Cade Cunningham Scouting Report

CONTEXT

If you are reading this blog, odds are you know plenty enough about Cade Cunningham by now, so you don’t really need a write-up on his background, and I’ll just update you with the latest developments;

  • Despite being the sort of prospect NBA teams plan to tank for years in advance, he ended up the second-ranked recruit in the 2020 high school class[1] because Jalen Green had a killer senior year at Prolific Prep
  • With Cunningham leading the way, Montverde Academy dominated high school basketball in Florida, to the point where it started to become widely speculated as perhaps the greatest high school team ever
  • In one of Montverde’s appearances on ESPN, a graphic showcasing Cunningham’s profile had the line “complete player” in the section under scouting report. I first snarked at the simplicity of the assessment but upon further thought, it is actually about right
  • The NCAA punished Oklahoma State with a postseason ban for this next season and there was trepidation at first that the six-foot-seven point-guard would then opt to leave school and sit out the year or join the G-League but he later announced he intended to fulfill his commitment
    • It is worth keeping in mind that part of why the 18-year-old[2] agreed to spend his pre-NBA year at Oklahoma State is the presence of his older brother in the coaching staff
  • ESPN ranked him first in its way-too-early 2021 mock draft

PASSING

  • Acted more as a primary scorer in the most prominent games this past season but it is worth establishing first that his court vision and the versatility of his passing remain the most appealing attributes of his skillset
  • Consistently impresses with the timing, touch, and accuracy of his deliveries in transition
    • Hook passes to the corner
    • Shovel passes to the wing
    • No-look passes with a numbers advantage
    • Lobs on the move with perfect timing
  • Has developed remarkable manipulation skills for someone his age against a set defense in the half-court
    • Passes over the top in side pick-and-roll
    • Crosscourt passes against the momentum of his body in middle pick-and-roll
    • Well-timed pocket passes
    • Lobs off putting the on-ball defender on his back and engaging the help defender to free up the roll man
    • Hammer passes to weakside shooters off deep dribble penetration
  • Showed in his time with the United States at the U19 World Cup a year ago that he doesn’t need to monopolize possession to the ball to impact ball movement, able to act as a connective tissue to create for others against a scrambling defense as well
    • Kickouts and drop-offs off engaging the last line of defense on straight-line drives
    • Extra passes around the horn to keep the offense humming
    • Touch passes off cuts

IN-BETWEEN SCORING

  • Has good feel for using or declining picks at the point of attack to create separation or get into the lane
  • Continued to show remarkable dexterity and impressive versatility to his finishing over length from the in-between area, able to launch floaters in a multitude of ways
    • Runners
    • Teardrops off euro-steps
    • Floaters off a jump-stop
    • Touch-shots off the catch on cuts
    • Push-shots off a shot-fake to get his defender to flyby
  • One-dribble pull-up jumper off the ball-screen has become very smooth
  • Seemed to want to showcase the development of his pull-up package in isolation a little more this past season
    • Impressed with his calmness not getting sped up late in the shot clock
    • Not very sudden or shifty to shake his man out of position all that often but manages to create separation via crafty ball-handling and footwork with in-and-out dribbles, crossovers and step-backs
    • Doesn’t have a high release on his pull-up jumper but gets good elevation and proved capable of getting his shot off over big men on switches

FINISHING

  • Was consistently able to play through contact in high school thanks to his strong 215-pound frame
  • Struggled as a finisher in a more demanding environment at the U19 World but those issues didn’t seem to carry to the high school season
  • Made strides in terms of protecting the ball in traffic some more
  • Mostly an up-and-down rim-level finisher but started to show some versatility to his finishing package dealing with a help-defender parked between him and the basket
    • Showed the flexibility needed to hang or adjust his body in the air for double clutch and finger-roll finishes
    • Seems more capable and more comfortable of going to his left hand
    • Flashed a very impressive wrong foot, wrong hand layup at one point
    • Can go up with power off one foot in space but hasn’t yet shown to be as explosive in traffic

SHOOTING

  • Release off the catch continues to look pretty fluid
    • Catches on the hop
    • Goes through compact mechanics with a low release out in front but manages to get good elevation to be able to shoot over closeouts comfortably more often than not
  • Hasn’t yet developed the trigger and the footwork to take shots on the move regularly but toyed with some quick bombs joining the offense late in transition
  • Hard to say for sure without data but the brutal struggles he dealt with shooting at the U19 World Cup (when he missed 13 of his 14 three-point shots) apparently didn’t carry to the high school season

POST OFFENSE

  • Pretty comfortable posting up smaller guys
    • Not just an empty bullet, seems to look to do so a couple of times a game
  • Has a patient approach operating with his back to the basket
  • Looks to set up basic right-handed hooks over the top but also flashed a turnaround fadeaway jumper with great fluidity

INDIVIDUAL DEFENSE

  • Continued to defend opposing point guards primarily and continued to prove himself capable of holding up well enough against smaller players full time
  • Works to go over picks at the point of attack
    • Hustle in pursuit to make plays from behind didn’t stand out as much as it had the previous season but Cunningham has plenty of good video showing his commitment to that task that it is clears he remains capable of acting as an impact defender in the pick-and-roll
  • Bends his knees to get down in a stance defending in isolation
    • Has shown to have several lateral slides in him in one direction to stay in out in space
    • Leverages the strength in his 215-pound frame to contain dribble penetration through contact consistently at the high school level
    • Has flashed lateral quickness to stay attached to smaller guards who can shake him side-to-side
    • Puts in the effort to contest pull-ups
    • Can block a shot defending on the ball

HELP DEFENSE

  • Often attentive to his responsibilities rotating in to pick up the roll man
    • Showed glimpses of explosive leaping ability to block shots coming off the weakside on longer rotations
  • Mixes it up on scrums
    • Helps crowd the area near the basket
    • Can block a shot from the side
    • Often looks to boxout whoever is close by
  • Closeouts, which had been better at the U19 World Cup than the previous season, left something to be desired again this past season

[1] According to ESPN

[2] DOB: Sep/25/2001

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

Scottie Barnes Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Scottie Barnes was the fifth-ranked recruit in the 2020 high school class[1].

After spending the previous two years at NSU University School, the six-foot-eight combo forward transferred to powerhouse Montverde Academy for his senior year of high school and exceled as a star role player on a team so dominant that it was widely speculated as perhaps the greatest high school team ever.

He got to show the versatility of his defense, being able to switch and crossmatch onto perimeter players, as well as log some time at center in alternative lineups.

On offense, the soon-to-be 19-year-old[2] also plays a very attractive style as a shot creator for others on the move, even without handling against a set defense.

There are strong rumors that he’d like to convert into a point guard who does that sort of ball handling against a set defense and that Florida State convinced him to spend his pre-NBA year there in part by offering him a real chance to do so but Barnes projects as more of a connective tissue who can aid ball movement and people movement with handoffs, kickouts out of the short roll, quick ball reversals, by posting up to pass and by hitting cutters slipping backdoor off fake handoffs.

His shooting needs to develop but as the NBA rapidly paces towards a world where wings run pick-and-roll, wings space the floor and wings play center, players like Barnes should be in even higher demand.

ESPN ranked him 14th in its way-too-early 2021 mock draft.

