Dusan Ristic Scouting Report

CONTEXT

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

OFFENSE

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

DEFENSE

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

[1] DOB: 11/27/1995

[2] According to sports-reference

[3] According to RealGM

[4] According to Ken Pomeroy

[5] According to RealGM

[6] According to hoop-math

[7] According to Arizona’s official listing

[8] According to hoop-math

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

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Allonzo Trier Scouting Report

CONTEXT

  • Allonzo Trier was the 18th-ranked prospect in the 2015 high school class[1].
  • In three seasons at Arizona, the six-foot-five wing accumulated 2,456 minutes of college basketball experience.
    • Other than that, he has 139 minutes at the 2013 and 2014 Nike Global Challenge and 182 minutes defending the United States National Team at the 2014 U18 FIBA Americas and 2015 U19 FIBA World Cup[2].
  • Most recently, he averaged 21.3 points per 40 minutes[3] on 65.6% true shooting and compiled a 21.1 PER in 33 appearances last season.
  • Arizona played only the 68th-toughest schedule in the country[4] and had a +22.7 pace-adjusted point differential in Trier’s 1,124 minutes[5].
  • The 22-year-old[6] had a lot of shot creation responsibility against a set defense, not just running point when Parker Jackson-Cartwright subbed out but as the most capable dribble penetrator on the team even with the diminutive lead guard in the game.
    • Trier logged 23.8% usage rate and assisted on 17.3% of Arizona’s scores when he was on the floor last season.
    • He was assisted on just 36.4% of his 184 field-goals[7].
    • His 129 offensive rating was far better than the team’s overall 114.7.
  • On the other end, the Findlay Prep product put in decent effort in individual defense and proved he is able to execute the scheme but doesn’t have enough athleticism to make a real positive contribution and isn’t instinctive enough to create events in volume.
    • He had the third worst defensive rating on the team among rotation players and Arizona defended better without him on the floor.

OFFENSE

  • The Seattle native doesn’t have an explosive first step and isn’t very fast with the ball. He is also not very shifty side-to-side. But he has proven to be very resourceful off the dribble, getting by his man or creating separation on craft.
  • He has an in-and-out dribble, hesitation moves and an euro-step to get his man off balance and maneuver his way through traffic. When he ran point and was guarded by smaller players, Trier also relied on his well-distributed 205-pound frame[8] to maintain his balance through contact.
  • He flashed some explosive leaping ability off one foot sprinting up the court to fill the lane in transition but isn’t able to go up strong in the half-court often, acting mostly as a rim level finisher. A good one at that, though. Trier has shown to be an ambidextrous finisher and able to adjust his body in the air for acrobatic finishes around rim protectors.
    • Trier finished his 99 shots at the rim at a 75.8% clip.
    • He didn’t put a ton of pressure at the rim last season, taking just 26.9% of his shots within close range and earning 6.6 foul shots per 40 minutes, due to Arizona’s poor spacing. The year before, with Lauri Markkanen opening the lane, Trier took 30.8% of his shots at the basket and averaged 8.1 free throws per 40 minutes.
  • Operating in middle high pick-and-roll:
    • He flashed a hesitation move to get into the lane but for the most part showed a strong preference for setting up step-back and side-step pull-ups, not just from the elbow area but also proving he’s able to make jumpers off the dribble from long range;
      • 40% of his three-point makes were unassisted.
      • Trier shot 45.9% on 85 shots from mid-range, with just one of his 39 makes from this zone assisted.
    • He doesn’t have advanced court vision in terms of tying up the help defense and tossing up lobs in traffic or making passes across his body to the opposite end of the floor but showed improvement year over year and is now a decent simple passer off the ball screen, able to deliver the pass over the top to the roll man and the skip pass in the pick-and-pop;
      • His assist rate went from 7.7% in year one through 16.2% in year two to 17.3% in year three.
    • He keeps his dribble alive against blitzes and looks to protect the ball in traffic.
      • His average of 2.5 turnovers per 40 minutes is not great but not that crippling for someone who was tasked with creating on the ball as much as he was.
    • Trier doesn’t offer a lot of versatility as a shooter, other than the eventual one-dribble elbow pull-up off a dribble hand-off. But he has evolved into a very solid spot-up gunner.
      • Trier gets little elevation, has a pronounced dip for rhythm and releases out in front but managed to get good arc on his shot and launch over closeouts comfortably in college. He still has room to work on the speed and fluidity of his release to be as effective in the pros, though.
      • Trier nailed 38% of his 184 three-point shots last season, at a pace of 6.5 such attempts per 40 minutes. He hit 37.8% of his 381 three-point attempts and 82.7% of his 446 free throws over his time at Arizona.

