Pure Passer, Shot Creator

Frank Ntilikina Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Frank Ntilikina logged just 307 minutes for Strasbourg last season. But Draft Express currently ranks him sixth in the projected 2017 draft class anyway due to his impressive appearances at the 2015 FIBA European Championships U18 and the Basketball Without Borders Camp last February.

The just-turned 18-year-old (July birthday) possesses a very appealing combination of height and length for a true point guard, though a very weak frame at this point of his adulthood. His production at the pro level has been marginal so far, as he hasn’t yet earned a rotation spot, but his performances within his own age group have put him in the NBA radar already.

PASSING

Ntilikina’s top skill is shot creation for others, mostly out of the pick-and-roll.

He reads the defenders involved in the two-man game very well in terms of using or declining the screen in order to get downhill, while also proving himself able to play with pace, waiting for driving lanes to clear against hedges, hard shows and half-traps.

His court vision and timing of delivery are well advanced for someone his age, as he’s shown he can make pocket passes to big men rolling to the basket, crosscourt passes to shooters spot-up on the weak-side and hit cutters diving baseline to the rim, aided by his great vantage point at six-foot-five.

Ntilikina assisted on 32.7% of France’s scores when he was on the floor in the 2015 FIBA European Championships U18, ranking ninth in that tournament in assist percentage, according to RealGM. Perhaps even more impressive was his 3.3 assist-to-turnover ratio, as he turned it over just 12 times in nine appearances.

SCORING

Ntilikina is not as impressive a scorer at this point of his development, though.

He has a diverse arsenal of moves to get wherever he wants on the court; a tight handle to navigate traffic, change of speeds, the ability to go side-to-side in a pinch, between the legs, behind the back and hesitation moves.

Ntikilina has flashed some explosiveness elevating out of one foot on a straight path to the goal unimpeded and a floater to finish over length from the in-between area from time-to-time.

But he struggles to maintain his balance through contact due to his weak 163-pound frame (listed by Strasbourg) and generally hasn’t shown a lot of burst to finish around rim protection or draw fouls regularly.

Ntilikina is a capable shot maker on pull-ups, even flashing some three-point range when he gets to step into the shot. He’s able to stop on a dime, elevate in balance and shows decent touch in his shot but has a low release point, needing to generate a great deal of separation to get his shot off cleanly.

As a consequence of those limitations, his two-point percentage tends to be underwhelming in every event he participates.

Ntilikina also shoots from a low point on his catch-and-shoot jumper and his release isn’t particularly quick but with others creating a look for him, he’s proven to be at least an average open shot shooter with his feet set.

He shot poorly with Strasbourg in his garbage time stints last season but with the benefit of being in the flow of the game, Ntilikina nailed 38.7% of his 31 three-point shots with the French National Team in the Euros U18 last summer and 41.4% of his 29 such attempts in the Euros U16 the year before.

DEFENSE

As it tends to be the case with most teenagers, Ntilikina is an uneven defender as of now.

He has agility to shuffle his feet laterally and his thin frame should help him slide around picks quite easily. But he’s looked lackadaisical navigating ball-screens at times and can be easily manipulated by savvy playmakers.

In individual defense, Ntilikina lacks strength and toughness to contain dribble penetration through contact. But when engaged, he can press opposing ball-handlers very effectively and has excellent reach for a point guard (six-foot-11 wingspan, according to Draft Express) to generate steals, averaging 2.9 steals per 40 minutes last summer, while also proving himself a plus contributor in the defensive glass.

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

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3D wing, Shot Creator, Tall Passer

Josh Jackson Scouting Report

(First posted at Upside & Motor.)

CONTEXT

Josh Jackson enters the season as the top-ranked prospect in the 2017 draft, according to ESPN’s Chad Ford.

There is some skepticism of that status due to his age. At 19 years old with a birthday in February, he’s barely three months younger than Devin Booker, who is already about to enter his second year as a pro while Jackson is about to enter his first year in college.

But there’s some merit to the idea. Whether Bill Self is the right coach to unlock his potential and give him the proper opportunity to look worthy of being picked number one overall is a different matter, but at the high school level and as a part of the United States Junior National Team, Jackson has shown to be the sort of versatile player NBA teams are looking for in this Era of basketball.