PERIMETER DEFENSE

  • Picked up smaller players on switches a fair amount and checked wings on the perimeter from time-to-time
  • Bends his knees to get down in a stance
  • Defends on the ball with a good deal of intensity, capable of heating up opposing ball handlers of all sizes
  • Can stay attached to smaller players on straight-line drives and proved himself a quick off two feet to block shots at the rim defending on the ball
    • Projects as an option to hold up against guards who shake the defender side-to-side but wasn’t truly tested at the high school level and didn’t do as well as expected in these instances at the U19 World Cup one year ago
  • Showed urgency on his closeouts and proved himself quick enough to run the shooter off his shot and balanced enough to defend off the bounce
  • Was asked to extend conventional pick-and-roll coverage far beyond the foul line
    • Approached the pick-and-roll ball handler with urgency while showing at the three-point line
    • Proved capable of stopping the ball, impressing with his coordination and agility sliding laterally to prevent the ball handler from turning the corner right away off the pick

INTERIOR DEFENSE

  • Logged quite a bit of time at center when Day’ron Sharpe subbed out
    • 210-pound frame at age 19 suggests he’ll be strong enough to handle regular time at the position even as he moves up through the levels
  • Active help defender, stepping up to the front of the rim as the last line of defense and making longer rotations coming off the weakside in help defense
    • Quick leaper off two feet and rumored to have a nine-foot standing reach – can block a shot but didn’t stand out as a regular threat who gets those in volume and puts a lid on the rim
    • Guards with his arms up near the rim, walling up and making it challenging for opponents to finish over him
    • Impressed with his feel for the game making preventive rotations that denied dribble drives space towards driving all the way to the rim
    • Shadows post-ups and intervenes at the last second to block a shot
    • Did not show to be quick enough for multiple effort plays that required him to step up, force a drop-off and turn around quickly to challenge his man at the dunker spot
  • Showed so-so attention to his boxout responsibilities, at times being physical to protect his rebounding area but others missing the task of putting a body on whoever was close by
    • Did not stand out in terms of quickness chasing the ball off the rim

PASSING

  • Can trigger offense on grab-and-go’s off a defensive rebound, not just with basic ball reversals to initiate movement but by running tight pick-and-rolls at the elbow-extended area
    • Turns the corner, looks to engage the big defender, and has the dexterity to deliver quick passes off a live dribble to the roll man diving a step behind him
  • Pretty adept at delivering basic drop-offs and kickouts on the move off drawing two to the ball on straight-line drives
  • Flashed the ability to see the whole floor in one instance where passed crosscourt from one corner to a shooter drifting all the way to the other
  • Montverde didn’t do a lot of work through the elbows, but Barnes proved capable of acting as a hub to facilitate offense from around the same area against zone defenses
  • Posts up to pass and showed really good court vision scanning the floor while operating with his back to the basket
    • Can deliver diagonal passes to the opposite wing
    • Flashed quick touch passes against immediate double teams
  • Reckless passer at times

DRIVING

  • Can take it end-to-end on grab-and-go’s off a defensive rebound
  • Has a decent handle without being pressured and can turn the corner to attack the basket on side pick-and-rolls
    • Not an explosive leaper off one foot in traffic but impressed with his coordination euro-stepping his way through the crowd
    • Can launch a floater off a jump-stop but other than that, hasn’t yet developed many resources against rim protectors, most often acting as a basic up-and-down rim-level finisher
  • Doesn’t have a quick first step or much speed with the ball one-on-one
    • Has flashed some shiftiness going side-to-side but most often looked to play through contact on a straight line

FINISHING

  • So-so screener who jogs to screen on pick-and-rolls and hasn’t yet developed advanced techniques
  • Has decent lift of two feet without needing to load up to go up
  • Showed glimpses of very good touch on off-balance non-dunk finishes

SHOOTING

  • Spaced out to the three-point line only on occasion
  • Has a pretty mechanical release at this point of his development
    • Fully extends for a high release but needs time and space to set his feet and load his shot
    • Has no versatility to his release at this point of his development
  • Took a pull-up in an emergency late in the shot clock but doesn’t yet have the dexterity or the touch to act as any sort of a real threat to make jumpers off the bounce for now

[1] According to ESPN

[2] DOB: Jul/31/2001

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

David Johnson Scouting Report

CONTEXT

  • 78th-ranked recruit in the 2019 high school class[1]
  • Six-foot-five point-guard who I project as more of a caretaker in the pros but who got to the rim in volume and shot well on long-twos, even if on a low number of attempts, so there’s potential for him develop into more than that
  • First year at Louisville can be viewed through two prisms: the game against Duke and all the other games
    • Slashed his way through the lane all game long and consistently broke down the defense to the tune of 19 points and seven assists in 28 minutes at Cameron Indoor Stadium, while leading the Cardinals to a six-point win
    • The other 25 appearances were not as impressive, as he shot poorly from almost anywhere on the floor (52.5% true shooting[2]), turned the ball over a ton (4.7 turnovers per 40 minutes) and fouled like crazy on defense (4.3 personal fouls per 40 minutes), which limited him to just 16.6 minutes per game as a freshman
  • At his best, proved capable of creating for himself and others in volume in his smaller role leading alternate lineups – logging 25.5% usage rate and assisting on 37.7% of Louisville’s scores in his 431 minutes
  • Ranked 17th on ESPN’s way-too-early 2021 mock draft

PICK&ROLL OFFENSE

  • Doesn’t have an explosive first step or much straight-line speed but has a mix of fluidity and craft that results in a fairly versatile approach in pick-and-roll
  • Can split double teams at the point of attack to get downhill right away off the pick or more patiently manipulate his man towards the screen with crossovers and in-and-out dribbles
  • Impressed with court vision on the move
    • Hits the roll man over the top and with well-timed pocket passes
    • Able to launch crosscourt passes from the elbow to the opposite side off a live dribble against the momentum of his body
    • Can deliver wraparound hammer passes off getting deep into the lane
    • Averaged 7.0 assists per 40 minutes
  • Was as much of threat to attack the basket as he was to pass off dribble penetration when he touched the paint, impressing with his fluidity while employing hesitation moves and spins to maneuver his way through traffic
    • Averaged 7.1 shots at the rim per 40 minutes, with those close-range tries accounting for 53.5% of his live-ball attempts[3]
    • Not an explosive leaper off one foot in traffic but can go up strong off galloping into a two-foot leap
    • Glimpses of very appealing versatility finishing through and around rim protectors with a mix of body control, flexibility, and dexterity; shot- and head-fakes, under-handed right-handed finishes through contact, left-handed reverses and extended left-handed finger-rolls
    • Shot just 58.4% in his 77 attempts at the rim but his average of 4.2 makes at the rim per 40 minutes would be a top 10 mark among NCAA guards ranked on ESPN’s top 100 for the 2020 Draft
    • Hasn’t yet developed a knack for earning the benefit of the whistle – earning just 3.7 foul shots per 40 minutes
    • Quite turnover prone driving through traffic – coughing it up on 23.8% of his possessions
  • Hit and miss against big men on switches as well. Has some side-to-side shake and managed to get around stiffs well enough but struggled against more athletic types
  • Not a killer shot maker at this point of his development and the touch on his floater comes and goes but had good numbers when bottled up in the in-between area with step-back pull-ups, going between the legs into a pull-up in rhythm, runners and floaters off a jump-stop;
    • Shot 47.7% of his 44 two-point shots away from the basket

FLOOR-SPACING

  • Catch-and-shoot stroke does not look necessarily broken, as he fully extends himself for a high release and goes through clean mechanics with good balance when left unbothered, but shot poorly from long-range and consistently looked hesitant to pull the trigger
    • Missed 18 of his 23 three-point shots as a freshman
  • Shot poorly from the foul line (60% on 40 attempts), which raises some concerns regarding his touch

DEFENSE

  • Given his size, offers the versatility to toggle between defending opposing point guards in alternate lineups and acting as a weakside defender when he shared the court with Darius Perry
  • Bends his knees to get down in a stance and showed decent side-to-side quickness to stay in front of smaller players out in space but did not often leverage his 210-pound frame to contain dribble penetration through contact
  • Puts in the work to go over picks at the point of attack and hustles in pursuit to contest shots from behind
  • Has decent instincts and reaction quickness making plays in the passing lanes but not at an especially impressive level
  • Active help defender, not just crowding the area near the basket but stepping up to the front of the rim as the last line of defense and challenging shots via verticality when he’s the lowest defender close to the baseline, as well as making plays on the ball from the side on longer rotations coming off the weakside
    • Blocked seven shots in 431 minutes last season
    • Averaged 4.3 personal fouls per 40 minutes
  • Pitched in on the glass but not an especially impressive level
    • Collected 12% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor

[1] According to ESPN

[2] According to Real GM

[3] According to hoop-math

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

Uros Trifunovic Scouting Report

Pretty interesting idea of a player, Uros Trifunovic.

Listed at six-foot-six by Partizan[1], the wing ran point for the Serbian National Team at the 2019 U19 World Cup, where he averaged 17.2 points per 40 minutes on 56.3% true shooting[2]. Though mostly responsible for triggering an offense that focused more heavily on posting up Filip Petrusev and Marko Pecarski, he had some opportunities to get downhill or turn the corner in pick-and-roll on occasion.

