Thomas Welsh Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Thomas Welsh was the 36th-ranked prospect in the 2014 high school class[1].

In four years at UCLA, the seven-foot center accumulated 3,295 minutes of college basketball. Other than that, he has 61 minutes with the United States National Team at the 2015 U19 FIBA World Cup and 61 minutes at the 2015 adidas Nations under his belt[2].

Most recently, the 22-year-old[3] averaged 15.2 points per 40 minutes[4] and compiled a 19.4 PER in 33 appearances last season.

UCLA had a +22.1 pace-adjusted point differential in his 1,096 minutes[5] this past year, though it played only the 63rd-toughest schedule[6].

Welsh took most of his shots out of the pick-and-pop. He is still more comfortable looking for a spot in mid-range to launch his jumpers but showed improvement in his ability to take these shots from further out as a senior. He also managed to space out to the three-point line on spot-ups more regularly.

On the other end, the Loyola High School product makes rotations, plays good position defense and dominates the glass but lacks elite length for someone his height and offers no versatility in terms of being able to extend pick-and-roll coverage above the foul line.

OFFENSE

Welsh doesn’t roll hard to the basket off the ball screen and doesn’t make much of an impact in the offensive glass, as he has just a seven-foot wingspan[7] and is thus unable to rebound outside of his area – taking just 16.5% of his shots at the rim and collecting just 9% of UCLA’s misses when he was on the floor last season.

His best contribution comes via the gravity he offers – both as a weak-side floor-spacer and at the point of attack as well, thanks to a fluid shooting motion and quick enough trigger for someone his size, even flashing the ability to keep the ball high and shoot it without needing to bring it down to dip for rhythm. He has compact mechanics and a low release that at times seems like a push shot but manages to launch over closeouts due to his height.

Two-point jumpers accounted for 50% of his live-ball attempts and he nailed them at an excellent 46.7% clip last season[8].

From deep range, Welsh proved he can make shots on standstill spot-ups at an above average clip – nailing 40.2% of his 112 three-point shots, at a pace of 4.1 such attempts per 40 minutes, which is a pretty good mark for a center.

His 79.8% shooting on 173 free throws over his time at UCLA offers comfort that the touch and base shooting motion are there for him to be expected to be this good a shooter in the pros as well.

He doesn’t yet have a dynamic enough release to be asked to take long bombs coming off pindown screens and off the Spain pick-and-roll as well, given the back-screener usually has to set his pick around the foul line area before a short sprint to the top of the key. But Welsh has taken three-point shots as the trailer in transition, so he offers a little bit of versatility as a shooter.

He is not any sort of a threat to put the ball on the floor and attack a closeout, though.

Welsh figures to be an automatic switch in the pros but can post up a mismatch if need be. He doesn’t play with force looking to get deep seals but usually doesn’t have to due to his general size. And when challenged by more tenacious defenders, he has light enough feet to spin around his man and get position a couple of steps deeper.

Welsh has flashed turnaround lean-in, face-up and step-back fadeaway jumpers but has a basic post game for the most part, having not shown much in terms of being able to work his man out of position with head fakes, shot fakes or pivot moves. He is more often than not looking for hooks and his touch in these instances is only OK.

He can scan the floor with his back to the basket and spot cutters or open shooters when they are evident but hasn’t shown particularly impressive court vision creating for others – assisting on just 7.7% of UCLA’s scores when he was on the floor last season.

DEFENSE

Welsh does best in the most physical aspects of the game. He improved his toughness, became a stout post defender thanks to the strength in his 255-pound frame and is attentive to his boxout responsibilities – collecting over 25% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor these last two seasons.

Second best is his movement is short areas. Welsh proved he is able to contain the ball dropping back in pick-and-roll defense and can keep pace with smaller players from the foul line down to effectively contest or intimidate shots within close range – logging 33.2 minutes per game on a team that allowed opponents to take just 30.2% of their shots at the basket[9].

