these days) but he doesn’t yet possess a polished enough perimeter-oriented skill-set to play that position in the new four-out Era.

Bentil isn’t a good enough shooter to space the floor consistently, doesn’t have much of a floor game to take more athletic players off the bounce and hasn’t shown many passing instincts facilitating offense from the elbows or making plays for others out of the short roll.

He is, however, someone worth keeping track of over the next couple of seasons.

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

Dragan Bender Scouting Report

(First posted at Upside & Motor.)


The title of this post is a bit misleading. There isn’t really much to write decisively about Dragan Bender midway through his first season as a full time pro.

There wasn’t much expectation the 18-year-old was going to be a big part of what Maccabi Tel Aviv did this season. Coaches of big European powerhouses are paid to win games — lots of them — and teenagers rarely help them achieve such goals, as this has been proven true in Bender’s case as well.

The Croatian phenom has logged just 252 minutes in his 22 appearances this season, logging less than 10 minutes in half of those games. He’s been deployed as a minutes-eater, playing mostly in garbage time or subbing in earlier in games when another more important player in the rotation needs to sub out due to foul trouble or some other issue.

Draft Express currently ranks him third in their mock draft but unless something dramatic changes, I find it hard to believe Bender will declare for and eventually keep his name in this year’s draft. He is on year two of a seven-year contract signed with Maccabi in the summer of 2014 and only in his first season as a part of the powerhouse’s senior squad, after he split time between Maccabi’s junior squad and a team that plays in the Israeli second division on loan last season.

Bender is very early into the life of his deal and hasn’t yet developed into a player who is able to produce at the pro level, so one assumes that a potential buyout to try acquiring Bender before any of the final three years of his deal for which he has opt-outs must cost a prohibitive amount.

If Bender were to declare for the draft, he’d be doing so because a team out there has seen enough of him by now to feel comfortable promising to select him in the top five and then wait another two or three years before he transfers. Such a team probably does not exist at this point. The 76ers are the only one out there speculated to have enough guts to do something like this but things changed in Philadelphia over the last month, with Sam Hinkie losing power after the arrival of Jerry Colangelo.

Bender has shown an incredibly unique combination of height and skill-set in the junior tournaments he has participated in over the last three years. But not all teenage phenoms are guaranteed to become superstars in the pros, and Bender has not yet been given the proper opportunity to show whether or not he remains on pace to develop into that sort of player.


The reason why Bender has been judged borderline unplayable by his coaches against high-level competition (posting averages of 10 minutes per game in seven Euroleague appearances and just four minutes per game in a couple of outings in the Eurocup) is his lack of physicality at this point of his development.

He possesses a thin 216-pound frame in the context of his seven-foot-one height and does not yet have the sort of strength needed to bang against players who are often seven, 10, 12 or 15 years older than he is.

As a result, Bender hasn’t been able to set deep position and back opponents down in the post. But the biggest issue is on the other end, where he has struggled holding his ground in the low block and boxing out to help protect the defensive glass, collecting just 13% of opponents’ misses this season, according to RealGM – which is a disappointing mark for someone his height.

Despite his height and nine-foot-three standing reach, opponents have been able to go at Bender and finish through his contact when he is standing in the front of the rim. He simply lacks the physical nature to be a presence opponents fear having to deal with at the basket.

That inability to withstand contact has also affected him in the perimeter on offense, where Bender has struggled to maintain his balance through contact and often has his dribble drives contained in the in-between area.

Part of what makes Bender such an intriguing prospect is the possibility that he could be able to play center in the future as the anchor of a five-out offense but that is only a dream at this point, as Bender appears a long way away from gaining the sort of mass and force needed to make that viable.


So Bender remains a prospect of interest despite the fact he hasn’t yet developed his physical profile enough to earn regular playing time at the pro level because of the ball skills and coordination moving in space he has shown in the past.

Bender stands at seven-foot-one but is very agile for someone his height. He can sprint up the court to finish with power in transition and has flashed second jump-ability to fight for tip-ins on the offensive glass, when a tougher big man doesn’t erase him out of the play completely with a physical box out.

But Bender’s mobility is perhaps even more promising with regards to his potential defending in space. Obviously, he is not suited to pick up speedy point guards on switches and have to navigate ball-screens but Bender has proven able to bend his knees to get in a stance, move laterally and keep pace with less athletic wings like Alessandro Gentile and Mindaugas Kuzminskas in isolation. His seven-foot-two wingspan makes it extremely tough for an opponent to shoot over him off the bounce without creating a good deal of separation first.

As a help-defender, Bender can cut off dribble penetration containing the pick-and-roll as a big and has long strides to crash inside to bump a big rolling to the basket and then closeout to a weak-side spot-up shooter. More critically, he has often been able to run the shooter off the three-point line and maintain his balance to defend the dribble drive.

He is also a more able shot blocker when he sprints off the weak-side in a hurry and attacks a dribble driver rather than when the dribble driver attacks him, as mentioned above. Most of his 16 blocks this season occurred on such instances.

But while his impact as a team defender is how Bender has been more capable of contributing early in his pro career, what really pops and excites most people is ability to handle and pass on the move while standing at seven-foot-one.

Bender has proven able to handle on the break, grabbing the rebound and pushing the ball up the floor. In the half-court, he can attack closeouts on catch-and-go’s and has excellent court vision to take advantage of a collapsing defense by finding open teammates. He can also be a real asset creating for others with his back to the basket in the low post whenever he manages to get the ball there.

Bender even flashed the ability to run pick-and-roll a little bit playing for the Croatian National Team U18 a couple of summers ago. He lacks the sort of quickness off the bounce to be a legit scoring threat attacking around a ball-screen but the goal was creating enough action for the defense to scramble, allowing Bender to pick them apart thanks his high vantage point.

That’s really what makes Bender so appealing; the chance that he might in future be the sort of ‘power-forward’ who can not only make plays for others attacking closeouts and passing out of the shot roll but also draw a big defender all the way to the perimeter, run pick-and-roll and force that defender to guard in a way he is not accustomed to.

But that’s not the case yet, though. Bender is not at all put in a position to handle the ball in the perimeter with Maccabi because it has better options to do that. His team has two point guards, Yogev Ohayon and Taylor Rochestie, who need to monopolize possession to be effective running offense and have high assist rates in their careers. It also has Devin Smith, a wing who is relied on to create off the dribble often, aside from having Jordan Farmer also around earlier in the season.

Bender is also not yet a player able to draw help consistently. He is not any sort of a scoring threat off the bounce at this point of his development. He is unable to blow by most defenders when they run him off the three-point, often fails to get all the way to the rim, can’t go side-to-side or change speeds and lacks a pull-up jump-shot or a floater to finish from the in-between area. His thin frame also doesn’t invite the sort of contact that leads to foul calls, as he’s taken just 17 free throws in his 22 appearances this season.

