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

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Bruce Brown, Jr. Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

Bruce Brown, Jr. was the 26th-ranked prospect in the 2016 high school class[1].

In a year and a half at Miami, the 21-year-old[2] has accumulated 1,693 minutes of college ball experience. Through his time there, the Hurricanes have won two thirds of their games and looked like a reasonable Elite Eight hopeful each year.

Through 19 games this season, the six-foot-five combo guard has averaged 13.5 points per 40 minutes on 48.8% true shooting and posted a 16.6 PER[3].

Brown is not the one tasked with triggering the offense every possession but gets a fair amount of responsibility creating out of high pick-and-roll against a set defense. The presence of career 40.8% three-point shooter Anthony Lawrence, II as a stretch four offers decent spacing for him to work with but Brown isn’t having a particularly impressive season as a scorer, though the flashes of tantalizing reads on the move as a passer are still there.

More troubling, perhaps, is the fact he has regressed as a spot-up shooter, with his foul shooting percentage supporting concerns over that decline.

On the other end, Brown has the strength, the length and the lateral quickness to be expected to develop into a dominant defender who creates events and offers his coach a lot of flexibility on how to deploy him.

So, he is ranked 19th on ESPN’s top 100.

SHOT CREATION

Brown hasn’t yet developed into an advanced ball handler but has shown to be somewhat resourceful operating in middle high pick-and-roll. He has a stop-and-start hesitation move to try losing his man around the screen and an in-and-out dribble to get downhill or snake his way to a spot around the elbow area.

Brown has an explosive first step, some burst going left and strength in his 202-pound frame to maintain his balance through contact in order to get all the way to the basket often. He’s taken 43.6% of his live-ball attempts at the rim[4] and averaged 4.4 foul shots per 40 minutes this season.

Brown is not an instinctive passer who can anticipate openings in the defense a split-second ahead of everybody and has a habit of picking up his dribble before he is certain a passing lane has materialized – turning it over on 16.1% of his possessions over his time at Miami[5].

But Brown has flashed some polished work in the pick-and-roll – showing some ability to pass over the top against the big playing up on him and make passes across his body to the opposite end or tie up the last line of defense to toss up lobs and deliver pocket passes after turning the corner – assisting on 20.4% of Miami’s scores over his 640 minutes this season.

SCORING

Brown is an explosive leaper with some space to take flight and can play above the rim as a target for lobs on baseline cuts or filling the lanes in transition but struggles going up strong in traffic. He’s a lot more confident as a two-foot leaper and rarely rises off one foot off the dribble.

He has also struggled as a finisher because he hasn’t yet developed dexterity using his length to over-extend or complete reverses around rim protectors. Brown can hang in the air and is strong enough to finish through contact but has iffy touch on non-dunk finishes among the trees, especially with his left hand.

He has converted just 58.5% of his 82 shots at the basket as a sophomore, with 20 of his 48 makes assisted, after shooting a so-so 62.3% on his 138 such attempts as a freshman.

That lack of touch also comes across in his jumper and his floater.

Brown has a fluid release and mechanics that look like a decent foundation to build upon but can’t put the ball in the basket, off the dribble or off the catch.

He doesn’t have a lot of side-to-side quickness to shake his defender off balance but aside from snaking the pick-and-roll, Brown can also get his shot off one-on-one hang dribbling into pull-ups. His shot selection is not superb but is not particularly subpar either.

Nonetheless, he has hit just 30.4% of his 46 two-point jumpers this season.

His regression as a floor-spacer is more concerning, though. Brown has gone from capable spot-up shooter in year one to guy opponents can help off entirely in year two – as he’s nailed just 26.7% of his 60 three-point shots this season, at a pace of 3.8 such attempts per 40 minutes, while hitting 62.9% of his 70 foul shots.

Due to his poor shooting percentages across all zones, Brown has the third worst offensive rating on the team among rotation players[6].

DEFENSE

Brown bends his knees to get down in a stance and though he doesn’t use his strength to contain dribble penetration, Brown has appealing lateral quickness to slide multiple times out in space, stay attached all the way and use his length to challenge shots at the rim.