The 19-year-old[3] had essentially the same role with Mega Bemax, where he logged his first 65 minutes of the past season before transferring back to Partizan for the remainder 262 minutes.

With the Serbian giant, Trifunovic was asked to play more like a common wing, running some basic side pick-and-rolls to keep the offense moving but primarily spacing the floor, which he didn’t excel at.

The Belgrade native took 48.5% of his live-ball attempts from beyond the arc and averaged 6.6 three-point shots per 40 minutes among the pros this past season but missed three-quarters of his 54 such attempts.

That said, there is more evidence of him being a better shooter than that, as Trifunovic nailed 11 of 29 three-point shots at the U19 World Cup, 10 of 19 at the 2018 U18 European Championships, and 38.1% of his 126 such attempts in the season in between, mostly spent with Mladost Admiral Zemun in the Serbian KLS.

His release looked a tad mechanical at times at the U19 World Cup but seemed more fluid during the club season. He gets little elevation off the ground but fully extends himself for a high release and tends to get a good spin on the ball, at least on open shots. His 77.5% foul shooting on 98 free throws across the past two seasons also offers some cause for optimism.

But what draws some intrigue regarding Trifunovic is his potential as a ball-handler. He is probably more likely to develop into a caretaker point guard than a volume shot creator, though, considering his athletic limitations.

At the U19 World Cup, Trifunovic flashed a good feel for using or declining picks at the point of attack and a knack for getting to his spots in mid-range while using spins, hesitation moves and step-backs to create separation. As a point guard within his age group, he was able to use his height advantage to shoot over the top of most defenders and looked like a decent shot maker when able to pull-up in rhythm.

Trifunovic can make basic reads and deliver over the top in pick-and-roll but other than the occasional jump-pass to the opposite corner when he’s facing that way, he didn’t show anything particularly impressive in terms of court vision on the move and through traffic – assisting on 14.8% of Serbia’s scores when he was on the floor at the U19 World Cup and just 7.9% of Mega Bemax’s/Partizan’s scores in his 327 minutes this past season, mostly spent operating out of triple threat or off the occasional dribble-handoff.

He is not a threat to attack the rim in volume at this point of his development, lacking an explosive first step, side-to-side quickness and/or dribble moves to get by his man in isolation, as well as strength to play through contact. His 194-pound frame is pretty thin in the context of his height.

His handle is underdeveloped as well, as he is prone to having the ball stripped of him in traffic.

When he made it all the way to the rim, Trifunovic unleashed an euro-step at one point to deal with a rim protector parked between him and the basket but tends to attack as a basic up-and-down finisher looking for a speed layup. He is not an explosive leaper off one foot in traffic, hasn’t shown much flexibility to hang or adjust his body in the air, can’t finish through contact regularly and hasn’t yet developed much dexterity over-extending or using his left hand as an option.

Trifunovic has flashed a runner and a floater off a jump-stop here and there but generally struggled when forced to take a two-pointer of any kind in the pros – shooting just 44.8% on 58 two-point shots this past season.

On the other end, I’d say he’s about as promising but as uneven.

Trifunovic hunches more than he bends his knees getting down in a stance and has his moments where he seems lackadaisical going over picks at the point of attack and doesn’t hustle in pursuit to leverage his size making plays from behind.

But when locked in, especially seen during Serbia’s defeat to Lithuania in the quarterfinals of the U19 World Cup, Trifunovic works to go over screens in pick-and-roll and when paired with a big who can prevent the ball handler from turning the corner right away off the pick, he is able to get back in front with fairly impressive quickness, even if it was still rare to see him block or effectively contest a shot from behind.

Within his age group, Trifunovic showed a good deal of lateral quickness, not just sliding in one direction to stay attached but working side-to-side to envelope smaller guys as well, though it was not common to see him containing dribble penetration through contact or reaching around for pokes and strips, as he picked up just three steals in 228 minutes at the World Cup.

Given his frame and the fact he’s not a fit to defend more physically developed wings who are a threat to create one-on-one for now, Trifunovic operated more regularly as an off-ball defender in the pros and didn’t stand out in terms of making plays in the passing lanes either – picking up just four steals in 327 minutes with Mega Bemax and Partizan.

His work hustling to navigate through multiple screens chasing shooters around the floor, running the shooter off his shot on hard closeouts and staying balanced to defend off the bounce was a little more impressive, as was his toughness.

Trifunovic was at times asked to switch onto big men within his age group and showed a lot of tenacity playing post defense. In the pros, it was common to see him mixing it up on scrums and showing attention to his responsibility boxing out whoever was close by, though he is not athletic enough to continue contributing to the rebounding process by going after the ball himself – collecting just 10% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor this past season.

The case is the same in help defense as well, where Trifunovic is active helping at the basket, in terms of helping crowd the area near the rim and proving himself willing to draw charges, but is not a threat to block a shot off a rotation.


[1] According to Partizan’s official listing

[2] According to RealGM

[3] DOB: 12/5/2000

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

Mason Jones Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Mason Jones was not one of the 558 players that 247Sports ranked in the 2017 high school class.

After spending one year at Connors State, where he averaged 15.5 points per game on 51.5% shooting[1] and led the school to an Elite Eight appearance at the NJCAA Tournament, the six-foot-five wing transferred to Arkansas.

Arkansas didn’t do a lot of winning over these last two years, losing 21 of its 36 games in the SEC, but Jones stood out as a shot-maker – averaging 22.4 points per 40 minutes on 27% usage-rate across two seasons against Division I competition[2].

The soon-to-be 22-year-old[3] exceled on the open floor off grab-and-go’s – leading the country in scoring per game in transition this past season[4] – but flashed more interesting features as a shot creator in the half-court, where proved himself capable of creating separation to pull-up in isolation and out of the pick-and-roll on a consistent basis, while also living at the foul line in his second year.

His efficiency away from the basket leaves something to be desired, in part due to his questionable shot selection, but his average of 26.1 points per 40 minutes last season, a top 10 mark among players ranked on ESPN’s top 100, is nonetheless noteworthy, especially considering it was attained on 53.3% effective shooting.

He is a decent passer on the move but hasn’t yet developed advanced court vision in the pick-and-roll, besides being turnover prone operating in traffic, therefore profiling as not good enough to be a team’s top option at lead ball handler in the near future.

Away from the ball, Jones can make a shot on spot-ups but is more of a capable open shot shooter at this point of his development.

On the other end, he can execute the scheme and hold his own one-on-one against less threatening similar-sized players but isn’t athletic enough or especially lengthy to fly around and create events. Jones has, however, flashed some promise switching and crossmatching onto bigger players on occasion and could maybe add some positive value by offering versatility and optionality.

Despite the volume scoring, he is not viewed as a high-end prospect in this year’s class – currently ranked 77th on ESPN’s top 100, at the time of writing. His combination of size and style of play is very appealing but there’s skepticism regarding his ability to handle as much in the pros. His jumper, while decent in terms of unassisted makes from three-point range and a form that looks translatable, is not considered particularly special. His athletic ability, despite strong statistical indicators as an interior scorer, does not pop on video.

PICK&ROLL

The DeSoto, Texas native hasn’t yet developed a tight handle but looks comfortable operating in middle pick-and-roll, proving himself capable of playing with pace to wait for slower rolls to develop, as well as putting his man in jail.

He can attack either side of the pick and showed good body control while attempting to turn the corner.

Jones is not an explosive leaper off one foot in traffic and has flashed only mild flexibility on a double clutch finish on occasion but can finish through contact and go to his left hand to score over rim protectors, usually on a lefty push shot. He also mixes in a shot fake off a jump-stop to get the rim protector out of position before going to a right-handed finger-roll finish somewhat regularly.

Jones has employed more impressive wrong foot, wrong half layups and step-through finishes in transition but it wasn’t as common to see him go to those as much in the half-court.

Jones took 30.2% of his live-ball attempts at the rim this past season and converted those 127 shots at a 75.6% clip, with three-thirds of them unassisted[5]. He also earned 10.8 foul shots per 40 minutes – ranking fourth among players on ESPN’s top 100.

