Deandre Ayton Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

Three days after Arizona’s loss to Buffalo in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Deandre Ayton announced his intention to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft and sign with an agent, forgoing the remainder of his college eligibility.

The third-ranked prospect in the 2017 high school class[1], Ayton averaged 24 points per 40 minutes[2] on 65% true shooting and posted a 30.6 player efficiency rating in his one year in Tucson.

Other than the 1,172 minutes of college basketball experience he accumulated at Arizona, the seven-foot-one center also has under his belt 103 minutes defending the Bahamas National Team in the 2016 Centrobasket, 121 minutes in the 2016 adidas Nations and an appearance in the 2016 Nike Hoop Summit[3].

This was a good season for Ayton overall. The 19-year-old[4] once again stood out as a remarkable physical specimen within his age group, put together a very impressive statistical profile and showcased a level of skill he was not previously known for. As a result, ESPN currently ranks him as the best prospect in this draft class.

But things weren’t perfect, of course. Arizona underachieved and while Ayton isn’t considered to be one of the main reasons why, doubts over to which extent he is able to elevate his team have emerged, mostly on defense.

Ayton played the entire season out of position, not just to accommodate senior Dusan Ristic but also due to Sean Miller’s strong preference for two-big lineups at all times. Logging most of his minutes alongside a less mobile and less athletic seven-foot center, Ayton was asked to matchup with types who didn’t always provide him a chance to defend closer to the basket.

While his shot blocking numbers improved as the season went along, Ayton’s general intensity trying to make himself a more active presence near the basket remains the most scrutinized part of his game. His role within the defense is often pointed to as a potential reason why he was a fairly disappointing rim protector in college but many people have also brought up the fact that a similar situation didn’t prevent Jaren Jackson, Jr. from standing out in this area.

As is, questions over his ability to anchor an elite level defense remain.

It’s evident he has the physical talent and the athleticism to be expected to develop into a difference maker. Ayton has even made quite a few plays that suggest he understands what the smart thing to do is, in terms of preventive rotations and shadowing isolations when he can see his teammate is about to get beat. Maybe he’ll be more locked in as a pro, like Ben Simmons. He did have the best defensive rating on the team among rotation players[5].

But there are also plays where Ayton fails to translate his athletic prowess into making a real impact; not always leaving his feet to challenge shots near the basket despite being in position, hurting his chances of contesting shots more effectively by trying to avoid contact and leaving something to be desired on plays that require multiple efforts. Maybe he’ll be a guy who looks good but doesn’t help his team be good, like Andrew Wiggins. Despite the fact he averaged 33.5 minutes per game, Arizona only ranked 83rd in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency[6].

ATHLETICISM

Ayton’s most impressive trait is his physical talent. He has a remarkable combination of coordination and quickness for someone his size, aside from above average strength for someone his age. He is also an explosive leaper off two feet.

Arizona didn’t offer him good enough space for him to roll hard to the basket out of the pick-and-roll often but Ayton has proven himself able to play above the rim as a target for lobs filling the lanes in transition, on baseline out-of-bounds sets, wheeling around the defense on screen-for-the-screener plays and hovering near the baseline in the dunker spot.

Aside from power finishes, he has also shown the balance, ball skills and touch on non-dunk finishes when he’s needed to catch, take a dribble to gather himself and go up strong off two feet or score around a man between him and the basket – converting 82.1% of his 218 shots at the rim[7].

His leaping ability also made him a very effective offensive rebounder at the collegiate level. Ayton has a knack for pursuing the ball off the rim, a seven-foot-five wingspan to rebound outside his area and a quick second jump to fight for tip-ins and 50-50 balls. He collected 13.4% of Arizona’s misses when he was on the floor this season and converted 85.7% of his 49 putback attempts.

On the other end, his advantage in instincts and athleticism made up for the fact Ayton isn’t attentive to his boxout responsibilities very often, aside from the fact that playing alongside Ristic offered him a chance of matching up against a lesser challenger on the boards on most nights. His 287 defensive rebounds ranked third in the NCAA, as he collected 28.2% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor.

