• 2020 NBA Draft scouting report: Tyrell Terry
    by Glen Willis on October 28, 2020 at 1:52 pm

    Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, today, we examine Stanford guard Tyrell Terry. After a single season at Stanford, Tyrell Terry is taking at a shot at the NBA by way of joining the 2020 NBA draft class. And why not? It’s not the strongest class and the 2020-2021 college basketball season remains uncertain in a number of ways. Terry’s ability to shoot the basketball is largely the reason he is consistently projected to be a late first or early second round selection. He connected on 40.8% of his 152 three point attempts last year. He’s a better shooter off of the catch than he is off of the dribble, and maybe most encouraging is that he shot better coming off of screens than he did in spot up opportunities suggesting that he can further develop as a player that can shoot on the move. Terry is also broadly considered a very smart player and, by all reports, NBA front offices are convinced of that. In addition, he’s reportedly been impressive in interviews and other evaluations with coaches and general managers in the modified pre-draft process. The primary issue with projecting Terry to be a more valuable prospect is his size. He measures at 6’2 and 160 pounds. Undersized players like him typically have to be tremendous fast-twitch athletes or possess elite straight line speed as to stand out in their respective classes. Terry doesn’t fit either of those descriptions. The intelligence was relatively easy to see during his time at Stanford. He plays a fairly obvious cerebral brand of basketball reading the floor, executing with solid patience for a young player and consistently making the right play. At the same time, he’s never demonstrated an above-average feel for the game, especially in the important areas for a guard. The possible lack of feel could be a real issue as he is forced to play at a faster pace at the next level. At the college level, Terry graded relatively well in the pick and roll, but his best production came when the execution was simple. He was able to consistently handle simple pocket passes, drop-off reads and such. At this stage, Terry simply hasn’t done a ton to this point to lead one to believe that, apart from significant development progress, he’s going to be workable as a primary point guard. That just makes issues related to his size even more concerning. From a ball handling perspective, Terry does have a robust dribble package that he puts to work in isolation. However, he doesn’t project to be a three-level scorer, so how often will his skills in that area come into play? As he did in the pick and roll, Terry graded well scoring at the rim. There are plenty of questions, though, as to how that area of his game will translate versus bigger and better defenders. If an NBA team is able to carve out a role for Terry that allows him to create gravity with his ability to shoot off of screens and to stretch defenses with his ability to shoot off of the catch, he could, in time, generate a decent amount of value. In addition, it doesn’t seem like it would be completely surprising if he ends up being the best shooter in the draft class. That possibility alone will generate opportunities for him to crack an NBA rotation. As one might guess, given his size, there are bigger questions about his fit on defense. When he’s engaged and putting in effort, it’s apparent that he’s been coached in advanced settings. likely even prior to his time at Stanford. Terry demonstrates great foot work and general technique — for example inside hand on the hip, outside hand high when defending dribble penetration — when working defensively on the ball. The application is inconsistent, though maybe that is to be expected to a degree with younger players. When defending off of the ball, it’s also been a real mixed bag for Terry. For starters, this is where he makes his best impact when applying himself. Some of his play in this area elicits comparisons to Jeff Teague. He is capable of putting his basketball IQ to work to see lazy and/or predictable passes before they happen, taking advantage by being quick to get into passing lanes in these situations as to create turnovers and easy points in transition. Terry also can come out of nowhere and pounce on a lax ball handler to similarly create steals and transition possessions. Too often, however, he is flat footed when out of the play on defense as opposed to consistently being on the balls of his feet. As a help defender, Terry simply lacks the tools to be able to get in a play and create resistance. When a defensive rotation calls for him to help at the rim, he likewise just has nothing really with which to work. Smart, small defenders have made themselves valuable at the NBA level before by committing to playing the right technique with discipline and being a step ahead of he play. In fact, there really is no firm reason that Terry couldn’t work his way into being that kind of defender. For him to earn minutes at the professional level, however, the IQ and anticipation is going to have to be applied on every defensive possession. Terry has been consistently mocked to NBA teams whose rosters are constructed with offensive creators at the bigger positions, and that makes perfect sense. Perhaps the easiest historical comp to make in terms of what success could like is the similarly diminutive BJ Armstrong playing next to Michael Jordan on three of the Chicago Bulls championship teams from the 1990’s. Could Terry maximize his contribution playing next to players like Giannis Antetokounmpo or James Harden? Could he be developed to perform as a second option in the mold Jamal Murray with a center like Nikola Jokic creating on most possessions? There is certainly a path for a player like Terry, but it almost assuredly involves playing with maximum effort on every defensive possession, and utilizing his shooting gravity to fit a specific archetype.

