7-footer, Stretch Big

Thomas Welsh Scouting Report

CONTEXT

UCLA has three players who will be drafted in the first round of the next two or three drafts and four more who will get decent shots of making the league via the Summer League, D-League routes. Among the least touted is center Thomas Welsh.

The seven-footer was a top 50 prospect out of high school and has been part of the USA Basketball program but his production over 78 appearances at the collegiate level hasn’t impressed many. Draft Express currently ranks him as the 34th junior in the country and he doesn’t appear as draftable in neither their 2017 nor their 2018 board.

But Welsh is the sort of prospect worth keeping track of because his game has the skeleton of a skill-set that might be of interest and there is a path for him to develop into a legit low end rotation player in the near future.

SHOOTING

Welsh is not much of an asset in the shot creation process.

He has flashed the ability of getting around his man and elevating out of two feet with some vertical explosion but for the most part his footwork in the post is not particularly fluid and his touch on turnaround hooks is only so-so. Welsh has also never shown any power moves, up-and-unders or a turnaround, fade-away jumper.

Though he’s a decent passer scanning the defense with his back to the basket, Welsh has never shown much in terms of being able to facilitate offense from the elbows or passing out of the short roll, assisting on just 3.6% of UCLA’s scores over the last two-and-a-half seasons – according to basketball-reference.

And he is also not a rim-runner in the two-man game. Welsh does not roll hard to the basket, taking just 14 shots at the rim in 11 appearances this season, according to hoop-math, and averaging only 2.6 foul shots per 40 minutes.

He is active on the offensive glass but lacks length to rebound outside of his area (seven-foot wingspan), hasn’t shown much toughness fighting for 50-50 balls and doesn’t have a quick second jump, collecting just 9% of UCLA’s misses when he’s been on the floor this season and transforming just seven of his 20 offensive rebounds into putbacks.

But despite these weaknesses or lack of strengths in areas you’d expect a seven-footer to make an impact, Welsh remains someone of interest due to his shooting. He has excelled rolling to a spot in the mid-range area on pick-and-pops and spotting up near the baseline.

Welsh has nailed 54.2% of his 72 two-point jumpers this season, after hitting 50.3% of 171 such attempts last season, with almost 90% of these makes assisted on each year, which means he’s taking these shots off the catch. His .590 effective field-goal percentage over the last two seasons is extremely impressive when you consider he is not a volume finisher at the basket and doesn’t take three-pointers yet.

His release is getting quicker, the ball gets out with ease and the touch on his shot is great. The base for a team to try developing him into a stretch five who can space the defense out to the three-point line is there.

RIM PROTECTION

Defensively, Welsh adds value close to the basket.

He hasn’t been asked to switch onto smaller players with any regularity, so it’s unclear how well he could do it. He also hasn’t yet developed into the sort of defender who contains dribble penetration by playing smart position defense. And he doesn’t have enough quickness to closeout to stretch big men at the three-point line.

Another weakness is his below average strength for someone his size. Despite his well-distributed 242 pounds, Welsh can get backed down in the post and pushed out of the way fighting for position under the defensive glass.

But Welsh is consistently attentive to his boxout responsibilities and plays with pretty good energy chasing the ball off the rim, collecting 27.2% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor this season.

He is not a particularly explosive leaper coming off the weak-side in help-defense but steps into the front of the basket to contest shots by dribble drivers. Welsh has a nine-foot-three standing reach and has shown quite a bit of intelligence of how to leverage it, often blocking shots without needing to leave the ground, as he’s averaged 3.6 blocks per 40 minutes 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 and at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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Stretch Big

TJ Leaf Scouting Report

CONTEXT

UCLA stormed off the gates with 13 straight victories to start the season and almost stole the Pac 12 opener at Oregon yesterday. Much has been made of Lonzo Ball’s prolificacy but another freshman has managed to catch the attention of NBA scouts as well.

Six-foot-10 stretch big TJ Leaf doesn’t stand out much from an athletic standpoint but has posted impressive averages of 22.5 points and 11.6 rebounds per 40 minutes over the first 14 games of his collegiate career, in a team where there’s intense competition for shots and available rebounds.

The 19-year-old is not only producing right away but he’s done so as a valuable chess piece as well. UCLA has played him at center some in five-out lineups that completely open up the lane and stress the opponent to the bone, though a closer look suggests they might not hold out as well on defense against a stronger level of competition due to his athletic limitations.

