Josh Jackson Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

For as much thought as we put into overanalyzing the draft, we really don’t know anything.

Every year there is a player with jaw dropping physical talent and some skill that suggests he might have superstar potential but who also possesses an undeveloped area that might be a fatal flaw and cap such potential.

If that player can make the sort of substantial improvement that will push him into superstardom tends to depend on things we cannot predict; such as if he will have the work ethic necessary, even though he will be earning a lot money that will afford him other types of time-consuming opportunities, or if he is drafted by a team that knows how to teach him right or puts him in the best position to limit the effects of his weaknesses.

This year, that prospect seems to be Josh Jackson.

I’ve profiled the six-foot-eight combo forward for this website in January and added a note about his hot shooting streak on our look at the top 10 draft prospects whose teams qualified for the tournament but for the tl;dr crowd, here are the basics:

  • Jackson is a very impressive athlete. The Kansas alumni has an explosive first step to blow by his man in isolation (especially attacking off grab-and-go’s on ball reversals or off a live dribble) and can bounce off the ground furiously off one foot to dunk with power. He’s also proven himself able to adjust his body in the air to score around rim protectors with reverses and up-and-under’s, finishing his 184 attempts within three feet at a 69% clip[1].

Defensively, Jackson has shown pretty good lateral quickness to guard smaller players out on an island. He is not yet polished enough to navigate over ball screens consistently, though, so he should add flexibility as a defender who can switch onto smaller players late in the shot clock rather than picking them up on a full possession-basis, at least for the immediate future.

Jackson has also shown the sort of strength needed to guard big men for stretches and might have a future spending most of his time on the floor as the biggest wing on four-out lineups, which is how he played a lot as at Kansas.

  • Defending as a big, Jackson was required to rotate off the weak-side as the last line of defense and impressed with his recognition skills. Aside from showing explosiveness elevating off two feet to act as a shot blocking threat, Jackson also did little things that went unrecognized on the boxscore (like bumping the roll man, crowding the area near the basket and clogging driving lanes to prevent dribble drivers from getting to the rim) but that contributed a lot to Kansas ranking 24th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency[2].

On offense, his intelligence shined through his court vision. He can make thread the needle-type of passes in transition, passes across his body to the opposite end of the court out of playing with pace in the pick-and-roll, lob tosses in traffic, pitch-backs going downhill in the pick-and-pop and drop-offs to his center at the dunker’s spot penetrating the lane in isolation or off attacking a closeout – assisting on 18% of Kansas’s scores when he was on the floor[3].

  • Jackson did most of his shot creation handling in transition and playing the second side or attacking closeouts in the half-court, and he was exceptional at it. Aside from his pure quickness, he also showed some polish in terms of change of direction and stop-and-start moves that consistently helped him reach the basket and put maximum pressure on the defense – taking 42.9% of his shots at the rim and averaging 6.4 foul shots per 40 minutes[4].

Aside from that, Jackson also contributed on offense by improving his spot up shooting as the season went on – eventually finishing the season nailing 37.8% of his 90 three-point attempts and averaging 1.33 points per possession on open shots[5].

However, Jackson’s catch-and-shoot shot still doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. He has a low release and is very mechanical, as rising up and the actual act of shooting look like two unconnected motions. The ball doesn’t come off easy, so Jackson passed up a lot of good spot-up looks, even as he was on fire the last couple of months – averaging only 3.3 three-point attempts per 40 minutes. The fact he shot 56.6% on 173 foul shots also suggests the hot streak that made his three-point percentage rate above average might be a mirage.

  • Jackson’s superstar potential is dependent on his ability to create shots against a set defense. I think more highly of his handle than I did when I wrote about him in January but on the other hand I find his decision making a little more suspect. His 1.07-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is particularly concerning.

But the most troubling issue regards Jackson’s pull-up shooting. He is pretty terrible at it at this point of his development and it afforded opponents the opportunity to duck under screens when he handled in the pick-and-roll and sag off him when he isolated against a defender on a standstill stance. As a result, Jackson averaged just 0.54 points per possession in the pick-and-roll and 0.61 points per possession in isolation[6], which are remarkably poor figures for anyone, let alone someone who will be picked in the top five.