DEFENSE

  • Trier bends his knees to get down in a stance in one-on-one defense and can shuffle his feet laterally for two or three slides to stay in front for the initial push. But he doesn’t use his strength to contain dribble penetration through contact and eventually gets beaten if help isn’t shadowing the isolation close by.
  • Off ball, Trier can be caught ball watching from time-to-time, isn’t agile enough to chase shooters off screens and his closeouts are either weak or he flies by and exposes the defense behind him. He has a below average six-foot-six wingspan[9], lacking great length to make plays in the passing lanes often.
    • He averaged just 0.7 steals per 40 minutes last season.
  • Trier executes the scheme as a weak-side defender, stunting inside to clog driving lanes and rotating in to help crowd the area near the basket. He doesn’t have explosive leaping ability or the length to aid the rim protection effort.
  • Trier doesn’t offer versatility picking up different types of players on switches:
    • He is unable to get skinny navigating over screens at the point of attack and lacks agility to hustle back to his man in an attempt to bother or actively challenge the ball handler from behind;
    • He is not bulky, lengthy or tenacious enough to guard bigger players in the post or box them out.
  • His contribution on the defensive glass was below average.
    • He collected just 9% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor last season and that rate was 11.8% over his three seasons in Tucson.

[1] According to ESPN

[2] According to RealGM

[3] According to sports-reference

[4] According to Ken Pomeroy

[5] According to RealGM

[6] DOB: 1/17/1996

[7] According to hoop-math

[8] According to Arizona’s official listing

[9] 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

Rawle Alkins Scouting Report

CONTEXT

  • Rawle Alkins was the 21st-ranked prospect in the 2016 high school class[1].
  • In two seasons at Arizona, the six-foot-four wing accumulated 1,760 minutes of college basketball experience.
    • Other than that, he has 62 minutes at the 2015 adidas Eurocamp and 323 minutes at the 2014, 2015 and 2016 adidas Nations under his belt[2].
  • After missing the first 10 weeks of the year due to a foot injury, the 20-year-old[3] averaged 16.7 points per 40 minutes[4] on a below average 54.8% true shooting and posted a 16.8 PER in 23 appearances last season.
  • Arizona played only the 68th-toughest schedule in the country[5] and had a +5.8 pace-adjusted point differential in Alkins’ 723 minutes[6].
  • He didn’t run offense but had some shot creation responsibility off the dribble on ball reversals, attacking off a live dribble on hand-offs and isolating against his man late in the shot clock.
    • Only 44.4% of his 99 field-goals were assisted[7].
  • On the other end, Alkins is kind of just a guy. He has a thick frame and decent length to offer some versatility picking up bigger players on switches but isn’t the sort of player who can elevate the level of a unit and doesn’t create as many events as his athleticism suggests he could.