Draft Express currently ranks him 16th in its 2018 board.

SHOOTING

The most impressive thing about Leaf’s performance so far is his efficiency. Not only he has scored in volume but he’s doing so on 70.5% effective shooting, according to basketball-reference.

And the driving force behind that percentage is his outside shooting, as he’s nailed 16 of his 32 three-point shots so far. Leaf doesn’t elevate much off the ground and releases the ball from a low point but has proven able to get his catch-and-shoot shot off quite easily and quickly enough before opponents can contest him effectively.

According to kenpom.com, UCLA leads the country in adjusted offensive efficiency and Leaf is a huge part of it due to the spacing the threat of his shooting provides, as he’s not only a standstill spot-up shooter but has also flashed the ability to make shots out of the pick-and-pop and coming off pindown screens. Opposing big men have had their help responsibilities limited in order to stick to Leaf.

OFF DRIBBLE

And when they’ve left him to crash inside on a drive, Leaf has shown a credible off-dribble game to attack closeouts. His shot-fake is quite effective and his handle is OK for the plays he needs to make.

He is not someone dynamic who can go side-to-side or get by his man on speed; Leaf rarely takes it all the way to the rim off the dribble, can’t elevate out of one foot to go up strong in traffic and doesn’t seek contact – averaging just 3.4 foul shots per 40 minutes.

But he’s proven able to make one-dribble pull-ups from mid-range and create short range jumpers inside the lane after using his body to get some separation against lengthier defenders. According to hoop-math, Leaf has nailed 50% of his 50 two-point jumpers – with just 36% of them assisted.

He’s able to pass on the move, working off the bounce or spotting cutters with his back to the basket, assisting on 13.7% of UCLA’s scores when he’s been on the floor so far. Leaf could in the future work as an option to assist out of the short roll or help facilitate offense from the elbows but needs to improve his court vision and risk assessment for that, as he’s averaged 2.1 turnovers per 40 minutes.

POST GAME

As a scorer from the post, Leaf can burn switches. He’s flashed a smooth-looking hiked-leg, turnaround, fade-away jumper and has nice touch on his hook. Leaf can also use his ball skills to go around his man while keeping his dribble alive and then finish around the basket, flashing the ability to elevate strong out of two feet.

But he’s not much of an option against opposing big men. He doesn’t have any toughness attempting to get deep position consistently, has no power moves, hasn’t yet developed particularly fluid footwork and struggles when crowded.

CATCHING-AND-FINISHING

Leaf has not rolled to the basket a whole lot out of the pick-and-roll, even in lineups where he plays center. But he’s shown to be a pretty instinctive cutter and has nice touch around the basket on non-dunk finishes, converting 82.4% of his shots at the rim, though he doesn’t have vertical explosion to play above the rim as a target for lobs.

Leaf doesn’t impress much with his motor and has a six-foot-11 wingspan that isn’t much of an asset to help him rebound outside of his area but has contributed on the offensive glass, showing a knack for rebounding in traffic – collecting almost 10% of UCLA’s misses when he’s been on the floor, which should be considered in the context of his role as a floor spacer. His second jump is pretty good and he’s transformed 15 of his 33 second chances into putbacks.

DEFENSE

Leaf is not necessarily a severe weak link on defense but he is limited.

He can have a foot inside the lane, closeout to a three-point shooter and contest the shot OK but doesn’t have a lot of quickness to run that shooter off the arc and prevent the shot in the first place.

Leaf can move his feet to not get completely killed on straight line drives but can’t bend his knees to get low in a stance, so he’s probably not much of an option to switch against more dynamic ball-handlers who could take him side-to-side.

He plays decent position defense in the pick-and-roll but doesn’t put much fear on dribble drivers because he lacks the length to protect the front of the basket. He makes rotations but hasn’t shown much in terms of explosiveness coming off the weak-side as a constant shot blocking threat in help defense either.

Leaf has proved himself attentive to his boxout responsibilities and able to grab contested rebounds. His .195 defensive rebounding percentage is anticlimactic but probably speaks more to the strong competition to pick up these opponents’ misses within the team than point to particular a weakness of his, though given he’s played center for quite a few minutes it’s probably something to keep an eye on.

