Wenyen Gabriel Scouting Report

CONTEXT

  • Wenyen Gabriel was the 14th-ranked prospect in the 2016 high school class[1] but struggled to earn a prominent role in his first year at Kentucky – averaging just 17.7 minutes per game as a freshman.
  • As a sophomore, the six-foot-nine energy big has been a more meaningful contributor – averaging 22.8 minutes per game through his first 14 appearances and finishing a few close games.
  • Gabriel does not participate in the shot creation process, other than setting ball-screens, and Kentucky does not leverage his athleticism enough in terms of setting him up for lob finishes. But he’s managed to carry his weight on offense by spacing the floor out to the three-point line and battling for second chances in the offensive glass.
  • His biggest impact is on the other end. The 20-year-old[2] leverages his length and quickness into creating events making plays in the passing lanes and in help-defense, while also doing well when stressed out in space, offering his coach flexibility on how to defend the pick-and-roll.
    • The native of South Sudan still struggles with the most physical aspects of the game, though.
  • I might be in the minority seeing him as a potential star role player. He’s not ranked on ESPN’s top 100.

DEFENSE

  • Gabriel has excellent agility for someone his size, which makes him an asset to pick up smaller players on switches. He can bend his knees to get down in a stance, slide laterally several times to stay attached stride-for-stride and use his length to effectively contest or intimidate shots at the rim.
  • Gabriel is also quick enough to defend shooting big men in the pick-and-pop, able to cover a lot of ground in a pinch going from preventing the ball handler from turning the corner right away and then closing out effectively to the shooter at the three-point line.
  • He’s been a proactive help-defender coming off the weak-side and can get off the ground in a split-second off one or two feet to protect the basket – averaging 2.4 blocks per 40 minutes[3] this season.
    • He’s also proven himself a willing to draw charges.
  • Gabriel has a six-foot-11 wingspan[4] to clog up passing lanes and reach around to strip the opponent of the ball one-on-one – averaging 1.9 steals per 40 minutes this season.
  • Thanks to the fact he’s created events in volume, Gabriel has the best defensive rating on the team among rotation players[5].
  • He is attentive to his boxout responsibilities and has held his ground in the post competently at times but Gabriel has a thin 205-pound frame in the context of his six-foot-nine height and a lot of room to improve his general toughness.
    • He’s collected just 17.7% of opponents’ misses in his 297 minutes.

OFFENSE

  • Gabriel has a fluid stroke on his catch-and-shoot three-pointer and a reasonably quick release for someone who is not a pure shooter. He is mostly only a capable open shot set shooter at this point of his development but has also flashed the ability to set his feet quickly and take shots out of the pick-and-pop, though his free throw percentage gives you some pause.
    • After hitting 31.7% of his 63 three-point attempts last season, he’s nailed 42.4% of his 33 such shots through the first 14 games this season, at a pace of 4.1 three-point looks per 40 minutes.
    • But he’s only hit 60% of his 80 foul shots through his year-and-a-half at Kentucky, including 56% of his 25 free throws this season.
  • He struggles when forced to put the ball on the floor attacking a closeout, which he does way too much for someone with his combination of loose handle, clumsiness with the ball and lack of core strength maintaining his balance and his momentum forward through contact.
    • He’s turned it over on 16% of his possessions, which is too high for someone with his 14.6% usage rate and 5% assist rate.
  • Kentucky rarely has him diving hard to the basket in the pick-and-roll.
    • Combining this and his inability to get all to the goal off the dribble, he’s taken just 26.4% of his live ball attempts at the rim and four of his 10 makes have been putbacks[6].
  • Gabriel is unable to get a deep seal in the post, even against wings.
  • Opponents can’t just switch smaller players onto him without consequence, though. He plays with a high motor and crashes the offensive glass. Despite taking 45.8% of his shots from three-point range, Gabriel has collected 10% of Kentucky’s misses when he’s been on the floor.
  • He struggles with this touch on non-dunk finishes around length protecting the basket – converting just 52.6% of his 19 shots at the rim.

[1] According to ESPN.com

[2] DOB: 3/26/1997

[3] According to sports-reference

[4] According to the measurements at the Kentucky Combine

[5] According to sports-reference

[6] According to hoop-math

READ MORE: Marvin Bagley, III | Jaren Jackson, Jr.

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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