OFFENSE

  • Alkins logged 23.6% usage rate but on a team with Deandre Ayton and Allonzo Trier, his primary role was to space the floor, as 40.2% of his shots were three-point attempts.
    • Alkins’ shot can look like a slingshot and a bit mechanical at times but for the most part his release is fluid enough. His trigger certainly improved in comparison to his first year and he has a high release, getting his shots off over closeouts comfortably.
    • He’s only a spot-up shooter at this point of his development, able to take shots relocating around the wing and drifting to the corner, but is yet to show much of anything in terms of coming off screens or out of roll-and-replace or as the back-screener in Spain pick-and-rolls.
    • He nailed 35.9% of his 92 three-point shots, at a pace of 5.1 such attempts per 40 minutes last season. Over his two years at Arizona, he nailed 36.5% of his 211 three-point shots.
    • He hit 72.9% of his 199 free throws over his time in Tucson – an indication that he needs to continue working on his touch.
  • Alkins is very fluid attacking closeouts and can expose a scrambling defense on the move, not just taking it to the rim on straight line drives but also delivering last-second drop-offs and kick-outs.
    • He assisted on 14.2% of Arizona’s scores when he was on the floor last season.
  • Alkins is a capable but not all that efficient scorer in isolation.
    • He has a good first step and decent speed with the ball but mostly gets all the way to the basket by maintaining his balance through contact due to the strength in his 220-pound frame[8].
    • He took 34.5% of his shots at the rim and earned 5.4 foul shots per 40 minutes.
    • Alkins is not an explosive leaper off one foot in traffic and can’t hang in the air but has shown some flexibility in terms of adjusting his body in the air, proved he’s able to score around rim protectors on scoop finishes while making full use of his length and is ambidextrous at it.
    • He converted 64.6% of his 79 shots at the rim as a sophomore, after finishing his 120 such attempts at a 63.2% clip as a freshman.
  • When matched up against stronger types, Alkins can go between the legs and spin to get by his man or gain momentum forward on craft. But he is not very shifty side-to-side and hasn’t yet developed a tight handle, often ending up with a stop-and-pop pull-up with a hand in his face or a floater, both of which he is capable of making but not yet efficient at.
    • He hit just 25.9% of his 58 two-point shots last season.
    • He also averaged 2.6 turnovers per 40 minutes.
  • Alkins didn’t have a lot of chances to run middle pick-and-roll against a set defense but proved he is able to run side pick-and-rolls to keep the offense moving.
    • He can hit the roll man over the top, make a bounce pass setting up a mid-range jumper in pick-and-pop and make a skip pass to the three-point when that pick-and-pop big has long range.
    • He didn’t show anything advanced in terms of turning the corner, getting deep into lane or engaging the help defense and tossing up lobs in traffic or making passes across his body to the opposite end of the court.
  • Alkins took smaller matchups into the post from time-to-time but only showed a basic skill-set, looking to set simple turnaround hooks or side finishes after trying to create space by knocking back his man for a couple of bumps.
  • Alkins is an explosive leaper off two feet with some space to load up, which can be seen on diagonal cuts and figures to make him an option to play above the rim as a target for lobs sneaking behind the defense.
  • For a wing, Alkins was decent in the offensive glass and showed a quick second jump to translate some of those second chances into immediate scores on tip-ins.
    • He collected 8% of Arizona’s misses when he was on the floor and shot 61.5% on his 14 putback attempts.

DEFENSE

  • When engaged, Alkins can do well one-on-one against other wings, as he certainly has the tools to excel. He can slide his feet laterally to stay in front out in space, uses his strength to contain dribble penetration, guards with his arms up and has an eight-foot-three standing reach[9] to contest shots effectively when he is able to stay in his man’s personal space.
  • Arizona didn’t switch aggressively and matched up conventionally, so he rarely guarded smaller types. When he did guard the point of attack, Alkins didn’t seem able to get skinny navigating over picks.
  • Alkins did find himself on bigger players every once in a while. In these instances, he proved himself tenacious enough to front the post and then box them out in the defensive glass.
    • In the game against New Mexico, he logged a few minutes as the second biggest player in a smaller lineup and flashed some appealing awareness stepping up to the front of the rim to challenge shots as the last line of defense.
  • Alkins was so-so on closeouts. There were times he was able to run the shooter off his shot and stay in front but there were others where he flew by and exposed the defense behind him.
  • He showed he is able to execute the scheme stunting inside to clog driving lanes and rotating in to help crowd the area near the basket. Alkins also used his six-foot-eight wingspan to make some plays in the passing lanes – averaging a good, not great 1.6 steals per 40 minutes.
  • His contributions on the defensive glass were marginal, as he collected just 10.7% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor last season.
  • Arizona had a lower defensive rating without him on the floor.

[1] According to ESPN

[2] According to RealGM

[3] DOB: 10/29/1997

[4] According to sports-reference

[5] According to Ken Pomeroy

[6] According to RealGM

[7] According to hoop-math

[8] According to Arizona’s official listing

[9] According to the measurements on last year’s 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

Deandre Ayton Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

Three days after Arizona’s loss to Buffalo in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Deandre Ayton announced his intention to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft and sign with an agent, forgoing the remainder of his college eligibility.

The third-ranked prospect in the 2017 high school class[1], Ayton averaged 24 points per 40 minutes[2] on 65% true shooting and posted a 30.6 player efficiency rating in his one year in Tucson.