As mentioned earlier, Ayton’s defense wasn’t up to what was expected from someone who looks like he should be a dominant presence. Besides the well publicized iffy rim protection instincts, there is lot of times Ayton doesn’t look like the most engaged defender. He’ll come in and bump the roll man from time-to-time but doesn’t stay in a stance off the ball, is prone to getting face cut, never puts much effort into preventing his man from getting a clean catch in the post and had just 20 steals in 35 appearances – an appalling mark for someone with his length.

But the team that wants to overlook these things, or at least put a lower value on them, and fully buy into his potential instead has plenty of reasons do it. When he is engaged, Ayton can be a very impactful defender in the hidden parts of the game.

He can bend his knees to get down in a stance defending on the ball and has proven himself able to pick up smaller players on switches, stay attached to them stride-for-stride out in space and intimidate shots at the basket.

Though he struggled in the second Oregon game against MiKyle McIntosh and Paul White, Ayton has generally shown the quickness to run stretch big men off their shots in the pick-and-pop and maintain his balance to stay in front, doing a particularly good job against the notorious Thomas Welsh in the first UCLA game.

He did show some ability to contain ball handlers from turning the corner on pick-and-rolls as well, though those were few and far between because of Miller’s preferred strategy of having his big men hedge on ball-screens, despite their ineffectiveness influencing opposing ball handlers.

And there were times Ayton stepped up to protect the basket as the last line of defense just fine, leveraging his quick leaping ability and his nine-foot-three wingspan into averaging 2.3 blocks per 40 minutes.

SKILL LEVEL

Or maybe some team will accept the risk of him never quite figuring out on defense in order to do business with his offense, which projects to be quite special.

Ayton has been a very famous basketball prospect for a long time due to his athletic prowess but showed in his one year at Arizona that he’s taking steps towards developing into a very skilled player as well.

Though he had a strength advantage just about every night this season and knocked most opponents backwards when he lowered his shoulder, Ayton was often more interested in relying on skill to score out of the post.

His preferred move was turning, facing his man, sizing him up and launching a sudden no-dribble jumper, sometimes even mixing in a jab-step. He can go to a turnaround, fadeaway jumper too. His jump-shot has evolved into more of a legit threat since he was in high school, as he’s been able to put more arc on it more often.

Ayton has also flashed a move where he pivots around his man very fluidly for a short hook or a scoop finish and a counter where he fakes the pivot and goes the other way, proving himself to be an ambidextrous finisher.

Overall, he converted 42.1% of his 198 two-point attempts away from the basket.

But more impressive, perhaps, has been Ayton’s dexterity escape dribbling out of hard double teams and his court vision passing out of the low post. He’s not a genius passer but has shown he is able to spot breakdowns in the defense and read cuts or drifts very well, which he was not previously known for.

Ayton assisted on 10.2% of Arizona’s scores when he was on the floor and turned it over on just 11.3% of his possessions – which is a low mark in the context of his 26.6% usage rate.

Last but not least, he’s flashed more robust potential as a jump-shooter.

Ayton is now a capable shooter from the college three-point line on pick-and-pops. He does nice shot preparation catching it on the hop, elevates in balance, has fluid mechanics, gets his shot off comfortably against closeouts from opposing big men, releases it from a high point tough to block and shows nice touch.

Ayton nailed 12 of his 35 three-point attempts in college and was enough of a threat that opponents were selling out to run him off his shot towards the end of the season. In these instances, Ayton even flashed a mini-pump fake and the ability to attack off the dribble on a straight line, using his strength to maintain his balance through contact and get all the way to the rim.

He needs to continue working on getting arc on his shot consistently in order to back down a few feet out to NBA range but Ayton has also nailed 73.3% of his 191 foul shots, so the expectation is he should be able to develop into a legit threat from three-point range in the pros as well.

