Catch&Score Finisher, Undersized Big

Cheick Diallo Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

Diallo is similar to European prospects in the sense that he’s declaring for the draft without much recent evidence available of his talents, as he logged an almost impossible to believe 202 (TWO HUNDRED AND TWO) minutes last season. He was suspended for the first couple of months due to an NCAA investigation and never proved to have the sort of skill-level that fits Bill Self’s preferences, which makes it absurd Self recruited him in the first place.

Diallo lacks strength to establish deep position and bully opposing big men in the post, doesn’t have the combination of footwork and touch to get any good looks when he did get the ball with his back the basket, has no jumper to do anything with the ball from the mid-range and has never shown any passing instincts.

Defensively, he hurts the team with his inability to defend the post (which is a bigger problem in college) and can have a hard time boxing out true centers, as he’s only six-foot-nine and 218 pounds. Diallo is also extremely undeveloped from a team defense perspective (lost against the pick-and-roll) and showed poor extremely instincts in situations where he needed to think quickly, often making himself vulnerable to fouling, resulting in an average of 7.5 personal fouls per 40 minutes last season.

The reason why Diallo is going to end up a first round pick anyway is his athletic ability, which really is impressive.

He has nice hands to catch the ball on the move and can explode off the ground in a pinch to play above the rim as a target for lobs in transition, in the dunker spot and out of the pick-and-roll. Diallo can also make an impact an impact in the offensive glass, where his seven-foot-four wingspan helps him rebound outside of his area – collecting 10% of Kansas’ misses when he was on the floor.

Defensively, while Diallo struggled with the timing of his rotations, when he made them right, he proved himself an excellent rim protector, able to cover a lot of ground in a pinch and not only block shots in volume elevating out of one foot but also out of two feet defending on the ball – averaging 4.6 denials per 40 minutes.

As mentioned above, Diallo struggled boxing out behemoths, but he still managed to produce on the defensive glass, utilizing his athleticism to pursuit the ball off the rim relentlessly – grabbing 27% of opponents’ misses when he was in the game.

That prolificacy chasing after the ball is, perhaps, a bigger deal than his inability to hold ground below the glass because Diallo should be relied to pick up smaller players on switches quite a bit in his early days as a pro – unless he develops some team defense instincts at an unprecedented rate. And he is expected to be up for the task, as he can bend his knees to get low in a stance and possesses the sort of agility to keep pace with not just wings but also guards.

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

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7-footer, Post Scorer

Ivica Zubac Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

Zubac has enjoyed a fairly meteoric rise, with Draft Express only starting to assume he’d be a part of this year’s draft in March. The reason for it is because Zubac has gone through a very eventful season, playing for three different teams and appearing in just 20 games.

But as a 19-year-old seven-footer in a weak class, Zubac was encouraged by teams to stay in and he’s now expected to go midway through the first round.

What’s appealing about him is his combination of size and strength at a young age.

Zubac can hold his ground in the post and extremely tough to finish over due to his standing reach. On the other block, Zubac lowers his shoulder to get into the body of his opponent and can bully his way into short toss-ins. Despite his size, leaping off the ground quickly in a pinch does not seem like a chore to him, as he’s proven able to block shots on the ball.

That strength and length also manifest themselves in the offensive glass, where Zubac is a tough body to box out in the offensive glass, thanks the strength in his 265-pound frame, and also has a seven-foot-four wingspan to rebound outside of his area. According to our stats database, he collected 10% of his teams’ misses when he was on the floor.

The problems regard his athletic ability.

Zubac doesn’t have much agility to defend in space, limiting what options his team can employ against the pick-and-roll, as he’s not suited to switch, show hard or hedge.

In the pick-and-roll on offense, he has soft hands to catch the ball on the move and nice touch on non-dunk finishes but can’t play above the rim as a target for lobs and can’t elevate with much explosiveness out of two feet to finish in traffic.

Then on the glass, Zubac is attentive to his boxout responsibilities, looks to establish inside position and is tough to get pushed off the way. But he is slow pursuing the ball off the glass and is prone to getting out-jumped by better athletes, collecting just 18.1% of opponents’ misses last season – which is a disappointing mark for someone his size.

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

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Catch&Score Finisher, Post Scorer

Domantas Sabonis Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

Differently than Poeltl, there are very few concerns over Sabonis’ toughness.

He’s proven able to get physical boxing out bigger players to protect the defensive glass, collecting 29.3% of opponents’ misses last season – according to our stats database.

He’s also well-coordinated for someone his size, able to move fluidly in space.