Other than the 1,172 minutes of college basketball experience he accumulated at Arizona, the seven-foot-one center also has under his belt 103 minutes defending the Bahamas National Team in the 2016 Centrobasket, 121 minutes in the 2016 adidas Nations and an appearance in the 2016 Nike Hoop Summit[3].

This was a good season for Ayton overall. The 19-year-old[4] once again stood out as a remarkable physical specimen within his age group, put together a very impressive statistical profile and showcased a level of skill he was not previously known for. As a result, ESPN currently ranks him as the best prospect in this draft class.

But things weren’t perfect, of course. Arizona underachieved and while Ayton isn’t considered to be one of the main reasons why, doubts over to which extent he is able to elevate his team have emerged, mostly on defense.

Ayton played the entire season out of position, not just to accommodate senior Dusan Ristic but also due to Sean Miller’s strong preference for two-big lineups at all times. Logging most of his minutes alongside a less mobile and less athletic seven-foot center, Ayton was asked to matchup with types who didn’t always provide him a chance to defend closer to the basket.

While his shot blocking numbers improved as the season went along, Ayton’s general intensity trying to make himself a more active presence near the basket remains the most scrutinized part of his game. His role within the defense is often pointed to as a potential reason why he was a fairly disappointing rim protector in college but many people have also brought up the fact that a similar situation didn’t prevent Jaren Jackson, Jr. from standing out in this area.

As is, questions over his ability to anchor an elite level defense remain.

It’s evident he has the physical talent and the athleticism to be expected to develop into a difference maker. Ayton has even made quite a few plays that suggest he understands what the smart thing to do is, in terms of preventive rotations and shadowing isolations when he can see his teammate is about to get beat. Maybe he’ll be more locked in as a pro, like Ben Simmons. He did have the best defensive rating on the team among rotation players[5].

But there are also plays where Ayton fails to translate his athletic prowess into making a real impact; not always leaving his feet to challenge shots near the basket despite being in position, hurting his chances of contesting shots more effectively by trying to avoid contact and leaving something to be desired on plays that require multiple efforts. Maybe he’ll be a guy who looks good but doesn’t help his team be good, like Andrew Wiggins. Despite the fact he averaged 33.5 minutes per game, Arizona only ranked 83rd in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency[6].

ATHLETICISM

Ayton’s most impressive trait is his physical talent. He has a remarkable combination of coordination and quickness for someone his size, aside from above average strength for someone his age. He is also an explosive leaper off two feet.

Arizona didn’t offer him good enough space for him to roll hard to the basket out of the pick-and-roll often but Ayton has proven himself able to play above the rim as a target for lobs filling the lanes in transition, on baseline out-of-bounds sets, wheeling around the defense on screen-for-the-screener plays and hovering near the baseline in the dunker spot.

Aside from power finishes, he has also shown the balance, ball skills and touch on non-dunk finishes when he’s needed to catch, take a dribble to gather himself and go up strong off two feet or score around a man between him and the basket – converting 82.1% of his 218 shots at the rim[7].

His leaping ability also made him a very effective offensive rebounder at the collegiate level. Ayton has a knack for pursuing the ball off the rim, a seven-foot-five wingspan to rebound outside his area and a quick second jump to fight for tip-ins and 50-50 balls. He collected 13.4% of Arizona’s misses when he was on the floor this season and converted 85.7% of his 49 putback attempts.

On the other end, his advantage in instincts and athleticism made up for the fact Ayton isn’t attentive to his boxout responsibilities very often, aside from the fact that playing alongside Ristic offered him a chance of matching up against a lesser challenger on the boards on most nights. His 287 defensive rebounds ranked third in the NCAA, as he collected 28.2% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor.

As mentioned earlier, Ayton’s defense wasn’t up to what was expected from someone who looks like he should be a dominant presence. Besides the well publicized iffy rim protection instincts, there is lot of times Ayton doesn’t look like the most engaged defender. He’ll come in and bump the roll man from time-to-time but doesn’t stay in a stance off the ball, is prone to getting face cut, never puts much effort into preventing his man from getting a clean catch in the post and had just 20 steals in 35 appearances – an appalling mark for someone with his length.

But the team that wants to overlook these things, or at least put a lower value on them, and fully buy into his potential instead has plenty of reasons do it. When he is engaged, Ayton can be a very impactful defender in the hidden parts of the game.