Jones has proven himself a willing passer hitting the roll man over the top or on basic kickouts and handoffs off drawing two to the ball – assisting on 22.9% of Arkansas’s scores when he was on the floor this past season. He didn’t show many impressive reads in terms of hook passes to the opposite corner and tossing up lobs on the move, though, other than being able to make a well-timed skip pass back to the three-point line in wing-wing pick-and-rolls with Isaiah Joe.

Jones is somewhat overconfident in his handle, looking to split double teams at the point of attack and slash through traffic without being able to keep the ball in a string well enough to justify his decision making weaving his way through the crowd – averaging 3.8 turnovers per 40 minutes, offsetting some of the value of his shot creation for others to the tune of a 1.07 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Though he touches the paint a fair amount, Jones shows more of a strong preference for creating separation to pull-up, looking for step-in three-pointers against the on-ball defender going under the screen or elbow pull-ups against drop-back coverage.

Overall, he was quite inefficient, missing two-thirds of his 294 shots away from the basket, in large part due to shooting just 27% on his 100 two-point jumpers.

Jones did, however, recoup some of that value as a more capable pull-up shooter from long range, nailing 36 unassisted three-point makes in 31 appearances, at a pace of 1.37 such makes per 40 minutes. Among NCAA prospects, only two players on ESPN’s top 100 had a higher average (Markus Howard and Anthony Edwards).

ISOLATION

He looked for those shots operating in isolation as well, creating separation in these instances on side-steps, crossing over into step-backs and off a nifty half-spin move before fading away the other way.

Against defenders who managed to press up on him a little more, Jones struggled off the bounce. He can crossover into a quick first step and blow by bigger players on switches but did not impress in terms of shiftiness, dribble moves or quickness on a straight line against similar-sized players.

On a surprising note for someone with his 207-pound frame, Jones didn’t do well as a wrecking ball driver either, struggling to maintain his balance and his momentum forward through contact somewhat regularly.

FLOOR SPACING

He is a decent floor-spacer, proving himself capable of nailing open shots, launching them with fluid mechanics and a high release. His trigger is not particularly quick but not particularly slow either.

Jones is not a dead-eye shooter at this point of his development, though, with an approach not yet solid enough for him not to hesitate against strong closeouts, as well as struggling to get good shots off on more ambitious attempts off handoffs when his feet aren’t set.

Jones nailed 35.8% of his 402 three-points shots in his two years at Arkansas, at a pace of 7.9 such attempts per 40 minutes, after hitting 42.9% of his 168 three-point shots, at a pace of 4.8 such attempts per game, in his time at Connors State.

DEFENSE

The DeSoto High School product was primarily a weak-side defender this past season and showed to be fairly reliable executing the scheme, somewhat consistently attentive to his responsibilities rotating in to help crowd the area near the basket and cutting off the roll man from diving all the way to the goal.

He is not an asset to make plays on the ball at the rim, though, picking up just 11 blocks in 2,044 minutes at Arkansas, while also not standing out in terms of making plays in the passing lanes, averaging just 1.6 steals per 40 minutes in 65 NCAA appearances.

Jones shows great urgency on his closeouts sprinting back to the three-point but isn’t quick enough to run the shooter off his shot regularly and isn’t particularly effective in his contests either, though at least he doesn’t get blown by off a shot fake all the time like Isaiah Joe.

He is active joining scrums under the rim but not to mix it up with bigger players on boxouts, rather focusing on chasing the ball off the rim, which he’s good but not great at – collecting 16.3% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor this past season.

On the ball, he bends his knees to get down in a soft stance, has a couple of lateral slides one way in him to stay attached and puts in the effort to contest pull-ups but didn’t leverage his 207-pound frame into containing dribble penetration through contact all that often, thus not profiling as a fit to check power wings.

Jones also struggled to navigate over picks at the point of attack cleanly and didn’t impress with his hustle in pursuit, thus also not profiling as a fit to execute conventional pick-and-roll defense when matched up against ball handlers.

Arkansas then had him switching against average big men in these instances, as well as crossmatching onto them when they went small, and his tenacity did look promising, as he fought to front the post and boxed out these types.


[1] According to Connors State’s official listing

[2] According to RealGM

[3] DOB: 7/21/1998

[4] According to Synery Sports

[5] 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

Leaky Black Scouting Report

CONTEXT

North Carolina was not going to make the NCAA Tournament, had we gone on to have one. Roy Williams’ team struggled badly with injuries all year, missing over 100 games by scholarship players.

Those absences negatively impacted the team’s competitiveness but created opportunities for those who stayed healthy to stretch themselves a little more than was expected of them prior to the year.

Rechon Black was one of those players.

The 51st-ranked prospect in the 2018 high school class[1] was only a lower-level rotation player in his first year at North Carolina, logging just 237 minutes in his 23 appearances as a freshman, but was relied on to average 29.8 minutes per game in his 32 appearances as a sophomore.

Struggling with his touch and the poor ecosystem to succeed in North Carolina’s half-court offense, he shot poorly from every spot on the floor – finishing the season with a remarkably lousy .425 true shooting percentage[2].

But the six-foot-eight wing still managed to stand out due to his ball skills and the glimpses of court vision creating for others on the move he has been able to show.

Considering how North Carolina has developed players like Theo Pinson and JP Tokoto in the past, there is a chance Black, who played point guard at Cox Mill High School, will have a chance to run offense at some point in the next year or two.

On the other end, the 20-year-old[3] also caught one’s attention with his proactivity executing the scheme and his hustle flying around to create events. He doesn’t seem like an ace defender on the ball but profiles as the sort of rangy wing who could switch up and down when his body develops, though it’s not yet clear if he does have the footspeed and the toughness for such tasks on the regular.

Black did not make the cut on ESPN’s way-too-early 2021 top 60 and there’s a chance he will go back to being hidden in a smaller role next season, as two of the five top 100 prospects North Carolina landed in the 2020 recruiting class were point guards Caleb Love and RJ Davis but considering the program’s recent track record in developing wings who can handle, it’s also possible he becomes a more prominent prospect over the next couple of years.

HELP DEFENSE

Black proved himself attentive to his responsibilities executing the scheme, in terms of stunting in to help clog driving lanes, helping crowd the area near the basket and rotating in to pick up the roll man.

Besides just positioning himself to help generate traffic in the lane, he also contributed by leveraging his quick leaping ability off two feet and his rumored six-foot-nine wingspan[4] to make plays on the ball from the side, stepping up to the front of the rim as the last line of defense and jumping passing lanes.

Black averaged 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks per 40 minutes this past season, while also making an impact in the hidden areas of the game with deflections, strips, and challenges via verticality.

He was active mixing it up on scrums under the rim, flashing noteworthy hustle boxing out bigger players and contributing to the rebounding process that way, since North Carolina’s other stellar rebounders held him to collecting just 13.4% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor this past season.

The most uneven aspect of his help defense was his recovery back to his man, as Black flashed some explosiveness blocking a three-point shot on occasion but getting blown by on flyby closeouts from time-to-time too.

INDIVIDUAL DEFENSE

He is inconsistent with his stance, at times properly bending his knees to get low but at others hunching down and getting spaced out.

When he plays with sound technique, Black has several lateral slides in him in one direction to stay attached, puts in the effort to contest shots and can even block a shot defending on the ball, flashing some impressive explosiveness elevating off two feet off lateral movement, which you don’t see from wings that often.

It is rare to see him chesting up to contain dribble penetration through contact, though, which is somewhat disappointing for someone who is listed at 195 pounds[5]. He is also quite prone to biting on shot fakes.

Something else Black struggled with while defending similar-sized players was chasing shooters through screens, as he struggled to negotiate staggered screens cleanly, even if his hustle in pursuit was pleasing.

Black picked up smaller players on switches on occasion, usually due to a breakdown elsewhere, and moved his feet reasonably well to stay attached. He struggles to go over picks at the point of attack, though, suggesting he is not an option to crossmatch onto these guys regularly.

North Carolina had him playing a few minutes as a big man towards the end of the year and Black showed he can execute some decent hedges against the pick-and-roll, as well as box out bigger players, but it’s unclear how good an option he really is to steal minutes in that role.

