Luka Samanic Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Luka Samanic is the second-ranked European prospect born in 2000[1] and currently considered the 14th-ranked prospect in the 2019 draft class[2] but has dealt with a lot of ebbs and flows over the last year.

The 18-year-old[3] led Croatia to a first-place finish in the 2017 U18 FIBA European Championship Division B, earning MVP honors along the way, but the season with Barcelona didn’t go as well.

He not only didn’t get any opportunities with the Catalan powerhouse in the Spanish ACB, let alone the Euroleague, but went on to average just 12.7 minutes per game in his 22 appearances with the second team in the Spanish LEB Gold[4].

In his limited 280-minute sample against that level of competition, the six-foot-10 stretch big averaged 21.2 points per 40 minutes but on just 43.2% effective shooting, while compiling a 9.2 PER.

Needing a little bit of a pick-me-up midway through that run, he was put on the junior squad that participated in the Cuitat De L’Hospitalet regional portion of the Adidas Next Generation Tournament and killed it against his age group.

Samanic averaged 34.2 points per 40 minutes on just 42.1% effective shooting but while logging 35% usage and compiling a 31.8 PER in 108 minutes, earning MVP honors and leading Barcelona to three wins in four games – falling just short of qualifying to the Final Four that is played during Euroleague Final Four weekend.

Displeased with his lack of opportunities with the first team, the Zagreb native surprised many earlier this summer by not re-signing with Barcelona and transferring to Union Olimpija instead – where one assumes he was promised a real chance of earning minutes in the Adriatic League, the FIBA Basketball Champions League and the Slovenian SKL.

His fortunes haven’t completely turned just yet, though. Samanic finished a reasonably strong appearance at the 2018 U18 FIBA European Championships Division A this weekend, where he averaged 25.6 points per 40 minutes on 57% effective shooting and compiled a 28.7 PER but couldn’t lift Croatia any higher than a 11th-place finish, as the team was minus-19 in his 159 minutes[5].

Samanic did most of his work with his back to the basket, as Croatia played an offense designed to get three-pointers out of posting up its big men, drawing double teams and then swinging the ball around the perimeter. He struggled to get particularly impressive looks for himself but did very well creating for others – assisting on 18.7% of Croatia’s scores when he was on the floor[6].

His two-point percentage stayed close to 50% thanks to a few finishes near the basket and catch-and-shoot long-twos but other than passing, Samanic was at his most effective as a three-point shooter when he got a few shots out of spacing out to the three-point line and on pick-and-pops. He was also an effective presence in the offensive glass.

On the other end, Samanic was asked to defend pick-and-rolls in a multitude of ways and showed a lot of versatility in terms of being able to execute the many coverages, as he is quite mobile and nimble for someone his height. Samanic also showed to be an effective rim protector when well positioned.

INTERIOR OFFENSE

He has a slight 210-pound frame in the context of his height and struggles to get a deep seal in the low post, often getting pushed further close to the three-point arc.

Samanic hasn’t yet developed any power moves and has a hard time knocking his defender back in order to create space for basic turnaround hooks. He is great at feeling double teams and has very good court vision, though. Besides igniting passing sequences on quick touch passes, Samanic also launched some impressive passes across the court to the opposite end.

He has a decent head-fake to try getting his defender out of position and pretty good touch on his right-handed hook when he does manage to get a shot off but his best work making a move out of a post touch was via turning it into a face-up isolation or pivot-moving into a quick baseline drive.

He is well coordinated for someone his height, has light feet pivoting into putting the ball on the floor and has a rip-through move into burst to get an advantage in his first step.

Even in these instances, the best outcome was often him finding teammates against a collapsing defense on shovel passes over the top to the other big at the dunker spot or drop-offs to perimeter players on diagonal cuts and hammer passes across his body from under the rim to the corner.

Samanic also has a third dimension to his passing, as he proved himself able to catch the ball on the move, cut his roll short and kickout to a spot-up shooter in a pinch – assisting on 18.7% of Croatia’s scores when he was on the floor.

He is not an explosive leaper off two feet without some space to load up but showed great touch on non-dunk finishes – on righty finger-roll finishes off a jump-stop and righty scoop finishes dealing with a rim protector parked between him and the basket.

Samanic is rumored to have only a six-foot-10 wingspan[7] and isn’t a particularly high leaper but played with a decent motor looking to create second chance opportunities in the offensive glass – collecting 12% of Croatia’s misses when he was on the floor. He is not a powerful leaper off two feet in a crowd but has a quick second jump to make an impact on tip-ins and fight for 50-50 balls.