He can bend his knees to get down in a stance defending on the ball and has proven himself able to pick up smaller players on switches, stay attached to them stride-for-stride out in space and intimidate shots at the basket.

Though he struggled in the second Oregon game against MiKyle McIntosh and Paul White, Ayton has generally shown the quickness to run stretch big men off their shots in the pick-and-pop and maintain his balance to stay in front, doing a particularly good job against the notorious Thomas Welsh in the first UCLA game.

He did show some ability to contain ball handlers from turning the corner on pick-and-rolls as well, though those were few and far between because of Miller’s preferred strategy of having his big men hedge on ball-screens, despite their ineffectiveness influencing opposing ball handlers.

And there were times Ayton stepped up to protect the basket as the last line of defense just fine, leveraging his quick leaping ability and his nine-foot-three wingspan into averaging 2.3 blocks per 40 minutes.

SKILL LEVEL

Or maybe some team will accept the risk of him never quite figuring out on defense in order to do business with his offense, which projects to be quite special.

Ayton has been a very famous basketball prospect for a long time due to his athletic prowess but showed in his one year at Arizona that he’s taking steps towards developing into a very skilled player as well.

Though he had a strength advantage just about every night this season and knocked most opponents backwards when he lowered his shoulder, Ayton was often more interested in relying on skill to score out of the post.

His preferred move was turning, facing his man, sizing him up and launching a sudden no-dribble jumper, sometimes even mixing in a jab-step. He can go to a turnaround, fadeaway jumper too. His jump-shot has evolved into more of a legit threat since he was in high school, as he’s been able to put more arc on it more often.

Ayton has also flashed a move where he pivots around his man very fluidly for a short hook or a scoop finish and a counter where he fakes the pivot and goes the other way, proving himself to be an ambidextrous finisher.

Overall, he converted 42.1% of his 198 two-point attempts away from the basket.

But more impressive, perhaps, has been Ayton’s dexterity escape dribbling out of hard double teams and his court vision passing out of the low post. He’s not a genius passer but has shown he is able to spot breakdowns in the defense and read cuts or drifts very well, which he was not previously known for.

Ayton assisted on 10.2% of Arizona’s scores when he was on the floor and turned it over on just 11.3% of his possessions – which is a low mark in the context of his 26.6% usage rate.

Last but not least, he’s flashed more robust potential as a jump-shooter.

Ayton is now a capable shooter from the college three-point line on pick-and-pops. He does nice shot preparation catching it on the hop, elevates in balance, has fluid mechanics, gets his shot off comfortably against closeouts from opposing big men, releases it from a high point tough to block and shows nice touch.

Ayton nailed 12 of his 35 three-point attempts in college and was enough of a threat that opponents were selling out to run him off his shot towards the end of the season. In these instances, Ayton even flashed a mini-pump fake and the ability to attack off the dribble on a straight line, using his strength to maintain his balance through contact and get all the way to the rim.

He needs to continue working on getting arc on his shot consistently in order to back down a few feet out to NBA range but Ayton has also nailed 73.3% of his 191 foul shots, so the expectation is he should be able to develop into a legit threat from three-point range in the pros as well.

[1] According to ESPN

[2] According to sports-reference

[3] According to our stats’ database

[4] DOB: 7/23/1998

[5] According to our stats’ database

[6] According to Ken Pomeroy

[7] According to hoop-math

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

Deandre Ayton Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

DeAndre Ayton is off to a hot start in what should be his only year in college, averaging 25.5 points and 15.9 rebounds per 40 minutes over the first three games. Arizona has played a very poor slate of opponents so far, ranked 313th in strength of schedule[1], but Ayton’s performance has been noteworthy nonetheless.

The 19-year-old[2] born in the Bahamas is one of those teenage phenoms draftniks have tracked for years, though one mostly perceived as the sort of prospect who managed to dominate in high school through athletic prowess alone.

But over these first 88 minutes, the seven-foot-one center has signaled he’s taking steps towards developing into a more skilled type of big man; one who can stress his defender with the ability to make shots from all over the floor and make quick decisions against double teams, though he’s certainly still in the early stages.

Arizona is also forcing him to stretch his game. All his minutes have been spent with one of Dusan Ristic, Keanu Pinder or Ira Lee in the lineup as well, as Sean Miller has shown a fondness for a two-in offense, despite having enough perimeter options to play four-out comfortably. As a result, Ayton hasn’t always had space to roll hard to basket in pick-and-roll and opponents have needed to cover less ground to double-team him decisively when he gets a deep seal in the post.