[1] According to ESPN

[2] According to sports-reference

[3] According to our stats’ database

[4] DOB: 7/23/1998

[5] According to our stats’ database

[6] According to Ken Pomeroy

[7] 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

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Khyri Thomas Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

Khyri Thomas was unranked out of Fork Union Military Academy in 2015[1] but has managed to build over his three years at Creighton a résumé worthy of first round consideration in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Through 101 NCAA appearances, the six-foot-three wing has accumulated 2,735 minutes of college ball experience up until this point.

His statistical profile features a dip in a few areas in comparison to last season but it’s still pretty strong across the board for someone with his role, as the 21-year-old[2] has averaged 19.3 points per 40 minutes on 65.5% true shooting this season[3].

Thomas was not responsible for running offense on a regular basis, as his 21.2% usage rate and 14.9% assist rate attest[4]. He did most of his work on the second side, spotting up or coming off screens, though there were also times where he had a more active role in shot creation by taking smaller matchups into the post and running middle pick-and-rolls in emergency situations late in the shot clock.

But Thomas is more highly thought of for his defense. He is Creighton’s primary on-ball defender, consistently tasked with guarding opposing point guards. Thomas is not perfect, as there are times where opponents without particularly impressive athleticism have blown by him at the point of attack, but he puts in the effort to stay attached to his man more often than not in individual defense and has shown he is aware of his responsibilities executing the scheme as well.

In an Era where the biggest stars in the league are mostly wings who handle the ball often, there is an increase in demand for point guard-sized shooters who can supplement these ball handling wings by providing spacing on one end and defending smaller types on the other. So, Thomas will be entering the league at a time where teams are looking for someone with his exact skill-set. As is, ESPN currently ranks him 21st in its top 100.

SECOND SIDE

Thomas’ top skill on offense at this point of his development is his jumper, as he’s proven to have a versatile enough release to take shots on the move as well as on spot-ups.

And Creighton has leveraged his quick trigger in several ways; having him jog around staggered screens from the restricted area to the wing, run off a pindown screen to the top of the key, sprint to the ball for dribble-handoffs and even wheel around pick-and-rolls to confuse zone defenses.

Thomas is obviously no JJ Redick yet but he is the sort of prospect who has a real chance of eventually becoming that level of a shooter down the line. He does excellent shot preparation catching it on the hop, exhibits fluid mechanics consistent enough to withstand the need to stop on a dime and rise up in a split-second against the momentum of his body, gets very good elevation for a high release and has a quick trigger.

And even in instances where the opponent managed to prevent him from shooting off the catch instantly, Thomas has shown a knack for creating enough space to rise up for no-dribble jumpers with a combination of jab-step and rip through move.

He has nailed 40.9% of his 320 three-point shots over his three years at Creighton, at a pace of 4.7 such attempts per 40 minutes, though that rate is up to a more pleasing 5.9 average this season. He’s also hit 72.1% of his 208 foul shots.

Thanks to the prolificacy of his jumper and the effect that it had on Creighton’s offense even when he wasn’t shooting it, Thomas ranks second in offense rating among rotation players[5] in a team that ranks 22nd in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency[6].

ATTACKING CLOSEOUTS

Thomas is not an explosive player off the dribble and when opponents have switched shooting actions at the top, he’s struggled to blow by big men on a straight line. His handle is very rudimentary as of now, especially going to his left, and he hasn’t shown a whole lot of quickness changing directions on the move.

Thomas can get all the way to the basket against similarly sized players maintaining his balance through contact and he’s shown to be an effective finisher against size around the basket. He’s flashed a euro-step in the secondary break to weave his way through traffic and has a six-foot-10 wingspan to over-extend on finger-roll finishes, which he’s proven to be ambidextrous at.

Thomas is not as versatile a finisher as he is a shooter; he can’t finish through contact, isn’t an explosive leaper out of one or two feet, hasn’t shown much flexibility to hang or adjust his body in the air and hasn’t yet developed a knack for drawing contact – averaging just three foul shots per 40 minutes throughout his college career.