IMMEDIATE FITS

Draft Express ranks Jackson third in its top 100 and under that scenario, these are the five teams expected to draft him – according to Tankathon:

Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn, 17.8% chance at the third pick): Having drafted someone with a very similar profile at this exact same slot last year, it would be surprising if Boston picked Jackson. However, there might never be such a thing as too many wings given the way the game is played these days.

Adding Jackson to an already impressive collection that features Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown and Avery Bradley could give Brad Stevens a ton of lineup flexibility to go against Cleveland the next couple of years. The upside would be all on defense, though, as Jackson figures to be someone who will struggle to adjust to the NBA three-point line early in his career and won’t solve Boston’s long-standing issue of generating offense when Isaiah Thomas rests.

Nonetheless, the moment the Celtics draft Jackson, I expect people will be more interested in speculating him as a trade chip on a potential swap involving Jimmy Butler or Paul George rather than considering his role in the rotation.

Phoenix Suns (17.1%): Phoenix has a vacancy on the wing – with PJ Tucker gone and TJ Warren never really totally securing that spot alongside Devin Booker as his – and Jackson figures to be a welcomed addition to a defense that ranked 28th in scoring allowed per possession.

He wouldn’t be the best possible fit on offense alongside Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker right away, due to his inability to shoot, but Phoenix could be building a team with incredible switching-ability and versatility on defense if Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender develop in the long run.

Los Angeles Lakers (15.6%): If the Lakers maintain this group together for a little while longer, Jackson is probably the exact sort of piece they need. He could enjoy opportunities to work off a live dribble in Luke Walton’s motion-oriented offense and add someone with potential to develop into a difference-maker defender in the future – which this group currently lacks.

But much as is the case with the Celtics, the expectation is that as soon as Jackson is drafted, more attention will be paid as to whether he can serve as the centerpiece of a potential swap involving Paul George.

Philadelphia 76ers (13.3%): Jackson wouldn’t be a great immediate fit in Philadelphia. Even if they go through with the plan of having Ben Simmons play as a pure point guard (running offense and then defending the opposing lead ball handler on the other end), the minutes vacated at one of the combo-forward spots need to go to a low-usage floor spacer, which Jackson is not yet.

Orlando Magic (10.7%): Much like Boston, Orlando has also drafted a similar prospect a short while ago in Aaron Gordon. Like Gordon, Jackson’s best possible role is probably as the biggest wing on four-out lineups.

But if they learn how to shoot, at least to a point where it’s possible to accommodate them in the same lineup, having these two combo forwards together would offer exceptional flexibility on defense.

[1] According to hoop-math

[2] According to kenpom.com

[3] According to our stats database

[4] According to sports-reference

[5] According to research by Draft Express’ Mike Schmitz

[6] According to research by Draft Express’ Mike Schmitz

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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Justin Aaron Jackson Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Justin Aaron Jackson was perceived as a potential mid-second round pick by this time last year. He disappointed as a shooter in his first couple of seasons at North Carolina but possesses the sort of height and length that permits teams to envision him as an eventual 3D wing in the pros. Nonetheless, Jackson opted to return for his junior year after doing poorly at the Combine.

And that decision has paid off nicely. The just-turned 22-year-old not only improved his three-point rate and the overall efficiency of his spot-up gunning but also developed some versatility to his shot and enjoyed a bigger role in last season’s team – with his usage rate rising up from 21% in 2015-16 to 25.7% in 2016-17[1], thanks to the departures of Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson.

The six-foot-eight sharpshooter won ACC player of the year, North Carolina avenged the previous year’s heartbreaking loss to Villanova with a victory over Gonzaga in the national championship game and he is now perceived as a borderline lottery pick – as Draft Express currently ranks him 13th in its top 100.

READ MORE: Jayson Tatum | De’Aaron Fox | Lonzo Ball

SHOOTING

Thanks to the improvements in his footwork, elevation and mechanics, Jackson’s proven himself an excellent open-shot shooter spacing the floor away from the ball, as he nailed 37% of his 284 three-point shots (at a clip of 8.9 attempts per 40 minutes) and averaged 1.15 points per possession on catch-and-shoot jumpers over the first 31 games last season[2], adding value with his mere existence on the court.

