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

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Marvin Bagley, III Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Marvin Bagley, III was the top prospect in the 2017 high school class[1].

Even though he was a late addition, not making his decision to reclassify and join Duke until mid-August, the 19-year-old[2] adapted right away to the highest level of college basketball and was the number one priority in the offense from day one.

Though he projects as a center in the pros, the six-foot-11, 234-pounder[3] played just about every minute with another true big man in the lineup. As a result, opponents matched up their stronger big on the pure center and often designated lighter, smaller types to guard Bagley, which Duke consistently viewed as an opportunity to explore getting him to work mostly below the foul line.

His 25.9% usage-rate led the team and he proved to be worth of those touches. In his 1,118 minutes in Durham, Bagley averaged 24.8 points per 40 minutes on 64% effective shooting and had the highest offensive rating on a team[4] that ranked third in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency[5].

And yet, so much of the intrigue over him isn’t over his production but the way he looks. Bagley is incredibly smooth for someone his size, which influences how he is often seeking to take opposing big men off the dribble.

He is not the sort of modern prototype who can draw his man to the perimeter and shake him side-to-side but Bagley has a very quick first step for a big man and has proven he can get by his man from the high post down.

On top of that, he is an explosive leaper and figures to be an excellent pick-and-roll finisher, while also flashing a three-point shot that looks very fluid.

The concerns regard the other end, where many people question his ability to protect the rim, which in turn lead to questions over his ability to anchor an above average defense. His shot blocking numbers were underwhelming and he didn’t show particularly impressive instincts anticipating rotations.

Duke’s struggles on defense through the non-conference part of the schedule led to Mike Krzyzewski installing a full time zone during the second half of the season, which was incredible to see, given that team had a handful of players who will be given multiple chances to fail in the pros. Bagley wasn’t the only reason why they eventually resorted to that strategy but he was part of the problem.

If he doesn’t develop and has to play with a center by his side more often than not, Bagley probably won’t be considered as much of a difference maker, though it might end up being the most appropriate end game. Thanks to his athletic prowess, he impressed in instances where activity was required of him and projects as someone who will offer flexibility by picking up smaller players on switches often.

(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)

[1] According to ESPN

[2] DOB: 3/14/1999

[3] According to Duke’s official listing

[4] According to our stats’ database

[5] According to Ken Pomeroy

Mohamed Bamba Scouting Report

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.

(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)

[1] According to ESPN

[2] According to our stats’ database

[3] DOB: 5/12/1998

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

Daniel Gafford Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

Daniel Gafford was only the 47th-ranked prospect in the 2017 high school class[1] but after 569 minutes logged in his first year at Arkansas, the six-foot-11 center has quickly risen to the top 15 on ESPN’s top 100.

Through 26 appearances, Gafford is averaging 21 points per 40 minutes on 61.3% effective shooting and posted a 26.5 player efficiency rating[2].

The 19-year-old[3] has the best pace-adjusted plus-minus[4] on a team that has won more than two-thirds of its games and ranks 44th in the country in adjusted efficiency margin[5].

Gafford profiles as a catch-and-score finisher/rim protector who leverages his athleticism into making an impact near the basket via vertical spacing, second chance opportunities and shot blocking.

The upside is in his potential as a switch defender. He is a very agile player for someone his size and has proven himself able to exchange into smaller players out in space in a pinch, which is quickly becoming a “must-have” rather than a “nice-to-have” skill for a center these days.

ATHLETIC ABILITY

Gafford is an explosive leaper off two feet, which best materializes in his ability to play above the rim as a target for lobs sneaking behind the defense in transition or out of the pick-and-roll and in the dunker spot.

He’s also very effective crashing the offensive glass. Gafford has a seven-foot-two wingspan[6] to rebound outside of his area and a quick second jump to fight for tip-ins or 50-50 balls – collecting 10.2% of Arkansas’ misses when he’s been on the floor this season[7] and converting his 23 putback attempts at an 87.3% clip.

Gafford doesn’t yet have the physicality and the coordination to create his own offense out of the post, though. Despite his chiseled 234-pound frame[8], he hasn’t yet developed strength to set deep position near the basket and has no power moves to back his way into easy lay-ups. Gafford is also not very smooth putting the ball on the floor on face-ups and struggles to maintain his balance through contact.