Bender’s most significant contribution on offense has been as a spot-up three-point shooter. He is only an open-shot shooter right now, unable to set his feet quickly and pull the trigger fast enough to be an asset out of the pick-and-pop or running off screens, but he has been able to adequately space the floor for runs at the rim by centers Trevor Mbakwe and Brian Randle. Bender has a methodical release and doesn’t elevate much off the ground but has a high release point thanks to his length and his mechanics look clean up top, converting 16 of his 38 attempts from beyond the arc this season.

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

Ben Simmons Scouting Report

(First posted at Upside & Motor.)


A couple of weeks ago I outlined Ben Simmons’s skill-set at this point of his development and the context within he has performed at Louisiana State.

To sum up: Simmons is an incredible passer, a relatively good scorer given his complete aversion for taking outside shots, a poor interior defender who seeks to avoid the risk of foul trouble and a perimeter defender who has shown signs he might be best suited to become a more passable contributor on that end by guarding in the outside.

At age 19, Simmons is by no means a finished product. Once he is gone from college, he will have better resources (more available time, more motivation due to clearer incentives, better coaching, better training) to work on his physical profile and develop specific areas of his skill-set.

But Simmons will be a pro next season already and the pro he will be at that time will be closer to the player he is now than the player he will be in his prime after years of experience and development. And while the team that eventually drafts him doesn’t have to rush to immediate shape its roster based on how Simmons is expected to perform in the first couple thousand minutes of his pro career, it will need to move on with its plans to build around Simmons based on what it knows for sure of him in his basic nature as a player.

As we have seen at Louisiana State, building around Simmons can be complex. He is as unique a player as we’ve seen in history and while that can offer flexibility, it can also be challenging.

Simmons is a point guard. But because he stands at six-foot-10, a coach’s natural inclination is to move him up three positions and play him as a big. That’s especially the case in today’s smallball Era, where the smartest coaches are looking to maximize space as their top priority. A smaller player no longer needs to be an impact defender or even particularly good defending bigger players to be moved up a position. All he needs to do is be able to hold up and not get lit up, so the math works and your team is creating more three-point looks or less contested two-point looks on offense, while the opponent gets stuck trying to maximize a mismatch that might not be as profitable.

I should then give up on the idea of any coach out there putting serious thought into playing Simmons as a point guard for long consistent stretches, especially considering there are concerns regarding whether he is even able to hold up defending other point guards on a full time basis.

Reports from the Adidas Nations last summer stated that Simmons actually did fine defending other point guards but he is too big to navigate over ball-screens consistently. Simmons has a seven-foot wingspan to contest shots and deflect passes as a trailer but point guards with real speed could probably lose him fairly easy, pending on whether the big men behind him can cut off dribble penetration.

So in order to play Simmons as a point guard on offense, his team would need to have a smaller wing or a 3D point guard able to effectively contain point guards on defense while also being able to help with spacing on offense. Players as Avery Bradley, Danny Green, Iman Shumpert and Patrick Beverley aren’t as easy to find as one thinks, and they command a substantial financial commitment to sign or retain them.

Beverley, for example, earns $6 million a year. That’s not a contract that breaks your cap sheet but it’s not nothing when you consider he isn’t a player that actively helps out in a crisis and the team isn’t doing as well, which is what has been the case in Houston this season. Bradley and Shumpert were in bad New York and Boston teams a while back and their value wasn’t as well recognized as it is now that they are parts of 40- and 60-win teams, respectively.

Coaches also don’t seem to like cross-matching as aggressively as they should be doing, probably because they think the pace of play is too fast to minimize the risks that emerge when players have to focus on looking for a specific assignment transitioning back to defense.

So, that almost guarantees Simmons is more likely to be used as a wing or a big. I think either will work out well enough, as long as Simmons has access to handling the ball from the perimeter often and enough spacing around him. He is too good a passer not to handle the ball on the pick-and-roll regularly and, more critically, he has not shown any ability to function as a weak-side threat spotting up off the ball. It’s even hard to assess how far from a passable shooter Simmons is at this point because he goes to extreme lengths not to take outside shots.

Until he develops some sort of jumper, Simmons needs to monopolize possession of the ball or be constantly involved screening for whomever has possession. Serving as a nominal wing, generally guarded by a smaller player, Simmons’s big advantage will be taking these players into the post and inversing the offense, forcing the defense to reset in a way they are not used to guarding or collapse and be forced to scramble.

Simmons is not an explosive player attacking off the bounce but has proven he is consistently able to get to the rim or force the defense to collapse and create an open look for somebody else. Every player needs to help from the ecosystem he is a part of to create an advantage, though. How critical is the spacing around him will depend on the development of his jump-shot. At this point, Simmons is no threat whatsoever to pull-up from mid-range, so opponents can sag off him, and a minimum of three shooters are required to be with him on the floor so he can reasonably be expected to anchor an efficient offense. Louisiana State doesn’t have real good ones and the result we’ve seen is a fairly anti-climactic unit that ranks only 46th in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy.

While stretch fours or wings big enough to pass for stretch fours aren’t that hard to find these days to hedge against the downside of having Simmons as a wing, he probably becomes a worst matchup problem for the opponent if he is the nominal “power forward” and said opponent actually attempts guarding him with another big.

Simmons could then take these bigs to the outside, run pick-and-roll, make them get in a stance and have to navigate a ball-screen. Those tight Josh Smith-Al Horford pick-and-rolls in Atlanta used to be money. Now imagine someone who has a legit handle to force a big man to have to try defending in space 25 feet away from the basket. That opponent will be able to sag off Simmons for now but simply forcing him into an uncomfortable situation he is not used to dealing with might be a huge asset for a smart coach to try exploring.

But even a coach with a less cutting edge approach should be able to integrate Simmons’ passing and off dribble capability by having him facilitate offense from the elbows, pass out of the short roll and attack off a catch-and-go.

A pick-and-pop with Simmons screening might not make opponents fear his ability to shoot on the move but simply forcing them to navigate that action could be enough to create an opening for him to attack an opponent off balance.

Him passing out of the short roll should be flat out lethal. The Clippers have a monster offense in large part due to Blake Griffin’s floor game. There aren’t many big men who can keep up with him period, let alone after he sets a ball-screen and gets a head-start. But even less complete players who aren’t as potent putting the ball on the floor but have a feel for attacking a scrambling defense can have huge impacts. The Rockets completely destroyed the Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs last season with Smith and Terrence Jones alley-ooping out of the short roll to Dwight Howard all the time.