Jackson also impressed with his intelligence working the second side, constantly relocating off drives or offensive rebounds to get himself open and cutting hard to create a second passing lane when a defender successfully denied him a catch or a teammate missed him in the first window.

But he is so highly rated right now because he’s also shown to be the most valuable type of shooter, that chess piece who can be moved around the floor and stress the defense with his movement. Jackson sprints hard around staggered screens, plants, adjusts his feet in a pinch, rises up with great balance and has a quick release to let it fly before the contest can be effective.

And if the defender can negotiate screens well enough to keep up with him and stay close on the catch, Jackson can take an escape dribble to readjust and then launch a one-dribble pull-up over him.

READ MORE:  Markelle Fultz | Frank Ntilikina

SHOT CREATION

North Carolina put his shooting to use in the post here and there, trying to take advantage of a particular matchup, and Jackson proved himself able to make the eventual turnaround jumper over a smaller defender but nothing substantially impressive came out of it often. There is no diversity to his post game and he didn’t do so well that opponents rushed to double team him there and leave someone uncovered.

Most of Jackson’s shot creation came on straight line drives when he curled around pindown screens. He did not get all the way to the basket often — as just 22.1% of his attempts were at the rim[3], but converted stop-and-pop mid-range pull-ups and underhanded toss-ups from the in-between area over length reasonably well — as he nailed his 180 two-point jumpers at a 39.4% clip, with just a third of them assisted.

Jackson also flashed some decent passing on the move when he attacked closeouts, reading collapsing defenses well off dribble penetration — assisting on 15.8% of North Carolina’s scores when he was on the floor and turning it over on just 9.5% of his possessions last season.

However, Jackson didn’t do much of anything against a set defense. He has enough of a handle to get a pull-up three-pointer off a middle high pick-and-roll if he gets a good screen and the big man drops back and can run a side pick-and-roll against a bent defense to keep the offense moving but for the most part can’t assist with the shot creation process from the top when he is on the ball.

He doesn’t have an explosive first step, doesn’t have a lot of quickness to shake his defender side-to-side, hasn’t yet developed his handle to deal with pressure or manipulate his way into wherever he wants to get on the floor and doesn’t have a lot of strength in his 201-pound frame to maintain his balance through contact.

READ MORE: Lauri Markkanen | Jonathan Isaac

DEFENSE

When evaluating players with Jackson’s height, one point of emphasis is trying to notice if he is versatile enough to defend bigger players on four-out lineups. Due to his lack of strength, Jackson does not figure to check that box in the immediate future.

But Jackson has shown he can offer flexibility on defense with his ability to guard smaller players, not just picking them up midway through the shot clock on switches but also cross-matching on ball handlers for entire possessions.

His thin frame should be a weakness against bulkier wings but has helped him navigate staggered screens trailing shooters as they sprint from one side of the court to the other and navigating over ball screens at the point of attack in order to beat them to the spot on the other side, stay in front and contest shots with his eight-foot-eight standing reach, though he could be more effective if he got into the pull-up shooter’s personal space some more.

If Jackson can translate that sort of on-ball defense to the pros is vital because he doesn’t offer a lot of value as a weak-side defender. Despite his six-foot-11 wingspan, Jackson didn’t use his length to make plays in the passing lanes or act as a shot blocking threat rotating to the basket area in help defense – with marginal contributions in steals and blocks.

He was also a below average for someone his size, collecting 9.3% of opponents’ misses in his 3,430 minutes on the floor during his three seasons at North Carolina.

[1] According to sports-reference

[2] According to research by Draft Express’ Mike Schmitz

[3] According to hoop-math

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

Jayson Tatum Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

Jayson Tatum had somewhat of an up and down season in his one year at Duke.

The six-foot-eight combo forward started the season injured, missing the first couple of months with a foot strain, but Duke managed to survive his absence just fine thanks to Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen fueling a furious drive-and-kick attack.