DEFENSIVE VERSATILITY

Standing at six-foot-eight with a 203-pound frame, Jackson has prototype size for a wing.

As a weak-side defender, he lacks length (average six-foot-nine wingspan for someone who is six-foot-eight) to be a disrupting force playing the passing lanes for steals and deflections but is attentive to his help-defensive responsibilities rotating inside, not just to take up space and crowd driving lanes but also elevating out of two feet explosively to play above the rim as a shot blocker.

Jackson struggles navigating traffic chasing shooters around staggered screens but has tremendous closing speed to recover and run them off the three-point line, though at times he sells out to do so and gives up an easy escape dribble.

But what truly stands out is his ability to guard bigger and smaller players.

In order to defend point guards, Jackson can bend his knees to get lower in a stance, has lateral quickness to keep pace in isolation and strength to contain dribble penetration through contact. He struggles navigating through ball-screens as well, often getting stuck on picks, but can recover to contest shots and passes from behind as a trailer.

Jackson impresses the most guarding true big men, though. He is scrappy enough to front them in the post, strong enough to hold ground when he can’t prevent a post entry and tough enough to box them out on the glass. The United States Junior National Team often played him as a power forward at the 2015 FIBA World Championships U19 and Prolific Prep had no issue playing him at center at times.

And Jackson has proven his skills as a big man defender against high profile competition too; successfully fronting seven-footers Thon Maker in a game Prolific Prep visited the Athlete Institute in Canada and DeAndre Ayton at the Nike Hoop Summit, boxing out six-foot-10, 225-pounder Konstantinos Mitoglou in the semifinal of the Worlds U19 against Greece and holding ground in the post against Marko Arapovic in the title game of that tournament.

SHOT CREATION

On the other end, Prolific Prep had Jackson running offense from time to time. Nothing advanced, mostly simple high middle and side pick-and-rolls, but on those, he flashed some appealing court vision creating good looks for others.

His handle is not that tight and he’s at times reckless trying to thread needle through a crowded passing lane, making him rather turnover prone.

But Jackson has proven able to play with pace around a ball-screen, stop on a dime and make crosscourt passes across his body to shooters spot-up on the weak-side or high-low type of passes to a big man diving to the basket diagonally out of side pick-and-roll. He can also scan the defense from the top of the key, spot cutters diving to the basket and deliver alley-oops.

Jackson is just as adept at creating a good look for himself, though scoring is a different matter. He can dribble side-to-side to navigate through traffic and has a spin move to maneuver his way to the rim but lacks burst to attack length at the basket with a lot of explosiveness often and his touch on non-dunk finishes against rim protection is only so-so.

Jackson is also a lousy pull-up shooter at this point of his development. He’s able to get separation and elevate with good rhythm but doesn’t have much touch on his jumper and his release looks almost like a push-up shot at times.

WEAK-SIDE OFFENSE

That’s also the case on his jumpers out of catch-and-shoot opportunities. Jackson can make an open shot from the corner, as his six-for-12 three-point shooting at the Worlds U19 attest. But it doesn’t seem that sort of percentage would hold up over a longer sample size.

He’s a bit mechanical, as elevating and releasing look like almost two separate motions. Jackson turns his body in the air like most good shooters do but doesn’t have much touch in his delivery, with his release also looking like a push-up shot off the catch as well.

He has a good first step to get by most of his opponents attacking a closeout or off a live dribble and has strength to maintain his balance through contact against those who can stay attached to his hip.

Jackson is a very willing passer on the move against the defense collapsing to his dribble drives and does have explosiveness elevating out of one foot unimpeded on a straight-line path.

He’s flashed some ability to play above the rim as a target for lobs filling the lanes in transition but hasn’t shown to be a particularly instinctive cutter in the half-court yet.

His most impactful skill, as of now, off the ball is his offensive rebounding. Jackson has second-jump-ability to fight for tip-ins, 50-50 balls or pursue the ball and then rise up again for putback attempts without needing to gather himself. According to RealGM, he collected 13.4% of the United States’ misses when he was on the floor at the Worlds U19.

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

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Shot Creator, Tall Passer

Jayson Tatum Scouting Report

(First posted at Upside & Motor.)