  • 2020 NBA Draft scouting report: LaMelo Ball (Part 2)
    by Graham Chapple on October 27, 2020 at 12:06 pm

    Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images If you missed anything from Part 1 of our LaMelo Ball scouting report, please click here. Let’s move onto LaMelo Ball’s defense. I found it difficult to evaluate Ball defensively, largely because he was deployed off of the ball defensively for many stretches. We’ll try to put something together to take away. Let’s start with Ball’s 1.5 steals per game, seems like a good start. On this possession, Ball is not involved in the on-ball action defensively but when the pressure on the ball-handler is extended the ball is panically sent forward and Ball swoops in for the steal: Again, Ball is away from the on-ball action defensively but on the entry pass, Ball is able to get in front and extend to knock the ball away and comes up with the steal. From there, Ball is able to turn defense to offense as he takes the ball down the floor and sets up his teammate in transition for the assist on the three-pointer: Worth noting, again, that Ball begins this defensive possession not guarding the primary ball-handler but anticipates the pass, collects the steal and finishes at the other end with the layup: A change of pace on this steal as a poor shot from Ball himself is missed but he’s alert and takes advantage of some complacency, pries the ball away and scores at the rim: This time Ball is involved in the defensive action and manages to intercept the pass on the pick-and-roll attempt. After securing the steal, Ball lofts one of his looping passes forward, finds his teammate and the shot attempt agonizingly rolls out: Here, Ball does well to read the play and sneaks from behind the intercept the pass inside to come up with the steal: Ball is active enough on this end but a lot of these take place with Ball not being the primary defender, and that is a concern. What is also a concern is his effort at times, it was a little too easy for opponents at times and that was partly due to Ball’s — at times — lax nature. Ball is placed in corner — again, noting, away from the action — and when the pick-and-roll is executed out front and the ball-handler turns the corner on Ball’s side of the court, it’s on him to make some sort of effort to rotate...or do anything really. Alas, Ball does nothing and the bucket is scored: Here, Ball gets drawn to the ball, leaving the man he was initially marshalling open in the corner for the three-point attempt (which, luckily for Ball, is missed): Just another note on this possession...Ball isn’t offering any “help” here if the on-ball defender is beaten in the post. Nathan Jawai is a man-mountain — there’s absolutely nothing Ball would’ve been able to do if his teammate was beaten. Ball also has a tendency to get stuck on screens/unable to get around them, and this is a problem heading into the NBA. Starting off, Ball gets hit with the screen, is unable to get back to his man and the open three-pointer is attempted: Again, Ball gets pinned by the (good, to be fair) screen and the end result in another open three-point look: On the wing, Ball, again, is set back by the screen and this time the three-pointer is made as Ball is unable to recover in time: There are defensive sequences that Ball initially starts well but can’t complete...and then others that just go wrong from the start. Ball initially does a good job sticking with his man on the drive but ends up committing the foul at the rim, plus the bucket: For much of this next possession, Ball does well to stick with the ball-handler — including getting around the screen — but his final effort as the bump occurs and his closeout/contest is poor and the shot is made: As for plays that go wrong from the off, this time Ball is beaten on the drive but is bailed out by the help defense behind him: On this possession, Ball is a little all over the place as he misreads his show — leaving his man in the process — and the attempted recovery is judged poorly too as he gets his angles wrong and fouls on the three-point shot which is hit: On the drive off of the pick-and-roll, Ball commits the foul and is unable to prevent the bucket from being made, count the bucket and the foul for the three-point play: A lot of the film would point to Ball being a bad defender but he can show flashes of positives on the defensive end (other than the steals). Here, Ball does a good job sticking with the drive and prevents the penetration, meaning the ball-handler has to look elsewhere: On this defensive sequence, Ball shows effort on multiple occasions as he flies around to close down bodies and switches but can’t prevent the shot from being made: Ball is also a very good rebounder of the ball. We’ve looked at some of this from an offensive rebounding perspective but can get the job done defensively too. On the missed shot, Ball skies high and one-hands the rebound amidst the crowd: On this shot attempt, Ball is located at the bottom of your picture as his