He has averaged 8.7 foul shots per 40 minutes, in part because he is such a threat near the basket that stresses the defense at all times but also because more physical defense can knock him off his balance and college officials have been largely in his favor.

On the other end, Gafford translates his length and explosive leaping ability into rim protection stepping up to the front of the basket as the last line of defense and coming off the weak-side in help defense – averaging 3.7 blocks per 40 minutes.

On top of that, he has impressed with his agility as a perimeter defender. Gafford is an asset to pick up smaller players on switches, whether it’s wings or guards. He has flashed some side-to-side quickness but mostly does well in these instances by keeping pace with ball handlers on straight line drives, staying attached close enough to block or intimidate shots from behind.

Where Gafford struggles at this point of his development is holding ground near the basket, whether it’s on post defense, attempting to wall off an opponent who is forced to lower his shoulders before going up and on box-outs – collecting just 21.8% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor this season.

EXECUTION

He is a mixed bag in terms of execution, which makes sense given his lack of meaningful experience prior to the minutes he’s logged at Arkansas this year.

Gafford’s effort is pleasing more often than not. He sprints back in transition defense, tries to deny easy post entries with some tenacity, has proven himself willing to draw charges in instances where he felt like he couldn’t/shouldn’t elevate and looks to challenge a lot of shots via verticality.

There are some areas for improvement, though. Gafford hasn’t yet developed a knack for making preventive rotations that keep the opponent from getting to the rim, doesn’t bend his knees to get down in a stance regularly defending on-on-one in the perimeter, gives up inside position in the defensive glass, jogs to screen and only sets slip screens for now.

But the detail Gafford needs to work on rather immediately is his tendency to bite on shot-fakes and put himself in danger of fouling. He’s averaging 6.3 personal fouls per 40 minutes, which has limited his playing time to just 21.9 minutes per game.

SKILL LEVEL

Most of the threat Gafford is as a scorer is due to his dunking prowess but he has shown soft touch on finger roll finishes as well and flashed some appealing coordination in instances where he’s had to catch, take a dribble to balance himself and then go up strong off two feet – finishing his 105 shots at the rim at an 89.5% clip.

With his back to the basket, he has only shown a basic post game. Gafford has flashed an interesting floater off a jump-stop on a face-up drive but more often looks for running hooks without doing a particularly good job working his defender out of position to contest it. His touch in these instances is also only so-to – missing 73.3% of his 86 shots from two-point range away from the basket.

Gafford is not a black hole, as he has flashed some quick passing out of double teams in the post and can spot cutters on pre-arranged reads. That said, he is yet to show instincts that suggests he’s a particular special passer and Arkansas does not use him as an asset to help facilitate offense often – assisting on just 5.7% of Arkansas’ scores when he’s been on the floor this season.

Gafford has flashed a mid-range jumper off the catch once or twice. He gets little elevation but fully extends himself for a decently high release. The motion, while somewhat fluid, is pretty slow and the touch needs a lot of work, though – Gafford has nailed just 52.4% of his 124 foul shots, signaling he is not very close of developing into any sort of a real threat outside the lane.

On the other end, a skill Gafford needs to develop is making more of an effort to have his blocked shots stay inbounds. He’s still shown to be very into the idea of spiking the ball into the third roll at this point of his development.

[1] According to ESPN.com

[2] According to sports-reference

[3] DOB: 10/1/1998

[4] According to our stats’ database

[5] According to Ken Pomeroy

[6] According to USA Today

[7] According to our stats’ database

[8] According to Arkansas

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

Nik Slavica Scouting Report

CONTEXT

  • Nik Slavica is the 7th-ranked European power forward born in 1997[1].
  • The six-foot-eight athletic big transferred from Cibona Zagreb to Cedevita Zagreb last summer but the move hasn’t improved his experience level.
  • Through 20 appearances this season, Slavica has logged just 209 minutes[2].
    • 147 of those minutes have come in the less competitive Croatian A-1 Liga[3], where Cedevita has won its 10 games by an average margin of 22.1 points per victory[4].
  • In his 11 appearances in the Adriatic League and the Eurocup, the 20-year-old[5] is averaging just 5.7 minutes per game, in an end-of-rotation role.
  • He injured his arm during a 47-point performance against KK Zagreb a couple of months ago and returned just this week.
  • Slavica was expected to develop into a big wing who could draw opposing big men out to the perimeter, use his athleticism to beat them off the bounce and attack the basket with power off one foot but that projection has not materialized.
    • His outside shot hasn’t developed yet and given his foul shooting percentages, it’s unclear to which extent it truly can.
  • As is, he’s becoming more effective as a catch-and-score finisher, even logging some time as a center when he’s shared the court with Damir Markota.
  • On the other end, Slavica leverages his athleticism into mobility extending pick-and-roll coverage beyond the foul line and has impressed with his rotations as the last line of defense, though he hasn’t created many events.
  • He was not ranked on ESPN’s top 100 as of December, 12th.