When he returned, Tatum had some trouble fitting into that identity and played primarily as a pure post up scorer in his first few games back, acting mostly outside the ecosystem on slower-developing plays.

As the season went on, Duke incorporated Tatum into its drive-and-kick sequences a bit more but it never quite looked as good as it did when Kennard and Allen were leading the charge earlier in the year, which was crucial in order to make up for its problems on other end. Consequently, the team lost four of its first seven conference games.

Nonetheless, as Allen dealt with his unsportsmanlike conduct suspension and had his role within the team diminished as the season winded down, Duke evolved into a team who still ran plenty of motion but looked to get Tatum the ball in his spots even more regularly and he led the team in usage rate during conference play.

As Tatum got healthier and got going, averaging 19.2 points per 40 minutes against ACC competition, Duke righted the ship, eventually finishing the season with 11 wins in 18 conference games and winning the conference tournament in Brooklyn.

Duke went down in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, losing to eventual Final Four participant South Carolina, but Tatum did his part, finishing that game with 15 points on 12 shots in 34 minutes.

Overall, he impressed last season and solidified his status as a top five prospect, as Draft Express currently ranks him fourth in its top 100.

However, Tatum didn’t show a lot of improvement in terms of playing in more of a team-oriented manner. And considering he played on a team with a good deal of talent around him[1] and within a well-structured offense that emphasized the sort of ball movement and people movement that the NBA is looking for these days, the fact that Tatum didn’t prove to be a natural fit is a cause for concern.

SHOT CREATION

Tatum’s biggest selling point is his individual scoring.

He’s not a particularly impressive athlete with an explosive first step who can just blow by his man but has, instead, very polished ball skills and a collection of dribble moves to create his own shot one-on-one, which is very noticeable when you realize he just turned 19.

Handling from the perimeter, Tatum has shown some shiftiness crossing over his defender side to side to force him off balance, which as consequence have made his jab step and hesitation moves very effective as well.

He’s shown core strength in his 204-pound frame to maintain his balance through contact as he gets all the way to the basket and protects the ball reasonably well in traffic – taking over a third of his shots at the rim[2] and turning it over on just 15% of his possessions, despite his high 26.2% usage rate[3].

Tatum has flashed some explosiveness elevating out of one foot to dunk with power in a crowd but is for the most part a basket-level finisher — using his length to extend his way around rim protectors and even flashing some ability to adjust his body in the air for up-and-under and reverse finishes – converting his attempts within close range at a 62% clip.

He is nothing special as a foul drawer at this point of his development but did average a solid 5.8 foul shots per 40 minutes last season[4], a figure that is good but not great in large part because Tatum has shown a substantial reliance on his in-between game.

In isolation, Tatum consistently earns himself enough separation to pull-up from mid-range, rising up with great balance and fully extending himself on the release, which makes it tough for most defenders to contest his shot effectively. A third of his shots were two-point jumpers and he nailed them at a 39.4% clip, which is more impressive when you consider he averaged 5.2 mid-range shots per 40 minutes.

Another reason so much of his shot-portfolio is deadzone-based is that Tatum also does a large part of his shot creation out of the post.

He is not very physical trying to get deep position and hasn’t shown any sort of inclination for liking power moves, so you don’t see him trying to bang against true big men when he is the biggest wing on a four-out lineup. Instead, Tatum prefers to rely on his footwork, regardless if against bigger or smaller defenders.

Against bigger defenders, Tatum doesn’t mind getting pushed away from the low post and even seems to prefer catching the ball at the elbow in order to face up his defender. From that spot, he has the option of jab stepping and rising up for a no-dribble jumper or ripping through and driving around him to get to the basket.

Against smaller defenders, Tatum does work to get the ball lower in the block and looks to back down his man for a couple of dribbles to set up his turnaround, fade-away jumper, which he is very successful at converting, as he averaged 1.303 points per possession on post-ups[5].

But for as good as he looks in instances where he is creating his own shot, whether it’s driving from the perimeter or catching the ball with his back to the basket, Tatum’s style of play has some obvious limitations as far as searching for the most optimal way to attack a defense goes. He averaged just 0.88 points per possession on isolations[6] and posted a .507 effective field goal percentage on his 365 total live-ball attempts last season.