PERIMETER OFFENSE

After nailing just 28.2% of his 71 three-point shots with Barcelona last season, Samanic shot the ball very well this summer.

He gets little elevation off the ground but dips for rhythm, rises up in great balance, has fluid mechanics, fully elevates himself for a high release and regularly gets a high arc on his shot.

Samanic offered gravity as a weak-side floor-spacer on spot-ups and drifting around the wing but also proved he is able to hit quick bombs out of the pick-and-pop and as the back-screener in Spain pick-and-rolls – nailing nine of his 19 three-point shots in the tournament, at a pace of 4.7 such attempts per 40 minutes.

He is a so-so screener who looks to draw contact but whose thin frame isn’t all that challenging for tenacious on-ball defenders to slide around. Nonetheless, Samanic showed he can adjust his feet quickly and pull the trigger comfortably enough prior to or over contests more often than not.

As was, he demanded hard closeouts and was able to put the ball on the floor a lot on straight line drives. Samanic has long strides to get all the way to the basket against a scrambling defense, can mix in a spin move to weave his way through traffic and is an explosive leaper off one foot going up off momentum.

PERIMETER DEFENSE

Samanic was asked to defend pick-and-rolls in a variety of ways and proved he is at least capable of executing each of the many different coverages.

He is nimble enough to show-and-recover – blitzing at the three-point line against a pull-up threat and backpedalling to hustle back to the roll man quickly enough for the weak-side rotations not to get terribly exposed.

Samanic can hedge and influence ball-handlers way high in the perimeter as well – forcing dribble drives to go sideways and then hustling back to even the matchups behind him quickly.

He is also an option to pick up smaller players on switches – bending his knees to get down in a stance and showing he has several slides in him to stay in front of shifty players out in space, at least against the level of competition he faced in Latvia.

And last but not least, Samanic is also effective in drop back defense – keeping pace with ball-handlers getting downhill on straight line drives, using his eight-foot-10 standing reach to contest pull-ups effectively and even flashing quick leaping ability off two feet to block close-range attempts defending on the ball.

INTERIOR DEFENSE

Samanic logged some of his time at center and did well as a help defender for the most part. He has developed decent recognition skills and awareness coming off the weak-side or stepping up to the front of the basket as the last line of defense, putting himself in position to challenge a lot of shots.

Some opponents managed to score through him, as his lack of above average length and bulk hurt him in a few instances. But he was also fairly effective impacting shots via verticality and still managed to pick up more than a few blocks – averaging 2.7 blocks per 40 minutes in the event.

Samanic is attentive enough to his responsibilities putting a body on an opponent close by but isn’t very physical with his boxouts. Nonetheless, he was able to rely on his quickness chasing the ball off the rim quicker than this level of competition – collecting 25.3% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor.

OUTLOOK

After a disappointing season with Barcelona, Samanic wasn’t necessarily dominant at the 2018 U18 FIBA European Championships, at least not in a way that elevated the level of his team.

He showed more than enough to remain one of the most interesting prospects of the 2019 draft class, though.

Samanic projects as a good shooter, who could offer floor spacing at the point of attack, can put the ball on the floor to drive against closeouts and has shown to be a versatile passer – capable of creating for others on the move and as a hub to facilitate offense.

In a time where teams like to create three-pointers off movement while posting up to give time for these actions to work themselves out or having perimeter players get a head-start by darting around big man on handoffs, Samanic figures to be an excellent fit for what the NBA is looking for in its big men right now.

That’s also the case because he’s shown to be capable of guarding the pick-and-roll in a multitude of ways, most importantly by being able to bother ball-handlers way out in the perimeter – which is quickly becoming a must in a league where pull-up threats are multiplying by the day.

That said, his frame needs to develop for him to belong from a physical-standpoint, especially considering that most of the potential he offers as a difference maker relies on his ability to eventually play center full-time.


[1] According to Eurospects

[2] According to ESPN

[3] DOB: 1/9/2000

[4] According to RealGM

[5] According to FIBA

[6] According to RealGM

[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

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Zion Williamson Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Zion Williamson was the second-ranked prospect in the 2018 high school class and is currently considered the seventh-ranked prospect in the 2019 draft class.