His six-foot-10 wingspan is below average in the context of his six-foot-10 height and he can’t play above the rim as a shot blocker, blocking just 43 shots in his 74 appearances at Gonzaga, but figures to add value in pick-and-roll defense via switch-ability. Sabonis is agile enough to exchange into smaller players; able to keep pace on straight line drives and containing dribble penetration through contact.

But other than rebounding (he collected 13% of Gonzaga’s misses in his college career), there’s a lot of doubt over how Sabonis can make an impact in a half-court offense.

He was a pretty good post scorer in college but mostly based on bullying opponents, which is unlikely carry to the pro level, lacking the sort of dynamism that would command him post touches in that league.

Sabonis has good hands to catch the ball on the move and nice touch on non-dunk finishes but can’t play above the rim as a constant target for lobs against a set defense, meaning he’ll probably be just a so-so scorer in the pick-and-roll.

He’ll probably need to develop into a skilled big to make a significant contribution, which is not off the ball as he’s proven able to go from the top of the key to the rim off the dribble when he catches the opponent napping, exhibited nifty passing skills from time to time and flashed the ability to hit open catch-and-shoots from the outside.

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

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Catch&Score Finisher

Deyonta Davis Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

Davis started the season looking more like a 2017 prospect but flashed, little by little, bits of a tantalizing skill level – to go with a jaw dropping physical profile and this particular year, that’s enough for him to go in the lottery. Davis showed no ounce of consistency and didn’t dominate at all in the college level but he’s 19, so the team that drafts him will be hoping he can get it going a lot more as a pro – with Andre Drummond as a similar precedent.

Davis’ best asset on offense is playing around the basket.

He can play above the rim as a target for lobs; in transition, out of the pick-and-roll and spotting up in the dunker spot. Davis has soft hands to the catch the ball on the move and can explode off the ground, converting 71.3% of his 122 shots at the rim last season – according to hoop-math.

He was also an impact player on the glass, playing with pretty good physicality in pursuit of the ball, collecting 14% of Michigan State’s misses when he was on the floor – according to our stats database. More impressively, Davis proved himself able to elevate with power and transform many of those offensive rebounds into immediate putbacks.

On defense, that explosiveness translates in his ability to play above the rim as a shot blocker, not just coming off the weak-side as a help-defender but also elevating out of two feet protecting the front of the basket – erasing 10% of opponents’ attempts last season.

His biggest impact is defending close to the rim but he’s proven he’s not weakened when drawn away from the lane to defend face-up big men in isolation. Davis is very agile for someone his size, able to bend his knees and move his feet laterally very fluidly.

The problem is he’s not really any sort of an asset from a skill-level perspective at this point of his development.

Davis can get a decent seal in the mid-post area and flashed very appealing footwork for someone his age but struggles when crowded and with his touch when the opponent gets physical with him. That’s also the case on non-dunk finishes against length. And, despite the glimpses, he is not really a real jump-shooting threat as of now and he also hasn’t shown any instincts as a passer.

But more concerning, probably, is how much Davis looks lost in pick-and-roll defense and defending off the ball in general, to the point where it’s questionable how hard he plays on that end. Despite all his physical gifts, Davis collected just 19% of opponents’ misses last season – which is a disappointing mark when you consider the way he looks on the other glass.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, 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

Jakob Poeltl Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

The consensus among draftniks on Poeltl gets worse by the day as we get within hours of the draft.

The biggest skepticisms regard his toughness and whether his ability to create shots from the post will translate at the next level. The beating he took from Domantas Sabonis in the tournament game is almost legendary at this point. And while Poeltl has fluid footwork, decent touch on his right-handed hook, drew a lot of fouls against players who couldn’t match his size and appealing passing skills with his back to the basket, he didn’t show to be the sort of dynamic scorer that figures to demand post touches in a pro offense – lacking power moves and a jump-shot to face-up or fade-away at this point of his development.

If Poeltl isn’t a post player, it’s hard to figure how he’s gonna make a meaningful contribution on offense. He is a pretty good passer from the elbows and the foul line area but has only sporadically flashed the ability to take outside shots and just recently started making free throws close to an average rate.

Poeltl is well coordinated, has soft hands to catch the ball on the move and getting off the ground isn’t a chore for him but he can’t play above the rim as a constant threat for lobs against a set defense, which figures to make him only a so-so scorer out of the pick-and-roll.

He 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.

But Poeltl is still expected to be drafted in the lottery – aside from the fact this is a very weak class at the top – because of his potential on defense.

Larry Krystkowiak became more and more comfortable over time having him consistently switch on ball screens and Poeltl proved himself up to the task. He 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 NBA-caliber dribble penetrators like Fred VanVleet, Tyrone Wallace and Jaylen Brown.

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 an obstacle for opponents to deal with close to the basket. Aside from being big, Poeltl reads well occasions when his help-defense is essential, though his shot blocking percentages were unimpressive in Pac 12 play the last two seasons.