SLASHING

Black stands out as having a good handle for someone his height, able to grab-and-go off a defensive rebound or break the press and trigger offense in the half-court.

He most often attacked out of ball reversals or kickouts but had a few opportunities here and there to run not just a side pick-and-roll to keep the offense moving but also a middle high pick-and-roll against a set defense. It didn’t happen often, especially considering how North Carolina almost always played with two centers on the floor, but in these few instances, Black flashed a nifty lefty in-and-out dribble to manipulate his defender and a patient approach operating off a ball screen, seeming to have a good feel for opportunities to slash downhill or turn the corner. His body control not to crash into the help and his dexterity unleashing euro-steps to maneuver his way through traffic also impressed.

There was a ton of traffic, though. He got all the way to the rim on just one quarter of his live-ball attempts[6], earned just 1.9 foul shots per 40 minutes and averaged 2.3 turnovers per 40 minutes, which is quite high for someone with his 15% usage rate.

When he forced the issue, Black showed he is not yet an explosive leaper off foot in traffic and though he showed glimpses of being able to hang in the air, he struggled with his touch on floaters and around the basket – converting just 54.4% of his 57 attempts at the rim this past season.

As is, his best resource off dribble penetration at this point of his development is his passing. Black didn’t get the chance to make impressive reads in pick-and-roll but proved himself a willing passer off drawing two to the ball on kickouts and drop-offs, as well as showing glimpses of his court vision facilitating from the foul line inside the opponent’s zone and tossing up well-placed lobs off facing the defense out of a standstill position – assisting on 15.6% of North Carolina’s scores when he was on the floor.

SHOOTING

Black could not be relied on to space the floor in his second year, which had already been the case in his first year.

His shooting stroke does not look specially broken and the fact that he hit 16 of his 40 shots away from the basket as a freshman, plus his 71.7% foul shooting on 53 free throws across his two years at North Carolina, offers hope that at least the touch and the follow through are in place for him to develop into a more capable shooter soon enough but for now, the reality is that Black shot just 29.5% on 166 shots away from the basket this past season while consistently looking hesitant and passing up open catch-and-shoot three-pointers for contested one-dribble pull-ups without the efficiency to back up such questionable decision making.


[1] According to ESPN

[2] According to RealGM

[3] DOB: 6/14/1999

[4] According to the Charlote Observer

[5] According to North Carolina’s official listing

[6] 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

Armando Bacot, Jr. Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Armando Bacot, Jr. was the 18th-ranked prospect in the 2019 high school class[1].

In his first year at North Carolina, the six-foot-eight center[2] was part of a team that struggled with injuries and would have gone on to miss the NCAA Tournament, if we had had one. Those absences negatively impacted the team’s competitiveness but did allow an opportunity for those who managed to stay healthy for the most part to explore the space a little bit.

That was the case for Bacot, Jr., who ended up figuring a little more prominently than he was expected to, coming into his freshman season – logging 21.7% usage rate on his 24.4 minutes per game, averaging 15.8 points per 40 minutes and recording a 20.4 PER[3] in his 32 appearances.

The 20-year-old[4] caught one’s attention with his court vision helping facilitate offense on hand-offs and from the elbows, as well as his coordination in a few instances where he drove foul line down.

But most of his attempts materialized on post-ups, putbacks and finishes out of the dunker spot, and his efficiency left a lot to be desired. His .469 effective field goal percentage rates as below average for someone with his role.

It is worth mentioning that Bacot, Jr. played the vast majority of his minutes with another center in the lineup (Garrison Brooks), so many of his attempts were challenged and/or he didn’t have the space to try leveraging his general size (eight-foot-11 standing reach, 232-pound frame) into earning more point-blank chances.

On the other end, the IMG Academy product is athletic and nimble enough to project as an option to defend pick-and-rolls above the foul line but looked uneven guarding out in space in his first 783 NCAA minutes.

He is not as promising as a rim protector, yet to prove quick enough off the ground to block shots rotating off the weak-side, but proved capable of making plays stepping up to the front of the rim as the last line of defense on middle drives.

Bacot, Jr. did not make the cut on ESPN’s way-too-early 2021 top 60 but will enter year two at North Carolina as someone worth keeping track of.

PICK&ROLL OFFENSE

The Richmond, Virginia native stands out as a good screener, who can flip between techniques depending on the goal of the play, as he’s been seen planting his feet and widening his stance to dislodge the on-ball defender with hard screens, setting moving picks to free up shooters or slipping the pick to get a head-start on the roll.

It was hard to see how well he can catch the ball on the move because Bacot, Jr. rarely had the space the dive hard down the middle of the lane. He can finish a lob filling the lanes in transition but needs to load up to go up and doesn’t figure to be an option to play above the rim without time and space to set up his leap.

Bacot, Jr. stood out with his coordination on instances where he caught the ball around the foul line area, took a dribble for balance and attacked the rim, even mixing in a spin move on occasion. He can finish through contact but is not an explosive leaper off one foot in traffic and goes up-and-down, while also struggling some with his touch on non-dunk finishes – converting 60% of his 145 shots at the rim this past season[5], which is a good but not particularly impressive mark.

Bacot, Jr. also showed some glimpses of court vision and quick decision making passing on the move, even flashing a spin move into a wraparound drop-off at one point, which suggests a more creative coach could deploy him as a connective tissue facilitating out of short rolls.

OFFENSE OUTSIDE THE LANE

His passing certainly appears to be the most appealing aspect of his skillset for now, as he was also pretty effective as a hub to keep the offense moving on handoffs and from the foul line area inside the opponent’s zone, as well as spot cutters from the elbow and execute high-low entry passes – assisting on 10.1% of North Carolina’s scores when he was on the floor last season.

He is not a threat to score when he has the ball outside the lane, though. His standstill outside shot is stiff and mechanical at this point of his development. That leads to his man sagging off him to clog passing lanes and being able to set a strong base to chest up if Bacot, Jr. puts the ball on the floor, on top of all the traffic opponents were able to generate against North Carolina – resulting in him turning it over on 15.4% of his possessions.

POST OFFENSE

There were some appealing glimpses of him sprinting up the floor to set early post position but even in the half-court, he proved himself physical enough to set some good seals in the mid-post.

Bacot, Jr. most often attempted to create separation with a jump-stop lowering his shoulders into the opponents’ chest and finish with either a hook with his right hand or short turnaround jumper off the defender’s left shoulder, as he’s yet to show his left hand is an option in these instances.

Bacot, Jr. has shown some potential for more skilled moves when he had a little more space to operate with a more patient approach, exhibiting some fluid-ish footwork to spin around his defender.

His feel for handling double teams caught one’s eye as well.

His touch is underdeveloped, though, as he converted just 27.6% of his 98 shots away from the basket.

REBOUNDING

His most efficient asset for now is his rebounding.

Bacot, Jr. looks to set inside position on the offensive glass, hustles after second chance opportunities and has a seven-foot-one wingspan to rebound outside his area – collecting 11.8% of North Carolina’s misses when he was on the floor this past season.

His second jump and/or his power going up strong in a crowd didn’t stand out much to me, but he managed to covert 60% of his 36 putback attempts.

His constant involvement in scrums also earned him 6.4 foul shots per 40 minutes.

On the other end, Bacot, Jr. showed only so-so attention to his boxout responsibilities but exceled at chasing the ball off the rim – in this area of the game, playing so many minutes with Brooks actually assisted his performance, as he collected 24.7% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor, a mark that ranked fourth in the ACC.

PICK&ROLL DEFENSE

Bacot, Jr. was mostly asked to hedge against the pick-and-roll, venturing way out into the perimeter, with mixed results.

There were times where he managed to cut off ball handlers from activating the other side of the floor but there were others where he just went through the motions and barely influenced the ball handler. His quickness in recovery is also up for debate. He is nimble but doesn’t look quick enough to cover a lot of ground.

On show-and-recover, Bacot, Jr. was sent to blitz ball handlers at the three-point line on occasion and executed with enough urgency to discourage some opponents from aggressive decision making (either as pull-up shooters or drivers), but looked more effective, and generally more comfortable, just buying time for the on-ball defender to make it back in front and then dropping back.