starting point before climbing the ladder to collect the rebound away from the offensive player: On the step-back attempt, Ball is on the weak-side of the rim and somehow manages to pluck this rebound away from the opponent who is clearly in a better place to win this rebound: Let’s attempt to land this thing, shall we? It goes without saying LaMelo Ball is a top prospect in this draft. However which way you feel about this draft, Ball is a quality prospect who projects to improve an NBA franchise. Ball just turned 19 years old in August which makes his season in Australia, during which he was 18, even more impressive. That has to be a strong factor when it comes to Ball’s stock — he showed an awful lot for 18 years old that cannot be ignored. Defensively, I’m still having a hard time coming to a conclusion... Ball possesses good size and length, decent enough athleticism and solid foot-speed but there’s a reason Illawarra seemed to deploy him more off of the ball than on the ball. How many defensive possessions did we look at where Ball wasn’t at the forefront of the defense, tucked away in one of the corners? As an on-ball defender, you’ll be disappointed with Ball on film. He should be better defensively on the dribble and he’s prone to mental lapses. He should’ve been better than he showed, even in his shortened season. I expect Ball will be a turnstile defensively to begin his NBA career and if he can ever get to league average on defense, I’d honestly call that a success. Maybe I’m being a little harsh on Ball’s defense there, but that’s how it feels to me right now. With the right coaching and personal application, Ball could maybe reach that level and maybe more if things really work out, because he has many of the tools needed to be a solid defender. Maybe not a great defender but he can be passable. The upside is present in that regard, but how Ball applies himself I think might be the biggest key to any defensive success. Offensively, Ball is very fun to watch, especially from a playmaking point of view where he not only possesses fantastic IQ and vision but then ability to find his teammates in many different scenarios to complete the pass he sees, both in the half court and even in the full court with those long lofts forward. It feels like Ball can find a teammate from almost anywhere on the floor. He’s very capable in pick-and-roll, in the open court and unselfish too. He makes everyone around him better and that’s the mark of a great facilitator. He’s also efficient when it comes to handling the ball, his assist/turnover rate is a strong positive — he doesn’t cough the ball up very often considering how much he had the ball in his hands, and heading into the NBA that fact can’t be undervalued. When it comes to scoring himself, Ball is capable and is efficient from inside the arc. He possesses good feel on floaters and runners, he’s good off of the dribble, he’s good coming off of screens, he’s good in the open court/transition and his handle is, I think, fantastic. Given his age and how few games he’s actually played, he’s very advanced and there’s every reason to buy into the upside. However, naturally, his three-point shooting is the big question mark. Ball’s poor shooting on a very high volume of perimeter shots makes his overall efficiency seem worse than it actually was but he’ll have to shoot higher than 25% in the NBA from three. Ball can hit a three-pointer — and from range too — but has to find a way to increase the efficiency. I do think he’ll be helped by the fact he, more than likely, won’t get the chance to hoist six threes a game in the NBA, certainly not some of the ones he took last year, so his shot selection from outside will be better in the NBA (unless he ends up with, say, maybe the Hornets). I think that Ball was allowed some liberties in terms of shots and may have been allowed to get into some bad habits because he was a star when he was on the court. LaVar Ball talks a lot, and fair amount of nonsense at that, but when he says, “But I do know for a fact that ‘Melo brings a crowd and he wins, so if you can get the guy that can entertain, and win, and put people in the seats, that’s what you start your program with,” he’s telling the absolute truth in regards the entertainment factor he brings. Honestly, the crowd loved him. Ball’s play increased the volume in arenas — the ‘wows’, the gasps, the cheers... He brought a lot of excitement to the NBL and to the Illawarra Hawks. Such a player is usually forgiven for a few bad shots. So am I concerned about Ball’s overall efficiency in the NBA? Not a ton, because he’s crafty and capable inside the arc (minus a few poor shots at the rim from time to time), I don’t think he’s taking six threes a game and I don’t think he’ll take some of the shots he took in Australia. Am I worried about Ball as a three-point shooter? Yes, and you’d have to be right now and you wouldn’t be doing your due diligence if you decided to overlook that. That said, unlike many prospects, Ball’s NBA career isn’t so