He also did well putting himself in position to challenge at the rim coming off the weak-side in help-defense and stepping up to the front of the basket acting as the last line of defense. Welsh is not an explosive leaper off two feet but can go up a decent amount to contest shots with his nine-foot-three standing reach, though his average of 1.7 blocks per 40 minutes over his time in college doesn’t inspire confidence he’ll be a difference-making level of rim protector in the pros.

He is not as asset to extend to guard out in the perimeter either. Welsh doesn’t bend his knees to get down in a stance and is generally uncomfortable out in space, whether it’s picking up smaller players on switches, hedging-and-recover, showing up way above the foul line or closing out to stretch big men at the three-point line out of the pick-and-pop.


[1] According to ESPN

[2] According to RealGM

[3] DOB: 2/3/1996

[4] According to sports-reference

[5] According to RealGM

[6] According to Ken Pomeroy

[7] According to Draft Express

[8] According to hoop-math

[9] 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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Udoka Azubuike Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Udoka Azubuike was the 22nd-ranked prospect in the 2016 high school class[1].

Despite having been exposed to some high level basketball, he is still fairly inexperienced. The 18-year-old[2] accumulated just 990 minutes in his two seasons at Kansas, the first of which was lost after the first third due to need for a wrist surgery. Other than that, he has just 124 minutes at the 2015 adidas Nations and one appearance at the 2016 Nike Hoop Summit under his belt[3].

Azubuike averaged 22 points per 40 minutes[4] on 77% effective shooting and compiled a 26.9 PER in 36 appearances last season.

Kansas played the second toughest schedule in the country[5] and had a +26.9 pace-adjusted point differential with him on the floor, which led the team among rotation players[6].

A seven-foot, 273-pound bruising center, he got his touches in the post, sneaking behind the defense on slower-developing pick-and-rolls and crashing the offensive glass – logging 22.8% usage rate. Azubuike has a massive frame and remarkable length, so even though he still has plenty of room to develop in terms of skill, he manages to produce at a pretty good level due to his general size.

On the other end, the native of Lagos, Nigeria is a positive presence near the basket for the same reasons why he is effective on offense. He is also a little more nimble than his frame suggests but doesn’t figure to have the agility needed to defend out in space in this day and age.

OFFENSE

Azubuike can get deep seals in the post due to his size and strength. He doesn’t play with a lot of force trying to get position but doesn’t have to. Most of his shots come via backing his man down and setting up basic hooks. His feet are only so-so. But Azubuike has flashed glimpses of a more advanced skill-set to work his man out of position with shot fakes and head fakes. His touch on these hooks is pretty decent, as he shot 58.3% on his 60 two-point shots away from the basket[7] last season.

Azubuike hasn’t yet developed very good feel for dealing with more challenging approaches by the defense trying to get the ball out of his hands, though – averaging three turnovers per 40 minutes.

He is a good screener who sets his feet and makes it tough for the on-ball defender to get skinny around him, more often than not creating the head-start for the ball-handler that the pick-and-roll is designed to do.

Azubuike isn’t an explosive leaper off two feet diving down the middle of the lane in traffic but proved he is able to play above the rim as a target for lobs sneaking behind the defense on slower-developing pick-and-rolls. He isn’t a high leaper but has a nine-foot-four standing reach[8] to catch the ball in a different stratosphere. His touch on non-dunk finishes is pretty decent too, as he’s shown he’s able to score in a crowd when needed – finishing his 214 attempts at the rim at an 82.2% clip.

He doesn’t have particularly impressive reaction instincts chasing the ball off the rim but made a tangible impact on the offensive glass because he is a tough body to boxout and has a seven-foot-seven wingspan to rebound out of his area – collecting 12.2% of Kansas’ misses when he was on the floor. His second jump isn’t all that quick but he can catch, gather himself and go back strong to finish in a crowd – converting 76.5% of his 21 putback attempts into scores.

As far as more proactively aiding the ball movement process, Azubuike can only assist others on pre-arranged reads, as he hasn’t yet developed court vision to act as a hub to facilitate offense from the high post and doesn’t have the sort of quick instincts to pass out of short rolls – assisting on just 5.7% of Kansas’ scores when he was on the floor and posting a lousy 0.3 assist-to-turnover ratio last season.