The trade-off of having Simmons as a big comes on defense. He’s shown this season he is not a particularly adept interior defender, often not making the effort to rotate in help-defense. Maybe he’s been coached to avoid foul trouble or maybe he’s being selective with his effort and will grow out of it eventually, but what we know now is that it’s probably best to plan having to pair him with a rim protector.

Yet a more critical concern might be the fact Simmons lacks the length to project as particularly effective individual defender against big men able to create their own shots. His seven-foot wingspan isn’t much in the context of his six-foot-10 height and make it tough to envision him effectively contesting shots by guys like LaMarcus Aldridge, Jahlil Okafor, Kristaps Porzingis and Karl Towns, Jr.

Either as a perimeter player or a big, it doesn’t seem unfair to project Simmons as the sort of defender who will need to be hidden.


Now that we’ve established Simmons’ strengths or weaknesses at this point of his development, as well as what he can be reasonably expected to bring to the table in his basic nature, we can try assessing how the team that drafts him can plan building around him. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton has calculated there is a 62.8 percent chance that team will be either the 76ers, the Lakers or the Celtics (via the Nets’ picks).

Philadelphia desperately needs somebody who can create a shot off the dribble, to the point that Jerry Colangelo forced Sam Hinkie to give up two real assets (even if low valued) in order to add Ish Smith (who they already had and gave up on) for half-a-season. But it also needs shooters.

I can try making a case that they already have these shooters on the roster, in Robert Convington, Nik Stauskas, Hollis Thompson and Isaiah Canaan. But two of them have been terrible this season and the other two are mostly open-shot shooters rather than volume shot makers with gravitational pull.

It’s possible that the addition of a shot creator like Simmons results in better shots for these guys but it’s also just as possible that these four aren’t any more able to profit from the looks created by Simmons than the guys from Louisiana State. And even if what happens is something in between, you then have to deal with the fact that Stauskas and Canaan are poor defenders, Thompson is a zero at best and Covington is so-so – meaning you’ll be hard pressed to figure out a way to hide Simmons. While Convington is probably the only one who is perceived as a keeper anyway, adding Simmons to this group means the 76ers will need to move on or upgrade over the other three the soonest they can in order to try making real strides.

Figuring out the right 3D point guards and wings to place around Simmons is of critical importance but it won’t be Philly’s most pressing concern. That will be thinking of how to possibly manage the addition of Simmons to a squad with Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Okafor and Dario Saric already in it.

While I’d like Simmons to be given a fair look at point guard, I must give up on that idea, as I’ve mentioned above. And even if Philly actually tried that, Simmons and Okafor probably couldn’t play much together. Milwaukee has shown us this season how hard it is to build a healthy offense around a point guard who can’t shoot and a center who is neither a pick-and-pop nor a real pick-and-dive guy. Even Dallas showed us this when its offense went from one of the best of all time to merely run-of-the-mill good because of Rajon Rondo’s arrival, which was even only the case because of Dirk Nowitzki’s presence as a destroyer of help-defense principles.

So, that means Brett Brown would have to do incredible math to think of a way to have a rotation with all of Simmons, Saric, Noel, Okafor and Embiid on it. I could try going through the variations of how each scenario could work but the solution seems simpler: Philly will have to trade one of Noel or Okafor eventually.

It’s been so long since Embiid has played ball that I don’t think enough people remember how incredible a prospect he looked to be at Kansas. If he ever makes it back to the court and looks anything close to what he was expected to be (neither of which is a sure development, I understand), Embiid is still the closest thing to superstar number one the 76ers have, even if you all of a sudden add Simmons into the mix. Therefore, I think as long as Embiid is under contract you have to wait and hope, even if he is a massive jackass in the meantime.

Whenever Embiid returns, it no longer becomes attainable to try developing all three of these centers. It’s probably even a stretch trying two of them at the same time but the uncertainty regarding Embiid’s long term health means you have to keep at least one as a fallback plan.

Okafor has been exactly whom we thought he’d be: a terrific post scorer from the get-go and a poor interior defender. Meanwhile Noel, who was good and seemed clearly headed in the right direction last season, has regressed in part due to Okafor’s presence. He was a pretty good rim protector, anchoring a defense that almost finished in the top 10, and a pick-and-dive threat who even showed some ability to take opposing centers off the dribble on short straight-line drives.

Okafor already is a good scorer and could help impact an offense a lot more than we’ve seen so far with the proper shooting around him. But I think Noel is the one they’d have to keep because of the need to surround Simmons with as many capable defenders and space creators as they can. Noel is not only the better, more impactful defender but his threat to play above the rim as a target for lobs has to be accounted more than Okafor spotting up in the baseline or from 18-feet when he is not posting up.

With that in mind, it’s also hard to think how Saric fits with Simmons. The Croatian is, in a way, the exact same player as the Australian. He is also a six-foot-10 point guard who isn’t allowed to play point guard. In fact, Anadolu Efes has mostly deployed him as a pure stretch four. Saric’s shooting has improved over the years but having him spot up off the ball isn’t the best possible way to maximize his high basketball IQ. He is also a limited defender, one who puts in a lot of effort but one who is nonetheless expected to struggle against NBA-caliber athleticism.

Maybe having these two combo forwards with tremendous passing instincts could provide incredible flexibility for the offense to whip the ball around from side to side frenetically and one of them always forcing an opposing big to defend in the perimeter or taking a smaller player into the post to force the defense to collapse. Then on defense, whomever of Embiid and Noel is at center can shut down the rim and you spend a lot of money on the right 3D people to play with them.

Or the whole thing is a disaster when Saric can’t shoot well enough to space the floor for Simmons to work on the ball and neither guy can defend as a second big, eventually leading to Saric getting traded as well.

Simmons’ arrival would also affect Jerami Grant, by the way. He has regressed shooting this season after showing signs he was headed in the right direction in the second half of last season, but Grant has proven he has potential to develop into an impact defender, especially defending close to the basket as a weak-side shot blocking threat. In this scenario where Simmons lands in Philly, smart teams should call Philly right away to check and see if the price to get Grant is reasonable.

Meanwhile, the Lakers wouldn’t have as many things to figure out upon Simmons’ arrival. D’Angelo Russell is the only untouchable building block the roster currently possesses and his skill-set can work fine with Simmons’s.

In fact, a Russell-Simmons pick-and-roll could be very diverse; Russell can pull-up, Simmons can roll hard, Simmons can short roll and alley-oop or hit a spot-up shooter. Simmons also brings to the table the opportunity to run a big-small pick-and-roll and that would be great with Russell, who could catch-and-shoot from three-point range or attack a closeout and get to the basket or pass on the move. Obviously, though, the Lakers will need a better coach than Byron Scott to think about these strategies.