Tatum ran pick-and-roll in high school 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.

But at Duke, he did not do a whole lot in terms of turning the corner or getting into the lane off a high ball screen, instead preferring to wait for switches in these instances and attacking his man one-on-one.

Tatum flashed some altruistic play on drop-off passes and finding the eventual cutter out of the post, assisting on 12.4% of Duke’s scores when he was on the floor.

But he caught-and-held an alarming amount, at times disrupting some ball movement sequences and permitting the defense to get out of scramble mode and reset. Even his assists from the post were rarely simple touch passes, as he’s shown an inclination for needing to probe the defense rather than reading the game more instinctively. Making these decisions quicker is a clear area where Tatum needs to improve in order to actualize his star potential.

He is good at what he does but because what he does is generally tough to do at a high-efficiency level, Tatum posted a 111.3 offensive rating, which ranked sixth out of seven rotation players at Duke with a minimum of 300 minutes played.

But while the shots he takes might seem like low value propositions during most parts of the game, Tatum remains a prospect rated at the very top of the board because his ability to get his shot off at any time against any defense is still valued highly late in games, when running deliberate offense becomes tougher.

WEAK-SIDE OFFENSE

Tatum might become more conducive to fitting into a team-oriented offense if he continues to improve his catch-and-shoot stroke, though.

His release is still a bit methodical and he was only an open shot shooter in his one year at Duke, nailing just 34.2% of his 117 three-point shots last season.

As the biggest wing on a four-out lineup, Tatum can be a credible threat spotting up off the ball. But he needs to improve the quickness in his release in order to be an option as the smallest forward on prototypical two-big lineups because the perimeter pros closeout faster and Tatum has shown to be a bit gun shy on instances where closeouts shouldn’t have prevented him from pulling the trigger.

He also didn’t show any sort of diversity to his catch-and-shoot jumper — as far as coming of pindown screens, sprinting around staggered screens or taking quick shot out of the pick-and-pop go. Because of his body type and style of play, a player Tatum is often compared to, as his potential ceiling, is Carmelo Anthony. But being able to shoot on the move the way Anthony can and add gravity with his mere movement from a spot to another outside the lane without touching the ball is a skill Tatum has not yet shown.

He also hasn’t shown a whole lot as a cutter.

DEFENSE

Defensively, Tatum surprised with his versatility and used his instincts and physical profile to create some events but ultimately fell just shy of proving himself as an impact player on that end.

Duke employed a fairly aggressive switching scheme for most of the season and Tatum found himself matched up against smaller players regularly. In isolation, he proved himself able to get in a stance and slide his feet laterally to stay in front or keep pace on straight line drives, aside from using his reach well to pick their pockets[7], though he didn’t optimize his strength advantage to contain dribble penetration through contact all that often.

Tatum wasn’t stressed into pick-and-roll defense a whole lot in these instances but his frame suggests he is probably too big to navigate over ball screens very well. So the flexibility he offers is as someone who can switch onto a guard midway through the shot clock (baiting the opponent into an individual matchup and disrupting them out of a two-man game or a motion set that stresses the defense as a whole), instead of someone whose primary task can be guarding an opposing lead ball handler on an every possession basis.

Tatum played as the biggest wing on four-out lineups pretty much the entire time he was at Duke and was often matched up against the opponent’s smaller big man. He wasn’t all that interested in physical play and was prone to getting bullied by tougher guys from time to time but was attentive to his boxout responsibilities more often than not, collecting 19.7% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor.

Due to his role as a “big”, Tatum was relied on as the last line of defense a decent amount and impressed with his instincts rotating off the weak-side. He proved himself attentive to his help responsibilities when Duke showed hard or hedged-and-recovered against middle pick-and-roll, and put his eight-foot-10 standing reach to good use in rim protection, averaging 1.4 blocks per 40 minutes.

That said, you could tell that if Tatum had a little more length or was a more explosive athlete leaping off the ground in a pinch, he would be close to an elite difference maker since there were so many times when he was in position at the right time but just missed blocking a shot.