DEFENSE

Azubuike is an effective rim protector when he is able to hang back and patrol the lane – averaging three blocks per 40 minutes. He moves well enough in tight spaces and goes up quick enough to challenge shots but his blocks materialize more thanks to his massive standing reach rather than his leaping ability, though they came at the cost of him often putting himself in foul trouble, as he averaged 5.1 personal fouls per 40 minutes.

Azubuike flashed some decent awareness with his positioning as well, clogging up driving lanes and shadowing isolations when he felt his teammates might get blown by – averaging 23.6 minutes per game on a team that allowed opponents to take just 28.8% of their shots at the basket[9].

He proved to be attentive to his boxout responsibilities and did it with some nice physicality too, which also manifests itself in post defense. He struggles some reacting to the ball off the rim, though – collecting just 20.8% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor.

The problems are when he is forced to leave the general area near the basket.

Azubuike is not suited to extend pick-and-roll coverage beyond the foul line. He just doesn’t have the foot speed for it, whether it’s picking up smaller players on switches, hedging-and-recovering in a timely manner, closing out to stretch big men at the three-point line out of the pick-and-pop, showing up to the level of the screen and trying to keep action in front. He even struggled to keep pace with dribble drives when tasked with only having to engage from the foul line down.

Azubuike puts in the effort to contest mid-range pull-ups but at times sells out to do so, needing to develop a better understanding of when it’s best to contest and when it’s best to prioritize getting a head-start getting position for a possible miss.


[1] According to ESPN

[2] DOB: 9/17/1999

[3] According to RealGM

[4] According to sports-reference

[5] According to Ken Pomeroy

[6] According to RealGM

[7] According to hoop-math

[8] According to the measurements at the 2018 Combine

[9] 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

Brandon McCoy Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Brandon McCoy was the 16th-ranked prospect in the 2017 high school class[1].

His one year at UNLV didn’t do well for the perception of him, though. He put together a reasonably impressive statistical profile but didn’t really elevate the level of that team, as the coaching staff struggled to leverage his presence, despite the fact the conference was fairly weak.

The seven-foot center averaged 23.6 points per 40 minutes[2] on 59% true shooting and compiled a 23.8 PER in 33 appearances[3]. But UNLV won just 20 of its 33 games and missed the NCAA Tournament. It had a +13.5 pace-adjusted point differential with him in the lineup[4] but played only the 122nd-toughest schedule in the country[5].

McCoy got most of his offense in the low post, though he also got a few touches flashing to the foul line to catch the ball in face-up position and roaming around the baseline at the dunker spot. Disappointingly, there was very little in pick-and-roll. In instances where he set high ball-screens, McCoy mostly rolled into post position or floated around the perimeter for a catch-and-shoot jumper.

On the other end, he was an effective rim protector when well positioned and a dominant defensive rebounder but didn’t show much in terms of effort and activity when forced to guard out in the perimeter, which helps explain why someone with his measurements, athleticism and production is likely to be drafted in the second round.

The soon-to-be 20-year[6] logged 949 NCAA minutes, after previously accumulating 117 minutes with the United States National Team at the 2017 U19 FIBA World Cup and 180 minutes at the 2015 adidas Nations and Nike Global Challenge.

OFFENSE

McCoy was the go-to option – logging 27.5% usage rate. He didn’t play with a lot of force trying to establish deep position but relied on his large frame to get good enough seals consistently.

UNLV didn’t space the floor very well around him, so opponents often crowded the lane shadowing his post-ups and threw hard doubles at him more often than you’re used to seeing these days. He struggled with these, having not yet developed dexterity using escape dribbles to buy room and pass it out – averaging 3.7 turnovers per 40 minutes.

McCoy flashed some court vision making crosscourt passes with his back to the basket but can’t be considered a reliable shot creator for others at this point – assisting on just 3.5% of UNLV’s scores when he was on the floor.

Against single coverage, he dominated, and not just versus Mountain West competition but doing very well in the game against Arizona too.

McCoy does not have an advanced post game, not showing much in terms of being able to work his man out of position with pivot moves, shot fakes and head fakes. He also does not seem to have the lightest of feet.