Simmons’ potential addition would likely result on LA moving on from Julius Randle eventually. Randle should be a real good post scorer and can handle the ball in the perimeter fairly well but obviously not as well as Simmons and he can’t shoot, aside from the fact that a Simmons-Randle frontcourt pairing probably wouldn’t be able to protect the basket at all.

But other than Randle’s presence, the Lakers should have plenty of roster and financial flexibility over the ensuing couple of summers to adjust their roster in whichever way needed around Simmons and Russell as a solid foundation.

The Celtics are by far the best possible short-term fit for Simmons, though. Danny Ainge has built a team extremely flexible in terms of roster composition. Just about any player can be traded if needed be.

But perhaps even better, most of the players on the team can be kept and adjust to the style of play that fits what’s better for the superstar, or in this case superstar prospect, they eventually get. Guys like Bradley, Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko, Kelly Olynyk and Amir Johnson would be the exact kinds of players a team needs to surround Simmons with.

And Brad Stevens is probably the one coach out there who would come the closest to playing Simmons at point guard, if he agrees with me that this is the best way to maximize his shot creation. Hell, he has done it with Evan Turner, after all.

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

Tyrone Wallace Scouting Report

(First posted at Upside & Motor.)


Berkeley’s Tyrone Wallace is one of those classic cases that illustrate the risk of returning to college once you already established yourself as a pro prospect of some sort.

He entered the season rated as an early second round pick by Draft Express but currently ranks 56th in their latest mock and will probably end up undrafted, since teams prefer taking European prospects in the bottom third of the second round. That’s because of most of them are often under contract in Europe and are unlikely to sign the one-year qualifying offer teams are required to tender second round picks in order to retain their draft rights.

The decline in Wallace’s stock is partly a result of Berkeley having an underwhelming season so far, despite the fact it has one of the most talented teams in college basketball. Wallace is now considered a point guard unable to elevate the level of play of those around him, though I’d argue this is mostly on Cuonzo Martin failing to implement a system that fits the roster he has built.

But the decline in Wallace’s status is also on Wallace. He has not shown enough improvement in one specific area that will be essential for his ability to earn a living playing ball given his limitations in athletic ability: his shooting.

Wallace will for sure have a cup of coffee in the league, though, via summer league and preseason – enough of a chance to see if he can stick. He is, after all, a lead ball-handler who stands at six-foot-six with a six-foot-nine wingspan. Some team will be enticed by the flexibility he can potentially provide on both ends and try to take a look at whether its development coaches can fix his shooting.


The most appealing aspect of Wallace’s profile is his size for his position. At six-foot-six, he has real ball-handling skills and can initiate offense. He is a legit point guard.

Wallace has the handles to go side-to-side to create separation in isolation and snake dribble to change speeds out of the pick-and-roll. His height helps him see over the top of most point guards he’s been matched up with at the college level and has proven to be an asset passing out of dribble penetration in traffic.

Wallace is not one of those pass-first point guards who anticipate passing lanes a second ahead of everybody else on the floor and is a bit turnover prone but has shown good feel for taking advantage of a collapsing defense, assisting on 28% of Berkeley’s scores when he has been on the floor this season – according to basketball-reference.

His size could also be an asset for him to take smaller players into the post. His 205-pound frame offers him an edge to try bullying most point guards in the low block and by simply dribbling his way into a quick post-up, Wallace can inverse the offense and force the defense to scramble and reset in a way they are not used to guarding or overreact to his size advantage and collapse. This could be a real weapon for a team with enough shooting at the other positions, which is unfortunately not the case at Berkeley.

Defensively, Wallace’s size offers switching flexibility. His 205-pound frame isn’t ideal for him to pick up true big men and try holding his ground on the post or boxing them out. But he has enough length for a coach to feel comfortable with him exchanging assignment with any other perimeter player or check a big with a less physical style of play.

Wallace can also pitch in on the defensive glass. He collected 20.3% of opponents’ misses last season, a terrific rate for any position let alone a point guard. That percentage is down to 13.2% this season due to the presences of Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb but that’s still an above average contribution for someone his position.


Wallace’s size comes at the expense of his quickness, though, and that costs him in individual defense. He is too big to navigate over ball-screens and recover quickly to his man attacking downhill, leaving his big men exposed to dribble drivers penetrating the lane from a position of strength.

His length should be an asset to help him contest or block shots and deflect passes as a trailer but Wallace often doesn’t recover to his man fast enough to make these plays. He has only 131 steals and 54 blocks in 118 appearances.

Wallace has also struggled chasing shooters around baseline screens, often needing to shoot the gap to catch up to his man and risking losing track of him completely as he navigates traffic.

On offense, Wallace’s lack of quickness translates in his inability to blow by his man in isolation and turning the corner out of the pick-and-roll. Aside from this, he is also a part of an offense that is unable to space the defense adequately in the half-court. As a result, Wallace is averaging 5.1 two-point jump-shots (almost always off the bounce) per 40 minutes, according to hoop-data.


He has been improving year-to-year; from hitting just 29.9% of his two-point jumpers as a freshman through 34.6% as a sophomore and 37.4% as a junior to 40.3% as a senior. Such consistent development is encouraging but yet not enough for him to command respect from the defense. Opponents still sag off Wallace consistently and dear him to beat them from the outside.

That’s also an issue when he is off the ball and attempts spotting up on the weak-side. Wallace has missed 71.2% of his 368 three-point shots over his 3,730 minutes in college, carrying absolutely no gravitational pull.

And of significant concern is the fact that he has also been a poor foul shooter this whole time, converting just 60.5% of his 474 free throws. Such struggles in dead-ball, standing-still, set shooting make it tough to envision Wallace developing into a passable shot maker in the near future.

His inability to make outside shots were always going to hold Wallace back but if he was able to hit his free throws more decently and make his true shooting percentage more palatable, Wallace would generate more interest because he has proven able to get to the basket consistently despite his lack of quickness.

He has taken 41% of his shots at the rim due to his ability to maintain his balance and keep his momentum through contact. Wallace can’t attack help at the rim with explosiveness to finish with power but has shown decent touch on non-dunk finishes in traffic and a tear-drop to shoot over length, scoring on 64% of his shots at the basket this season. He is also earning 6.5 foul shots per 40 minutes, which would be great.

But because he’s such a poor free throw shooter, he fails to fully maximize the one above average aspect he brings to the table. Adding it all up, Wallace is a guy who can’t score at the foul line, can’t score when kept away from the lane and can’t score from three-point range. The result is a player with a career true shooting percentage of 45.6%, which is obviously not awesome.

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

Ivan Rabb Scouting Report

(First uploaded at Upside & Motor.)


Ivan Rabb was at first perceived as a potential lottery pick in the 2017 draft but has performed so well in half-a-season of college ball that he’ll for sure generate strong interest if he opts to declare for the draft this year. That’s because Rabb could be the sort of big man the NBA is looking for these days.