much dependent on whether he develops a consistent three-point shot. He’s talented enough from a scoring and playmaking perspective (!!) that, like his brother, means that even though he isn’t a knockdown three-point shooter — though Lonzo shot 37.5% from three on over six attempts per game in his third season — LaMelo can still have a role in the NBA. Of course, it would help Ball’s overall ceiling greatly if he can improve his three-point shot but he has so many other talents offensively that he’ll find a role on basically any NBA team in some capacity or another even if he only ended up shooting 32/34-ish percent. Speaking of a fit in the NBA... Ball is unquestionably better on the ball than he is off of it. His lack of shooting right now makes him a little more difficult to be as effective off-ball right now but not impossible given his handles, penetration and playmaking. So, Ball can at least be versatile from that point of view but not as effective off of the ball offensively without a decent outside shot. However, it seems likely the team drafting Ball — unless it’s Golden State and they keep the No. 2 pick — will want him to be the primary ball-handler. His defense will make things a little tougher for a team’s defense in his rookie season (like the majority of rookies) but assuming he lands with a lottery team I don’t think that’s going to be a problem, really. Let’s see where some of the prominent sports media outlets say about Ball compared to what we’ve looked at here. As a reminder, I look at these excerpts from these outlets as one of the last things I do during this process. Starting with ESPN, they rank Ball second on their ‘Best Available’ list, with Jonathon Givony having this to say about Ball, starting with his strengths. - Has elite size for a point guard at 6-foot-7. Controls the game from his unique vantage point with impressive creativity, flair, poise and instincts operating off a live dribble. Gifted ball handler who plays at different speeds and can make every pass with either hand, especially operating out of pick-and-roll. Throws 90-foot outlets, makes magical touch passes. - Has a chance to be an adequate defender due to his combination of terrific size, quick feet and instincts, particularly when he’s playing with energy. Already has some impressive moments rotating for steals and contesting shots around the basket. Excellent rebounder for a guard. - Won’t turn 19 until well after the draft. Will be one of the youngest players picked in the first round. Might still be growing. Nothing we haven’t discussed/looked at some point along the way here, let’s see what Givony has to say about Ball’s weaknesses. - Has struggled to score efficiently throughout his career. Shot just 46% from 2-point range and 25% from 3. Shoots jumpers with unorthodox mechanics, including a two-handed release while kicking out his legs. The touch he shows on floaters and career 82% free throw percentage leaves room for optimism, but his inability to buy a basket at times this season in the half court was discouraging. - Lacks a degree of high-end explosiveness creating offense from a standstill and beating opponents off the dribble. Doesn’t have the strength to finish what he does create around the basket. Relies on a lot of tough floaters and other difficult attempts inside the arc. - Indifferent defender for much of his career. Still reverts back to that frequently, especially off the ball. Struggles to get over screens due to his lack of strength. Has been maligned at times for his work ethic and level of focus. Givony goes into some detail about the mechanical flaws of Ball’s three-point shot that I struggle to spot — so this is obviously noteworthy when it comes to Ball’s three-point shooting, which obviously needs work anyways given the percentages we’ve already talked about. Givony also notes how Ball’s ‘inability to buy a basket at times this season in the half court was discouraging,’ which is worth filing away. I think in pick-and-roll scenarios with his quickness and handles but I can see where Givony would be coming from in a 1-vs-1 setting, especially late game. It’ll be interesting to see how NBA defenses treat Ball — it certainly won’t help that, for now, opponents can back off of Ball and test him to let it fly from range. The Athletic has LaMelo ranked No. 1 on their big board and mocked No. 1 overall to the Minnesota Timberwolves, with Sam Vecenie having this to say about Ball on his latest big board. I still strongly believe Ball has the most upside as a shot creator in this class, which is why he sits at No. 1. Getting star creators is the single most important thing you can find. To me, Ball has the most upside. I get that some think Edwards, some think even Killian Hayes is in that mix. But Ball’s live-dribble game as a passer and his ability to gain separation is much stronger than anyone else in this class. The shot is a question, as is the defense. But I’d take the plunge and bet on Ball. I’m glad Vecenie brings up Killian Hayes because this