He slides over picks at the point of attack reasonably cleanly and hustles to come back to his man in order to relief his big teammate in a timely manner.

Miami doesn’t switch as much this season as it did last year but Brown has proven he can defend bigger wings, thanks to his strength and his six-foot-nine wingspan[7].

Picking up big men on switches, he puts a body on them but hasn’t shown an inclination for getting very physical boxing them out. Brown impressed with his attentiveness acting as the last line of defense, though, making preventive rotations that kept the opposing ball handler from getting all the way to the basket after beating a teammate of his.

As a weak-side help defender, Brown steps inside to pick up the roll man regularly and has shown decent instincts using his length to make plays in the passing lanes – averaging 1.7 steals per 40 minutes over his time at Miami.

That said, his closeouts are bad – a mix of weak efforts and selling out to run the shooter off his shot, subsequently giving up an easy path to the lane off the bounce.

His most tangible contribution is on the defensive glass, where Brown has shown a knack for mixing it up in the scrum and chasing the ball quicker than the competition – collecting 18.8% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor this season, a remarkable mark for someone his height.

[1] According to ESPN.com

[2] DOB: 8/15/1996

[3] According to sports-reference

[4] According to hoop-math

[5] According to our stats’ database

[6] According to our stats’ database

[7] According to Draft Express

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

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Scouting Report

CONTEXT

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was the 35th-ranked prospect in the 2017 high school class[1].
  • Through the first 13 games, the six-foot-six combo guard has averaged 16.2 points per 40 minutes on 55% effective shooting and assisted on 24.9% of Kentucky’s scores over his 372 minutes[2].
  • Gilgeous-Alexander has alternated between running point when Quade Green is out of the game and playing off the ball alongside him.
    • The native of Hamilton, Ontario can make an open jumper and is a quick decision maker putting the ball on the floor off the catch but his best work has been done running middle high pick-and-roll.
  • On the other end, the 19-year-old[3] has also alternated between defending the point of attack and as a wing defender while accommodating Green.
  • He has great assets in terms of height, length and quickness to be expected to develop into an elite defender who offers his coach a lot of flexibility on how to place him in the lineup and the fact that he already puts in the effort is a great sign. He needs bulk up, though, possessing a weak 182-pound frame at this point of his development.
  • ESPN ranks him 47th in its top 100.

SHOT CREATION

  • Gilgeous-Alexander has an almost complete package in terms of athletic abilities running pick-and-roll:
    • Speed turning the corner or getting downhill to drive deep into the lane;
    • The ability to play with pace, mixing in change of speeds to wait for driving lanes to clear on slower developing plays;
    • A height advantage over the average opposing point guard, which helps him to make passes over the top.
  • But he still has a lot of room to refine his actual skill level working off a ball-screen:
    • Being prone to having the ball stripped in traffic – turning it over on 19.2% of his possessions;
    • Having not yet developed dynamic enough pull-up jumpers or floaters to force opponents to play up on him – missing 26 of his 39 two-pointers away from the basket up until now[4];
    • Able to make a kick-out and a drop-off pass against the defense collapsing to him but yet to show advanced court vision in terms of making passes across his body to the opposite end of the court.
  • Gilgeous-Alexander can breakdown the defense without the aid of a screen. He has dribble moves (crossover, in-and-out, behind the back, hesitation) and side-to-side shake to get by his man and attack the basket in straight isolations or on catch-and-go’s off ball reversals and dribble hand-offs.
    • He’s taken 43% of his 100 live-ball attempts at the rim and averaged 5.1 foul shots per 40 minutes.
  • Given his height, it’s tempting for a coach to play him as a wing but Gilgeous-Alexander is a legit point guard, having shown good feel for controlling the rhythm of the game, in terms of finding the right balance between passing ahead to speed up the pace or walking the ball up to run organized half-court offense.