He is not ready yet; he needs to develop physically and has not yet shown what kind of shooting range he possesses because of what’s asked of him at Berkeley. But what Rabb already has that is so appealing is a combination of good height at six-foot-10 (measured at the Nike Hoop Summit), mobility and skill.

Once Rabb bulks up, the vision with him, if he fully develops, is a center with size to be a presence at the rim while providing switching flexibility on defense, then being a scoring threat in the post on offense.

The draft is about potential and the thing about assessing Rabb’s is that, not only what he has established is of interest but also it is possible he has an even more rounded skill-set than he has been able to show so far.

Despite being the most efficient player on the team (.641 effective field goal percentage), Rabb is only fourth in usage. That’s the case because Berkeley has another lottery pick on the team and three other guys with a shot at potentially becoming second round picks. Rabb is dependent on these perimeter players getting him touches but two of them like to pound the ball while the other two are gunners.

If he had more opportunities for rim-runs, in transition and out of the pick-and-roll, Rabb could display his finishing ability more often but Berkeley plays at a remarkably slow pace (217th in the country, according to Team Rankings) and cannot adequately space the floor in the half-court.


So, most of Rabb’s production this season has come out of the post. He added some weight upon his arrival at Berkeley (currently listed at 220 pounds) and no longer gets pushed away from the block as easily as he did at Bishop O’Dowd. Rabb doesn’t set deep position consistently but has been able to sustain enough of a seal in the mid-post regularly and create separation against the level of competition he has faced so far.

But he has really stood out because of his skill working with his back to the basket. Rabb has exhibited rather fluid footwork in the post and a fairly diverse arsenal; showcasing turnaround hooks over either shoulder, up-and-under fakes and a fade-away jump-shot.

He was left hand-dominant in high school but has shown development finishing with his off hand in college. According to hoop-math, Rabb has converted 45.8% of his 59 two-point field goals away from the basket.

He has not taken opponents off the bounce as much as he did at Bishop O’Dowd, though, where he flashed the ability to blow by opposing big men on short drives from the baseline and the elbow.

Rabb has also not shown to be much of a passer at this point. He has flashed enough vision to take advantage of a collapsing defense when the open shooter or cutter is evident but nothing beyond that so far, picking up just 13 assists in 17 appearances.


Rabb’s ability to score one-on-one has attracted the most attention and will be a legit asset for him in the pros, even in the modern Era, since it is expected to prevent opponents from switching smaller players onto him comfortably.

But the most appealing aspect of his skill-set to me has been his mobility defending in space. That’s key for big men entering the league over this next decade of pace-and-space basketball.

Rabb started the season playing center full-time but has defended a little farther away from the basket over the last month, with Kingsley Okoroh now a part of the rotation.

As a center, Rabb proved to have agility to cut off dribble penetration and rotate to the front of the rim coming off the weak-side in help-defense. He does not have enough explosiveness to play above the rim as a constant threat to block shots but has shown he can leap off the ground quickly and hang in the air vertically to contest shots effectively at the basket. His seven-foot-two wingspan makes a difference against smaller players trying to finish around him at the basket.

As a power forward, Rabb has flashed the ability to pick up smaller players on switches. He lacks lower body strength to contain dribble penetration through contact and doesn’t really stay in front of these smaller dribble drivers but has enough lateral quickness to keep pace and stay alive in the play to effectively contest or block from behind a mid-range pull-up or a shot at the rim.


Rabb is also a terrific rebounder.

Some more physical big men have been able to push him out of the way fighting for position below the rim at times due to his thin 220-pound frame in the context of his six-foot-10 height.

But he is attentive to his boxout responsibilities and has shown tremendous athleticism chasing the ball off the rim, collecting 22% of opponents’ misses so far this season – according to basketball-reference.

Rabb also possesses ‘second-jump-ability’ and a nine-foot standing reach to fight for tip-ins on the offensive glass, generating second chance opportunities on 13% of Berkeley’s misses and converting 22 of his 49 offensive rebounds into putbacks.


Every other area of Rabb’s game is either not yet developed or he has not been put in a position to show enough.

On offense, Rabb has flashed the ability to catch the ball on the move and even play above the rim as a target for lobs positioned at the dunker spot. He is unable to finish through contact at this point but has pretty good touch on non-dunk finishes with either hand, converting 79.7% of his 69 shots at the rim.

But Berkeley does not run enough high pick-and-roll to assess how effective a finisher Rabb can be diving down the lane. And even when Rabb does screen for Jordan Mathews on the side of the floor, opponents can clog the lane easily because it often means Tyrone Wallace and Jaylen Brown are spotting up off the ball and they carry no gravitational pull.

Rabb took a smooth-looking catch-and-shoot jump-shot from mid-range in the game against Utah but Berkeley does not run pick-and-pop or spot him up much, so it’s hard to tell how legit his face-up jumper off the catch is. He is, however, a 76.6% foul shooter, which brings to the table the possibility he can potentially develop a jump-shot as a real asset.

Defensively, post defense is massive weakness of Rabb’s at this point. He lacks strength to hold his ground in the block, and opponents of all levels have been successful backing him down.

It’s critical Rabb bulks up in order to stop being bullied in the post because his length, while effective against smaller players, shouldn’t be as much of an asset to bother guys like LaMarcus Aldridge, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor and Kristaps Porzingis and the only way to defend them will be trying to muscle into tougher looks.

Rabb should be drafted in the lottery because his combination of skill, mobility and good size is a commodity these days but the way TJ Cline absolutely dominated him in the game against Richmond makes me think he will play very little as a rookie in the NBA.

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

Jaylen Brown Scouting Report

(First posted at Upside & Motor)


Jaylen Brown started the season ranked second on Draft Express’ board, perceived as a legit candidate under consideration to become the top pick on this year’s draft. But after half-a-season of college basketball under his belt, Brown is no longer considered to be in the same tier as Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, even while averaging 22 points per 40 minutes.

The physical attributes that make him an impressive-looking 19-year-old prospect are still there and Brown has flashed the appealing parts of his skill-set from time-to-time, building a good statistical profile along the way.

Nevertheless, he has not been able to elevate his team’s level of play ‘til this point. Berkeley has a squad stacked with potential NBA talent. Brown and Ivan Rabb are currently projected as lottery picks, while Tyrone Wallace, Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird are late second round prospects.

Yet, the Bears have been somewhat underwhelming this season, losing five of the seven games they’ve played against decent competition – beating Saint Mary’s and Utah but falling to San Diego State, Richmond, Virginia, Oregon and Oregon State.