GOOD DEFENSE

  • He is attentive to his help defense responsibilities and has flashed some very good awareness making preventive rotations to keep the opponent from getting to the rim attacking baseline on side isolations.
  • Guarding middle pick-and-rolls, Slavica can keep pace with ball handlers attacking downhill when he is asked to show hard at the top of the key. He’s also flashed appealing lateral quickness containing the ball handler from turning the corner dropping back to prioritize interior defense.
  • Slavica is an asset to pick up smaller players on switches, as he’s comfortable defending out in space, given he was a wing at the youth level. Sometimes he hunches rather than bends his knees to get down in a stance but can slide laterally multiple times to stay attached and use his size to intimidate or effectively contest shots.

IFFY DEFENSE

  • He doesn’t seem suited to cross-match onto smaller players for entire possessions, though. Slavica works to go over ball-screens defending at the point of attack but is too big to navigate them cleanly.
  • He struggles with the most physical aspects of the game. Slavica has a 231-pound frame[6] but hasn’t developed a lot of toughness yet. He can’t hold his ground in the post and while he is attentive to his boxout responsibilities, Slavica isn’t very physical clearing the opponent out of his rebounding area.
    • He’s collected just 16.7% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor this season.
  • Despite his athleticism, Slavica hasn’t been very impactful challenging shots at the rim, averaging just 0.7 blocks per 40 minutes.

OFFENSE

  • His best skill at this point of his development is his passing. Assisting on 9.17% of Cedevita’s scores when he’s been in the lineup, Slavica has pretty good court vision and can act as a hub to facilitate offense in multiple ways:
    • On pre-arranged reads in high-low action;
    • Kicking out to shooters out of the short roll;
    • Scanning the floor from the low post with his back to the basket;
    • Driving-and-kicking attacking a closeout.
  • He is very fluid and coordinated putting the ball on the floor out of triple threat position and can go up strong off one foot to attack the basket with power. He can hang in the air and finish through contact as well.
  • If Slavica develops his three-point shot, he can become a truly dangerous weak-side option. Harder closeouts would open up better opportunities for him to attack the rim on catch-and-go’s off ball reversals against a scrambling defense. But right now, he shoots kind of a sling-shot and doesn’t have good touch.
    • Slavica has missed nine of his 12 three-point shots with Cedevita this season and 38 of his 44 three-point shots with Cibona last year.
    • He’s also missed nine of his 13 foul shots this season and hit just 55.9% of his 134 free throws a year ago.
  • Diving off the pick-and-roll, Slavica can elevate off two feet explosively and play above the rim as a target for lobs sneaking behind the defense.
    • Sometimes he cuts his rolls shorts near the foul line area to attempt floaters off jump-stops. His touch in these instances is merely so-so.
    • He’s converted 62.9% of his 89 two-point shots this season.
  • At times the most athletic big man on the floor, Slavica crashes the offensive glass and has been effective generating second chances – collecting 11.9% of Cedevita’s misses with him in the game.
  • He struggles to get deep position in the post and doesn’t have much in terms of power moves, shot fakes, head fakes and spin moves at this point of his development. But his feet are light and he gets good lift on turnaround hooks, though his touch here has plenty of room to improve as well.