But though he isn’t really a bully, McCoy relied for the most part on general size and strength to bump his man back and create space for simple hooks or to go up strong off two feet. He has some good touch on non-dunk finishes, even showing a scoop layup to attempt finishing around length, but nothing all that special – converting his 200 attempts at the rim at a 67.7% clip[7], with almost a third of them unassisted, while also managing to earn 8.1 foul shots per 40 minutes.

He flashed a quick turnaround lean-in jumper against opponents who held their ground and took a few face-up near-standstill shots, especially on his catches around the foul line. McCoy looked capable is below average away from the rim at this point of his development – shooting just 36.6% on 153 two-point shots away from the rim, with just 15 of his 56 makes unassisted.

He can play above the rim as a target for lobs sneaking behind the defense, roaming around the baseline at the dunker spot and sprinting up the court in transition, and also proved to be coordinated enough to catch, take a dribble for balance and launch a floater with a defender between him and the basket on poor passes.

But McCoy is a poor screener who didn’t draw contact often and not even because he was slipping picks to beat his defender on a race to the rim as he rarely rolled hard to the basket off picks. He either rolled to post-up or looked to set up catch-and-shoot jumpers.

McCoy took a few three-point shots out of the pick-and-pop but didn’t show to be any sort of real asset from the outside yet, not just at the point of attack but even as a spot-up floor-spacer. He gets little elevation and releases the ball out in front but can shoot over contests due to his height. His touch is decent but his trigger is slow.

McCoy shot just three-for-nine from three-point range but did make 41 assisted two-point shots away from the basket, at a pace of 1.7 makes per 40 minutes, which seems decent enough for a pure center. His 72.5% foul shooting on 193 free throws also offers potential.

As a garbage man, he has a seven-foot-two wingspan[8] to rebound outside of his area, is a quick leaper and can go back up to attempt immediate scores without needing to load up – collecting 12.7% of UNLV’s misses when he was on the floor and shooting 64.3% on 66 putback attempts.

DEFENSE

McCoy was an effective rim protector when well positioned – averaging 2.5 blocks per 40 minutes. He is a quick leaper off two feet stepping up to the front of the basket, leveraged his nine-foot-two standing reach well to challenge shots and blocked a lot of shots with his left hand, though he sold out for blocks at times.

McCoy flashed some preventive rotations that discouraged opponents from getting all the way to the rim from time-to-time but was an iffy help defender on long rotations for the most part.

He blocked a lot but a physical specimen like him, playing against the level of competition that he did, was expected to be more impressive and elevate the level of his defense, which didn’t really happen, as McCoy averaged 28.5 minutes per game on a team that ranked 174th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency.

When asked to extend pick-and-roll coverage above the foul line, he did poorly. He hunches rather than bends his knees getting down in a stance, isn’t very quick with his reactions out in space, doesn’t prioritize middle and gives up an easy path for the ball handler to decline the pick, rarely makes multiple-effort plays and didn’t use his length getting into passing lanes

McCoy showed only so-so attention to his boxout responsibilities, which didn’t matter against Mountain West competition because of his edge in general size and athleticism – collecting 25.1% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor. That’s something that needs to be improved, though, as that advantage likely won’t be there every night at the next level.