is something that people talk about and some buy high into Hayes (higher than I do) but I don’t think it’s close between Ball and Hayes in terms of shot creation both in terms of scoring and facilitation — I think Ball is superior in these regards by a comfortable margin. Ball just possesses so much more quality and confidence (evidenced by his flair) when it comes to shot creation than Hayes, who is solid don’t get me wrong. Hayes might end up outperforming where he’s drafted but Ball is so much more of a sure thing heading into this draft than Hayes is in basically every area with the exception of defense. With teams placing a priority on offense, Ball is, overall, a much safer selection. Finally, Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated mocks Ball at No. 3 overall: The sense I’ve gotten is that the Hornets may target a big here, with Wiseman, Toppin and Onyeka Okongwu all potentially availably. But if Ball makes it to No. 3, it would still behoove the Hornets to think hard about taking him—or, alternatively, consider trading back to the 5–8 range, where multiple teams might have an interest in coming up for him. He has a case as the most gifted playmaker in the draft, and his combination of size, handle and vision create a reasonable rotation-player floor, even if his iffy jump shot precludes him from being a star. Pencil him in here for the time being—nobody would knock Charlotte for taking him, and he won’t slip far on draft night. But the dynamic surrounding Ball is fluid and may have a major impact on how the draft flows. Woo talks about Ball’s floor and I agree. Even if Ball’s shooting doesn’t ever materialize, I think his floor is NBA rotation player/secondary playmaker/backup point guard somewhere. On the other end of the spectrum, as Woo eludes to, Ball’s rise to ultimate stardom might depend on whether he develops a three-point shot. However, Ball’s final landing spot is very much unknown. Woo talks about the idea of the Hornets trading this pick and Ball, and Vecenie also talked about this at length when he mocked Ball at first overall. So, he may be selected first overall but it’s anyone’s guess as to if he remains there. For the Atlanta Hawks at No. 6 overall, I would be amazed if Ball was available. Even if the Hawks wanted to trade up and add Ball to their ranks... Well, it would certainly solve their backup point guard dilemma, but I’d be a tad concerned about having both Trae Young and LaMelo Ball from a defensive point of view in their respective units. It’d be extremely fun to watch on the court but probably not viable defensively or in crunch time where Ball is probably on the bench, though the extra creation he could possibly offer would help relieve Young in many ways. Thinking about it, it’s not as ludicrous as it sounds offensively but in that role but it’d be a nightmare defensively. Then again, Hawks President of Basketball Operations Travis Schlenk has very much created a side that’s more suited to scoring buckets than preventing them. Schlenk spent big to move up to select De’Andre Hunter but I’d be surprised if he burst the bank to move up again this year. It’ll be a big ‘summer’ for Schlenk with regards building his roster for next season. Will LaMelo Ball be part of those plans? Unlikely, but time will tell...

  • 2020 NBA Draft scouting report series: Full list
    by Brad Rowland on October 26, 2020 at 4:41 pm

    Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects are profiled in this space and this handy guide exists to compile each player review in a single place, for your reading pleasure and reference. Desmond Bane (TCU) Anthony Lamb (Vermont) Yam Madar (Hapoel Tel Aviv) Lamar Stevens (Penn State) Myles Powell (Seton Hall) Oscar da Silva (Stanford) Paul Ebuoa (Pesaro) Isaiah Livers (Michigan) — No longer in 2020 class Kahlil Whitney (Kentucky) Amar Sylla (Oostende) — No longer in 2020 class AJ Lawson (South Carolina) Killian Tillie (Gonzaga) Makur Maker (High School) — No longer in 2020 class Sam Merrill (Utah State) John Petty (Alabama) — No longer in 2020 class Abdoulaye N’Doye (Cholet) Saben Lee (Vanderbilt) Nick Richards (Kentucky) Cassius Stanley (Duke) Jalen Harris (Nevada) Aaron Henry (Michigan State) — No longer in 2020 class Elijah Hughes (Syracuse) Leandro Bolmaro (Barcelona) Naji Marshall (Xavier) Lamine Diane (Cal State Northridge) Kenyon Martin Jr. (IMG Academy) Trevelin Queen (New Mexico State) Freddie Gillespie (Baylor) Nathan Knight (William & Mary) Marko Simonovic (Mega Bemax) Immanuel Quickley (Kentucky) Chris Smith (UCLA) — No longer in 2020 class Jayden Scrubb (John A. Logan - JUCO) Rokas Jokubaitis (Žalgiris Kaunas) Malik Fitts (Saint Mary’s) Jordan Ford (Saint Mary’s) Matt Mitchell (San Diego State) — No longer in 2020 class Yoeli Childs (BYU) Tyler Bey (Colorado) Theo Maledon (Part 1) Theo Maledon (Part 2) Skylar Mays (LSU) Kristian Doolittle (Oklahoma) Omer Yurtseven (Georgetown) Nate Hinton (Houston) Isaiah Joe (Arkansas) Grant Riller (Charleston) Aleksej Pokusevski (Part 1) Aleksej Pokusevski (Part 2) Rayshaun Hammonds (Georgia) Mamadi Diakite (Virginia) CJ Elleby (Washington State) Kaleb Wesson (Ohio State) Trent Forrest (Florida State) Robert Woodard (Mississippi State) Ashton Hagans (Kentucky) Killian Hayes (Part 1) Killian Hayes (Part 2) Udoka Azubuike (Kansas) Mason Jones (Arkansas) Justinian Jessup (Boise State) Zeke Nnaji (Arizona) Tres Tinkle (Oregon State) Paul Reed (DePaul) Markus Howard (Marquette) Vernon Carey Jr. (Duke) Payton Pritchard (Oregon) Devon Dotson (Kansas) Ty-Shon Alexander (Creighton) Nico Mannion (Arizona) LaMelo Ball (Part 1) LaMelo Ball (Part 2) Tyrell Terry (Stanford)