[1] According to Next-Step Basketball

[2] According to Real GM

[3] Which Next-Step Basketball does not rank as one of the 10 strongest domestic leagues in the continent

[4] According to Real GM

[5] DOB: 2/7/1997

[6] According to Cedevita’s official listing

READ MORE: PJ Washington | Sacha Killeya-Jones

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

Sacha Killeya-Jones Scouting Report

CONTEXT

  • Sacha Killeya-Jones was the 24th-ranked prospect in the 2016 high school class[1] but was out of the rotation by the conference part of the schedule – averaging just 6.9 minutes per game in 14 appearances as a freshman.
  • As a sophomore, the six-foot-10 athletic big has been a more prominent part of the team due to Jarred Vanderbilt’s absence – averaging 15.6 minutes per game in his 13 appearances so far.
  • Killeya-Jones gets most of his touches on garbage baskets. 42.1% of his shots at the rim have been putback attempts and 71.4% of his scores within close-range have been assisted[2], though he has gotten a few catch-and-shoot looks out of the pick-and-pop here and there.
    • His 13.3% usage rate attests he’s not a high priority within the offense.
  • On the other end, the 19-year-old[3] has shown to be a more versatile contributor. His mobility and agility for someone his size affords his coach flexibility on how to defend the pick-and-roll and his quickness and leaping ability in help defense have translated into effective rim protection.
    • His defensive box plus-minus ranks second on the team[4].
  • He was ranked 81st on ESPN’s top 100 on December, 12th.

DEFENSE

  • Killeya-Jones has pretty light feet for someone with a 222-pound frame and has proven himself able to defend out in space:
    • Though often flat-footed, he’s coordinated enough to show out to the three-point line against a pull-up threat and backpedal to drop-back after the on-ball defender recovers;
    • He can also pick up smaller players on switches and keep pace with them on straight line drives well enough to use his length contesting shots effectively.
  • Killeya-Jones should be an asset to defend shooting big men on spot-ups and the pick-and-pop but his closeouts are only so-so – promising at times but half-assed at others.
  • As the last line of defense, Killeya-Jones has shown nice attention executing the scheme coming off the weak-side to pick up the roll man and stepping up to the front of the basket against dribble drivers turning the corner or attacking downhill, and he’s been active looking to challenge shots.
    • He’s quick elevating off two feet and has a nine-foot-one standing reach[5] to block shots or contest them effectively via verticality – averaging 2.2 blocks per 40 minutes this season[6].
  • Killeya-Jones struggles with the most physical aspects of the game. Despite his frame, he’s yet to show a lot of toughness or inclination to play with some force.
    • He played surprisingly stout post defense against Duop Reath in a couple of instances in the game against Louisiana State but up until that point has always needed to front the post.
    • He is attentive to his boxout responsibilities but isn’t very effective and can get pushed off his spot – collecting just 12.9% of opponents’ misses over his 203 minutes.

OFFENSE

  • Killeya-Jones is a pretty good finisher around the basket, scoring at a 73.7% clip so far this season:
    • Able to play above the rim as a target for lobs sneaking behind the defense;
    • Possessing soft hands to catch the ball on the move and nice touch on non-dunk finishes;
    • Coordinated enough to catch, take a dribble and go up off two feet with pretty good lift.
  • He has a seven-foot-two wingspan[7] to rebound outside his area and a quick second jump fighting for 50-50 balls – collecting 13.9% of Kentucky’s misses when he’s been on the floor this season.
    • He’s not explosive enough gathering and going back up strong in a crowd – finishing his eight putback attempts at a 28.6% clip.
  • Killeya-Jones is not an option to participate in the shot creation process other than screening for the ball.
    • He doesn’t play with enough force trying to set up deep position in the post, always gets pushed away from the rim when he tries backing his man down and hasn’t shown much in terms of working his man out of position with shot fakes, head fakes or spin moves.
    • He is yet to show any ball skills creating off the bounce or facilitating offense for others – six of his seven two-point makes away from the basket were assisted and he’s assisted on just 6.3% of Kentucky’s scores when he’s been in the game.
  • Killeya-Jones has a reasonably fluid release for someone his size on catch-and-shoot jumpers and has even flashed the ability to set his feet quickly popping to a spot in the perimeter after setting a ball-screen. He launches the ball from a high point that could become really tough to contest as he develops more speed in his release and his touch is OK.
    • He’s missed 15 of his 22 mid-range shots and nine of his 18 free throws this season, though.

[1] According to ESPN.com

[2] According to hoop-math

[3] DOB: 8/10/1998

[4] According to sports-reference

[5] According to Draft Express

[6] According to sports-reference

[7] According to the measurements at the Kentucky Combine

READ MORE: Wenyen Gabriel | Marvin Bagley, III | Jaren Jackson

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