Nonetheless, Tatum has shown plenty to suggest that he will be someone who can execute a scheme and that mere ability of existing on defense without compromising a system can be considered a strength these days, given the level of offensive creativity trying to expose terrible defenders is at an all-time high.

[1] With three other prospects on Draft Express’ top 100, aside from Allen, who would also be ranked if he had put his name in the early entry list, and a couple of other high end recruits like Chase Jeter and Marques Bolden

[2] According to hoop-math

[3] According to our stats’ database

[4] According to sports-reference

[5] According to research by Draft Express’ Derek Bodner

[6] According to research by Draft Express’ Mike Schmitz

[7] Six-foot-11 wingspan helped him average 1.6 assists 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

De’Aaron Fox Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

De’Aaron Fox is now perceived as the third best point guard in this draft class — ranked fifth overall in Draft Express’ top 100, after leading Kentucky to 32 wins in 38 games and within two points of a Final Four appearance.

Malik Monk will be a lottery pick as well and Endrice Adebayo still has some chance of ending up a first round choice but the six-foot-three point guard was the undisputed best player on that team, the engine of the Wildcats’ 12th-ranked offense and the top playmaker on their seventh-ranked defense[1].

As we will go through later, how highly regarded a defender the 19-year-old should be is up for debate but Fox’s performance on offense was no doubt impressive, especially when you consider spacing the floor to create clear driving lanes for his point guards has never been much of a priority for John Calipari, who prefers size at all positions instead.

The Wildcats had seven players logging over 600 minutes last season but only two of them (Monk and stretch big Derek Willis) took over 100 three pointers. Mychal Mulder shot 96 of those for a superb average of 11.4 attempts per 40 minutes but he only logged 338 minutes, a good chunk of them in garbage time.

ATTACKING THE LANE

So, the fact Fox showed his top skill to be attacking the lane offers some superstar potential. The logic is, if he was that good at getting to the basket despite some of the lineups he was part of, imagine what he could do when he gets to a league where opening up the floor is becoming more and more emphasized by the day.

The lefty averaged 0.94 points per play[2], despite the fact he posted a .498 effective field goal percentage. That’s the case because he took 48.1% of his live ball attempts at the basket[3] and averaged 7.9 foul shots per 40 minutes[4].

Fox is not perfect; he has shown a strong preference for driving left and still drives into crowds a fair amount.

But the pros far outweigh the concerns in this department; Fox has an explosive first step to just blow by his man one-on-one or attacking downhill on middle high pick-and-roll, a lot of quickness to turn the corner out of side pick-and-roll and a tight handle to maneuver his way around those defenders who can stick with him side-to-side initially – as he is able to cross them over, stop-and-start, dribble in-and-out to shake them off balance, pivot his way into a well-coordinated spin move or euro-step to beat the traffic.

At the basket, Fox is explosive enough to leap out of one foot and finish strong when he gets a head of steam but for the most part is a below the basket level finisher in a crowd, showcasing some jaw dropping athletic ability to hang or adjust his body in the air in order to deal with rim protectors contesting his layups.

Fox finished his 215 shots at the rim at a 64.2% clip and 108 of his 138 makes at the basket were a result of unassisted drives (unassisted makes discounting putbacks), though it should be mentioned a good chunk of them came on fast breaks, as he averaged almost six points per game in transition[5].

He’s shown a natural inclination for speeding up the pace of the game — passing ahead off of defensive rebounds or turning on the jets to go end-to-end himself. TV broadcasters always mentioned how under his control Kentucky was posting one of the five shortest times of possession in the country and according to our stats database the Wildcats ranked 18th in the nation in pace after ranking 224th the season prior.

But aside from being a prolific scorer himself and getting the team into its offense before the opponent had a chance to set itself up, Fox also added value with the opportunities he created for his teammates, while simultaneously managing to limit the cost of them.

He is not one of those magicians who can anticipate passing lanes a split second before they come open and his court vision has been questionable at times. But Fox has shown he can consistently get good looks for others, assisting on 28.1% of Kentucky’s scores in his 1,064 minutes on the floor and turning it over on just 13.1% of his possessions, which is pretty good when you put it into the context of his 27.4% usage rate.