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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Pure Shooter

Malik Monk Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM.)

CONTEXT

Malik Monk has exploded over the first month and a half of the season. He’s currently averaging 29.6 points per 40 minutes on 58.9% effective shooting and logged impressive performances of 23 points on 12 shots against Michigan State, 24 points on 19 shots against UCLA and 47 points on 28 shots against North Carolina.

This eruption of high volume scoring matched with elite efficiency has elevated his draft status, as Draft Express currently ranks him fifth in its 2017 board.

Monk was already known for this sort of explosive output at the AAU level and Kentucky has put him in good position to succeed. The 18-year-old (who turns 19 in February) has a quick release. All he needs is a clean catch to get his shot off and the Wildcats have done that with consistency over the non-conference part of their schedule.

That said, the development in other areas of Monk’s offense is not being showcased as much in games. Though he’s handled the ball some in transition, he’s not been given much opportunity to try creating against a set defense in the half-court and there isn’t a lot of room for cutting[1].

Defensively, De’Aaron Fox’s presence as an elite defender who not need to be hidden off the ball and Kentucky’s general standard approach without a lot of switching have prevented Monk from showing if he has any sort of versatility in terms of guarding different types of players.

SHOT MAKING

Monk has proven himself able to make shots on the move, which makes more valuable than the average one-dimensional gunner. He adds gravity not only standing on the weak-side as a spot-up threat but also sprinting to the ball on dribble hand-offs and running off screens. Able to set his feet quickly and get his shot off in a pinch, Monk has nailed 39.4% of his 99 three-point shots this season – according to our stats database.

But more impressive, perhaps, has been Monk’s proficiency off the bounce. Even when a defender prevents a catch-and-shoot attempt, his numbers are still off the chart pulling up from mid-range. He rises off the ground quite fluidly and well balanced on stop-and-pop or step-back situations. According to hoop-math, Monk has hit 50.9% of his two-point jumpers, with less than a quarter of them assisted.

His field-goal percentage on such looks will come down but he’s looked like the sort of shooter who can make those on an above average diet, assuming he’s a part of a reasonably healthy offense and not one where he’s forced to try shooting over multiple defenders.

SHOT CREATION

Most of Monk’s shot creation comes via driving off a live dribble or in isolation when the opponent runs him off the three-point line or forces him to catch-and-hold since, as mentioned above, he’s not been given much opportunity to handle the ball downhill in pick-and-roll.

Monk has not flashed the dribble moves he was advertised to have a whole lot as of this point, most often trying to get by his man on speed. And he hasn’t shown much in terms of passing skills either, though his 27-to-23 assist-to-turnover ratio seems about right for the role he’s been asked to play.

His handle isn’t particularly impressive but it’s not of significant concern for him to get the shots he’s best at getting, considering he doesn’t do a lot of driving in traffic, as only 22.4% of his shots have come at the rim and most of them have materialized in transition[2].

Monk has flashed some ability to post up smaller matchups in a pinch but it only ever results in a turnaround, fade-away jumper and never in a double team draw and a kick-out to a three-point shooter.

The one area Monk has excelled creating for himself and others is in transition. He’s quite fast up the court with the ball and has shown pretty good feel for when attacking the basket himself or hit a trailer. According to Synergy Sports, Monk was shooting 60% of two-point shots in transition as of last Sunday.

DEFENSE

Monk only kind of exists out there on defense. He is not that bad but he’s definitely not good either – at least not in a way that is meaningful.

As mentioned above, Monk has not been asked to guard opposing point guards because of Fox’s presence, so it’s hard to say if he can do it. If so, that would be of great help trying to fit him in a lineup that aspires to be good on defense, given he’s undersized to match up with most of the true wings in the NBA.

Monk has a well-distributed 197-pound frame in the context of his six-foot-three height but he doesn’t play with a lot of force. When engaged, he can move his feet laterally and stay in front but he’s been unable to contain dribble penetration through contact.

Monk is prone to some poor off ball defense, as he can get caught ball watching from time-to-time, but he’s done enough right that makes you think he’s not just one of those guys who completely zones out on defense.

Monk has the quickness and puts in the effort chasing shooters around screens or run spot-up shooters off the arc but lacks length to contest shots effectively and gives up a path to the goal on closeouts.