He has shown to be coordinated enough to slide laterally and backpedal to prevent the ball handler from turning the corner right away off the pick but lost the roll man behind him from time-to-time. He is also yet to develop a knack for leveraging his seven-foot-one wingspan into shutting down passing lanes – picking up just 16 steals in his 783 minutes as a freshman.

Bacot, Jr. showed decent hustle to recover to his man in the midrange area while defending pick-and-pops, at times making it back in front as that opponent put the ball on the floor, but struggled to closeout all the way to the three-point line effectively.

His best work was keeping pace with smaller players from the foul line down, as he proved himself capable of staying attached in a short area and blocking a shot defending on the ball.

That should not be mistaken for an inability to stay in front of smaller players out in space. Bacot, Jr. switched onto guards on occasion and worked to move his feet side-to-side but is yet to prove he is an option to guard these types out on an island.

HELP DEFENSE

He is not a quick leaper off two feet coming across the lane off the weak-side, most likely to challenge the shot via verticality. That challenge can be effective, as contact with his 232-pound frame can disrupt some opponents mid-air, or not, as there were instances where Bacot, Jr. failed to angle his body facing the opponent and a poor challenge from the side often led to a score given up or a foul call, as he averaged 4.1 personal fouls per 40 minutes.

He is more efficient as a rim protector stepping up to the front of the rim as the last line of the defense, as he’s proven himself a quick leaper off two feet out of a standstill or one small step and his eight-foot-11 standing reach made more of a difference in his attempts to block a shot, as he averaged 1.8 blocks per 40 minutes.

Bacot, Jr. didn’t stand out as making much of an impact in the hidden areas of the game but the presence of another center in the lineup with him took away some of that opportunity.


[1] According to ESPN

[2] Without shoes, measured at the 2018 USA Basketball U18 Training Camp

[3] According to RealGM

[4] DOB: 3/6/2000

[5] 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

Obadiah Toppin Scouting Report

First posted at RealGM

CONTEXT

247Sports ranked 558 players coming out of the 2017 high school class. Out of Mount Zion Baptist Christian School in Baltimore, Maryland, Obadiah Toppin was not one of them.

Three years later, the six-foot-nine big man is currently ranked seventh on ESPN’s top 100 at the time of writing and is widely expected to end up a lottery pick in this year’s Draft, whenever that is.

Even if you consider the level of imperfection that surrounds high school rankings, that’s quite the amazing rise to prominence the Ossining, New York native has experienced this past season.

Toppin sat out his first year at Dayton but stepped in right away into a key role as a redshirt freshman – averaging 26.5 minutes per game and logging 25% usage rate for a team that ended in the NIT. As I wrote prior to the season, though the statistical indicators for a breakout into a collegiate star were there, as a pro prospect, Toppin profiled more as a potential star role player who could excel as a inside-outside play-finisher and maybe post-up weaker matchups in a pinch, while his nimbleness made him a promising defender in some areas.

But his sophomore season kind of shattered that projection, for the most part. Toppin averaged 25.3 points per 40 minutes on 68.4% true shooting and 28% usage, leading Dayton to 29 wins in 31 games, and winning Wooden Award and Naismith College Player of the Year honors as a result.

The 22-year-old is still probably more likely to settle in as a play-finisher in the pros rather than the superstar focal point of the offense he was in his final year of college, but reality is that the sheer volume of stats he compiled this past season and the level of dominance he played with, even if not against a particularly tough schedule[1], completely changed the perception of him. His 32.9 PER ranks fourth among players on ESPN’s top 100.

So, now Toppin is viewed as one of those big men who might be special enough to escape the devaluing of the position, especially of those who probably need another big man with them in the lineup to anchor the defense, which is likely to be his case, considering his defense was more exposed and picked apart in year two than it had been in year one.

FINISHING

Toppin exceled as a threat to score around the basket – converting 82.8% of his 203 shots at the rim this past season, with two thirds of his makes assisted[2].

Though he is mostly an up-and-down leaper who didn’t often show particularly impressive flexibility hanging and adjusting his body in the air or a diverse arsenal of finishes around rim protectors, Toppin can score with either hand around the goal on non-dunk finishes and finish through contact.

But the bigger deal is how he proved himself capable of making his way to the basket in a number of ways, which is really what drives the perception of his specialness – the versatility of his scoring.

He is a good screener who looks to draw contact and disrupt the on-ball defender and even flashed some savviness setting some moving picks. On the roll, Toppin can play above the rim as a target for lobs sneaking behind the defense on longer rolls and even flashed some noteworthy explosiveness rising in a crowd down the lane without needing to load up to go up with power.

Perhaps equally as appealing, he has shown great coordination in instances where he has had to catch the ball around the foul line, take a dribble to balance himself and gallop into a two-foot leap in traffic. His body control not to crash into the help stepping up between him and the rim stands out as well.

Besides the pick-and-roll, Toppin is also a threat to score on catch-and-finish’s off cuts, as he’s proven himself a smart off ball mover.

But not on the glass. Though there are highlights of a few thundering putback dunks here and there, he collected just 5.2% of Dayton’s misses when he was on the floor this past season and had just 14 putbacks in 31 appearances.

Toppin shot fairly well and in higher volume from three-point range as a sophomore, which demanded closeouts and opened pathways for him to drive on occasion. He is well-coordinated putting the ball on the floor on a straight line and can go up with power off one foot if left unchallenged. If kept in front, Toppin is nimble enough to weave into a spin move to gain ground. And he has also taken some chances to drive off fake-handoffs.

His 42 unassisted makes at the rim that were not putbacks average out to 1.7 such makes per 40 minutes, which amounts to not insignificant found money.

SHOOTING

Toppin nailed 39% of his 82 three-point shots this past season, though at a pace of just 3.3 such attempts per 40 minutes. He finishes his collegiate career nailing 41% of his 103 three-point shots over his two years in the NCAA, though at a pace of just 2.2 such attempts per 40 minutes.

Toppin has a pretty clean shooting stroke – getting little elevation off the ground and releasing the ball from a low point out in front but setting his feet quickly, either on the hop off a standstill on corner spot-ups or off 1-2 footwork when he’s stepping into the shot, and going through his mechanics quite quickly to be able to get the shot off prior to closeouts more often than not.

Besides basic spot-ups, Toppin has proven himself able to take long-range bombs off the pick-and-pop and relocating off an offensive rebound as well.

He’s pretty smart relocating off the ball to sustain proper spacing on the weak-side and has flashed pretty impressive coordination setting his feet quickly in instances where he was not spaced out but backpedaled his way beyond the arc in a hurry.

His 70.6% foul shooting on 228 free throws in his time at Dayton causes some hesitation regarding how great a shooter he really is at this point of his development, though.

POST SCORING

Toppin did quite a bit of his scoring in the post this past season, which is unlikely to translate to the pros, at least in terms of volume, because most of it was done by him overwhelming outmatched competition.

It’s worth keeping in mind that Toppin, who turned 22 last month, was older and more physically developed than the average opponent he went against.

That said, he was able to show a patient approach operating with his back to the basket and just about enough versatility with his right-handed push shot, his right-handed hook and his nasty hard spin move towards the baseline to gallop into a powerful two-foot leap to project as capable of posting up weaker matchups in emergency situations, especially in alternate lineups bereft of more capable perimeter shot creators. His coordination dribbling into post-ups is a plus in those instances, though his lack of a left-handed hook or a lefty scoop finish might become more of a problem in the pros.

What is certain to become a problem is his so-so feel for double-teams and his iffy decision making trying to thread the needle on a few crosscourt passes with a forest of arms surrounding him. There are times when Toppin impresses with his coordination escape-dribbling against hard double teams but those aren’t as frequent as the highlight clips suggest, as his 0.99 assist-to-turnover ratio attests.

PASSING

But when he can hit the open man on a crosscourt dart to the opposite wing, it looks very appealing.

Toppin has also flashed some impressive quick ball moving out of the short roll and making the extra pass around the horn. He is an asset to facilitate offense out of the elbows as well and can hit a backdoor cutter on occasion too – assisting on 14.5% of Dayton’s scores when he was on the floor this past season.