[1] According to ESPN

[2] According to sports-reference

[3] According to RealGM

[4] According to RealGM

[5] According to Ken Pomeroy

[6] DOB: 6/11/1998

[7] According to hoop-math

[8] According to the measurements at the 2018 NBA Combine

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

Dusan Ristic Scouting Report

CONTEXT

  • Dusan Ristic is a very experienced 22-year-old[1]:
    • 2,640 minutes over four seasons of college basketball experience at Arizona;
    • 55 minutes at the 2018 Portsmouth Invitational;
    • 403 minutes defending the Serbian National Team at the 2010 and 2011 U16 FIBA European Championships and 2012 U18 FIBA European Championships;
    • 134 minutes defending the Serbian National Team at the 2012 Albert Schweitzer Tournament;
    • 271 minutes with FMP Beograd in the Serbian League in the 2012-2013 season;
    • 39 minutes in the Adriatic League and 8 minutes in the EuroLeague with Red Star in the 2013-2014 season.
  • Most recently, the seven-foot center averaged 18 points per 40 minutes[2] on 60.6% true shooting and compiled a 20.0 PER in 35 appearances last season[3].
  • Arizona played the 68th-toughest schedule in the country[4] and had a +18.8 pace-adjusted point differential in Ristic’s 949 minutes[5].
  • The Serbian got a fair amount of touches in the post and out of ball-screens but was not the priority on offense, logging 21.4% usage rate. He tried to expand his skill-set to accommodate Deandre Ayton by spacing the floor out to the three-point line more proactively this past season but hasn’t yet developed into a real threat from long range.
  • On the other end, Ristic was a so-so rim protector at best in college and doesn’t figure to be particularly impactful in the pros unless he becomes the sort of quick thinking help defender who anticipates rotations, which he has flashed in bits and pieces. He is also not built to extend pick-and-roll coverage above the foul line or pick up smaller players on switches.
    • He averaged 27.1 minutes per game on a team that ranked 255th in opponents’ shooting percentage at the rim, as they converted 62.3% within close range[6].

OFFENSE

  • Ristic uses the strength in his 245-pound frame[7] to get a good seal in the post.
  • He has a patient approach in the post and though he had a strength advantage to knock back his defender on most nights, Ristic liked to rely on shot fakes and fake pivots to work him out of position. He can also launch turnaround hooks with either hand and even flashed a turnaround fade-away jumper from time-to-time. His touch is decent.
    • Ristic hit 54.3% of his 175 two-point shots away from the basket last season[8].
  • He struggled feeling double teams and didn’t show dexterity opting out of the post-up into an escape dribble.
    • Two turnovers per 40 minutes.
  • He never showed particularly impressive instincts passing out of the low post, though it’s fair to point out Arizona didn’t space the floor well enough to encourage diagonal cuts.
    • 6.4% assist rate last season.
  • Ristic is a decent screener who looks to draw contact and influence the on-ball defender but can’t roll hard down the lane or play above the rim as a target for lobs and needs to catch, gather and load up to elevate for power finishes. He’s proven to be a capable scorer at rim level but often struggles with his touch on non-dunk finishes in traffic.
    • 62.6% clip on 123 shots at the rim last season, which is somewhat underwhelming for a seven-footer.
    • As is, he’s often better served rolling into post-ups, which he does quite a bit.
  • Ristic is not a high leaper and doesn’t play with a high motor but is a tough body to boxout and has enough length to rebound outside of his area. He lacks a quick second jump to translate these second chances into immediate scores regularly.
    • 10.1% offensive rebounding rate.
    • 60% shooting on 26 putback attempts.
  • Ristic has a taken a few catch-and-shoot jumpers out of the pick-and-pop. He is more capable from mid-range than three-point range but ultimately doesn’t yet have a dynamic enough release for these types of shots from either range.
  • As a spot-up shooter, Ristic can make the eventual open shot with plenty of time to load up. He has compact mechanics and gets good arc on his jumper but shows a slow release.
    • He nailed 14 of his 30 three-point shots over his four years at Arizona.
    • He hit 69.8% of his 285 free throws during his college career but has shown noticeable improvement in his touch over time, converting 77.7% of his 162 foul shots over the last two seasons.
  • Ristic can hit backdoor cutters on pre-arranged reads and aid the shot creators on dribble hand-offs.

DEFENSE

  • Ristic has better side-to-side movement than expected but isn’t suited to extend pick-and-roll coverage above the foul line.
    • He showed some nimbleness hedging and hustling back to his man in a timely manner in college but ultimately figures to be exposed in the pros.
  • He is not an option to pick up smaller players on switches.
  • He is also unable to closeout to the three-point line in the pick-and-pop.
  • Ristic has flashed some reading skills anticipating rotations to prevent the dribble penetrator from getting all the way to the rim.
  • He is not an easy leaper off two feet but put in the effort to challenge shots via verticality.
    • Just one block per 40 minutes over his time at Arizona.
  • Ristic didn’t use his length to cut off bounce passes and passes over the top around his general area. And though a stout post defender, he doesn’t play with active hands searching for strips.
    • Just 0.5 steal per 40 minutes in college.
  • Ristic is attentive to his boxout responsibilities but isn’t quick reacting to the ball off the rim.
    • He collected just 20.7% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor last season.