But he was pretty efficient in college, converting his 330 shots at the rim at a 67.8% clip, with just 90 of his 224 layups/dunks assisted[7].

SHOT CREATION

Other than moving off the ball, Thomas contributes the most with the shot creation process by taking smaller players into the post every now and again.

He has a strong 210-pound frame in the context of his six-foot-three height and while he doesn’t use it to get deep seals consistently, he offers his teammate enough of a window for the post entry regularly and then goes to work.

His preferred move is turning, facing his man, jab-stepping once or twice, rip-through and then rise up for a no-dribble jumper. He’s been very effective with his sequence, nailing 44.6% of his 83 two-point jumpers this season, with most of his makes coming out of the post, given Thomas hasn’t shown to be much of a pull-up jump-shooter so far.

Thomas has also done well mixing in a power move, backing his defender for a couple of dribbles, demanding a double team and passing out of that double.

His passing is also his best attribute off the dribble, whether it’s handling from the top against a set defense or attacking a scrambling defense out of kickouts or ball reversals, as he’s shown to be very coordinated on shot-fake, drive, drop-off sequences and also impressed with his court vision hitting to the opposite corner when he’s got to the basket but couldn’t finish.

When he’s had to run middle pick-and-rolls late in the shot clock, Thomas has shown a light hesitation dribble to try creating a driving lane for himself and can make bounce passes against soft doubles and passes to the opposite end facing that way – assisting on 14.9% of Creighton’s scores over his 1,009 minutes this season.

He hasn’t yet developed the handle and the ability to play with pace to be asked to create offense for himself or others more often, though. Thomas has a loose handle, doesn’t have much in terms of dribble moves to shake his man off balance in isolation and hasn’t shown the ability to tie up the last line of defense until the last possible split-second before hitting the roll man.

ON BALL DEFENSE

Thomas is a good defender on the ball.

He bends his knees to get in a stance, puts in the effort to stay attached to his man one-on-one, ices ball-screens, works to get over picks at the point of attack and uses his rumored six-foot-10 wingspan to reach around opposing point guards and make plays on the ball in volume – averaging 2.1 steals per 40 minutes this season.

He is not without flaws, though.

There were multiple times where guys like Jalen Brunson and Bryant McIntosh, who won’t exactly rate as elite in terms of first steps in the NBA, just blew by him out in space, which was a bit disconcerting to see. His lateral reaction isn’t always as elite as you’d like to see from someone who will earn a bulk of his money based on his ability to defend the strongest position in the league out on an island.

Thomas also can’t cleanly navigate picks, almost always brushing on the opposing big man, needing his big teammate to prevent the opponent from turning the corner or pulling up right away in order to make it back in front. And despite his strong frame, he doesn’t contain dribble penetration often.

OFF BALL DEFENSE

That said, Thomas does leverage that strength to offer versatility picking up bigger players on switches. Aside his length, he’s proven himself an asset to matchup with bulkier types with his tenacity fronting the post to deny the feed and boxing out.

Operating as a weak-side defender, Thomas stays in a stance off the ball and even faceguards players he deems more challenging. He’s shown to be attentive to his rotation responsibilities crashing inside to pick up the roll man and closing out to the corner when the teammate responsible for that corner helped at the basket.

Thomas has also impressed in plays that demand multiple efforts; stunting-and-recovering, closing out-and-staying balanced as the opponent puts the ball on the floor and sprinting to crowd the area near the basket on desperate scrambles. In these instances, he leveraged his length to make plays in the passing lanes and proved himself willing to draw charges.

Another way Thomas makes a tangible impact is as an active contributor in the glass, exhibiting quick leaping ability off two feet and instincts reacting to the ball – collecting 13.6% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor in college, a nice mark for someone his size.

[1] According to ESPN

[2] DOB: 5/8/1996

[3] According to sports-reference

[4] According to our stats’ database

[5] According to our stats’ database

[6] According to Ken Pomeroy

[7] 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

Chandler Hutchison Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

Chandler Hutchison was the 80th-ranked prospect in the 2014 high school class[1].