CONTEXT

Jayson Tatum is currently the top wing on the board, according to Draft Express. In a typical class, he would be under strong consideration for entering the season as the top prospect overall. Yet on this one, he’s probably the least publicized teenager in the top five.

ESPN ranked him third in his high school class after what was an extremely productive season. Tatum was part of the United States Junior National Team that won the 2015 FIBA World Championships U19 in Greece, led the Saint Louis Eagles to a title at the Nike EYBL Circuit and subsequently carried Chaminade to its second ever state championship in Missouri.

Possessing a well developed frame for someone his age and a crafty style of play that does not shy away from contact, Tatum is the rare teenager who could probably be put in an NBA game right now and hold his own from a physical-standpoint.

SHOT CREATION & FINISHING

The biggest appeal regarding Tatum’s skill-set is his ability to handle the ball and create shots against a set defense.

His handle is only OK, as he’s prone to getting the ball stripped in traffic, turning it over on average five times per 40 minutes in the 2015 EYBL circuit – according to stats researched at d1circuit.com.

But he’s proven himself a willing passer on the move and flashed some intriguing court vision to make crosscourt passes across his body out of middle pick-and-roll and high-low-type passes to big men diving to the basket diagonally on side pick-and-roll, assisting on 17% of the United States’ scores when he was on the floor at the Worlds U19 – per RealGM, and averaging 3.9 assists per 40 minutes in AAU ball.

What Tatum does best at this point of his development, however, is creating for himself. He reads the two defenders involved in the two-man game fairly well in terms of whether using or declining the ball-screen gives him the better path to the basket.

At the rim, Tatum lacks superior athleticism to finish with explosiveness but has shown phenomenal ability to adjust his body in the air and great touch on non-dunk finishes around length. His 204-pound frame also invited plenty of contact in the junior ranks, earning him 13.9 foul shots per 40 minutes in last year’s EYBL circuit.

Without the aid of a screen, Tatum often struggles to get all the way to the basket off the bounce. He is unable to stop-and-start and just blow by his man.

But Tatum has a few dribble moves to create separation; an in-and-out dribble, the ability to go side-to-side and a well coordinated spin move. He can maintain his balance through contact, stop on a dime, step back and pull up in rhythm, elevating with pretty good balance, fading away some to get his shot off more comfortably. He has already proven himself an above average shooter off the dribble, even flashing some three-point range on one-dribble pull-ups.

OFF BALL

Playing a little more as a weak-side threat with the United States Junior National Team, which relied more heavily on Jaylen Brunson’s work in high pick-and-roll and post ups by their centers in the half-court, Tatum was less impressive.

He is a capable open shot shooter off the catch on spot-ups at this point of his development but only that. Tatum sets a wide base, which makes it difficult for him to release quickly before the opponent contests his shot effectively. It also prevents him from being the sort of shooter who works off screens, sets his feet quickly and lets it fly.

Sometimes reluctant to pull the trigger, Tatum hit four of only 10 three-point shots in seven appearances at the Worlds U19 and missed 21 of his 25 such attempts in 25 games with the Saint Louis Eagles in the EYBL circuit a summer ago.

DEFENSE

Tatum has shown to be a reasonably average team defender, if not necessarily one with a lot of potential to be an impact player on that end.

He gets on a stance and showed lateral quickness to stay in front of dribble drivers of a similar physical profile and uses his six-foot-11 wingspan to make plays in the passing lanes from time to time but struggles navigating over ball-screens, suggesting he is probably not built to pick up smaller players on switches regularly.

Tatum has proven himself able to boxout bigger players, offering some flexibility to be moved up a position on smallball lineups, but his contributions through blocks and defensive rebounds have been about average, so that option shouldn’t be without consequences.

For the most part, he’s a weak-side defender who rotates inside to take up space and crowd driving lanes but lacks the athleticism to make plays at the rim or run shooters off the three-point line on closeouts.

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

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Harry Giles III Scouting Report

(First posted at Upside & Motor.)

CONTEXT

Prior to the summer, Draft Express had Harry Giles III ranked as the top prospect for the 2017 draft, despite the fact the 18-year-old (April birthday) tore his right ACL in November and subsequently missed the majority of his final year in high school. It was the second time Giles III injured one of his knees, as he had previously tore his left ACL a couple of years prior.