[1] DOB: 11/27/1995

[2] According to sports-reference

[3] According to RealGM

[4] According to Ken Pomeroy

[5] According to RealGM

[6] According to hoop-math

[7] According to Arizona’s official listing

[8] 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

Mohamed Bamba Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

Mohamed Bamba was the fourth-ranked prospect in the 2017 high school class[1].

In his one year at Texas, the seven-foot center accumulated 906 minutes of college basketball experience, while posting a 26.3 PER, averaging 17.1 points per 40 minutes on 59.3% true shooting, collecting 28.3% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor[2] and ranking fourth in the country in total blocks.

Bamba projects as a catch-and-score finisher in the pros but didn’t get the benefit of playing with someone who would set him up very well very often. There were two other NBA prospects on the team, Andrew Jones and Kerwin Roach II, but neither is a particularly special ball handler and Jones only played the first third of the season before leaving the team to battle leukemia.

Texas put in the effort to space the floor but stretch-four Dylan Osetkowski is more of a shot taker than a shot maker and Jones was the only true above average shooter the team had. As is, the Longhorns ended up rating below average in three-point attempts, makes and percentage, which didn’t offer the 19-year-old[3] many opportunities to look as great as he’s expected to be rolling hard to the rim.

Nonetheless, the Harlem, New York native still made a living getting looks near the basket, sneaking behind the defense and on put-backs, while mixing in the eventual post-up attempt here and there. Bamba also took three-pointers out of the pick-and-pop fairly aggressively. His release looks promising enough for him to keep working on it but he is not yet a real threat to make these shots often.

On the other end, Bamba also made more of an impact near the goal, not just thanks to his remarkable length but also due to good rim protection instincts. He has a lean frame within the context of his height and got bumped off his spot from time-to-time but wasn’t really exposed in the post and the defensive glass all that often, suggesting he might become a steady presence in these areas once his body matures some more.

Bamba is quite mobile for someone his size and Texas tried leveraging this by having him show high above the three-point arc or hedge against the pick-and-roll somewhat frequently. He was also asked to pick up smaller players on switches every once in a while. Bamba has physical talent to be expected to develop into an effective defender out in space but for now isn’t as much of an asset as you’d assume.

INTERIOR DEFENSE

Bamba’s top skill at this point of his development is his effectiveness as a rim protector, as he averaged 4.8 blocks per 40 minutes last season[4]. He’s also shown versatility in terms of rim protection, able to block shots coming off the weak-side in help defense, stepping up to the front of the basket as the last line of defense and defending on the ball.

Bamba is almost always alert to his responsibilities roaming around the basket, can move quickly in short areas, leaps easily off the ground out of one or two feet, has a massive nine-foot-six standing reach[5] and puts in the effort to challenge almost everything he is close by, not just via shot blocking but via verticality as well, though his explosiveness has left something to be desired in instances where he’s been asked to venture far away from the basket and then hustle back.

The fact that he contests so many shots so actively while averaging just 3.4 personal fouls per 40 minutes is also very impressive.

Bamba showed to be attentive to his boxout responsibilities, though he rarely got very physical trying to erase his man off the play. He has a lean 225-pound frame[6] in the context of his seven-foot height and is prone to getting pushed out of the way by tougher, more relentless opponents.

Nonetheless, Bamba had an athletic advantage against just about everyone he played against at the collegiate level. Thanks to his quickness reacting to the ball off the rim and ability to pursue it at a higher level than most of the competition, his defensive rebounding percentage ranked 10th in the NCAA.

Such an impact close to the basket showed up in the bottom line: Bamba averaged 30.2 minutes per game on a team that ranked 12th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency[7].

An area where he has room for improvement in terms of interior defense is developing anticipation instincts to make preventive rotations that clog driving lanes and intimidate ball-handlers from getting to the rim in the first place.