SHOOTING & FINISHING

  • Gilgeous-Alexander is a below-the-rim finisher at this point of his development, lacking explosiveness off one foot to go up strong in traffic. But he’s flexible enough to adjust his body in the air and finish around length on reverses or stretching out his long arms on side toss-ups.
    • He’s converted 69.8% of his 43 attempts at the rim, even proving himself able to finish with his left hand.
  • Gilgeous-Alexander is only an open-shot shooter at this point of his development. He is almost a set shooter, getting little elevation and launching the ball from a low point. His release is also slow and mechanical as of now. But his mechanics seem like a decent foundation to build upon and he certainly has touch on his shot.
    • He’s nailed eight of his 18 three-point attempts and 87.2% of his 47 foul shots so far this season.

DEFENSE

  • Gilgeous-Alexander has shown to be a disciplined individual defender. He bends his knees to get down in a stance and can slide laterally several times to stay in front. He lacks strength to contain penetration but uses his length to contest shots effectively.
  • He has also shown to be an excellent pick-and-roll defender:
    • Able to get skinny to go over the pick;
    • Showing a sense of urgency to hurry back to his man in order not to compromise the integrity of the scheme behind him too much;
    • Using his seven-foot wingspan[5] to block, deflect and effectively challenge shots and passes from behind as the trailer.
  • His height and length suggests he could be an option to pick up bigger players on switches but he is not strong or tenacious enough for that just yet.
  • Gilgeous-Alexander has shown a knack for using his length making plays in the passing lanes and reaching around to strip opposing point guards of the ball in individual defense – averaging 3.2 steals per 40 minutes.
  • His contributions in the defensive glass or coming off the weak-side to crowd the area near the basket have been marginal.

[1] According to ESPN.com

[2] According to sports-reference

[3] DOB: 7/12/1998

[4] According to hoop-math

[5] According to the measurements on Kentucky’s Combine

READ MORE: Trevon Duval | Collin Sexton | Cassius Winston

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

Cassius Winston Scouting Report

CONTEXT

While checking up on Jaren Jackson, Jr. and Miles Bridges, Cassius Winston caught my attention. Michigan State’s six-foot lead ball handler is not a potent scorer, magic passer or a difference maker on defense but plays very intelligent basketball on both ends.

The soon-to-be 20 year-old[1] sophomore is the trigger man of an offense that is mid-post oriented, focusing on the wings getting their catches sprinting around down screens or playing through the big men in the elbows.

As is, Winston’s role is more controlling the pace of the game, keeping things moving and spacing the floor than creating off the bounce but when he’s been needed to drive, Winston has proven himself a very good passer on the move.

He doesn’t have the physical traits to be an elite defender but executes the scheme down to a tee. Unable to create events in volume, Winston brings value to the table by being someone who will be in the right place at the right time.

QUARTERBACKING

He has impressed a lot with his feel for the game, in terms of understanding the right moments to pass ahead and speed up the pace or to walk the ball up the court and prioritize running some half-court offense, which he subsequently continues to aid by keeping the ball moving.

When asked to breakdown the defense out of the pick-and-roll, he’s shown a lot of craft maneuvering his way in the two-man game. Winston can’t just turn on the jets to turn the corner on explosiveness but manipulates his man expertly around the screen to put him in jail and uses head fakes to tie up the helper and create a window to hit the roll man with a bounce pass or a lob toss.

He is not one of those magicians who anticipate passing lanes a split-second before they come open and hasn’t yet shown an ability to make passes across his body to the opposite end of the floor.

But Winston consistently manages to keep his dribble alive if a shot opportunity doesn’t develop right away and has proven he is able to take advantage of defenders helping one pass away, make wraparound passes in traffic to a big close by deep in the lane or probe under the basket to stress the defense late into the shot clock.

He’s assisted on 46.1% of Michigan State’s scores when he’s been on the floor this season[2], a mark that currently leads the NCAA, on a 2.9-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

SCORING

Winston can create a decent look for himself in isolation. Though he can’t just blow by his man out on an island and hasn’t yet shown a particularly deep arsenal of dribble moves, Winston can get around or create separation with some side-to-side shake and stop-and-start hesitations.

He can make a step-back jumper from the elbow if the defender doesn’t manage to contest the shot effectively and has flashed a floater to finish over length from the in-between area, nailing 47.6% of his 21 two-point jumpers so far[3], but isn’t a particularly aggressive shot taker, as his low 20.3% usage rate attests.