On the other end, Ayton possesses the physical traits to potentially become a difference making defender down the line; one able to create lots of events and make his presence felt all over the floor.

He is not yet that player all the time, though, since his motor on plays that require multiple-efforts leaves something to be desired.

OFFENSE

So far, Ayton has used his 250-pound frame to get a deep seal in the low post whenever he wanted, as no opponent on Eastern New Mexico, Chico State, Nothern Arizona, Maryland-Baltimore County or California State Bakersfield has been able to prevent it.

He is yet to show a willingness to drop his shoulder and knock back a defender but the mere spot where he is getting the ball in these instances and the fact none of these teams had anyone who can effectively offer any resistance or challenge his short turnaround hooks has led to him dominating with his back to the basket.

These opponents have been able to do nothing but double-team him decisively to try stopping him, which has afforded Ayton an opportunity to show something that was not widely known about him coming into the season: he’s a very willing passer against the defense collapsing to him, assisting on 9.5% of Arizona’s scores when he’s been on the floor in the regular season[3].

Ristic and Ayton are also developing an interesting chemistry where the Serbian seven-footer steps away from the basket at times to facilitate offense from the high post, which opens up the area near the goal for the Bahamian to sneak behind the defense and shake himself loose by cutting from one side of the post to the other or freeing himself with a screen from a perimeter player to become a target for lobs.

But as the level of competition gets tougher, I suspect we will start seeing Aytong relying more on his jumper, given the willingness with which he unleashed it over the first three weeks.

On Arizona’s intra-squad scrimmage, when he was matched up against Ristic, someone capable of holding his ground against him, Ayton showed a preference for turning and facing his defender to attempt no-dribble jump-shots.

He hit a few of rise-and-launch jumpers from mid-range; one out of a baseline out of bounds set, another off a jab step facing up his man after catching the ball on a seal from the mid-post and in the one instance where he worked his defender with his back to the basket, Ayton went to the middle, faked turning left, turned right and took a short fade-away jumper from just outside the restricted area.

He elevates in balance, has a reasonably quick trigger for someone his size and shows pretty good touch on his shot – subsequently attested by the fact he has hit 13 of his 17 free throws in the regular season.

Ayton is also taking jumpers after setting picks consistently. Given the types of lineups he is expected to be a part of, it appears he won’t have a lot of space to roll hard to the basket off a ball-screen often. He’s also taken a couple of three-pointers as the trailer on the secondary break.

Ayton is no Lauri Markkanen at this point of his development but his release looks fairly quick and fluid when given the chance to set his base. Though his mechanics can certainly still be tightened, the ball gets out from a high point and he certainly has touch on his shot. He’s hit just one of his six three-point attempts so far in the regular season and his misses have been inconsistent but he’s nailed six of his 14 two-point attempts away from the basket[4].

That said, Ayton is assured to get some interior scoring via his intensity in the offensive glass. He looks for inside position and has a massive frame that very few players in the collegiate level will be able to box out.

Aside from that, Ayton has proven himself a quick leaper chasing the ball off the rim and has a seven-foot-five wingspan to rebound outside of his area – collecting 11.3% of Arizona’s misses when he’s been on the floor this season.

He also possesses a quick second jump to fight for tip-ins and 50-50 balls or go up strong to transform most of these second chance opportunities into immediate put-backs.

DEFENSE

Ayton has plenty of physical tools to develop into an impact defender.

He has the sort of frame that suggests he will be able to hold his ground against anyone in the collegiate level, though it’s tough to say if he is inclined to play with such toughness since Ristic didn’t go right at him in the post or stress him in the glass a whole lot in the intra-squad scrimmage and no opponent Arizona has faced could truly compete against him.

Ayton has been tested quite a bit in pick-and-roll coverage, though. He’s shown appealing nimbleness for someone his size showing-and-recovering, proving himself able to extend out to the three-point line and slide his feet laterally to prevent opposing ball-handlers from turning the corner right away.

Also impressive are his long strides dropping back out in space to keep pace with smaller players on straight line drives. Subsequently, his massive nine-foot-three standing reach makes him a very tough presence to finish around the basket.