PERIMETER DEFENSE

Texas had Bamba hedging or showing hard at the three-point line a few times last season, depending on how capable of pulling up from long range the opposing point guard was.

He is certainly well coordinated out in space and has shown some ability of being able to harass and influence ball-handlers 25 feet away from the basket but is only so-so at keeping track and recovering back to this man after the blitz.

When asked to pick up smaller players on switches, Bamba has proven himself able to bend his knees to get down in a stance, keep pace off the dribble on straight line drives and block or intimidate shots defending on the ball at the basket. He’s not an option for every matchup out on an island, though, as shiftier types can shake him side-to-side and get by him.

Bamba has a remarkable seven-foot-nine wingspan but hasn’t yet learned how to shut down passing lanes around him. His average of one steal per 40 minutes is kind of a disappointment.

As is his defense against stretch big men at the three-point line. Despite his athletic ability, Bamba wasn’t very good at running shooters off their shots on closeouts.

INTERIOR OFFENSE

On offense, he is expected to earn his money in the pros as a threat on catch-and-finishes at the basket. Bamba is an explosive leaper off two feet and can play above the rim as a target for lobs, though it’s still unclear how well he can catch the ball in traffic, given Texas didn’t manage to hit him on pocket passes very often.

And because he wasn’t always very well set up, there were times Bamba had to catch the ball, take a dribble to balance himself and go up for a non-dunk finish with a body between him and the basket and in these instances, he showed appealing coordination and decent touch on non-dunk finishes – converting his 132 shots at the basket at a 78.8% clip[8].

Bamba is also very effective on the offensive glass, where he has a knack for disentangling from his man and can use his length to rebounding outside of his area – collecting 12.2% of Texas’ misses when he was on the floor. Bamba also proved himself able of translating these second chance opportunities into immediate scores often thanks to his quick second jump and explosiveness on putback dunk attempts – finishing his 49 putback attempts at a 73.7% clip.

Bamba was activated in the post quite a bit, mostly in order to ignite weak-side movement where shooters and cutters tried to free themselves of their defenders. After showing to be a more capable passer during Texas’ preseason tour in Australia, he didn’t impress as much in terms of passing instincts in the regular season, mostly only spotting wide-open teammates on evident reads – assisting on just 3.6% of Texas’ scores when he was on the floor.

Bamba struggled to set deep position in the post due to his lack of strength, often getting pushed further away from the spot he intended to catch the ball in the first place. His feet are light but he is not particularly well coordinated bumping against stronger opponents, doesn’t have much feel for handling double teams and is not very secure with the ball. His average of two turnovers per 40 minutes is too high for someone with a 21.3% usage rate.

He doesn’t have any power moves and hasn’t yet developed the use of shot fakes, head fakes, ambidexterity as finisher or turnaround jumpers at this point of his development. When he manages to get a shot off, Bamba usually goes for the basic right-handed hook over the defender’s left shoulder or a face-up jumper.

PERIMETER OFFENSE

Bamba ended up taking fewer long range bombs than I expected when I wrote about him in the preseason but he was still an above average shot taker for a center, getting up 51 three-point attempts in 30 appearances, at a pace of 2.3 such shots per 40 minutes.

He established himself as a capable open shot shooter for now, able to take three-pointers from the top of the key joining the offense late as the trailer in transition and from around the wing out of the pick-and-pop if left wide-open by the defense.

His release has become a bit more fluid, one without a particularly quick trigger but with somewhat comfortable mechanics for someone his size. He doesn’t often get good arc on his shot and his touch is only so-so, though.

Overall, Bamba is not yet any sort of a real floor-spacer. The ball still doesn’t go in a whole lot, as he nailed just 14 three-point shots the entire season. His 68.1% shooting on 119 free throws also put into doubt how real his potential as a shooter truly is.