When he’s had a path to the goal and took it, Winston has struggled as an interior scorer. A speed layup appears to be his only method of finishing, as he’s unable to attack the basket with any sort of explosiveness or complete up-and-under’s around rim protectors – converting just 50% of his 20 shots at the rim and earning just 15 free throws in 12 appearances this season.

Winston offsets the fact he can’t get easy baskets by shooting the crap out of the ball on catch-and-shoot bombs. He’s nailed 46.4% of his 112 three-point attempts over his 45 games in college, including a scorching 61% of his first 41 this season, at a pace of 6.2 such attempts per 40 minutes.

Michigan State has deployed him as more of a spot-up shooter, though, as we are yet to see him take many shots on the move, whether it’s sprinting around staggered screens or acting as the backscreener on Spain pick-and-rolls. Winston has a low release but gets quite a bit of elevation and some of the pull-ups he’s taken in transition suggest they could do a better job leveraging his quick trigger.

DEFENSE

Winston is not an elite individual stopper and doesn’t have the measurables or the athletic ability to create many events but has proven himself a very intelligent defender who can execute the scheme.

He is a proactive help defender who reads well when his teammate over-commits on a hedge or is about to get beat off the bounce, stepping up to pick up a roll man or clog up a driving lane.

On the ball, Winston works diligently to go over screens and hurry back to his man in a timely manner. Though he lacks the length to block shots or deflect passes from behind, Winston stays attached to his man all the way and is opportunistic looking for chances to poke the ball.

In individual defense, he gets down in a stance, has the lateral quickness to stay in front and some bulk in his 185-pound frame to contain dribble penetration by similarly sized players, though high end athletes have shown not to have that big an issue finishing around him.

[1] Date of birth: February, 28th, 1998

[2] According to sports-reference

[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

Malik Monk Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

After that remarkable first month-and-a-half of the season that I profiled in December, Malik Monk came down to Earth a little bit the rest of the way but nothing happened to dissuade most people from the notion that he is the most potent scorer in this draft class – currently ranked sixth in Draft Express’ top 100.

A sick shot maker who proved himself a valuable chess piece that can be moved all over the floor to stress the defense, Monk averaged 24.8 points per 40 minutes on a .543 effective field goal percentage, while 79.6% of his attempts were taken away from the basket[1]. Able to profit of the space he created with his presence, Kentucky averaged 118.3 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor[2].

Viewed as a potential lead ball handler in high school, Monk didn’t have many opportunities to run half-court offense in Lexington. Even when De’Aaron Fox was out of the game, Isaiah Briscoe was the one responsible for bringing the ball up and triggering their sets at the point of attack.

Maybe there is more to Monk’s shot creation potential than he showed at Kentucky. Devin Booker and Jamal Murray are two recent examples of off guards who didn’t have enough chances to showcase their off dribble skills there. But in instances where he found himself in need of penetrating against a set defense, Monk didn’t impress a whole lot.

His defense was at best a mixed bag. At no point he flashed any ability to be an impact player on that end of the court and his awareness away from the ball is suspect but Monk did show some promise defending smaller players in the pick-and-roll when he got help from his big man, which was meaningful.

Because of his below average physical profile for a wing (six-foot-three height, 197-pound frame, six-foot-six wingspan[3]), Monk’s future in the pros very well could be as a 3&D point guard who supplements ball-dominant wings by guarding opposing point guards and spacing the floor on offense when those guys run offense.

SHOOTING

47% of his shots were three-pointers, at a pace of 8.6 attempts per 40 minutes. His role was not as a mere spot-up threat, as Monk proved himself able to make shots on the move, running around staggered screens from one side of the court to another and sprinting to the ball on dribble hand-offs. Able to plant his feet against full momentum, rise in balance and pull the trigger in a pinch with his quick release, Monk averaged 1.0 point per possession coming off screens[4].

In instances where the opponent ran him off his shot or he got to create his own look off a live dribble, off ball reversals and in the secondary break, Monk also impressed with his ability to hit shots off the bounce. Though he didn’t show much in terms of advanced dribble moves to get his defender on his heels, Monk managed to get his jump-shots off consistently well by crossing over into his pull-ups or step-backing to create separation.