PICK&ROLL DEFENSE

I had found his defense to be reasonably promising in year one, as Toppin flashed a good deal of fluidity and coordination to move sideways and backpedal while stopping the ball handler from turning the corner or getting downhill right away off the screen in middle high pick-and-roll.

Year two revealed him to be a lot more uneven, especially as Dayton demanded a little more from him, asking him to defend the pick-and-roll in more diverse ways, which he struggled with, for the most part.

When Dayton asked him to venture far beyond the foul line and show hard at the three-point line, Toppin was at times lackadaisical in his approach to the ball handler and would even overplay the level of the screen, giving up the side of the rejection of the pick completely and rarely being able to get back into the play once the ball handler got downhill.

In more conservative drop-back coverage, going up no more than a step beyond the foul line, he didn’t prove capable of making a substantial contribution either. Toppin rarely contested pull-up jumpers effectively and, though he was able to keep pace with ball handlers on a straight-line foul line down, he was not much of a threat to block shots defending on the ball.

But perhaps more concerning for his pro prospects, Toppin didn’t prove himself quick enough to guard both the ball handler and keep the roll man from getting behind him or to shut down pocket passes and bat away lobs, which limits his team’s ability to defend the pick-and-roll two-on-two, which is what the NBA is looking for these days. Especially considering he didn’t show enough footspeed to stop the ball and hustle to contest stretch big men in the pick-and-pop either.

If you can’t guard the pick-and-roll two-on-two and limit help as much as you can, what NBA teams prefer to do then is switch and Toppin also doesn’t figure to be an asset for that strategy either.

On pre-arranged switches, he was a little more active exchanging onto the ball handler, proved himself capable of cutting off dribble penetration at first and even flashed some ability to stay attached to less threatening ball handlers. But quicker and shiftier types didn’t have much trouble just blowing by him when they backed off for a split second and then isolated him out on an island.

Dayton tried to get him a little more out of him by having him hedge way out on the perimeter at times but Toppin wasn’t particularly effectively in those instances either, often struggling to cut off the ball handler from getting to the side of the floor he wanted to get to.

HELP DEFENSE

Toppin is attentive to his responsibilities stepping up to the front of the rim as the last of the defense but has shown only so-so proactivity and quickness coming across the lane in help defense on longer rotations. Keeping a hunched posture off ball, he looked to have heavier feet moving off the ball than I remember seeing from him as a freshman or even that you usually see from him on offense.

Toppin didn’t make much of an impact in the hidden areas of the game either, as you don’t often see him shadowing isolations to intervene at the last second when a teammate gets beat or making preventive rotations that cut off a driver’s path to the basket. He is actually quite detrimental in one of the hidden areas, as he’s often blown by on closeouts and exposes the defense behind him.

Toppin is a quick leaper off two feet out of a standstill to block shots or challenge via verticality standing in front of the goal but hasn’t impressed with his explosiveness covering ground and meeting a finisher at the summit, nor is he quick enough for multiple effort plays where he cuts off the driver and then quickly turns around to contest his man on the dunker spot – averaging just 1.5 blocks per 40 minutes this past season and logging 31.5 minutes per game for a team that ranked 187th in the country in field goal percentage allowed at the rim[3].

PHYSICAL DEFENSE

Toppin is considered undersized for a big man but has a chiseled 220-pound frame and didn’t struggle all that badly in the more physical areas of the game.

He was somewhat soft with his boxouts at times but showed decent attention to his responsibilities putting a body on whoever was close by and chased the ball off the rim quicker or higher than his competition reasonably well – collecting 22% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor this past season.

His struggles in the post were a little more evident, as his high center of gravity keeps from offering much resistance and holding his ground effectively. His propensity to biting on fakes is also a huge negative. But given the fact he profiles as someone who will probably have to be paired up with another big man most of the time, this deficiency might not be that big a problem, as he’ll probably end up hidden on opponents who can’t expose him one-on-one.


[1] Dayton ranked 105th in the country in strength of schedule, according to Ken Pomeroy

[2] According to hoop-math

[3] According to hoop-math

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

 

Killian Tillie Scouting Report

CONTEXT

  • Just concluded an illustrious collegiate career at Gonzaga, with the team winning 99 of the 108 games he appeared in[1];
    • Dealt with a number of injuries over his time in the NCAA, especially to his ankles and knees[2];
  • Native of Paris, France;
    • Has accumulated 413 FIBA minutes with the French National Team at the 2014 U16 European Championships, 2015 U18 European Championships and 2017 U19 World Cup;
  • Turned 22 last month[3];
  • Six-foot-10 stretch big who shot the ball very well during his time at Gonzaga, is skilled enough to post-up a mismatch confidently and profiles as a connective tissue who can facilitate offense posting up to pass, handling in the high post or making quick reads out of short rolls;
    • His 130.8 offensive rating this past season ranks second among players on ESPN’s top 105, behind only James Wiseman, who logged just three NCAA appearances before realizing the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze;
  • Capable defender in terms of executing the scheme and putting in the effort to hold his ground in the glass and in the post but lacks the athletic ability and hasn’t yet developed particularly special instincts to project as anything more than a passible defender in the pros;
  • Currently ranks 63rd on ESPN’s top 105, at the time of writing.

SHOOTING

  • Offers a ton of value as a killer shooter at this size, able to take quick long bombs not just on spot-ups but out of the pick-and-pop as well, with the vast majority of his three-point attempts coming from above the break too;
    • Gonzaga had him popping to the three-point line on double-screen sets that could be smartly appropriated in the pros by opening the lane for a smaller player to dive down the middle, given the fact NBA coaches are finally starting to use small players rolling to the basket a little more lately;
  • Does good shot preparation catching on the hop, gets decent elevation for someone with his height and goes through compact mechanics with a low release out in front but a pretty quick trigger for a big man that helps him to shoot comfortably and consistently prior to most closeouts;
  • Nailed a jaw-dropping 44.4% of his 239 three-point shots in his four years at Gonzaga, at a pace of 4.4 such attempts per 40 minutes.

PASSING

  • Has good court vision for a big man and can act as a hub to facilitate offense posting up to pass, handling in the high post to either hit backdoor cutters or aid movement via dribble-handoffs or enter the ball to the post on high-low actions, and making quick reads out of short rolls;
  • Assisted on 13.3% of Gonzaga’s scores when he was on the floor this past season, at a 1.88 assist-to-turnover ratio.

FINISHING

  • Hasn’t yet developed all that many advanced screening techniques but has shown a good feel for slipping picks when he reads his defender overplaying the point of attack;
  • Flashed some flexibility to catch low passes on the move;
  • Not an explosive enough leaper off two feet to play above the rim as a target for lobs, more regularly acting as a basic up-and-down rim level finisher;
  • Showed pretty great touch around the basket;
    • Hit 71.8% of his 78 shots at the rim this past season, with over half of the them assisted[4];
  • Flashed a floater off a jump-stop to deal with a help defender stepping up between him and the basket;
  • Can grab-and-go off a defensive rebound and slow transition into an isolation on occasion;
  • Can take his man one-on-one off a fake handoff and shot-fake into attacking the basket;
    • Has enough of a handle for a straight-line drive relying on his 220-pound frame to maintain his balance and his momentum forward through contact but doesn’t have an explosive first step, much speed with the ball, any sort of side-to-side shake and can’t go up strong off one foot traffic or hang and adjust his body in the air;
    • Had 21 unassisted makes at the rim that were not putbacks, an interesting amount for someone with his lack of resources;
    • Protects the ball well in traffic – turning it over on just 8.5% of his possessions this past season.

POST SCORING

  • Not very tenacious looking to set deep position regularly but was assisted by the system, which aided him with cross-screens to help him get good seals;
    • Also rolled into post-ups on occasion;
  • Has a patient approach operating with his back to the basket, rarely going to his left hand and most often attempting to back his way into a short right-handed hook/toss-in, but pretty effective against mismatches, which should translate to the pros;
  • Converted half of his 62 two-point shots away from the basket this past season, with just nine of his makes assisted.