Remaining so well thought of as a potential pro, despite the fact both his knees have already been cut open at such a young age, speaks volume to the sort of performances Giles III put on last summer for the United States Junior National Team at the 2015 FIBA World Championships U19 in Greece and for Team CP3 at the Nike EYBL circuit. This evaluation is based on how he looked and the skills he displayed on those two events.

ATHLETIC ABILITY

Giles III was a terrific athlete prior to the injury. Standing at six-foot-10, he moved extremelly fluidly for someone his size and could explode off the ground in a pinch.

That athleticism was maximized getting him on the move. Both Team CP3 and the United States Junior National Team set baseline screens for him to shift from one side of the block to the other in order for him to set deep position in the low post, since Giles III didn’t play with a lot of force despite weighing in at 235 pounds in the summer of 2015.

Neither team played pick-and-roll with proper spacing and he didn’t dive hard to the basket regularly but still managed to get plenty of finishing opportunities. On those, Giles III showed soft hands to catch the ball in traffic, coordination to rise up and finish at the rim without needing to gather himself, leaping ability to play above the rim as a target for lobs and impressive explosiveness to finish strong elevating out of one foot.

He was also quite energetic on the offensive glass, possessing a seven-foot-three wingspan to rebound outside of his area and second-jump-ability to fight for tip-ins and 50-50 balls. According to RealGM, Giles III collected 19.7% of the United States’ misses when he was on the floor at the 2015 FIBA World Championships U19. And based on stats researched at d1circuit.com, he grabbed 6.1 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes in 23 appearances at the EYBL circuit a couple of seasons ago.

Defensively, Giles III also rellied on his length, agility and leaping ability to make an impact as well.

Despite the fact his weight looked well distributed in his frame, he didn’t play post defense with a lot of toughness and often couldn’t hold ground. But he did use his nine-foot-one standing reach very effectively to wall-off opponents and make it extremelly tough for them to shoot over him.

Giles III played pick-and-roll defense flat footed and didn’t contain dribble penetration through good positioning but shuffled his feet well enough to shadow drivers and block or effectively contest shots at the rim. He also flashed some ability to pick up smaller players on switches, looking generally more engaged in individual defense, bending his knees to get low in a stance and putting in the effort to stay alive in these plays.

Giles III has the tools to be an outstanding rim protector but wasn’t as much of a force rotating off the weak-side in help-defense, though – blocking just 30 shots in 23 appearances at the EYBL circuit and eight shots in seven games at the Worlds U19.

Although prone to getting pushed out of the way by tougher big men from time to time, he was generally attentive to his boxout responsibilities and pursued the ball on the defensive glass with as much energy as on the other end – collecting 32.3% of opponents’ misses in Greece and averaging 13.3 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes in AAU ball.

SKILL LEVEL

Giles III flashed some glimpses of an extremelly appealing skill-set for someone his size but one not fully polished by that point.

His footowork in the post is very smooth but he didn’t use many shot-fakes or up-and-unders and his touch on turnaround hooks was iffy. That touch was also iffy on non-dunk finishes around length at the rim.

Giles III flashed some ball skills isolated at the top of the key, taking it to the basket on straight line drives and even proved himself willing to pass on the move to spot-up shooters in the corner made open by the defense collapsing against his dribble penetration.

But his handle wasn’t that tight as of that point and he couldn’t maintain his balance through contact. I even saw Team CP3 give him a ball-screen 23 feet away from the basket but Giles III didn’t show to have much shake side-to-side to navigate traffic and balance stopping on a dime to pull-up from mid-range in order to handle the ball in pick-and-roll regularly.

He was a capable shot maker on catch-and-shoots from range, nailing eight of 26 three-point shots at the EYBL circuit. Giles III can catch and elevate in what looks to be a single smooth motion out of standstill position but the touch on his shot was only so-so. His poor foul shooting (59.3% in 135 free throws at the EYBL, 64.3% on 28 attempts at the Worlds U19) raises doubt over his ability to develop into a legit outside threat in time.

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

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Dennis Smith, Jr. Scouting Report

CONTEXT

According to accounts by those who attended the event, Dennis Smith, Jr. was very impressive at last week’s adidas Nations. Mike Schmitz, Luke Winn, Cole Zwicker and Nate Duncan all tweeted the 18-year-old (November birthday) looked great in his return to the court after recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL suffered around this time last year, which prompted Draft Express to now rank him as the second best prospect entering the 2016-2017 season.