He can make some plays in the passing lanes and has made rotations but his contributions through steals, charges, blocks and defensive rebounds are very small.

[1] For all the expectation of Derek Willis playing a bigger role this season, he’s only sixth on the team in minutes and hasn’t gotten enough shots up to make a real impact with regards to their spacing concerns.

[2] Other than the fact that he’s not getting to the basket a whole lot in the half-court, it’s significant Monk is averaging just 3.6 foul shots 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 RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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Pure Passer, Shot Creator, Tall Passer

Lonzo Ball Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Lonzo Ball has led UCLA to 13 straight wins to start the season, including a victory at Kentucky. According to kenpom.com, the Bruins have played a fairly weak schedule but Ball’s averages of 15.8 points, 9.6 assists and 6.7 rebounds per 40 minutes are impressive nonetheless. His draft stock has gone through the roof and Draft Express currently ranks him fourth in its 2017 board.

In terms of physical profile and skill level, he’s about the exact same player I profiled prior to the season at RealGM. But his environment and the level of competition have changed, and within this new context, some of the concerns I raised have been alleviated while others remain.

CONCERNS THAT HAVE BEEN ALLEVIATED

CONTROLING THE PACE OF THE GAME: One of the concerns I raised was the probability that he wouldn’t be able to play similarly to what he did at Chino Hills anywhere else. But through the first couple of months of the college year, that hasn’t turned out to be the case. UCLA doesn’t play at the frenetic pace Chino Hills did but it does run a high-octane offense triggered by Ball’s natural inclination to speed up the game. And in large part due to its uptempo style, the Bruins currently rank second in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency. I think it’s fair to say wherever Ball plays, he’ll always pass ahead and look to push the ball up the floor.

SHOOTING OFF THE CATCH: Ball looked like a capable shot maker in high school but the nature of his odd release made it questionable whether he would be as much of a threat from long-range moving forward.

He is getting the ball out quicker, easier off the catch but the long release remains about the same and the ball is still going in. Ball has nailed 43.3% of his three-point shots this season, while attempting almost six bombs per 40 minutes – according to basketball-reference.

He’s also flashed a little more diversity in the types of shots he can make – showcasing deep range on step-back threes, side-step one-dribble pull-ups after escaping a closeout and even some ability to let it fly quicking after coming off pindown screens.

As a credible threat from three-point range, Ball offers legit positional flexibility on offense – as we’ve been able to see at UCLA, which plays multiple smaller guards around him and at times has even played him as the second tallest player in a lineup.

FINISHING AT THE RIM: this is a concern that has and also hasn’t been alleviated.

Ball rarely gets to the rim in the half-court but he’s done fairly well in transition and has converted 76.2% of his 42 shots at the basket overall – according to hoop-math. He is a guy whose top priority out there is passing and with a guy like that there is always concern he’ll overpass in transition, botching a bunch of fast-breaks in the process – as we’ve seen from Rajon Rondo a ton over the last half-a-decade. That has not been a problem at all with Ball.

And in the few times he drove his way to the goal against a set defense, Ball has even flashed some development in terms of using his six-foot-eight wingspan for reverse finishes around rim protectors, which I hadn’t seen much from him in high school.

EFFORT ON DEFENSE: Ball hasn’t yet developed into some sort of difference maker on defense but he’s at least proven he gives a crap. UCLA still prefers hiding him on the least dangerous matchup in the perimeter but when he’s needed to guard on the ball, Ball has bent his knees to get in a stance and put in the effort to try going over a ball-screen.

His rebounding has translated to the college game. He’s collected 12.9% of opponents’ misses when he’s on the floor, which is an appealing rate for a guard, considering UCLA has big men who are good at securing these boards on their own.

And his steal numbers have also carried over, as he’s averaged 1.8 steals per 40 minutes. That figure is now more trustworthy, given UCLA is structured with more discipline than Chino Hills was.

CONCERNS THAT HAVEN’T BEEN ALLEVIATED

INTERIOR SCORING: Ball has not shown much improvement in terms of getting to the basket against a set defense. While more than a third of his attempts have come at the rim, the bulk of them have materialized in transition or off cuts. He’s made just nine unsassisted shots at the basket in 452 minutes, when you discount putbacks, and averages just 3.4 foul shots per 40 minutes.