He nailed 39.7% of his 262 three-point shots and 37.9% of his 182 two-point jumpers, with 55 of his 69 mid-range makes unassisted, while averaging 1.01 point per possession on pull-ups.

OTHER AREAS OF OFFENSE

Monk looked good getting to the basket in transition and on free paths to the goal in the half-court when his defender sold out to run him off the three-point line and the help-defender didn’t rotate.

He is an explosive leaper off one or two feet with some space to take flight and is an option to play above the rim as a target for lobs on cutting behind the defense. Stretch big Derek Willis started the last nine games of the season and averaged almost 27 minutes per game during the stretch, which opened up some space for backdoor cutting and Monk flashed some instinctive diving baseline in more than a few opportunities.

But with the ball in his hands and a set defense in front of him, Monk struggled to get all the way to the basket a whole lot. Despite his reputation from high school, he didn’t show a particularly diverse set of dribble moves to get by his man with craftiness in isolation or the ability to play with pace in pick-and-roll. The handle he showed in college was only OK, though the fact he turned it over on just 10.4% of his possessions despite his 27.3% usage rate is something in his favor.

Monk can be very smooth on catch-and-go’s attacking closeouts but instead of putting consistent pressure on the rim, he stopped midway through his drives to rise up for floaters and stop-and-pop short-range jumpers more often than not. His shot selection was at times suspect.

Monk made just 41 shots at the basket in his 38 appearances at Kentucky, while averaging 5.9 foul shots per 40 minutes[5] – a mark that is not poor but also not substantially impressive for someone with his athletic ability.

His passing on the move was better than expected, though. Monk is not quite the second coming of Manu Ginóbili but he proved himself unselfish on kick-outs and drop-offs when he managed to suck in an extra defender – assisting on 13.3% of Kentucky’s scores in his 1,218 minutes on the floor. That said, there isn’t enough evidence to envision him as someone responsible for creating for others reliably in the immediate future.

DEFENSE

As it tends to be case with most 19-year-olds, Monk is an inconsistent defender at this point of his development, having shown some promise but mostly a lot of concerns as of now.

Playing alongside Fox, a plus-defender who didn’t need to be hidden off the ball, he wasn’t asked to guard on the ball a whole lot. As a wing defender, Monk was often late chasing shooters off the same type of screens he does so well working his way around on offense and his closeouts were suspect, rarely running spot-up shooters off the three-point line.

Despite his athleticism, he also didn’t do much in terms of creating events – rarely putting himself in position to challenge shots at the rim or breaking on the ball making plays in the passing lanes and displaying very little toughness mixing up on the glass. His contributions through blocks, steals and defensive rebounds were marginal or unimpressive at best.

But against teams with multiple ball handlers, Monk flashed some potential in pick-and-roll defense. He is not yet great navigating over ball-screens but did a reasonable job a decent amount when Endrice Adebayo prevented the opponent from turning the corner immediately, giving Monk a chance to come back to his man in time not to compromise the integrity of the scheme behind him.

His isolation defense was poor, though. Given the quickness he demonstrates on offense, his reactions defending in a stance out on an island were disappointing. Against high quality competition, Monk not only didn’t often show enough toughness to contain dribble penetration through contact but even struggled shuffling his feet laterally to stay in front one-on-one and it was also rare to see him contest or block shots from behind when he managed to keep pace.

[1] According to hoop-math

[2] According to our stats’ database

[3] According to Draft Express

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

[5] According to sports-reference

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

Donovan Mitchell Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

After a disappointing start to the season, when he hit just 36.4% of his shots through the non-conference part of Louisville’s schedule, Donovan Mitchell hit up the rest of the way, averaging 21.2 points per 40 minutes[1] on 40% three-point shooting against ACC competition.

The six-foot-three combo guard had opportunity to run some offense towards the end of the year when Quentin Snider and Deng Adel missed some time due to injury but for the most part acted as an off guard, mostly preoccupied with creating looks for himself.