I would argue this is mostly on the coach. Cuonzo Martin has failed to implement a style of play that fits the roster he has built. Despite having a few NBA-caliber athletes, Berkeley tries to play an execution-oriented game, walking the ball up the floor so much to the extent that it ranks 217th in the country in pace – according to Team Rankings. It has not been able to do that effectively, often taking half of the shot clock to set up its horns alignment that triggers the motion offense they try to run.

The Bears also can’t space the floor adequately to create enough driving lanes against a set defense. Their second best shooter (Bird) is having a miserable season, while Wallace and Brown himself haven’t developed outside shots that force the defense to account for them when they are off the ball. Martin hasn’t helped things much either by upping the minutes given to seven-footer Sam Okoroh over the last month, adding another non-shooter to the rotation.


The most appealing part of Brown’s skill-set is his ability to handle the ball while standing at six-foot-seven.

He excels the best in transition. Brown is a great contributor on the defensive glass, which provides him opportunities to grab-and-go. Pushing the ball up the court, he can change speeds on the open floor and attack a scrambling defense with explosiveness, finishing at the rim with power elevating out of one foot.

It would be terrific if Brown also had the opportunity to fill lanes on the break regularly as his teammates push the ball but, based on the tempo with which Berkeley plays, his coaches don’t appear to encourage his teammates to do the same.

Part of an ecosystem that also hasn’t put him in the best position to succeed against a set defense, I think Brown has been only OK in the half-court.

He has proven able to create shots for himself in isolation and out of the pick-and-roll. Brown doesn’t have a particularly explosive first step to blow by people on hard straight-line drives and struggled to turn the corner on big men Kyle Kuzma and Jakob Poeltl in the game against Utah.

But Brown has a hesitation move to get by his man one-on-one when a path to the basket is reasonable and has a large 222-pound frame that invites contact, which he’s proven able to maintain his balance through off the bounce and finish through. According to basketball-reference, Brown is posting a 53.5% free throw rate while averaging 8.5 foul shots per 40 minutes.

He has not yet shown much of a floater as legit asset to finish over length regularly but can finish with power elevating out of one foot and has shown touch around the basket on non-dunk finishes. According to hoop-math, Brown has converted on 72.6% of his 84 shots at the rim, with more than two-thirds of them unassisted.

Also of note is the fact that he has flashed the ability to take smaller players into the post from time-to-time, something Joe Johnson (a wing of similar physical profile) showed can be a tremendous asset if well developed. Brown can’t make turnaround, fade-away jump-shots very well yet but shows decent footwork to get around his man while lowering his dribble and lay it up at the rim.


There are couple of issues with him as a shot creator at this point, though.

His shot selection is very suspect. Despite being a poor outside shooter at this point of his development, Brown takes a lot of pull-ups. He can go side-to-side fluidly and uses shot fakes smartly to create separation but sometimes releases the ball on his way down, missing 72% of his 52 two-point jump-shots ‘til this point.

But maybe one can argue that’s the case because Brown often shares the court with as many as three other non-shooters, permitting opponents to crowd the lane in front of him. He has at times tried forcing the issue but the result of it has been many turnovers, as he’s averaging 4.6 giveaways per 40 minutes.

Brown has shown to be a willing passer on the move but mostly only takes advantage of a collapsing defense when the open guy is evident and some of those turnovers have also come when he has failed to recognize a help-defender shutting down the passing lane.

Furthermore, Brown also make his teammates’ life harder when he is off the ball the same way his teammates make his. He is a poor catch-and-shoot three-point shooter at this point, missing 35 of his 49 three-point shots this season. So, opponents can sag off him and crowd the lane. Brown doesn’t have a fluid release and needs plenty of time to get his shot off comfortably. Because of this, he has also been an unwilling shooter at times, leading to ‘record-scratch*’ moments every now and again.

(*Record-scratch is a term coined by RealGM’s Nate Duncan for players who completely kill the advantage created by their teams when they hesitate to take open shots or swing the ball around quick enough.)

Brown has also struggled from the foul line, converting just 62.6% of the 99 foul shots he has earned, often failing to keep his off-hand pointed up through the release. Such struggle in set shooting raises reason for concern regarding whether he will be able to develop into a more capable jump-shooter.


Brown possesses the physical profile to be an impact defender and provide positional flexibility.

He gets on a stance defending on the ball and stays on a stance on the weak-side as well, enabling him to react with quickness – evident in his speed closing out to shooters and his ability to maintain his balance as he does so, which makes it tough for the opponent to blow by him off the bounce.

Brown has exhibited pretty good lateral quickness to keep pace in isolation and has a seven-foot wingspan to contest shots effectively and be a threat to block shots as the trailer recovering from navigating over ball-screens.

He has strength to box out bigger players and plenty of athleticism chasing the ball off the rim, collecting 19.3% of opponents’ misses this season.

But other than rebounding, Brown hasn’t translated his athleticism into actively helping Berkeley finish possessions. Despite his ability to leap off the ground in a pinch and his positioning defending close to the basket by playing many of his minutes as a small-ball power forward, Brown has blocked just nine shots in 17 appearances. Moreover, all that length has not yet resulted in him shutting down passing lanes and he has not defended with active hands guarding on the ball, also recording just nine steals in 17 appearances.

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

Jakob Poeltl Scouting Report

(First posted at Upside & Motor)


Returning for another season of college ball when you are projected as a lottery pick is always a risk. Not a lot of players manage to keep or improve their status. Cody Zeller and Kristaps Porzingis are notable exceptions. And seems like Jakob Poeltl will be the next one.

The seven-foot-one center born in Austria was projected as a late lottery pick on last year’s draft but opted to return to Utah and is doing extremely well midway-through his sophomore season.

Utah hasn’t played particularly tough competition – it ranks 109th in strength of schedule, according to Ken Pomeroy. But Poeltl’s production has been impressive nonetheless. He leads the nation in player efficiency rating (at 36.2) and is averaging 27.1 points per 40 minutes on 68.9% true shooting, while the most appealing aspect of his game from an NBA-standpoint is actually his skill-set on defense.


When I wrote about Poeltl last season, I noted how Utah diversified its pick-and-roll coverage. Differently than what most giant people are coached to do at the college level, Poeltl didn’t simply drop back and park in the lane all the time. He was often asked to hedge-and-recover high in the perimeter and sometimes pick up smaller players on switches. I mentioned it was noteworthy Utah was trying to develop his ability to defend in space but that it was probably unrealistic to expect a seven-foot-one, 235-pound behemoth to become a real asset in such instances.