Trusting the assessment of those who saw him in person that Smith, Jr. looks fully recovered and appears to not have lost any of his athletic ability due to the injury, this evaluation is based on how he looked and the skills he displayed playing for Team Loaded North Carolina at last year’s Adidas Uprising and Fab 48.

SHOT CREATION

With Team Loaded North Carolina, Smith, Jr. was in full control of the offense, most often operating in high pick-and-roll or on straight isolations from the middle of the floor. His handle is tight, as he can keep the ball in a string, and he’s shown a wide range of ways of getting into the lane to break down the defense.

Smith, Jr. could be considered a little left hand dominant but has proven capable of driving with either hand. He has burst to turn the corner out of the pick-and-roll but rellies more on his craftiness to get around his man one-on-one, able to play with pace working off the ball-screen, go behind the back, hesitate then turn on the jets or crossover in a pinch to shake his defender off balance.

Smith, Jr. showed to be a capable shot maker off the dribble at that point of his development, able to slow dribble into a pull-up three-pointer unimpeded, but nothing that would scare opponents from playing shell defense or duck under ball-screens against him. Yet, thanks to his edge in athletic prowess and dribble moves, he still managed to collapse the defense on a consistent basis and flashed a decent-looking floater on a few occasions.

At the rim, Smith, Jr. can elevate out of one foot to finish with explosiveness and more impressively, perhaps, has flashed a Euro-step to navigate traffic and great body control to adjust his body in the air. His touch on non-dunk finishes against length was only OK but he threw some neat wraparound passes.

Smith, Jr. is not a pass-first point guard who looks to create for others as his top priority but has proven he’s a very willing passer on the move, passing ahead in transition to take advantage of the defense transitioning back and hitting teammates spot up at the dunker spot on simple dump-offs out of dribble penetration.

But more encouraging is the sort of court vision at six-foot-three he’s shown making crosscourt passes across his body to the opposite end of the court from time-to-time and lob throws spotting cutters diving to the basket for alley-oops.

OFF THE BALL

Playing for Team Loaded North Carolina, Smith, Jr. rarely got opportunities to show his catch-and-shoot stroke. On those few chances, his release seemed a bit methodical and his shot looked more like a set shot, as he got little elevation off the ground, but his mechanics appear to be a fine foundation to be built upon.

He didn’t show to be a particularly instinctive cutter working off Edrice Adebayo’s post-ups in the half-court but excelled filling the lanes in transition, translating his athletic prowess in ability to play above the rim as a target for lobs.

DEFENSE

As it tends to be the case with teenagers, Smith, Jr. showed to be an inconsistent defender at that point of his development.

When engaged, he bent his knees to get in a stance and translated his athleticism into lateral quickness to keep pace on straight isolations. He even flashed some potential as an impact help defender, rotating off the weak-side and elevating out of two feet explosively to play above the rim as a shot blocker.

That said, Smith, Jr. often stood flat footed defending off the ball and wasn’t very attentive keeping track of his man relocating off an offensive rebound. But perhaps more concerning (or at least as concerning as you can be with regards to a prospect) is the fact he struggled navigating through screens, often getting stuck on picks and erasing himself of these plays.

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

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Markelle Fultz Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Markelle Fultz enters the season as the top prospect in the 2017 NBA draft, according to Draft Express. After finishing his high school career ranked seventh by ESPN in his class, Fultz impressed over the summer with his appearances at the Nike Hoop Summit and the FIBA Americas U18 in Valdivia, where he earned MVP honors.

He’s considered a very appealing prospect due to his combination of size, reasonable athletic ability and a diverse enough (for this point of his development) skill-set. With that sort of profile, Fultz is envisioned as the perfect perimeter player for this modern era of basketball; one who can create a shot but also remain a threat off the ball while guarding multiple types on defense.

ON THE BALL

Though he was not tasked with running offense on an every possession-basis at DeMatha or with the United States Junior National Team, Fultz has proven himself able to create shots for himself and others against a set defense consistently. He’s projected, at this point, as a lead ball handler at the pro level.