Louisville ran a motion offense that afforded him chances to catch the ball off a live dribble, with a head start on his man, but had two post players on the floor at all times, which combined with Mitchell’s suspect shot selection, resulted in fewer drives to the basket than his athleticism suggests he should be attempting.

But on instances where Mitchell was a little more committed to dribble penetration, he showed some traits of promise as a finisher and as a passer on the move. Some team enamored with the athletic prowess he exhibited at the combine is bound to dream of converting him into a lead ball handler down the line.

On the other end, Mitchell has the physical profile to play good defense, not just in terms of executing but as a difference maker, and has put in the effort to materialize such potential, as he led a team in minutes that ranked eighth in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency[2].

Mitchell’s statistical profile is not particularly impressive but he’s risen up the boards during workout season (currently ranked 11th in Draft Express’ top 100) because he is the sort of prospect teams can more easily dream reaching the highest of highs.

DEFENSE

Mitchell’s top skill at this point of his development is his defense.

He bends his knees to get down in a stance, has the lateral quickness to keep pace side-to-side in isolation, has strength in his thick 211-pound frame to contain dribble penetration through contact, often puts in the effort to press opposing ball handlers 40-feet away from the basket when asked to and has the reach to act as a constant threat to pick their pockets.

Mitchell is only so-so at navigating over ball screens at the point of attack but puts his eight-foot-one standing reach to good use deflecting or blocking shots and passes trailing the ball handler from behind.

Despite being Louisville’s best on ball defender, Mitchell often found himself as a weak-side defender due to the nature of their aggressive switching scheme and proved himself attentive to his rotation responsibilities, translating his athleticism into both creating events and shot prevention.

After some head scratching effort on closeouts earlier in the season, Mitchell was more consistent later in the year, proving his ability to run shooters off the line, stay in balance to prevent a free path to the goal on a straight line and contest pull-up jumpers effectively.

He uses his six-foot-10 wingspan to make some plays in the passing lanes, averaging 2.6 steals per 40 minutes last season, but impressed the most with his rotations to the front of the basket as the last line of defense. Mitchell is an explosive leaper who can pick up the eventual shot block from time to time but doesn’t sell out to try doing so all the time, proving his willingness to draw charges as well.

But his biggest appeal is as someone able to pick up bigger players on switches. He is physical enough and savvy enough to front them in the post and prevent a direct entry pass. He is also tough enough and attentive enough to box them out in the glass, collecting 13.1% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor last season[3].

OFFENSE ON THE BALL

Defense is nice, especially intelligence and versatility on defense, but teams search for offense in the lottery and Mitchell is considered to have some star potential because of the flashes he’s shown of shot creation ability against a set defense.

He has a combination of handle and burst that make him look really impressive splitting double teams at the point of attack, driving to the basket on a straight line off the ball-screen. At the rim, Mitchell isn’t explosive enough to go up strong off one foot in traffic but can hang in the air and use his length for some over-extended finishes around rim protection.

He finished his 118 shots at the basket at a 55.9% clip last season, which is a disappointing mark for someone with his athletic prowess, but did a lot better the season before, converting such looks at a 67.3% clip, with 23 of his 37 makes unassisted[4].

Mitchell hasn’t yet developed a more polished skill-set operating in more imperfect conditions, though.

Louisville didn’t space the floor well, so the opponent could consistently pack the lane and prevent him from getting downhill often. As was the case, Mitchell didn’t show the ability to play with pace in pick-and-roll – waiting for driving lanes to open up with the movement of his teammates on slower developing plays or midget dribbling under the basket to try creating new opportunities with his own movement.

He is also unable to stretch the defense with the threat of his passing. Mitchell is a good passer who can find shooters on kick-outs to the strong-side or dunkers on drop-offs, assisting on 16% of Louisville’s scores when he was on the floor last season. But he hasn’t shown particularly advanced instincts passing across his body to shooters relocating on the opposite end of the floor or good timing on pocket passes or lobs to roll men – though it’s fair to point out the screeners at Louisville couldn’t dive hard to act as vertical targets because the spacing wasn’t good.

With a crowd always in front of him when he had to create against a set defense, Mitchell more often than not relied on pull-ups to get his shot off – as 73.4% of his shots were taken away from the basket and he averaged just 3.9 foul shots per 40 minutes last season.