As the last line of defense, Ayton has shown decent recognition skills stepping into the front of the basket to act as a constant shot blocking threat with his exceptional leaping ability and make plays in the passing lanes with his length – as he’s averaged 2.3 blocks and 1.4 steals per 40 minutes[5].

He’s also been a dominant defensive rebounder, attentive to his boxout responsibilities, collecting 31.9% of opponents’ misses when he’s been in the game.

That said, there also head-scratching plays where he avoids contact, doesn’t put his athletic prowess to use making plays on the ball despite being in the general area of the shot and takes his time transitioning back from offense to defense.

[1] According to kenpom.com

[2] Who only turns 20 next July

[3] According to our stats’ database

[4] According to hoop-math

[5] According to sports-reference

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

Lauri Markkanen Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

Lauri Markkanen enrolled at Arizona as a highly touted pro prospect, after impressive appearances in FIBA junior events for four straight years, and I think it’s fair to say the seven-foot gunner from Finland met expectations.

His rebounding didn’t translate against American competition but his shooting turned out to be even better than expected and he posted one of the most remarkable shooting seasons in NCAA history.

Despite taking 74.7% of his shots away from the basket[1], Markkanen averaged 1.53 points per shot and Arizona averaged 134.1 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, 15th best in the country[2], which made him indispensible to what turned out to be a legit title contender.

Arizona won 32 out of 37 games, won a share of the PAC 12 outright, won the PAC 12 tournament and lost to Xavier by a possession in the Sweet Sixteen. Markkanen led the team in minutes and was the driving force behind the 16th-ranked offense in adjusted offensive efficiency[3], despite his unimpressive 22.8% usage rate, because he is one of those players who can make an impact without touching the ball.

Given his stature, it’s enticing to think of Markkanen as an eventual full time center, providing the sort of spacing that should stretch any defense to its breaking point, but he is a poor defender at this point of his development and seems far from becoming the sort of big man who can be trusted with directing traffic, calling coverages and acting as the last line of defense.

Arizona managed to build a top 30 defense in spite of him, though. It successfully hid him by pairing him up with a prototype center for just about every minute he was on the floor. It was rare to see opponents putting him in pick-and-roll defense constantly to try exposing him in space, which will be a lot more challenging in the pros.

SHOOTING

Markkanen took 43.4% of his shots from beyond the arc last season, at a pace of 5.7 attempts per 40 minutes, which is an impressive figure when you consider he is a true seven-footer. Luke Kornet is the only true big man[4] in Draft Express’ top 100 to average more three-point shots per 40 minutes.

Markkanen nailed 42.3% of his 163 three-point attempts, showcasing pure mechanics without wasted motion and a quick release, though perhaps more impressive than his percentages and the way he looks shooting the ball is the type of shots he takes, as he’s not just a mere spot-up threat.

He’s proven himself able to take long bombs out of the pick-and-pop, averaging 1.22 points per possession in these instances[5] and stressing the defense at the point of attack. The opponent faces a decision between containing the ball handler and giving a sick shooter a look he can make or sticking to Markkanen and allowing the dribble driver a path to the lane or bringing a third defender in and being forced to scramble. Regardless of the option, he can disrupt the integrity of a scheme that is resistant to switching (more on his play against switching later).

And even when the opponent successfully runs him off his shot, Markkanen has shown the ability to pump fake, take a couple of escape dribbles and set himself up for a pull-up that most defenders struggle to contest because of the high point in his release, as he nailed 42.4% of his 118 two-point jumpers last season.

Aside from that, Markkanen has impressed with his ability to come off screens, forcing opposing defenders to chase in a way they are not accustomed to, and even flashed some ability to take pull-ups in side pick-and-roll, though it’s questionable how effective that play would be if it were used more often and opponents started pressuring his handle.

OTHER AREAS OF OFFENSE

Part of the problem is Markkanen doesn’t have a good enough handle and the shiftiness to go side-to-side, which was made evident in the few instances he needed to create a shot for himself in isolation. He also doesn’t have the speed to just blow by his defender, a similarly-sized big man.

Markkanen did manage to put some pressure at the rim attacking closeouts, as he’s proven himself coordinated enough to pump fake and take it from the top of the key all the way to the goal on straight line drives, as he’s taken a quarter of his shots at the basket and averaged 5.8 foul shots per 40 minutes[6] – marks that aren’t remarkable but are quite decent when you consider the role he played as a floor spacer.