Poeltl is, however, becoming just that. The University of Utah currently lists him as a 248-pounder in its official website, yet he has exhibited impressive agility for someone his size this season. Larry Krystkowiak has become more and more comfortable having him consistently switch on ball screens and Poeltl has proven himself up to the task. He has not only managed to stay in front of less athletic and less adept ball-handlers like Matt Jones, Luke Kennard, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp but also potential dribble penetrators in the NBA like Fred VanVleet, Tyrone Wallace and Jaylen Brown.

There is a gap in that strategy, though. Poeltl does not press these smaller players all the way to the three-point line, he leaves a cushion, and his seven-foot-one wingspan* doesn’t appear to be enough for him to contest pull-up threes effectively in this circumstance. Baker and VanVleet were successful pulling the trigger on a couple of long bombs in the game against Wichita State.

(*Poeltl told a couple of reporters last season that he had a seven-foot-three wingspan but measured at seven-foot-one at the Nike Skills Academy last summer, according to Draft Express.)


But while his mobility is intriguing with regards to the flexibility he can provide, Poeltl is still a more effective defender protecting the lane. He is not an explosive player whose mere presence as a shot blocking threat scares dribble drivers but he is a huge obstacle for opponents to deal with close to the basket.

Aside from being big, Poeltl has read well occasions when his help-defense is essential and has proven able to play above the rim as a shot blocker with some consistency. He is averaging 3.2 blocks per 40 minutes through 15 games this season – the exact same mark he averaged in 34 appearances last year.

Perhaps more impressively for someone who contests drives and has a big frame that invites contact – making him vulnerable to foul trouble, Poeltl is averaging just 3.3 personal fouls per 40 minutes.

He is attentive to his boxout responsibilities and opponents have a tough time pushing him out of the way due to the nature of his size – collecting 25.5% of opponents’ misses this season, according to basketball-reference.

Thanks to him finishing a lot of possessions with blocks or rebounds and without fouling, Utah is allowing just 93.6 points per 100 possessions in Poeltl’s 392 minutes in the lineup.


He continues to develop his skill-set on offense, becoming a more prominent shot creator for himself and others from the post with Delon Wright gone this season – upping his usage rate from 21.2% in 2014-2015 to 28.7% in 2015-2016.

Poeltl has the strength and toughness to establish deep position against just about any opponent at the college level.

He’s flashed fluid footwork and decent touch on his turnaround, right-handed hook but he is not a particularly diverse live-ball scorer at this point of his development, lacking power moves and a jump-shot to face-up or fade-away.

He’s been able to overwhelm smaller or less athletic defenders to back his way into layups against lesser competition but the game against Berkeley last weekend was an eye-opener with regards to how his effectiveness was limited when he went against a frontline that could match him in size and strength. Poeltl struggled to get good shots off over seven-foot-one, 254-pound Kingsley Okoroh and seven-foot, 261-pound Kameron Rooks. His footwork wasn’t as fluid once they got physical with him as he tried to finish around them.

Where Poeltl truly makes a killing with his back to the basket is by earning free throws, as his frame invites a lot of contract and offers lots of opportunities for officials to blow the whistle. With his spike in usage, he is in position to get these calls even more often this season – currently averaging 10 fouls shots per 40 minutes.

Poeltl struggled to convert those dead-ball shots last year, missing 56% of them, but has improved and is now making 66% of them in 2015-2016. And that improvement in set shooting opens up reasonable hope that he eventually develops a jump-shot sometime in the future. Poeltl hit a good looking spot-up three-point shot in rhythm playing for the Austrian National Team in the summer that caught people’s attention but with his struggles in foul shooting, it seemed unrealistic to speculate about him potentially develop that aspect of his game.

This does not appear to be something he is working on at the moment, though. Whenever he leaves the arc to help Utah move the ball from side to side, Poeltl does not even look at the rim despite the fact he could get a clean shot off because opposing centers do not press him up there. The closest thing I’ve seen of a legit outside shot from Poeltl this season was a one-dribble pull-up from the foul line area against Duke in an emergency situation with the shot clock down. Looked smoother than you’d expect for someone his size.

But even if Poeltl developing a jump-shot is something we are probably two years away from being two years away, the way he will likely fit the modern NBA is by helping facilitate offense with his passing. Poeltl is rapidly developing into a legit asset creating for others. He’s shown pretty good vision assisting cutters with his back to the basket, operating from the foul line area when the opponent goes zone and operating as a hub from the high post.

Poeltl has assisted on 16.3% of Utah’s scores when he’s been on the floor and his 14.2% turnover rate is manageable in the context of his 28.7% usage rate.

He’s also flashed the ability to put the ball on the floor and attack opposing centers off dribble, showing coordination and adequate ball skills to get from the top of the key to the rim in a couple of dribbles.


He is probably only going to be a so-so scoring out of the pick-and-roll in the pros, though. Poeltl is a good screener, who looks to draw contact and whose large frame makes it tough for on-ball defenders to go over the pick. He’s also shown decent hands to catch the ball on the move, good touch on non-dunk finishes with either hand and that he’s able to finish through contact – converting 72% of his 125 shots at the rim, according to hoop-math. But he doesn’t have the explosiveness to play above the rim as a target for lobs against a set defense.

Poeltl is also unlikely to become an impact player on the offensive glass. He looks to establish inside position and he is a tough body to boxout because of his size, but doesn’t play with the sort of energy that generates second chance opportunities in volume and lacks length to rebound outside of his area.

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

Marcus Lee Scouting Report


Marcus Lee has finally become a real rotation player in his third year at Kentucky and pretty much confirmed what he was thought of to be as a player this whole time.

Lee has been productive enough this season that if he were to miss games, his absence would be felt. But he is no impact player, even at the college level, and projects as a specialist in pros – a pick-and-roll diver and switch defender who needs to be put in the right context to bring something to the table.


What’s appealing about Lee is his athletic ability. He combines a six-foot-nine, 224-pound frame with coordination and agility moving space.

That’s best maximized on offense when he runs the floor in transition and when he gets the opportunity to dive down the lane to finish plays at the rim with explosiveness and crash the offensive glass in the half-court.

Lee would be perfect for a spread pick-and-roll attack. He is a poor screener at this point – rarely drawing contact and possessing a thin frame in the context of his height that does not make it tough for on-ball defenders to navigate around. But he can cut to the basket in a pinch and has proven able to play above the rim as a target for lobs. Even though he lacks touch on non-dunk finishes, Lee has converted 77% of his 61 shots at the rim – according to hoop-math.

Kentucky does not run that sort of fluid offense, though, so most of Lee’s impact is felt when he creates second chances and converts those into putbacks, doing so in 18 of his 44 offensive rebounds so far this season. He plays with good energy tracking the ball off the rim and possesses a seven-foot-three wingspan to help him outside of his area – collecting 16.1% of Kentucky’s misses when he’s been on the floor, according to basketball-reference.