He can dribble in-and-out to traffic cone his way to the basket but more often than not opted to hesitate or crossover into a pull-up, which he did in impressive fashion but often led to questionable shot selection. His stroke off the bounce looks good but he nailed just 35% of his two-point jumpers and made just 17 unassisted three-pointers in 34 appearances last season.

OFF THE BALL OFFENSE

Mitchell has a higher chance of becoming a meaningful contributor on offense operating off the ball. That poor start hid the substantial improvement he made in his outside shot. He finished the season nailing 35.4% of his 226 three-point shots for the year but his 40% accuracy against ACC competition does not appear to be a fluke.

One real issue provides a legit concern that this might just be one long hot shooting streak: some of his misses on open looks are pretty horrendous.

But three factors suggest his development into a potentially elite shooter is real. First, Mitchell hit that 40% mark on 130 attempts through 18 games, at a pace of 7.2 attempts per 40 minutes. Second, his foul shooting percentage also improved, which suggests some minor tweak in his mechanics did the trick. Third, the types of some of the shots he took encourage you to believe he is in line to become the sort of shooter who can moved around the floor to stress the defense in multiple ways.

Mitchell has a quick release and the ball looks good on its way out when he catches it in rhythm on catch-and-shoot opportunities off spot-ups. More impressive, though, is how he’s also proven himself able to sprint to the ball or around pindown screens, plant his feet in a pinch and let it fly off the hop in great balance.

As somebody who demands a hard closeout, Mitchell opens up straight line drives for himself and can explode off two feet with some space to take flight, also prominent in instances where he cuts behind the defense. Louisville ran a nice play to take advantage of his leaping ability where he used to give up the ball at the top of the key, run a semi-circle route around an elbow screen and get a lob.

[1] According to sports-reference

[2] According to kenpom.com

[3] According to our stats’ database

[4] 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

Frank Ntilikina Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

Frank Ntilikina is the top European prospect eligible for the 2017 class. Draft Express currently ranks him 10th in its top 100 and it could be argued that’s a bit low considering the 18-year-old will be one of the youngest players in the class if he chooses to declare for it (only turning 19 in July) and the fact that no other lottery prospect has accumulated the level of experience Ntilikina already has.

The six-foot-five combo guard has logged 758 minutes of pro ball for French side Strasbourg over the past two years and this season has earned a role as a legit rotation player who has averaged 15 minutes per game in 29 appearances in the French Pro A and the Basketball Champions League.

Both competitions Strasbourg plays in aren’t of the highest quality, ranking a good deal below the best domestic and continental leagues in Europe – which are the Spanish ACB and the EuroLeague. Nonetheless, these are fully developed grown men Ntilikina is competing against, which is tougher than playing Washington State or Wake Forest.

That said, Ntilikina is not as well thought of as he is now because of what he’s done as a pro. Playing in an environment where wins and losses cost people money and jobs means prospects are rarely given much opportunity to expand their skill-sets during games. Such is the case as Ntilikina has filled a role as an off-guard for Strasbourg, mostly spacing the floor and rarely given shot creation responsibility, as he’s finished just 18.8% of his team’s possessions with a shot, free throw or turnover when he’s been on the floor – according to our stats’ database.

But Ntilikina’s performances against his age group, including leading the French junior National Team to the title of the 2016 FIBA U18 European Championships in December, are what have caught people’s attention.

As a part of national teams at the youth level, Ntilikina has shown he can act as a volume shot creator, capable of getting his team shots on an every-possession basis, which combined with his height, makes him an elite prospect, even in a class as strong as this 2017 one is perceived to be.

SHOT CREATION

Though his size offers positional versatility, Ntilikina is viewed as a legit lead ball handler based on what he’s done against his age peers and has impressed with how sophisticated a shot creator he is for a teenager.

He has very good understanding of how to maneuver his defender around a ball-screen, a nice feel for whether using or declining the pick gives him a better advantage for getting downhill and patience to play with pace waiting for driving lanes to clear against hedges, hard shows and half-traps.