The 18-year-old has a remarkable frame for someone his age, as Duke currently lists him at 285 pounds. All that mass is reasonably well distributed within his six-foot-seven height and led to him consistently overwhelming competition at the high school and AAU levels.

Williamson looks like he could be dropped into an NBA game right now and belong just fine from a physical-standpoint, though all that bulk at his young age does raise concerns over his conditioning for the near future.

On top of that general size, he is very nimble for someone his weight and an explosive leaper off two feet, without needing to load up to go up. Thanks to that ability to act as a constant threat above the basket on both ends and his strength, Williamson projects as a big man at higher levels.

However, the lefty had quite a few opportunities to handle the ball at Spartanburg Day and with SC Supreme, flashing some very intriguing potential as a shot creator from the perimeter – invoking comparisons to LeBron James on some corners of the internet.

Williamson is well-coordinated for someone with his body type and very few players in his age group were able to contain his bulldozer drives. But his skill level is still early in its development and the teenager hasn’t yet shown the flashes of geniality we’ve seen from James, so those comparisons appear to be misguided and unfortunate.

As is, his time at Duke should offer more clarity in terms of what can be reasonably expected of Williamson once he fits into a team that also has to worry about accommodating all the other high end talent around him. It will also illuminate us on his true level of commitment to defense.

He looked quite bored more often than not and rarely played with the sort of intensity you’d like to see from an athlete of his caliber.

With his combination of size and athleticism, Williamson has the potential to be a dominant defender, both on the ball and acting as a weak-side helper. But regular effort and attention to his responsibilities executing the scheme are also part of the equation, and in those areas he still has plenty of room to improve.

(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)

Bol Bol Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Bol Bol was the fourth-ranked prospect in the 2018 high school class and is currently considered the 12th-ranked prospect in the 2019 draft class.

The seven-foot-two center is viewed like a potential unicorn – able to protect the rim on one end and space the floor out to the three-point line on the other.

He’s certainly proven himself a very impactful shot blocker when well positioned, as Findlay Prep had him hang back close to the basket at all times, but his energy level and physicality leave a lot to be desired at this point of his development. As a result, Bol is not the dominant defensive rebounder his general size suggests he should be, though his positioning consistently secured him healthy numbers.

The 18-year-old is also yet to show he is mobile enough to extend pick-and-roll defense above the foul line, which is rapidly becoming a must for big men at the NBA level, given the growing importance of the pull-up three-pointer.

On the other end, most of his touches came in the post, where he struggled to generate good-looking looks more often than not due to his lack of strength, or in the extended elbow area, where the Oregon commit showed his fondness for face-up isolating against his man. He can look intriguing operating off the dribble every now and again but appears to be a long way away from earning a living doing that.

In the near future, Bol projects as someone who can make an impact as a finisher, second chance creator and eventual pick-and-pop shooter but pretty much all of those look theoretical at this time.

Findlay pretty much never had him rolling down the lane off a ball-screen, his energy in the offensive glass left a lot to be desired as well and he rarely gets his three-pointers up – more often than not putting the ball on the floor to try creating something needlessly more complicated, in part due to the fact his unorthodox release requires him to be wide-open for him to get the ball out.

(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)

Robert Williams, III Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

Robert Williams, III was the 50th-ranked prospect in the 2016 high school class[1].

Despite an up-and-down first year at Texas A&M, he was expected to go one-and-done after compiling a pretty good statistical profile and standing out from a physical-standpoint but surprised many by opting to return for a second season.

I think it’s fair to say that decision didn’t really pay off, though it didn’t backfire either.

Williams is currently expected to be drafted around the same range he would have been last year (late lottery), with some chance that he might drop after skipping the 2018 NBA Combine and starting his workout tour late in the process.

In his two years at Texas A&M, the 20-year-old[2] accumulated 1,570 minutes of college basketball experience. But other than that, he has just 45 minutes in the 2017 adidas Nations under his belt[3].

Most recently, the six-foot-10 hyper athletic big man averaged 16.2 points per 40 minutes[4] on 63.2% effective shooting and compiled a 24.1 PER in 30 appearances last season.

Texas A&M played the fourth-toughest schedule in the country[5] and had a +22.2 pace-adjusted point differential with him on the floor[6] – which led the team.

His positive impact on a team that played tough competition is impressive when you consider he played out of position on defense and wasn’t given many chances to max out his potential on offense due to the fact he logged most of his minutes alongside Tyler Davis, a pure center.