Ball is a very well polished passer in the pick-and-roll and can pick apart scrambling defenses, as his .317 assist percentage can attest. But opponents can go under screens against him without much cause for concern due to his inability to make or even attempt stop-and-pop mid-range jumpers at this point of his development.

Ball has also struggled badly against switches. He doesn’t have much speed to just blow by his man one-on-one and doesn’t appear to have a go-to move he trusts during games to shake his defender side-to-side. Kentucky felt very comfortable with Endrice Adebayo guarding him and Ball didn’t even attempt to take him off the bounce in multiple occasions.

ON BALL DEFENSE: Ball’s size offers positional flexibility but the ideal scenario would be him being able to guard opposing point guards, permitting his coach to surround him with bigger players and then switch as necessary. But it’s unclear how well Ball could hold up if tasked with guarding smaller players who can manipulate him into ball-screens constantly, given UCLA has consistently hidden him off the ball.

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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7-footer

Isaac Humphries Scouting Report

CONTEXT

It’s hard to remember the last guy who got out of Kentucky better than when he got in. Isaac Humphries is just the latest prospect who stagnated after going through the John Calipari experience.

He’s still pretty young, as he’ll only turn 19 in January, but year two hasn’t gone much better than year one and there aren’t a lot of signs that a year three would get things back on track. And if he were to declare for the draft after this season, Humphries would maybe be a mid-second round pick if lucky and probably end up in D-League purgatory like Stephen Zimmerman.

Draft Express currently ranks him 58th in their 2018 board.

DEFENSE

Humphries’ calling card at this point of his development is his defense, mostly thanks to his combination of general size (seven-feet, 260-pound frame) and rather appealing mobility for someone with his physical profile.

He is a stout post defender and consistently attentive to his boxout responsibilities, also proving himself able to grab contested boards in traffic, collecting 17.7% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor – a figure that might seem unimpressive at face value but that should be considered within the context that Kentucky has many other prolific defensive rebounders.

Humphries is not a high leaper and has a below average standing reach (eight-foot-11) for someone his height but makes rotations in help-defense, is a generally tough presence to finish around and takes some well-times swings at the ball. He’s averaging 3.9 blocks per 40 minutes, according to basketball-reference.

On the other hand, Humphries also makes a lot of contact on his contests. And while he often tries to jump up vertically, officials pretty much never give him the benefit of the double. Humphries is averaging 6.8 personal fouls per 40 minutes, which have limited his playing time to just 11 minutes per game.

When forced to guard beyond the foul line, Humphries has flashed the ability to wall off dribble penetration in pick-and-roll defense with his lateral mobility and even pick some smaller players on switches, as he’s able to keep pace on straight-line drives and block or effectively contest their shots at the rim – though he’s not built to matchup against more talented types who could shake him side-to-side.

OFFENSE

Humphries uses his size well to obtain great position in the low post but isn’t very productive with the touches he gets. His moves are very robotic; his footwork is quite mechanic, his touch on turnaround hooks is iffy and he doesn’t have any sort of explosiveness elevating out of two feet for some dunks after knocking the opponent back. Due to those issues, Humphries has posted a thoroughly disappointing .463 effective field-goal percentage and earned just 3.3 foul shots per 40 minutes.

He hasn’t been given a lot of opportunities in pick-and-roll offense but in those few instances, Humphries has shown so-so hands catching the ball on the move, no ability to roll hard to the basket or to play above the rim as a target for lobs and an iffy touch on non-dunk finishes – converting just 58.5% of his shots at the rim, according to hoop-math.

Despite a short seven-foot wingspan that isn’t much of an asset helping him rebound outside of his area, Humphries has done well in the offensive glass, collecting 18.6% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor, thanks to his ability to set inside position under the rim. But without possessing any sort of a quick second jump or touch finishing around length, he’s shot just 50% on put-back attempts.

Humphries has flashed some ability facilitating offense from the high post, averaging 1.8 assists per 40 minutes – a figure that could be higher if Kentucky had more shot makers – but it’s unclear where exactly his passing instincts are at this point of his development, since it’s not as if Kentucky runs a Warriors-type of offense.

