AJ Lawson Scouting Report

CONTEXT

AJ Lawson ranked seventh in the U19 World Championships in total scoring – putting up 117 points in 203 minutes.

Canada placed eighth in the tournament in somewhat disappointing fashion, even when you consider this group isn’t as talented as the one that won the title two years ago, but the six-foot-six shooter probably managed to improve his status coming out of it. He shot better and at a higher clip than he did in his first year at South Carolina, while taking some of these shots on the move.

Lawson also passed well on basic pick-and-rolls and showed a little bit of shot creation potential against a set defense, proving himself able to get a shot off in high leverage situations, but struggled to finish in this setting as well – which tanked his effective field goal percentage. As is the case, the 19-year-old[1] continues to profile as a more of a floor-spacer.

On the other end, Lawson put in the effort defending on the ball and executing the scheme but didn’t prove himself an ace defender, didn’t fly around to create events and didn’t make much of an impact in the hidden areas of the game.

SHOOTING

The Mississauga native took 56.4% of his shots from three-point range in the event, while averaging 10.4 such attempts per 40 minutes. He nailed 39.6% of them[2].

Besides basic spot-ups, Lawson showed a dynamic enough release to take shots on the move as well – out of Iverson cuts, coming off pindown screens and sprinting to the ball for handoffs, as he caught the ball on the hop, got great elevation to shoot over closeouts and pulled the trigger quickly.

SHOT CREATION

Lawson ran a good deal of side pick-and-roll to keep the offense moving and showed he is capable at hitting the roll man over the top – assisting on 21.2% of Canada’s scores when he was on the floor.

He has a quick first step and has also shown some dexterity pass-faking to clear a path to the basket but doesn’t attack the rim with any power and struggled to finish with a defender parked between him and the goal – converting just 43.9% of his 41 two-point shots in the tournament.

He launched a few floaters off a jump-stop to try acting as a scoring threat from the in-between area but struggled with his touch on those as well.

Lawson had some responsibility creating shots late in the shot clock and got some good looks off on jumpers – crossing over into step-back pull-ups in isolation and creating separation for stop-and-pop pull-ups in pick-and-roll. But he struggles to play through contact due to his thin 180-pound frame and rarely managed to get to the rim in a position of strength.

DEFENSE

Lawson bent his knees to get down in a stance and played with pretty good effort defending on the ball.

He was only so-so at getting skinny through ball-screens at the point of attack but hustled in pursuit to bother or challenge shots from behind, though without doing so at a particularly impactful level.

Lawson moves his feet laterally well enough to stay in front and contests pull-ups but lacks the bulk and physicality to contain dribble penetration through contact. That lack of strength also hurt him in post defense against opposing wings, as he struggled to hold his ground.

Lawson executed the scheme fine for the most part – helping clog driving lanes, rotating to the front of the rim to attempt a block on occasion and helping the helper with boxouts. He is not that fast, that bouncy, that physical or that lengthy to make a significant impact in these areas, though.

As is, Lawson continues to project as more of a zero defender[3] who might offer a little bit of versatility playing down (switching or crossmatching) if he were to start showing a lot more tenacity.


[1] DOB: 7/15/2000

[2] According to Real GM

[3] Doesn’t help, doesn’t hurt

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

AJ Lawson Scouting Report

CONTEXT

AJ Lawson was the 146th-ranked prospect in the 2018 high school class[1].

In his first year at South Carolina, the six-foot-six combo guard stepped in as a rotation player right away – logging 885 minutes in 29 appearances as a freshman.

The Gamecocks didn’t do well, winning just half of their games and failing to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, and Lawson wasn’t very efficient – posting 52% true shooting while averaging his 17.7 points per 40 minutes[2].

Nonetheless, the 18-year-old[3] showed just about enough glimpses to be considered a prospect of interest heading into the 2019 U19 FIBA World Championships and his second year of college basketball, as ESPN had him 27th in its way-too-early 2020 mock draft.

The Canadian profiles as a shooter who can take shots off movement and run side pick-and-rolls to keep the offense moving, though his percentages as a shot maker and his indicators as a shot creator weren’t all that impressive last season.