Fultz is not a speed demon but has exhibited pretty good quickness playing downhill and turning the corner out of high pick-and-roll, while also flashing the ability to play with pace and patience waiting for driving lanes to clear against hedges, hard shows or half-traps.

He has burst to attack the basket with explosiveness elevating out of one foot unimpeded on a straight path to the goal and can adjust his body in the air to finish around length, though his touch on non-dunk finishes is only OK as of now and he’s not yet able to finish through contact.

Fultz has also not yet developed craftiness seeking contact on his dribble drives, which he needs in order to get whistles since his frame isn’t that big at 186 pounds in the context of six-foot-four height, earning just five free throws in five appearances in Valdivia and nine foul shots in four games at last year’s Adidas Nations.

In terms of creating for others, Fultz is not a pass-first point guard but has proven in every event he’s participated that he’s very willing to accomodate his teammates.

Fultz is not one of those passers who anticipate passing lanes a second before they come open but has displayed great court vision on the move, not just spotting baseline cutters but also making crosscourt passes across his body to weak-side shooters stationed on the opposite end of the floor. His six-foot-four height gives him a great vantage point over opposing point guards.

According to RealGM, Fultz assisted on 38.5% of the United State’s scores when he was on the floor in the U18 FIBA Americas. That’s an appealing figure, especially considering he’s not reckless in his attempts to get those assists. Fultz averaged four turnovers per 40 minutes in this tournament but that was mostly a result of travel calls, which Americans tend to struggle with in FIBA events.

In isolation, Fultz has a diverse arsenal of moves to get where he wants to go on the court with either hand and get a quality shot off, able to hit opponents with crossovers, spin moves and hesitation moves in order to get by them. When they’ve managed to keep pace with him side-to-side, Fultz has unleashed a smooth-looking pull-up jump-shot from mid-range, rising up with great balance, if not necessarily with the quickest of triggers.

OFF THE BALL

Not just alongside high profile peers within his age group with the United States Junior National Team but even at DeMatha, which had Ryan Allen and DJ Harvey for him to share the ball with, Fultz has shown he can operate as a credible weak-side threat.

He’s mostly only a capable catch-and-shoot open shot shooter at this point of his development, nailing just six of his 18 three-point shots in the FIBA Americas U18. His release is a bit methodical but his mechanics look like they will only need to be polished rather than reworked for him to reach average status, not just from the corner but from above the break as well, and the touch on his shot looks pretty great often.

But what he already does at an elite level working the second side is attacking off the catch, against a bent defense, where he’s shown an explosive first step to blow by opponents and get into the lane in a blur. There, Fultz has athletic ability to finish against rim protection waiting for him at the basket and court vision to assist spot-up shooters, as mentioned above.

DEFENSE

As it tends to be the case with teenagers, Fultz’s effort on defense comes and goes.

Fully engaged at the Nike Hoop Summit, he looked like a potential shutdown defender, getting in a stance and showcasing lateral quickness to stay in front and strength to contain dribble penetration through contact. He was very attentive to his help defense responsibilities rotating inside, not just to take up space and crowd driving lanes but proving himself willing to draw charges and exploding out of two feet to block a shot at the basket.

Yet Chileans and Canadians got by him quite a few times in Valdivia, as he typically didn’t get in a stance and didn’t put in a lot of effort to contain dribble penetration. Fultz also tends to struggle navigating though screens, not just freeing himself of picks on the ball but also losing track of shooters working around traffic.

Fultz’s combination of size and athletic ability provides him an opportunity to be an impact defender, though, even when his individual defense isn’t up to expectations. Using his six-foot-nine wingspan to make plays in the passing lanes, he averaged 5.8 steals per 40 minutes. Strong enough to boxout taller players at that level, Fultz also pitched in to finish possessions by collecting 12.5% of opponents’ misses. As a consequence, his individual defensive rating was the second best in the tournament, per RealGM.

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

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3D wing, Shot Creator

RJ Barrett Scouting Report

CONTEXT

The top-ranked prospect in the 2019 high school class according to ESPN, RJ Barrett did not disappoint in the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championships. The just-turned 16-year-old averaged 28.6 points per 40 minutes and led Canada to a fifth-place finish, behind a 6-1 record that featured five blowouts.