He’s also flirted with a catch-and-shoot jumper from mid-range that looks workable; he gets the ball off slowly but the release doesn’t look hopeless. That’s a long way from materializing into a real asset, though, as he’s hit just five shots away from the rim so far this season and has shot just 61.5% on foul shots for his career in Lexington.

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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Catch&Score Finisher

Endrice Adebayo Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Draft Express currently ranks Endrice Adebayo 15th in its 2017 board and it seems about right. The six-foot-10 center hasn’t shown the sort of skill level that suggests there is a foreseeable path for him to become a superstar but he is an impressive athlete who fits a clear role in a league where the spread pick-and-roll and switching are becoming prevalent.

DEFENSE

From a physical-standpoint, Adebayo has proven himself able to do just about everything on defense.

The 19-year-old (who turns 20 in July) can step into the front of the rim or come off the weak-side in help-defense and elevate out of two feet to protect the basket, as he’s averaged 2.6 blocks per 40 minutes – according to basketball-reference. And though he’s prone to leaving his feet and making himself vulnerable to fouling from time-to-time, Adebayo is averaging just 4.2 personal fouls per 40 minutes, which is a very acceptable number.

He is a stout post defender, possessing plenty of strength in his 258-pound frame to hold his ground, and looks to boxout in the defensive glass. Adebayo has collected just 16.6% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor, which is an unimpressive figure for someone his size, but watching him play, there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with his defensive rebounding. He doesn’t pursue the ball with as much energy as he does on the offensive glass but it’s not as if he doesn’t give a crap either. My theory is that De’Aaron Fox and Wenyen Gabriel have played a role in that figure.

Away from the basket, Adebayo has shown adequate mobility to wall off dribble penetration in pick-and-roll defense and has picked up smaller players on switches with some regularity, even if that’s not a primary strategy Kentucky employs. In these instances, Adebayo bent his knees to get in a stance and proved himself able to keep pace with these smaller players on straight-line drives to block or effectively contest their shots at the rim with his nine-foot standing reach – though he doesn’t appear to have the lateral quickness needed to stay in front of more talented players who are able to shake him side-to-side.

Whether or not he will develop into an elite defender who can anchor a top 10 defense by himself should depend on how smart he is picking up the more subtle nuances of pro-level defense.

OFFENSE

Adebayo gets quite a few touches in the post but hasn’t yet developed the skill level needed to support the decision of feeding him the ball with his back to the basket.

If he is matched up against a player who is smaller or generally weaker, Adebayo is able to knock them back and explode out of two feet for some thunderous dunks. Those are impressive.

But for the most part, his footwork is still very mechanical at this point of his development and his touch on turnaround hooks is iffy. His inefficiency in the post explains why his .564 effective field-goal percentage is so anticlimactic.

Kentucky has also handed him the ball in the high post some and he’s impressed on a few occasions, hitting cutters working around him and identifying spot-up shooters coming open. Adebayo is averaging just 1.4 assists per 40 minutes so far but that has looked like a workable skill he might have and that figure could be higher if Kentucky had more shot makers.

Another skill he’s flashed that has looked workable is his catch-and-shoot jumper. His touch is iffy and his release is slow but he didn’t look hopeless in his attempts. That said, Adebayo is currently shooting just 61.1% on his foul shots and hit just nine shots away from the basket the entire season, so this might be just a mirage.

Much like on defense, how Adebayo truly excels on offense is from an athletic standpoint. He’s a decent screener who looks to draw contact, can play above the rim as a target for lobs out of the high pick-and-roll and crashes the offensive glass with prolificacy. Possessing a seven-foot-one wingspan that helps him rebound outside of his area, Adebayo has collected 14.7% of Kentucky’s misses when he’s been on the floor.

His touch on non-dunk finishes is suspect but he’s shooting 73.3% at the basket so far this season, per hoop-math, thanks to his explosiveness helping him transform almost everything into a dunk attempt and his quick second jump helping him convert 75% of his put-back attempts.

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

De’Aaron Fox Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Malik Monk has gotten most of the attention due to his scoring prowess but De’Aaron Fox is Kentucky’s best all around player.

The just-turned 19-year-old is the engine of their fifth-ranked offense and the sparkplug of their seventh-ranked defense, according to adjusted metrics at kenpom.com.

Kentucky doesn’t run a well-spaced offense or a switching defense, so it’s entirely up to Fox to control the pace of the game, get enough shots for the other two first-round picks on the team, keep his turnovers down despite driving in traffic often and press opposing ball-handlers at the point of attack.