PICK&ROLL DEFENSE

  • Was most often asked to go up to the foul line and drop back in order to prioritize cutting off dribble penetration;
    • Doesn’t bend his knees much to get down in a stance approaching the ball handler;
    • Showed glimpses of agility sliding laterally and backpedaling fluidly to prevent the ball handler from turning the corner right away off the pick more than a few times;
    • Prone to giving up slips and losing the roll man completely from time-to-time;
    • Can keep pace with smaller players on straight line drives from the foul line down and flashed some quickness to block a shot on the ball on occasion;
    • Seems to have below average length for someone with his height but has good instincts to get his hands on few pocket passes and disrupt lobs – averaged 1.6 steals per 40 minutes over the course of his NCAA career;
  • Picked up smaller players on switches and defended out on an island a fair amount;
    • Hunches rather than bends his knees getting down in a stance;
    • Flashed some side-to-side quickness to hold his own against stiffer/less threatening wings but struggled to stay in front of face-up big men and doesn’t figure to be a good option to check big wings in the pros;
    • Fairly ineffective on his closeouts, often getting blown by when he did manage to run the shooter off his shot;
    • Doesn’t project as an option to switch onto smaller guards who can run him through a screen or shake him side-to-side out in space;

INTERIOR DEFENSE

  • Reasonably proactive rotating in off the weakside, even overhelping at times, and stepping up to the front of the rim as the last line of defense when he logged time at center but not a regular threat to block shots or challenge them effectively via verticality;
    • Averaged just 1.4 blocks per 40 minutes in his 108 NCAA appearances;
    • Lacks quickness for plays that require multiple efforts, like stepping up to cut off a drive and then turning around to contest his man going up off a drop-off;
    • Hasn’t yet developed advanced awareness to make preventive rotations that deny ball handlers space towards getting all the way to the basket;
  • Diligent with his boxout responsibilities, putting in the effort to get physical more often than not, but gets pushed out of the way at times;
    • Not all that quick reacting to the ball off the rim himself – collecting just 17.6% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor these last four seasons, which suggests you probably need killer guards and wings rebounders to have him as your center for long stretches.

[1] According to RealGM

[2] According to research by The Stepien’s Spencer Pearlman

[3] DOB: 3/5/1998

[4] According to hoop-math

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

Devin Vassell Scouting Report

CONTEXT

  • Ranked 200th in the 2018 high school class[1];
  • Logged 63 appearances and averaged 19.3 minutes per game in his two years at Florida State, which has become a consistent producer of wings and combo forwards with the sorts of skillsets the NBA values;
    • Averaged 28.7 minutes per game in a more prominent role this past season;
  • Listed at six-foot-seven by Florida State but that seems more of an ambition than a reality, similarly to what it did with Terrance Mann, who is now listed at six-foot-five in the NBA;
    • ESPN currently lists Vassell at six-foot-five and that seems closer to the truth;
  • Projects as a floor-spacer in the pros but tended to operate more as a slasher last season, looking for opportunities to create off the bounce but within the flow of the offense and without overly ambitious attempts that would tank his percentages;
    • Logged just 20.1% usage rate[2];
    • Effectively shot 56.5%;
    • Took just 36.1% of his live-ball attempts from three-point range last season, a very disappointing rate for someone who profiles as a shooter, and just 43% of his two-point makes were assisted[3];
  • Played capable defense on the ball and while executing the scheme away from it but does not stand out as a physically imposing type for a 19-year-old[4] and doesn’t figure to be strong enough to check big wings regularly anytime soon, though his tenacity picking up some big men on switches suggests he could offer some versatility in the long-term future if his body continues to develop;
  • Currently ranks 19th on ESPN’s top 105.

SLASHING

  • Showed a lot of comfort attacking out of ball reversals, jogging to the ball for hand-offs, by attacking closeouts and running pick-and-roll (not just on the side of the floor to keep the offense moving but against a set defense late in the shot clock as well);
    • Very smooth and coordinated putting the ball on the floor;
    • Has a quick first step off the catch, not as much off a standstill;
    • Doesn’t have particularly impressive speed turning the corner in pick-and-roll or side-to-side shiftiness in isolation;
    • Hasn’t yet developed an advanced handle;
    • Can play through contact despite his lean 180-pound frame for someone with his height or gain some ground by weaving into a well-coordinated spin move;
    • Had some iffy decisions driving into crowds at times but generally showed pretty good court vision to know where he was headed with the ball – turning the ball over on just 6.6% of his possessions;
  • Showed flashes of explosive leaping ability off one foot in traffic and some core strength to finish through contact on occasion but was mostly average in terms of getting to the rim in volume and didn’t show particularly impressive versatility to his finishing when he got there;
    • Took just 24.5% of his live-ball attempts at the rim;
    • Had just 12 unassisted makes at the rim that were not putbacks in 863 minutes last season, averaging out to just 0.5 such makes per 40 minutes;
    • Averaged just three foul shots per 40 minutes;
    • Took just 93 free throws total in 1,216 NCAA minutes in his two years at Florida State;
  • Showed glimpses of appealing court vision creating for others on the move, but more in terms of functionality to his ball handling than anything particularly special as far as advanced passing goes;
    • Assisted on just 11.2% of Florida State’s scores when he was on the floor, though at a 2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio;
    • Can play with pace in pick-and-roll and deliver a pocket pass to the rim runner, a skip pass to a stretch big in the pick-and-pop or a pass against the momentum of his body to a shooter in the opposite wing getting open off roll-and-replace;
    • Showed some good timing on drop-offs and lobs to the dunker spot off engaging the last line of defense on deep drives.

SHOOTING

  • Exceled more as a pull-up shooter – taking 39.5% of his live-ball attempts from the in-between area and nailing them at a 43.1% clip, with just 11 of his 50 such makes assisted;
    • Showed a knack for getting to his spots around the elbow in pick-and-roll and can create separation for a fadeaway pull-up in isolation by absorbing contact or weaving into a well-coordinated spin move;
    • Has a high release and was able to launch his shot over most contests somewhat comfortably in college;
    • Took some pull-up three-pointers in pick-and-roll on occasion but had just seven unassisted three-point makes all season;
  • Took some three-pointers on the move by getting open off roll-and-replace in the second side but for the most part his long-range attempts materialized on basic spot-ups, which he exceled at as well – making his low three-point rate (36.1% in year two, after 52.1% in year one) even more disappointing;
    • Gets little elevation off the ground but rises in great balance, fully extends himself for a high release, dips for rhythm very quickly and gets a good arc on his shot consistently;
    • Nailed 41.7% of his 168 three-point shots in his two years at Florida State, at a pace of 5.5 such attempts per 40 minutes.

DEFENSE

  • Played as a weak-side defender for the most part and did well executing the scheme, both in terms of flying around to create events and making an impact in the hidden areas of the game;
    • Generally stayed in a stance off the ball and was active helping crowd the area near the basket;
    • Quick leaper off two feet to bat away lobs, challenge shots via verticality or even block a shot coming off the weakside – averaging 1.3 blocks per 40 minutes last season;
    • Rumored to have a six-foot-10 wingspan, which he puts to use stunting in to help crowd driving lanes, getting his arms out to try swatting the ball from the side or jumping a passing lane here and there – averaging 1.9 steals per 40 minutes last season;
    • Mixes it up on scrums, boxes out whoever is close by and can chase the ball off the rim fairly well – collecting 15.5% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor last season;
    • Has impressed with his urgency closing out to the three-point line and his body control staying balanced when he manages to run the shooter off his shot;
  • Uneven individual defender against all types of opponents;
    • Bends his knees to get down in a stance and has several lateral slides to stay in front of similarly sized wings one-on-one but struggles to chest up and contain dribble penetration through contact due to his 180-pound frame;
    • Not quick enough side-to-side to stay in front of smaller/shiftier players out in space and struggles to get skinny going over screens at the point of attack, though he’s shown glimpses of impressive effort hustling in pursuit to block a shot from behind;
    • Has picked up bigger players on switches on occasion and, though he lacks the physicality to do especially well all the time, Vassell was tenacious enough to front the post and boxout these types in college;
    • Struggled to chase shooters off screens.

[1] According to 247Sports

[2] According to RealGM

[3] According to hoop-math

[4] DOB: 8/23/2000

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