[1] According to ESPN

[2] According to our stats’ database

[3] DOB: 5/12/1998

[4] According to sports-reference

[5] According to Draft Express

[6] According to Texas’ official listing

[7] According to Ken Pomeroy

[8] 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

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

Nick Richards Scouting Report

CONTEXT

  • Nick Richards is ranked 28th on ESPN’s top 100.
  • Through the first 13 games, the seven-foot center averaged 17.3 points per 40 minutes on 61.3% effective shooting and 13.7 rebounds per 40 minutes[1].
  • Despite being a true freshman, he just turned 20[2] last month.
  • Richards has posted 18.1% usage-rate over his 227 minutes. He gets the ball in the post some but isn’t a go-to option in Kentucky’s offense by any means. They have him setting ball-screens but don’t offer enough spacing for the guards to hit him rolling to the basket regularly.
    • His most reliable way to get touches tends to be what he can get for himself in the offensive glass. Almost a fifth of his live ball attempts have come on put-backs[3].
  • On the other end, the native of Kingston, Jamaica has played with better intensity than what was expected based on his reputation. He’s been an effective rim protector when well positioned, while also flashing decent agility to defend out in space.

DEFENSE

  • Richards is quite athletic for someone his size and can venture far beyond the foul line to hedge-and-recover against the pick-and-roll.
  • He hasn’t been asked to pick up smaller players on switches a whole lot but has shown foot speed tracking ball handlers attacking downhill.
  • Richards is a proactive help defender stepping up to the front of the basket as the last line of defense and looks to challenge everything he is close by. He is very effective when well positioned and can block shots in volume thanks to his quickness elevating off two feet and his nine-foot standing reach – averaging 3.3 blocks per 40 minutes this season.
    • In large part thanks to that shot blocking prowess, Richards ranks second on the team in defensive rating among rotation players[4].
    • That high activity in rim protection has come at the cost of him being prone to biting on shot fakes and making himself vulnerable to whistles, as he’s averaged 5.5 personal fouls per 40 minutes, which have limited his playing time to just 17.5 minutes per game.
  • Richards is yet to develop into a help defender who makes preventive rotations that keep the opposing ball handler from getting to the basket in the first place and despite his shot blocking prowess, he hasn’t really acted as a deterrent.
  • Given his quickness, he should be suited to guard shooting big men but has struggled to closeout to the three-point line effectively.
  • Richards is attentive to his boxout responsibilities and is a tough body to move out of his rebounding area thanks to his 245-pound frame, collecting 22% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor this season.

OFFENSE

  • Richards hasn’t yet shown a particularly advanced post game in terms of working his man out of position patiently with head fakes, shot fakes and spin moves. He’s mostly looking to set up a simple turnaround righty hook, though he’s flashed a face-up jumper as well. His touch is iffy, though, as he’s missed 17 of his 27 shots away from the basket.
  • He is a good screener who looks to draw contact but has so-so hands catching the ball on the move and has struggled to finish a few alley-oops in traffic. Richards can elevate off two feet to play above the rim as a target for lobs sneaking behind the defense but hasn’t shown the same explosion going up strong in a crowd.
  • He is coordinated enough to catch and take a dribble to gather himself before going up with better balance or more power out of a standstill position. His touch from the in-between area is iffy but he’s been a very good finisher near the basket, converting his 35 such looks at an 80% clip.
  • Richards has been asked to help facilitate offense from the high post every now and again. He’s able to hit cutters on pre-arranged reads but that’s about it as of now, as he’s assisted on just 5.6% of Kentucky’s scores when he’s been on the floor.
  • Richards has flashed a catch-and-shoot jumper off the pick-and-pop, showing a reasonably fluid release for someone his size and a high arcing shot but Kentucky doesn’t run that pick-and-pop often and rarely has him spotting up on the perimeter, so it’s unclear how real of an asset his jumper could really be at this point.
    • For whatever it’s worth, he’s nailed 22 of his 30 foul shots.
  • Richards has collected 14.4% of Kentucky’s misses when he’s been on the floor, showing a knack for chasing the ball off the rim and using his seven-foot-three to rebound outside of his area.

[1] According to sports-reference

[2] DOB: 11/29/1997

[3] Based on the numbers available at hoop-math

[4] According to sports-reference

READ MORE: Marques Bolden | Wendell Carter, 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