Defensively, that offered him a chance to guard a little further away from the basket, which is how he figures to be deployed in the switch-happy NBA, at least in the near future. But on the other end, Williams didn’t have many opportunities and space to roll to the basket out of the pick-and-roll – a big problem, given he projects as a catch-and-score finisher in the pros.

FINISHING

Williams got to finish out of rolls to the basket just nine times all of last season[7]. In those few instances, he showed to be a decent screener who plants his feet and looks to influence the on-ball defender. Williams also flashed some quick recognition skills setting drag screens in transition.

But other than that, he had more than a few opportunities to prove he is an explosive leaper off two feet and can play above the rim as a target for lobs – in transition, sneaking behind the defense roaming around the baseline at the dunker spot and going up in traffic without needing to load up on cuts across the lane.

More impressively, perhaps, he has proven to be coordinated enough for instances where he needed to catch the ball on the move, take a dribble for balance and score around rim protectors on non-dunk finishes.

His touch on non-dunk finishes was pretty impressive as well, as Williams converted his 128 shots at the rim at a remarkable 83.6% clip[8].

He can crash the offensive glass hard and stress the defense as a putback threat. Williams has a seven-foot-four wingspan[9] to rebound outside of his area and a quick second jump to fight for tip-ins or 50-50 balls – collecting 10.3% of Texas A&M’s misses when he was on the floor and converting 75% of his 38 putback attempts.

PASSING

After his finishing ability, passing is the most developed aspect of his skill-set on offense.

Williams has shown he is an adept passer on kickouts to the perimeter even when trapped against the baseline, out of working with his back to the basket in the low post and in instances where the defense collapsed to him when he caught the ball, dribbled for balance and went forward – assisting on 11% of Texas A&M’s scores when he was on the floor last season.

He struggled when crowded and doubled hard in the post, though, yet to show dexterity putting the ball on the floor for an escape dribble. His average of 2.7 turnovers per 40 minutes was sky-high for someone with a 19.3% usage rate and his 0.8 assist-to-turnover ratio was quite lousy.

POST GAME

Williams doesn’t use his 241-pound frame[10] to set deep position often and doesn’t play with a lot of toughness looking to back his man down with power moves.

He also didn’t show a particularly deep skill level in terms of trying to get his defender out of position with the use of head fakes, shot fakes, pivot moves or turnaround fade-away jumpers.

Williams can set up basic right handed hooks and was a so-so proposition in these looks – hitting 40% of his 80 two-point shots away from the basket last season, but doesn’t appear to consider his left hand a real option, as he was often seem contorting his body on awkward-looking baby jumpers when his defender forced him to his off hand.

SHOOTING

Williams was once envisioned as a potential unicorn – a center capable of protecting the rim on one end and spacing the floor out to the three-point line on the other, but he hasn’t developed as a shooter.

He gets little elevation off the ground but fully extends himself to launch the ball from up top, so his release is high and he brings the ball up fluidly, even if a bit slowly. The touch on his jumper is iffy, though, and his biggest problem is getting enough arc on his shot with some consistency.

Williams missed all 12 of his three-point shots last season, after missing 16 of his 18 such attempts the year before. More of an indictment in his potential as a shooter, perhaps, is the fact that he hit just 54.1% of his 170 free throws over his two years in college.

RIM PROTECTION

Williams made more of a tangible impact on defense when he had the chance to patrol the lane. His explosiveness off two feet translates in him acting as a constant shot blocking threat and Williams flashed some awareness making a lot of corrections on breakdowns around him, alongside pleasing effort on plays that required multiple efforts.

It’s fair to point out that he sold out for blocks at times and bit on more than a few shot-fakes from time-to-time, aside from not yet having developed the ability to make preventive rotations that keep the opponent from getting to the rim at all.

But Williams made a lot of positive plays rotating all the way in from the weak-side in help-defense, stepping up to the front of the rim acting as the last line of defense and blocking shots on the ball keeping pace with smaller players or face-up big men from the foul line down – averaging 4.1 blocks per 40 minutes last season.

He is not a stout post defender but used his reach to make plays on the ball for strips, which was also the case when a face-up big man took him off the dribble – averaging 1.2 steals per 40 minutes.

Williams puts a body in the closest opponent somewhat regularly but isn’t very physical with his boxouts and tougher big men can push him out of the way. However, he is very quick chasing the ball off the rim and can highpoint it in a different stratosphere than a lot of his matchups – collecting 27.2% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor last season.