He’s constantly aware of the big becoming open in the pick-and-pop, can play with pace patiently waiting for a passing lane when the opposing big shows hard or hedges-and-recovers to prevent him from turning the corner, looks to suck in the help defender up until the last split second before hitting his big men on the dunker spot on drop-off passes, can make a pocket pass and has decent timing on pre-arranged lobs – as his passing out of the pick-and-roll led to an average of 1.24 points per possession[6].

DEFENSE

The other area where Fox excels at is creating events on defense.

There’s some uncertainty regarding his length. The measurements of his wingspan are all over the place on Draft Express’ database. He’s most recently been measured with a six-foot-four wingspan at the Kentucky combine but the measurements in that event have been consistently different than how Kentucky’s players measured elsewhere. Most people say they do that to inflate the kids’ vertical leaps.

Regardless, Fox has put his arms, however long they are, to good use pressing opposing ball-handlers full court with active hands and making plays in the passing lanes, as he averaged two steals per 40 minutes last season.

His athleticism also translated into contributions on the defensive glass, where he collected 12% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor.

As a result of these plays that can be easily quantified, Fox led this draft in defensive rating among point guards, according to our stats’ database.

His individual defense was more of a mixed bag, though.

He arrived at Kentucky known for his technique and anticipation skills in pick-and-roll defense, proving himself able to navigate over screens and beat his man to the spot on the other end, but wasn’t as consistent doing that at the collegiate level.

In isolation defense, Fox has adequate quickness to stay in front of position peers and keep himself in between his man and the basket but lacks strength in his thin 185-pound frame to contain dribble penetration through contact.

The hope is that Fox can eventually become a defender who offers flexibility, switching onto taller wings from time to time and offering enough resistance with his length but up until the point where he grows into his body and no longer is an open invitation for someone to drive at him or post him up, that’s only wishful thinking, so he’ll be someone who needs to be matched up on the opposing point on a full time basis for the foreseeable future.

If that point ever arrives, though, Fox has already shown he can be a good off ball defender thanks to his speed out of a standstill position closing out to spot-up shooters and running them off the three-point line and his balance to staying in front and preventing an easy path to the basket.

SHOOTING

Fox isn’t physically developed yet but given his age, that’s not any type of a deal breaker. He is not necessarily the prototype defender teams are looking for these days but he can make meaningful contributions on that end. And he is a sick close range scorer who puts pressure on the defense and it’s been consistently proven that the best way to get three-point shots still is through a guy who can collapse the opponent with a dribble drive or at least the threat of it.

So, how come Fox is not in the conversation for the number one pick?

That’s because he hasn’t yet developed an outside shot, struggling badly to score away from the basket in his one year at Lexington.

Fox does have a floater to score from the in-between area and has flashed a pull-up jumper from about 10-to-15 feet he can unleash after snaking the pick-and-roll and putting his defender in jail. That’s why his shooting percentage on two-point jumpers (36.2% on 163 attempts) doesn’t look that bad.

However, Fox posed no real threat to opponents when they successfully managed to shell his path to the basket by going under screens or sagging a couple of feet off him on his drives, nailing just 31% of his attempts off the bounce, though perhaps more concerning is the fact that his percentages were worse off the catch, as he shot just 20% on spot-ups and hit just 24.6% of his three-point shots overall, while only feeling confident enough to take just 2.6 such attempts per 40 minutes.

The team that drafts him in the top 10, perhaps as high the third pick, will do so holding on to hope that it is picking an eventual star because Fox’s shot doesn’t look particularly broken and because he converted 73.9% of his 211 foul shots, suggesting a substantial improvement in his percentages might just one tweak away in terms of form in his follow through or simply gaining more strength in his legs to sustain rising up to the same point on every attempt.

[1] According to the metrics adjusted for pace researched at kenpom.com

[2] Researched at Draft Express’ stats database

[3] Researched at hoop-math

[4] Researched at sports-reference

[5] According to research by Draft Express on Synergy Sports

[6] According to research by Draft Express’ Mike Schmitz

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