Perhaps more impressively for someone who contests drives and has a big frame that invites contact – making him vulnerable to foul trouble, Poeltl averaged just three 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 22.1% of opponents’ misses last season, according to our stats database.

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

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7-footer, Catch&Score Finisher

Skal Labissiere Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

Much like Bender, Labissiere also struggled with every aspect of the game that involved physicality last season. John Calipari tried to force him to develop into the sort of player Karl-Anthony Towns, Jr. did the year before but Labissiere has a much weaker 216-pound frame in the context of his seven-foot height, unable to establish deep position to get the ball and then bully his way into a decent look with his back to the basket.

But more a lot more corcerning was his inability to hold ground in the post and box out to protect the defensive glass, often getting pushed out of the way. Labissiere collected just x% of opponents’ misses last season, according to our stats database – an alarming mark for someone his size.

With those sorts of weaknesses, it’s impossible to imagine a coach feeling comfortable enough to have Labissiere playing as a center in an NBA game right now, which pushes him down a position and means he has to play power forward. But Labissiere has never really proven to have the sort of skills the league is looking for in players that position these days; hit outside shots, attack a closeout, pass on the move, switch screens.

But while the issue of strength hasn’t taken much of shine out of Bender’s NBA prospects, it has hurt Labissiere’s stock (he was projected by many as a potential number one pick entering Kentucky) quite a bit because he’s already 20 years old and doesn’t have a long track record playing organized basketball at the highest level of competition within his age group.

He should still become a lottery pick, though. Maybe even top 10. That’s because of his athleticism and the flashes he’s shown of a jump-shot. Labissiere is projected as the perfect scoring big for this Era, as he can be put in the pick-and-roll and play above the rim as a target for lobs or spot up as a weak-side threat, potentially from three-point range or for sure in the dunker spot. Those were things he was not given much opportunity to do at Kentucky but figure to be the strong points of his skill-set.

Defensively, Labissiere uses his athleticism to block shots coming off the weak-side, leaping off the ground in a pinch and possessing a nine-foot standing reach to tap the ball at a high point. And he moves so fluidly in space that there can be hope he develops into an asset to pick up smaller players on switches down the line, but that’s unclear right now.

It seems evident that whichever team drafts Labissiere should probably think of him in terms of Bismack Biyombo’s timeline, a guy who is just now – in his second contract – developing into an impact player. The tough question is what sort of value proposition he’ll be then and whether that’s enough to worth the wait.

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

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Stretch Big

Henry Ellenson Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

Ellenson is a hard guy to write about. He’s good. But he also sucks.

His skill-level is quite appealing.

Ellenson has a nice handle for a seven-footer, unable to run offense from the perimeter like Simmons and perfectly able to bring the ball up the court in jogging up the court in a slow break. He can also pass quite well facing the defense from the high post, help facilitating offense from the elbows or making a quick kick-out out of the short roll – assisting on 11% of Marquette’s scores when he was on the floor.

His outside shooting could also be an asset, despite the fact he hit just 28.8% of his 104 three-point shots last season. But his stroke looks pretty good and he converted 42.7% of 218 mid-range jumpers, particularly impressive in the low post; on face-up shots off jab-steps and turnaround-fadeaway jumpers. His release is quick and compact off the catch. He doesn’t get much elevation off the ground but doesn’t need it for a high release that is tough to contest due to his length.

Ellenson is also a volume rebounder thanks to his wide 242-pound frame. He’s attentive to his box out responsibilities and is a tough guy to move off his spot, collecting almost a quarter of opponents’ misses when he has on the floor.

The problem is Ellenson is a fairly poor athlete for NBA standards.

On offense, the threats of his shooting and passing open up some driving lanes for him to attack closeouts but he’s pretty slow off the bounce and doesn’t have any lift to attack the basket. That also makes him restricted scoring out of the pick-and-roll or grabbing offensive rebounds against opponents who can keep him from establishing inside position, with his average seven-foot-two wingspan limiting his ability to rebound outside his position.

On defense, Ellenson has no agility to guard high in the perimeter and is a massive liability against the pick-and-roll, not just picking up smaller players on switches but on standard coverages like hedging and showing hard. Mike Schmitz made a good point on David Locke’s podcast of how Ellenson used to be a heavy person, shed a lot of weight over the last couple of years but still has plodding feet.

That inability to defend in space suggests Ellenson should be played more as a center, dropping back on pick-and-rolls to prioritize rim protection but he’s also subpar as a presence close to the basket, unable to play above the rim as a shot blocking threat coming off the weak-side and lacking toughness to defend the opponents’ most credible post threat.

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

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