Ntilikina has excellent court vision on the move, proving himself able to make passes across his body to the opposite end of the court. He’s also able to see over the average point guard-size defender when that defender manages to prevent him from turning the corner.

According to our stats database, Ntilikina assisted on 40.3% of France’s scores when he was on the floor in the 2016 U18 FIBA European Championships. His 1.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in this event wasn’t as pleasing but he posted a 3.3 ratio in this same tournament the year before, so it’s still unclear to which extent Ntilikina is turnover prone.

Creating for himself, Ntilikina has proven to be a little more limited without the aid of a screen. He does have a tight handle and has shown in the past a diverse arsenal of moves to get wherever he wants on the court. But he doesn’t have an explosive first step and has struggled to blow by big men on switches.

SCORING

Ntilikina can get around some defenders with craft and sudden change of direction but has struggled to get all the way to the basket regularly, instead relying a lot on his floater to finish over length from the in-between area. He has great touch on these finishes but it’s tough to make a living with this shot as your top way to score within close range, which is his case right now.

Ntilikina has flashed some explosiveness elevating out of one foot in traffic here and there in the past but doesn’t often do that. He also doesn’t use his length for extended finishes around the basket enough at this point of his development and doesn’t yet have a big enough frame to draw contact, as he averaged just 3.7 foul shots per 40 in the U18 Euros – which wasn’t an impressive mark in the context of his 24% usage rate.

Ntilikina has improved as a pull-up shooter, though. His low release still demands he gets a good deal of separation to get the ball out comfortably but he is a lot more capable of burning opponents who opt to go under the ball-screen and have the big man only go up to the foul line against him, even flashing the ability to make these shots from beyond the FIBA three-point line.

And as a spot-up shooter, Ntilikina has taken a substantial step forward. He runs some side pick-and-roll at Strasbourg but for the most part he is not relied on to create against a set defense, so his role is as a floor spacer. And in that role, Ntilikina has excelled.

His low release, while not necessarily textbook, has not limited him as an open-shot shooter, as he’s nailed 38.2% of his 55 three-point shots this season. His trigger is quicker than it was last season and Ntilikina has even shown some dynamism, coming off pindown screens from time to time. That’s not enough to suggest he has room to develop into an Isaiah Thomas-level of shooter who can sprint from one side of the floor to the other around screens but it’s definitely enough to envision him working as a screener on small-small pick-and-rolls Matthew Dellavedova-style.

One thing Ntilikina still needs to develop is a side-step to escape closeouts, though. He often dribbles in to take a one-dribble two-pointer.

DEFENSE

Ntilikina is expected to develop into an impact defender given his size, length and quickness. But he’s only halfway there for now.

Strasbourg mostly plays him as a weak-side defender and Ntilikina has shown good awareness off the ball, attentive to his responsibilities rotating inside to bump the roll man diving to the basket and using his six-foot-11 wingspan to make plays in the passing, averaging 1.7 steals per 40 minutes.

He hasn’t shown enough leaping ability to make plays at the basket and his defensive rebounding hasn’t translated to the pro level yet, though.

For the French junior national team, Ntilikina played mostly as an on-ball defender, with mixed results. He does go over screens and has the lateral quickness to stay attached to his man in side pick-and-rolls but hasn’t shown much urgency tracking his man back when he gets downhill, exposing the defense behind him.

Ntilikina has great potential to unlock as a pick-and-roll defender, using his length to deflect passes and contest shots from behind. But for that to happen, he needs to hustle back to his man quicker.

Ntilikina might also have potential to pick up bigger players on switches some day in the distant future but that’s definitely not the case yet as he lacks strength and toughness to get physical with them fronting the post and boxing out.

But Ntilikina truly shined in individual defense among his age peers. He gets in a stance and uses his lateral quickness to stay in front. When they tried to take him one-on-one, these European teenagers really struggled getting a good shot off against his length. And though he lacks strength to contain dribble penetration through contact, Ntilikina uses his reach to pickpocket opposing point guards, averaging 3.2 steals per 40 minutes at the 2016 U18 European Championships, which led to him posting the fourth lowest defending rating in that tournament.

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