Through 121 appearances over his four-year stay at Boise State, the six-foot-seven wing has accumulated 2,883 minutes of college ball experience up until this point.

Hutchison saw a big jump in production from year two to year three but opted to return for a fourth year hoping to refine the edges of his game before turning pro. It worked out well, as his numbers improved across the board, with the exception of his three-point percentage, which dipped a bit in trade of him getting up a higher volume of shots.

The 21-year-old[2] is averaging 25.3 points per 40 minutes on 57.1% true shooting and posting a 25.7 player efficiency rating this season[3]. He also has the best defensive rating among rotation players[4] on a team that ranks 33rd in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, even if against only the 100th-toughest schedule[5].

Hutchison is not the primary shot creator at Boise State but has proven himself able to run side pick-and-rolls to keep the offense moving and initiates offense with some regularity when he brings the ball up the court himself on grab-and-go’s. He has only basic skills and instincts handling the ball at this point of his development, though.

Hutchison projects as a spot-up shooter in a ‘shoot it or move it’ role away from the ball but who can take some advantage of a scrambling defense and run a break.

On the other end, he performed well within what was asked of him: a basic role guarding similarly sized players where he was away from the ball more often than not, so what he did the most was closing out and pitching in on the defensive glass, the latter of which he did at an elite level for a pure wing.

Hutchison wasn’t asked to pick up smaller or bigger players on switches often, so it’s unclear how much versatility he offers. Boise State also played quite a bit of zone, which took away some opportunity for him to showcase what other skills he has that can be expected to translate to the pros.

Overall, Hutchison has excellent measurements for what the NBA looks for in its wings these days and put together a strong collegiate career where he managed to improve every year. As a result, ESPN currently ranks him 25th in its top 100.

SHOOTING

Hutchison is only an open shot spot-up shooter at this point of his development. He’s capable of crossing over into pull-ups but is more effective for now off the catch out of a standstill without an opponent rushing his release. 33 of his 43 three-point makes this season were assisted[6].

Hutchison fully extends himself for a high release but his motion, while pretty fluid, features a pronounced dip for rhythm, which slows down his trigger some.

He’s nailed 35.3% of his 315 three-point shots over his four-year stay at Boise State, at a pace of just three such attempts per 40 minutes, though that rate is up to a more encouraging 5.3 average this season.

Hutchison has also hit just 68.2% of his 488 foul shots over his collegiate career, which puts into question whether he has the touch to eventually develop into more than just an average outside shooter.

In terms of complexity of shots, Boise State had him coming off pindown screens to the top of the key every once in a while but didn’t have him take other types of tough shots on the move very often.

SHOT CREATION & FINISHING

Hutchison has posted a 32.8% usage rate and assisted on 24% of Boise State’s scores over his 896 minutes this season[7], so he’s had plenty of opportunities to create offense every way possible; in transition, out of triple-threat position, off a live dribble, against a set defense.

Out of all of those, he does best off the catch against a scrambling defense, meaning attacking a closeout or on dribble hand-offs on the side of the floor. He’s pretty smooth on a straight line and can get all the way to the basket in a split-second due to his long strides.

Though he is not often an explosive leaper in a crowd, Hutchison has flashed some power going up off one foot with momentum. But his most impressive scores tend to be when he leverages the strength in his 197-pound frame[8] to finish through contact or double clutch in the air and finish on his way down.

He’s also shown to be a somewhat resourceful finisher in traffic, able to stop on a dime and shot fake to get the rim protector out of the way, and make some off balance scoop layups with his off hand with a body between him and the basket as well.

His touch on these lefty finishes doesn’t always look great but Hutchison has converted an excellent 70.5% of his 132 shots at the basket this season.

His work off multiple dribbles against a set defense is more of a mixed bag.