Markkanen hasn’t shown any explosiveness elevating off one foot to go up strong in traffic or the ability to hang in the air and adjust his body to finish around rim protectors but he has showcased an arsenal of flip shots and underhanded tosses to score over defenders in the front of the basket – converting his 95 attempts at the rim at a 69.5% clip, with half of his makes unassisted.

He did not dive to the basket a whole lot in pick-and-roll but has never shown the sort of hops that suggests he can play above the rim as a target for lobs elevating in a crowd, though he’s shown he can get up for some alley oops sneaking behind the defense. But that doesn’t happen often because Markkanen has also not shown to be a particularly instinctive cutter.

In addition, he hasn’t flashed any instincts as a passer and isn’t an asset to help facilitate offense from the elbows or kicking out to shooters out of the short roll at this point of his development – assisting on just 5.6% of Arizona’s scores when he was on the floor.

A pleasant surprise is the fact he collected 10% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor, considering he played away from the basket for the most part and the fact he doesn’t have the length to rebound outside his area when he does crash the offensive glass. That’s not expected to translate to the next level, though, because Markkanen just doesn’t play with a lot of energy.

But the biggest concern on offense about his pro prospects regards his ability to burn switches. He hasn’t yet developed a robust enough post game to punish opponents when they exchange a smaller player onto him and that’s a big problem. The striking part is how much he struggles to establish good enough position. Despite his 225-pound frame, Markkanen is not very physical.

If the opponent can guard him with a six-foot-six player without any consequence, then it can limit the impact of his outside shooting; closing out to him faster, navigating screens better and getting into his air space more easily.

DEFENSE

Hidden within a well-structured system, surrounded by plus defenders, Markkanen can be OK on the other end. He can move his feet and has some lateral mobility to stay in front of bigger types defending one-on-one. His closeouts are only so-so, as he doesn’t have the speed to run shooters off their spot often, but he at least consistently puts in the effort to contest jumpers.

But when something more is required off him, Markkanen has disappointed.

He is an iffy help defender at this point of his development, rarely putting himself in position to challenge shots at the basket and lacking the length or the helps to act as a shot blocking threat when he did manage to rotate to the rim in time – collecting just 19 blocks in his 37 appearances in college.

In other areas of interior defense, Markkanen hasn’t shown a lot of toughness. In the game against Berkeley, Arizona doubled immediately whenever Ivan Rabb (not exactly known for his power moves) caught the ball against him in the low post.

He is attentive to his boxout responsibilities but doesn’t get very physical and lacks the standing the reach and leaping ability to rebound in traffic, collecting just 17.5% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor – which is a disappointing mark for someone his size.

But how the pros will attack him the most in the immediate future is in the pick-and-roll. While he is nimble enough to guard big men who face-up against him, Markkanen is not agile enough to pick up smaller players on switches out on an island and hasn’t looked particularly comfortable guarding above the foul line.

[1] According to hoop-math

[2] According to our stats’ database

[3] According to Ken Pomeroy

[4] Ignoring combo-forward types like Semi Ojeleye, Alec Peters and Cameron Oliver

[5] According to research by Draft Express’ Mike Schmitz

[6] According to sports-reference

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

Lauri Markkanen Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

The seven-foot gunner from Finland posted one of the most remarkable shooting seasons in NCAA history, nailing 40.2% of his 107 two-point jumpers and 43.2% of his 155 three-point shots.

Perhaps even more impressive than the volume of shots he got up and made is the multiple ways he did it. Markkanen can not only hit spot-up looks but also proved himself able to make three-pointers out of the pick-and-pop and coming off screens, which opposing big men have a really hard time defending. Hell, he even gotten some stop-and-pop pull-up jumpers up, as Arizona gave him the ball in side pick-and-roll here and there.

Markkanen is the walking, talking, breathing definition of gravity in basketball and his mere existence on the court makes life easier for his teammates, as they are often playing four-on-four because the man guarding Markkanen is told to have no help responsibility.

He will not be the number one pick in the draft because of every other aspect of the game, though. Markkanen can’t play above the rim as a target for lobs, doesn’t have long arms to rebound outside of his area in the offensive glass, doesn’t have much strength to set deep position in the post on offense or hold his ground in the post on defense, lacks toughness in the defensive glass, hasn’t shown particularly great instincts in help defense and lacks length to act as a rim protector.

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