Fox still has gaps in his skill-set but has produced very well against a tough schedule in order to support his status as a projected top 10 pick, according to Draft Express.

DEFENSE

Fox has impressed the most with his defense up until this point.

He has above average height (six-foot-three) and length (six-foot-six wingspan) for a point guard combined with adequate lateral quickness among position peers. Fox has not always gone over screens at the college level but arrived at Kentucky known for his technique and anticipation skills in pick-and-roll defense, so it’s likely he’s been coached to go under screens consistently due to specific matchups.

Fox is a really good asset to build an elite defense around. He’s proven himself willing to pick up opposing ball-handlers 35 feet away from the rim and can press them with active hands that often generate turnovers. According to basketball-reference, Fox is averaging 2.3 steals per 40 minutes.

He tries using his body to contain penetration but often gets knocked back by opponents with lower centers of gravity due to his lean 185-pound frame. Fox still manages to contest mid-range or close-range attempts fairly well due to his length but that lack of strength probably prevents him from having much positional versatility at this point of his development, which is unfortunate because Fox has also proven himself a good off-ball defender.

He has the speed to closeout to spot-up shooters and run them off the three-point line and then the balance to stay in front and prevent an easy path to the basket. Fox has also used his length to make plays in the passing lanes and he’s an elite defensive rebounder for his position, collecting 14% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor.

OFFENSE

Fox naturally speeds up the pace of the game transitioning from defense to offense, passing ahead or flying up the court with the ball. TV broadcasts always mention how under his control Kentucky has posted one of the five shortest times of possession in the country, while getting good shots in the break or the secondary break.

In the half-court, the Wildcats try to get Monk open off screens about half the time and when they can’t, they rely heavily on Fox to create something off a high ball-screen.

Kentucky does not space the court adequately. For all the expectation of Derek Willis becoming a bigger part of the rotation this season, he’s only sixth in the team in minutes. It often plays two centers together, resulting in a lot of traffic for Fox to deal with in dribble penetration.

But he’s navigated this challenge quite well for the most part. Fox is a very polished ball handler for someone his age, turning it over on just 13.6% of his possessions. He can play with pace in the pick-and-roll, showcasing several dribble moves to manipulate his defender and get to the lane. Fox can stop-and-start in a pinch to wait for driving lanes to clear and turn the corner when he’s iced and has an in-and-out dribble to get by the big on his way to the basket when he’s attacking downhill. In isolation, he’s shown a nifty crossover to shake his defender off balance and get to where he wants to go.

At the basket, Fox has flashed some explosiveness elevating out of one foot to finish strong when he’s attacking downhill. But for the most part, he’s been a below the rim finisher in traffic – though a damn good one. Fox can adjust his body in the air and use his length for reverse finishes to score around rim protectors. According to hoop-math, he’s converted 65.8% of his 73 shots at the basket, which account for 47.4% of his shots. He is also averaging 8.2 foul shots per 40 minutes.

As a passer off the bounce, Fox has shown nice court vision in order to create for others in a regular basis, assisting on a third of Kentucky’s scores when he’s been on the floor. He’s constantly aware of the big becoming open in the pick-and-pop, looks to suck in the defense then hit his big men on the dunker spot on drop-off passes and has great timing on his lobs. Due to the nature of Kentucky’s poor spacing, it’s unclear how well he can hit his big man on the pocket pass or if he can make passes across his body to the opposite side of the court, though.

That said, the biggest gaps in Fox’s skill-set at this point of his development regard his shot selection and his shooting in general.

Maybe it’s because there’s often too much of a crowd on his path to the goal or simply because he has an inflated perception of his jumper, Fox takes a lot of pull-up shots for someone who doesn’t have the production to support his decisions. He’s taking more than a third of his shots from mid-range despite the fact he’s missed 71% of those attempts. Fox elevates with nice balance and his release doesn’t appear to be completely broken or anything but the ball rarely goes in, which has led to opponents consistently going under ball screens, which has compounded the issue.

He has also struggled on catch-and-shoot attempts from three-point range, missing 22 of his 26 shots from beyond the arc. With that as the case, Fox limits how diverse his offense can be because he is not a viable participant away from the ball.

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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