Hutchison has a loose handle, lacks an explosive first step to lose his man on speed, doesn’t have particularly impressive side-to-side quickness and is yet to develop a versatile collection of dribble moves to shake his man off balance. As is, he struggles to create separation one-on-one and can’t split double teams at the point of attack.

But Hutchison still managed to put a good deal of pressure at the rim in college – taking a third of his live-ball shots at the basket and averaging 8.8 foul shots per 40 minutes this season. He has a light hesitation move and an in-and-out dribble to snake his way into his spots out of the pick-and-roll or weave his way through traffic in the secondary break. He can also gain ground in isolation on a decently coordinated spin move or maintaining his balance through contact.

His in-between game has looked rougher, though.

As mentioned earlier, Hutchison has shown the ability to crossover into pull-ups when the opponents sags off him some. He is capable of hitting the eventual uncontested dribble-in three-pointer out of the pick-and-roll too.

But Hutchison hasn’t yet shown much dexterity setting up step-back jumpers in isolation, as he struggles to get separation to rise up comfortably. And since most opponents don’t respect his quickness and suddenness, they play up on him, so the elbow jumper is pretty much never available either. His running floater and his floater off a jump-stop are also 50-50 propositions at best.

Therefore, he’s hit just 35.1% of his 148 two-pointers away from the basket this season.

Hutchison is a willing passer on the move, particularly on drive-and-kick’s, passing ahead in transition and moving the ball quickly around the horn. He’s also shown flashes of interesting court vision making a crosscourt pass to the opposite end or a simple pass over the top out of the pick-and-roll and feeling double teams when he takes a smaller matchup into the post.

But Hutchison is more of a robotic than an instinctual passer right now. He hasn’t yet developed the control to play with pace in the pick-and-roll, making the pass he’s supposed to make to the opposite wing simply because that’s what he’s told to do, rather than looking to tie up the big defender as much as he can to stress the defense to its breaking point and create a tangible advantage before kicking out.

His assist percentage is impressive but on the other hand, Hutchison has a 1.08-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio this season and a 1.1-to-1 over his four years at Boise State.

DEFENSE

It’s hard to project Hutchison’s individual defense in the pros. He is not noticeably quick but was up to the standard for the level he played against.

Hutchison mostly hunches rather than bends his knees getting down in a stance but shows adequate quickness sliding side-to-side to stay in front of similarly sized players in isolation. He can’t get skinny navigating screens cleanly at the point of attack but puts in the effort to slide over and hustle back to his man, though he needs to rely on his big teammate preventing the ball-handler from turning the corner right away in order not compromise the scheme.

His biggest problem on this end is that he’s been caught more than a few times ball-watching and gave up some bad-looking backdoor cuts. Having said that, Hutchison’s off ball defense tends to be more of a strong point than a weakness.

He is vocal communicating switches and is attentive to his responsibilities rotating in to box out a big man when the last line of defense has to step up to the ball within Boise State’s zone defense.

In a normal man-to-man scheme, Hutchison has shown he’s alert rotating inside to bump the roll man and coming off the weak-side in the help defense. He is not a shot blocker but has a quick jump going up off two feet to challenge shots at the basket via verticality.

His closeouts are not perfect, as he hasn’t shown particularly impressive speed running shooters off their shots regularly but Hutchison at least puts in the effort to challenge catch-and-shoots as well as he can, which is also seen in instances where he’s forced to stunt and recover back to the three-point arc. That lack of impressive speed is also on display when he has to chase shooters around staggered screens but Hutchinson also at least puts in the effort to try cutting corners.

His most tangible impact on this end comes when he uses his length and leaping ability to create events in the passing lanes and pitching in on the glass. Hutchison is rumored to have a seven-foot wingspan and has shown quick instincts reacting to the ball – averaging 1.9 steals per 40 minutes and collecting 25.7% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor this season.

[1] According to ESPN

[2] DOB: 4/26/1996

[3] According to sports-reference

[4] According to our stats’ database

[5] According to Ken Pomeroy

[6] According to hoop-math

[7] According to our stats’ database

[8] According to Boise State

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