As he enters only his sophomore year at Montverde Academy, Barrett is now already on the radar as the next big phenom out of Canada – suddenly the globe’s hottest producer of basketball talent outside the United States.

WEAK-SIDE OFFENSE

Barrett operated mostly as a second side threat, creating his offense against a bent defense out of ball reversals or attacking closeouts. A pet play Canada liked to run featured him running from the weak-side to the top of the key, catching the ball around a pindown screen and taking it to the lane on a straight line drive.

Getting the ball within the flow of the offense, Barrett rarely hesitated and either made the extra pass around the horn or put the ball on the floor quickly off the catch, showcasing an explosive first step that got him around his defender consistently. He also flashed some instinctive cutting, not just simple backdoor but diagonal as his big man posted up as well.

At the rim, he proved himself able to adjust his body in the air and finish around length or through contact, aside from showcasing impressive explosiveness elevating out of one foot and two feet on a couple of occasions.

His touch on non-dunk finishes is only OK at this point of his development – smooth-looking at times and completely missing the rim at others – but Barrett, nonetheless, converted 54% of his 63 two-point shots in the tournament, according to FIBA.com, proving able to finish with either hand.

His top skill, as of now, though, is seeking contact on dribble drives and earning trips to the foul line. Montverde listed him at 185 pounds last season but Barrett appears to have improved his frame over the summer. Looking bigger than most of his opponents, despite the fact he is a year younger than the cutoff age for this event, Barrett was a wrecking ball who earned 14.8 free throws per 40 minutes, though he converted those at only a 59.7% clip.

That foul shooting percentage is a head-scratcher because Barrett looked like a more capable set shooter on live-ball outside shots. Taking those mostly as a standstill spot-up threat, and not at all as a gunner who can be moved around the floor, set his feet quickly and let it fly in a split-second, he hit seven of his 20 three-point shots.

Barrett looks like almost a set shooter, getting very little elevation off the ground, and he struggled some when opponents rushed his release. But he can catch and rise up on one smooth motion and his mechanics look like they only need to be polished, rather than reworked, which is a great starting point.

SHOT CREATION AGAINST A SET DEFENSE

When Barrett couldn’t attack off a catch-and-go or a live dribble, he isolated against his man and the results were mixed.

Barrett is left hand dominant but proved able to drive to his right as well. Aside from being able to just blow by guys at that level with his explosiveness on a straight line, he also flashed a hesitation move and a crossover to go side-to-side as assets to get around his defender and has strength to maintain his balance through contact.

But Barrett’s handle is still pretty loose at this point of his development, as he’s prone to lose possession when the opponent can contain his momentum – averaging 3.3 turnovers per 40 minutes in Zaragoza.

Barrett proved himself not only a willing passer on the move but also flashed some advanced crosscourt passing across his body off the bounce on a few occasions. He’s not a legit shot creator for others who can run offense consistently yet, though, as his work in high pick-and-roll wasn’t particularly polished.

Barrett can go downhill operating from the middle of the floor but didn’t show much in terms of playing with pace, making a pocket pass or keeping his dribble alive and going away from the defense packing the lane.

He is capable of making a pull-up three-pointer when he gets to slow-dribble into his shot but stopping on a dime to rise up from mid-range and a teardrop floater are skills he has not developed yet.

DEFENSE

Barrett is a sick athlete who is physically imposing for someone his age and can move around extremely easily. A player with his size and tools should be at least an average defender, but in the two competitive games Canada played in this tournament, his defense was unimpressive.

Barrett doesn’t use his strength to contain dribble penetration through contact but when he is engaged, he can keep pace laterally with anyone who tries to drive at him and contest his shot at the rim with his length. Yet too many times Australians and Turks got by him out on an island.

Barrett is also too easily manipulated in the pick-and-roll. He gets on a stance and looks to be putting in the effort but struggles navigating through ball-screens, crashing into the big man and erasing himself out of the play.

His weak-side defense was subpar as well. Barrett face-guards his man in order to try avoiding getting backdoor cut but still lost track of him from time-to-time. He closes out off balance often, giving up a clear path to the middle of the lane for the opponent to attack him off the bounce.

Barrett proved himself attentive to his help responsibilities rotating inside to take up space but despite his athletic prowess, his contributions through blocks and steals were marginal in this event, though he did pitch in with 5.3 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes.

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

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