Thanks in large part to his ability to create events in volume, Williams led a team in defensive rating that ranked 14th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency.

PERIMETER DEFENSE

Logging most of his minutes alongside Tyler Davis, Williams was forced to extend out to the perimeter often.

Against face-up big men, he did well closing out to the three-point line in pick-and-pop defense and on stunt-and-recover’s to spot-up floor-spacers, not only blocking quite a few jumpers but also showing on a few instances that he is able to closeout, run the shooter off his shot and stay balanced as he forces that opponent to put the ball on the floor.

His performance on hedges was far less impactful, as Williams often showed subpar effort and didn’t influence ball handlers out in the perimeter with any regularity, though his hustle returning to the middle and spotting someone open to cover was OK.

Against smaller players on switches, Williams doesn’t bend his knees to get down in a stance but has long strides and can keep pace on straight line drives, at least well enough to block or effectively contest shots from behind.


[1] According to ESPN

[2] DOB: 10/17/1997

[3] According to our stats’ database

[4] According to sports-reference

[5] According to Ken Pomeroy

[6] According to our stats’ database

[7] According to research by ESPN’s Mike Schmitz

[8] According to hoop-math

[9] According to Draft Express

[10] According to Texas A&M’s official listing

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

Zhaire Smith Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

Zhaire Smith was only the 194th-ranked prospect in the 2017 high school class[1] and had no other meaningful experience prior to his time in college basketball but his one year at Texas Tech was enough for him to stand out.

In his 1,051 NCAA minutes, the 19-year-old[2] averaged 15.9 minutes per 40 minutes[3] on 61.8% true shooting and compiled a 21.3 PER[4], as a key cog on the team that made it to the Elite Eight before falling to eventual champion Villanova.

Texas Tech played the 19th-toughest schedule in the country[5] and had a +34.6 pace-adjusted point differential with him on the floor[6].

Smith is an unorthodox prospect. His role on offense was as a combo forward. He spaced out to the three-point line some but not a lot, as most of his work was done screening and leveraging his athleticism as a threat near the basket on cuts, rolls, roaming around the baseline at the dunker spot and crashing the offensive glass.

On the other end, Smith also impressed the most as an interior defender, not only leveraging his explosiveness as a rim protector but also showing terrific awareness making an impact in the hidden areas of the game.

The problem, if you choose to see it as one, is that Smith was measured at six-foot-four, 198 pounds at the 2018 NBA Combine – a frame rarely associated with players suited to do things more commonly done by big men. As a result, he might spend a chunk of his career being miscast as a pure perimeter player, which he doesn’t figure to be as good at in the immediate future due to his lack of handle and the low volume of three-point shots he took in college.

Teams like Golden State, Brooklyn and Houston have reaped the benefits of playing guys like Draymond Green, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and PJ Tucker at center for portions of the game but we are yet to see other teams be as brave in terms of discounting height as an arbitrary need to view someone as a big man.

However, those players cited above are generally taller, longer and thicker than Smith, who would represent a longer leap of faith for a coach to feel comfortable having him log most of his minutes as an interior player, especially on defense.

HELP-DEFENSE

Smith’s primary role was as an off-ball defender, at times as a weak-side helper in taller lineups and at others defending closer to the basket when Texas Tech went smaller.

He showed to be attentive to his responsibilities rotating all the way in from the opposite end to make a tangible impact at the rim, as he is able to explode off the ground off two feet to effectively challenge shots via verticality and pick up some impressive blocks from time to time – as he averaged 1.6 of them per 40 minutes.

Smith also impressed with his attention on short rotations to prevent the simple pass to the roll man – key plays that don’t get credited in the boxscore but show his ability to execute the scheme and are tremendously impactful in team defense.

He put his six-foot-10 wingspan[7] to good use, showing a knack for using his length to get into passing lanes for deflections that disrupted the offense and creating turnovers – as he averaged 1.6 steals per 40 minutes.

When he had to handle the responsibilities of a big man, Smith looked like a natural stepping up to the front of the rim to protect it against dribble drivers attacking downhill, using the baseline as help to prevent the ball handler from getting to the basket in the first place on actions on the side of the floor and stringing parallel very fluidly to cut off penetration in pick-and-roll defense.

INDIVIDUAL DEFENSE

Smith’s individual defense was less impressive.