On the other end, as he is very thin for his height, South Carolina often had him defending smaller players at the point of attack. Lawson puts in the effort to play credible defense on the ball but hasn’t shown the ability to envelope these smaller types or hold his ground against similarly sized players. He failed to make much of an impact as a weak-side defender as well.

SHOOTING

The Mississauga native took 42.4% of his shots from three-point range in 2018-2019.

He catches on the hop and has a quick trigger with compact mechanics. His release is somewhat low out in front, but Lawson gets great elevation off the ground to shoot over closeouts comfortably.

Besides basic spot-ups, South Carolina had him coming off staggered screens and sprinting around pindown screens. He’s proven himself capable of making some of these shots on the move but nailed just 35.8% of his 134 three-point shots last season, at a pace of 6.2 such attempts per 40 minutes.

SHOT CREATION

Lawson triggered the offense from time-to-time but mostly got to create on side pick-and-rolls or one-on-one out of catches off Iverson cuts, though he did run the occasional middle high pick-and-roll to create separation for an elbow pull-up in emergency situations.

Lawson can make a pass over the top and is capable of hitting the shooter with a hook pass in the pick-and-pop but hasn’t shown anything particularly impressive in terms of court vision tossing up lobs on the move, hitting the roll man on well-timed pocket passes or making crosscourt passes against the momentum of his body.

He is, however, an adept passer on kickouts to the strongside and flashed some ability to make the hammer pass off deep dribble penetration – assisting on 19.2% of South Carolina’s scores when he was on the floor.

Lawson can turn the corner with speed when the on-ball defender gets stuck on the pick and has long strides but can’t go up strong off one foot at this point of his physical development. His loose handle also makes him prone to getting the ball stripped in traffic – averaging 3.6 turnovers per 40 minutes.

In quick isolations on the side of the floor, Lawson can blow by his man with a quick first step off a rip through move. He is more comfortable as a two-foot leaper off a jump-stop and is a capable finisher through contact but hasn’t shown all that many resources dealing a rim protector parked between him and the basket.

Lawson can make a running floater and has some flexibility to adjust his body in the air for reverses or double clutch finishes but hasn’t yet developed scoops, finger-rolls, lefty finishes or a floater off a jump-stop – converting just 58.7% of his 104 attempts at the rim[4].

Operating against a set defense, he is capable of getting a shot off late in the shot clock. Lawson can’t maintain his balance through contact but can create separation in isolation for a step-back pull-up off a step-through and in pick-and-roll for a stop-and-pop pull-up from the elbow. He isn’t yet a very efficient shot maker, though – hitting just 26.9% of his 78 mid-range attempts last season.

DEFENSE

South Carolina often had him crossmatch onto opposing point-guards but Lawson was an uneven defender at the point of attack.

He is capable of getting skinny over picks but didn’t always make the effort to do it – too often settling for going under in lackadaisical fashion and at times straight up getting stuck on the screen.

Lawson hustles in pursuit decently enough but doesn’t play with the sort of energy and intensity needed to bother or discourage shots or passes from behind.

He bends his knees to get down in a stance and plays credible isolation defense. Although his lateral quickness is only so-so, especially with regards to shifting directions suddenly, Lawson can stay in front one-on-one a fair amount. The problem is he can’t contain dribble penetration through contact due to his thin 178-pound frame in the context of his height. He also doesn’t really put any pressure on the ball.

When matched up against similarly sized players, Lawson struggles to put up much of a fight in an attempt to hold his position out in space and in the post. Though he puts in the effort to contest pull-ups, Lawson is not much of a challenge to shoot over.

He stays in a stance away from the ball but only does well in terms of negotiating screens while chasing shooters around the floor. Other than that, Lawson doesn’t run the shooter off his shot on closeouts, doesn’t use his length to clog driving lanes, hasn’t shown particularly impressive instincts getting into passing lanes and is often late helping the helper.

Though he’s flashed glimpses of being able to make preventive rotations that take away the baseline every once in a while, Lawson is not much of an asset in help defense – unable to act as a shot blocking or charge drawing threat coming off the weak-side and generally avoiding to mix in on scrums near the goal.

His contributions on the glass were also marginal, as he collected just 12.5% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor.


[1] According to 247 Sports

[2] According to RealGM

[3] DOB: 7/15/2000

[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