Defensively, Lee has excelled when required to contain dribble penetration in space. He’s shown able to hedge and recover smoothly high in the perimeter and cut off drives to the basket when Kentucky’s guards can’t keep the opponent from getting the middle. He has length to contest mid-range shots effectively and even flashed the ability to pick up smaller players on switches – impressively keeping pace with Brandon Ingram for an iso in the game against Duke.

Lee’s mobility also makes him an asset to play above the rim as a shot blocker, as he can rotate to the front of the rim coming off the weak-side and elevate off the ground in a pinch. He’s only so-so reading when his help is essential and often sells out for the block, leaving his man in prime position to collect a potential offensive rebound. Lee has, nonetheless, blocked 26 shots in his 14 appearances and Kentucky is allowing just 93.7 points per 100 possessions with him in the lineup – the best defensive rating on the team.

Being a slimmer, more mobile big helps Lee in space but has hurt his ability to hold his ground in the defensive glass and in the post, though. He is already inattentive to his boxout responsibilities by nature but even when engaged, a mammoth like Marshall Plumlee can push him off his spot below the rim. Tony Parker, another mountain, also exposed how vulnerable Lee is trying to hold his ground in the low block.


Lee has not developed much skill to this point.

He lacks strength to set deep position in the post and even when he does manage to get the ball with his back to the basket, Lee rarely does anything of substance with it.

Kentucky also never really puts him in a position to flash his jump-shot – neither spotting up on the weak-side nor working out of the pick-and-pop, or show whether he can be an asset passing out of the short roll or help facilitate offensive from the elbows.

Lee has missed 14 of his 19 two-point jump-shots this season. He’s recorded just 18 assists in his 78 appearances at Kentucky and his 13.6% turnover rate is sky-high in the context of his 16.9% usage rate.

Lee has flashed a so-so handle to take opposing centers off the bounce in emergency situations and can go from the top of the key to the rim in just a couple dribbles thanks to his long strides but lacks touch on non-dunk finishes.

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

Jamal Murray Scouting Report

(First posted at Upside & Motor)


Jamal Murray is averaging 20 points per 40 minutes over the first couple of months of the season – the sort of production that might be enough to cement him as a top 10 pick in this year’s draft.

Murray acted as a shot creator at the Nike Hoop Summit and with the Canadian National Team at the Pan American Games but has been deployed mostly as an off-ball scorer in Lexington. That’s because of Tyler Ulis’s presence, a point guard who monopolizes possession of the ball and initiates the offense the vast majority of the time he is in the game.

Ulis has been Kentucky’s best player this season, but Murray has been its most irreplaceable. The Wildcats lack shooting and have relied on Murray to obtain whatever little floor spacing they can get. He has hit 34 three-point shots in his 436 minutes, while the rest of the team combined has hit 38 in their 2,164 minutes. The only other plus-shooter in the rotation is Derek Willis but John Calipari has only played him 12 minutes per game.


His shot making has been his best attribute this season and is probably what will get him paid in the pros. He’s proven able to not only hit shots spotting up on the weak-side but also shooting on the move – sprinting around a series of screens, setting his feet in a pinch and pulling the trigger. His mechanics are clean and his release is quick enough that he can get his shot off comfortably. Often getting the ball from Ulis in good spots, Murray has hit 38.2% of his 89 three-point shots, assisted on 85.3% of those.

The results haven’t been as great off the bounce, though. He was able to make pull-ups at the Pan American Games, including from three-point range. But the combination of lengthier and more athletic defenders in the college game and the offensive ecosystem around him has limited his effectiveness on such instances.

Murray is not an explosive player off the dribble but can create separation in isolation with his ability to go side-to-side and change speeds.

The issue is that opponents have been able to play up and press him because they are able to pack the lane in front of him. Most of the time the Wildcats have two post men without shooting range in the game, so the opponent can also have its two big men close to the basket. Isaiah Briscoe’s, Tyler Ulis’s and Charles Matthew’s defenders can lay off them too and clog up driving lanes.

Often, a potential drive to the basket is taken off the table completely. It drives me insane when TV announcers ignore this and complain that Kentucky doesn’t drive the ball enough. Murray has had to take some bad late-clock looks and his efficiency is really down as a result. According to hoop-math, he has hit just 27.5% of his 51 two-point jump-shots.


With opponents consistently able to have four off-ball defenders have at least one foot inside the lane when he is on the ball, Murray has had a tough time getting to the middle against a set defense. UCLA and Ohio State, specifically, walled off dribble penetration extremely well.


kentucky_spacing3Murray has, however, been very good getting to the basket when he is able to attack off a live dribble. Whenever Kentucky has managed to move the defense side to side, it has created opportunities for Murray to get by a defender off balance and get into the middle of the lane. The simple action of having Ulis and Briscoe running dribble drives a little faster, with more urgency, for a handful of possessions made a difference to free him up in the second half against Arizona State.

Murray lacks explosiveness to attack length at the rim and finish with power – leading to a so-so free throw rate. But he has nice touch finishing around the basket with his right hand (which he prefers using even when jumping out of his right foot) and a floater to finish over size in the in-between area, converting 61% of his 41 shots at the rim so far this season.

Murray has shown to be a wise ball-handler at times, protecting the ball in traffic, but he deals with a lot of arms trying to strip him the ball when he’s on the move. He is turning the ball over almost four times per 40 minutes, as a result – a high mark for someone who is not one of those pass-first point-guards who look to force the issue on every play.

Not to imply that he’s averse to passing. Murray has, in fact, proven to be a willing passer on the move, exhibiting a good feel for taking advantage of a collapsing defense and assisting on 15.8% of Kentucky’s scores in his 436 minutes – which is a decent mark when you consider his role on the team as more of a finisher of possessions than a creator for others.


Murray is a so-so defender at this point of his development. He lacks the sort of athleticism required to be an impact defender but I think he has shown enough to prove he can avoid becoming a liability on that end.

He gets on his stance, guards with his arms up and has lower body strength in his 207-pound frame to contain dribble penetration through contact.

The game against Duke was kind of a nice snapshot of what he can and can’t bring to the table, but also where he can reasonably be expected to improve. Murray guarded Brandon Ingram – taller, more athletic – for a chunk of that game and bothered him with his strength advantage. He lacked the length to contest Ingram’s shot effectively, though.

Then he picked up Derryck Thornton at the point of attack for a couple of possessions and exhibited lateral quickness to stay in front of him in isolation. But struggled to navigate over ball-screens and recover quickly, getting bailed out by his big men’s ability to cut off dribble penetration in space.

Murray doesn’t bring anything to the table making plays in the passing lanes and crashing inside to help protect the rim or finish possessions in the defensive glass, though. According to basketball-reference, he has the worst defensive rating on the team among rotation players.

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