He was hit-and-miss in isolation. Smith hunches down rather than bends his knees to get low in a stance but has more than a few slides in him to stay in front of similarly sized wings. He doesn’t chest up to contain dribble penetration through contact but puts in the effort to use his eight-foot-four standing reach to try contesting pull-ups and has proven he is able to block shots defending on the ball.

Against smaller guards, Smith didn’t show particularly great lateral quickness to stay in front but can direct the ball towards the help and hustles in pursuit to try blocking or contesting shots from behind. He doesn’t seem suited to cross-match onto these types of players for entire possessions, though, due to his inability to get skinny over screens at the point of attack, at times dying on these picks.

That struggle negotiating screens was also seen when Smith was matched up on pure shooters who got their looks off movement, as he didn’t do well when forced disentangle himself from traffic and closeout in a hurry.

He was a mixed bag on closeouts to spot-up shooters as well, able to contest shots fairly well but not running shooters off their shots as often as someone with his athleticism was expected to.

Smith excelled in individual defense when he picked up bigger players on switches, as he proved to be tenacious enough to front the post and prevent easy entry passes. He collected just 11.1% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor but aided the rebounding effort by boxing out diligently, proving to be tough enough to boxout bulkier types like Udoka Azubuike, who is 75 pounds heavier than him.

OFFENSE

Smith had a small role on offense – logging just 18.2% usage rate and being assisted on 68.1% of his field goals[8].

His best work was done near the basket on catch-and-finishes, as 62.5% of his shots were at the rim. He can play in a different stratosphere as a target for lobs going up off two feet and finish through contact in transition, cutting across the lane and going up without needing to load up, roaming around the baseline at the dunker spot, sneaking behind the defense or going up in traffic diving out of the pick-and-roll and as a tip dunk threat crashing the offensive glass – converting his 168 shots at the basket at a 64.9% clip.

Smith didn’t produce in particularly special volume out of offensive rebounds – collecting just 9.5% of Texas Tech’s misses when he was on the floor and converting just 57.1% of his 37 second chance attempts into immediate putbacks. But his thundering dunks tended to be huge energizing plays and his average of 4.8 foul shots per 40 minutes reflect in part his constant participation in these scrums.

Smith didn’t space out to the three-point line a whole lot, as he averaged just 1.5 three-point attempts per 40 minutes. Though he took a few shots coming off pindown screens, he proved to be only a capable open shot shooter at this point of his development.

His release looks like a catapult release at times but Smith launches the ball from a high point, pulls the trigger fluidly, if not necessarily all that impressively quickly, and has decent, if not necessarily great, touch.

He nailed 45% of his 40 three-point shots last season and hit 71.7% of his 127 foul shots, which creates some expectation that he will be at least a capable open shot shooter in the pros as well.

Smith brought the ball up the court to trigger the offense every once in a while but mostly only created his own shot in the half-court in emergency situations late in the shot clock.

He flashed some between the legs shake, a hesitation move, a pound dribble and a well coordinated spin to get dribble penetration in isolation but for the most part Smith was limited by his rudimentary handle, his lack of a quick first step and general lack of speed with the ball. He also didn’t leverage his strength to maintain his momentum forward through contact often. As a result, just 24 of his makes at the rim were unassisted and not created via putbacks.

Those makes came through glimpses of a potentially versatile finishing package. Smith hasn’t yet developed dexterity finishing with his left hand and isn’t as explosive a leaper off one foot in a crowd but flashed the ability to adjust his body in the air, euro-step to weave his way through traffic into a finger-roll finish and leverage his length to complete reverses or up-and-under’s around rim protectors.

Aside from executing basic drop-offs and kick-outs when he managed to collapse the defense, Smith also showed some vision bringing the ball up the court in transition to deliver some nifty bounce passes and facing the defense when he got the ball in the extended elbow area – assisting on 12.3% of Texas Tech’s scores when he was on the floor. He was also the play Chris Bear liked to have in the middle of an opponent’s zone.

When forced to stop his drives his short, Smith didn’t much of anything in terms of efficient shot making and running floaters or floaters off a jump-stop to finish over length from the in-between area but can unleash an awesome looking step-back pull-up off a hop step from time-to-time.


[1] According to 247Sports

[2] DOB: 6/4/1999

[3] According to sports-reference

[4] According to our stats’ database

[5] According to Ken Pomeroy

[6] According to our stats’ database

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

[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

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