  • 2020 NBA Draft scouting report: LaMelo Ball (Part 1)
    by Graham Chapple on October 26, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images Ball will surely be selected inside the top-3, but will he go top overall? Will he fall? Or will he be traded? In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, in this two-part edition, we break down potential No. 1 overall pick LaMelo Ball. Everyone knows the name ‘Ball’ in today’s basketball landscape. It obviously started back with Lonzo Ball, a top prospect at UCLA and the second overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017. In the build-up to said draft, a man named LaVar Ball made waves across basketball broadcasts as he spouted various claims about himself and his son. Some of these statements were, as you know, absolutely ludicrous, but LaVar ultimately did what he set out to do: get people talking about the family. Later that year, the second Ball brother, LiAngelo, caused waves when he and some UCLA teammates were arrested in China for alleged theft. This eventually led to LiAngelo withdrawing from UCLA and eventually heading to Lithuania along with the youngest Ball, LaMelo, to continue their basketball journey. Again, given the names involved, this made waves in the US media. LiAngelo now plies his trade in the NBA G League, but his younger brother, LaMelo, has been the one to make the headlines on the court since Lonzo. Unlike both Lonzo and LiAngelo however, LaMelo Ball did not go to down the NCAA route, and instead signed in Australia’s NBL, although perhaps not completely by choice? The following excerpt is from Bleacher Report’s article on Ball signing with the Illawara Hawks: Ball originally wanted to play college basketball, but the path to eligibility seemed treacherous. LaVar Ball said the NCAA was keeping his son out of college to “prove a point.” “It’s going to be hard getting ‘Melo into a college program because the NCAA wants to prove a point,” Ball said on an episode of Ball in the Family. “But I do know for a fact that ‘Melo brings a crowd and he wins, so if you can get the guy that can entertain, and win, and put people in the seats, that’s what you start your program with.” LaVar then shot down the idea of LaMelo going through the G League to the NBA Draft: “I’m going to let you know the plan now, so everyone can just stop,” LaVar said at the Big Baller Brand All-American Game. “In college, I already know what they were about to do. Like, ‘We’re going to investigate. We’re not going to let him play until we let him play. We’re not going let you do all that big-mouth talking and then we’re going to hold him back and a whole year go by.’ “The G League, I’m not going to let no 28, 29-year-old dudes tee off on him and try to make a name for himself, so he’s definitely going overseas.” Overseas he went, and over a year later, LaMelo Ball is one of the top prospects in the entire draft — you’ll be hard pressed to find too many outlets that have Ball mocked outside of the top-3 after Ball enjoyed a strong season in Illawara. For the season in the NBL, Ball averaged 17 points per game on 37% shooting from the field on 16 attempts, 25% from three on six attempts per contest, 72% from the free throw line on just under four attempts, 7.4 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.6 steals and 2.5 turnovers in 31 minutes of action per game in 12 games played, per RealGM. Those shooting numbers and percentages won’t wow you but I’d argue you should take that with some grain of salt on the count of the 12 games in the NBL (13 on the season), with Ball’s season ending in January with a foot injury/an eye on the NBA Draft — not a large sample size. I do think if there were a few more games on the sample, Ball’s percentages I think would be better than they finished but alas, this is what we’ve got. Some of the other numbers that Ball averaged are very solid and we’ll talk about it all as we go on, but let’s begin with his playmaking first. Ball has a fantastic awareness of his surroundings and touch, and I want to lead with this because I think it’s such a strong aspect of Ball’s game. So, with that, let’s dive into the film and see what’s what. For reference, Ball wears the No. 1. We’ll start with some creation in the pick-and-roll, seems as good of a place than any to start. A simple play to start as Ball links up with his teammate on the pick-and-pop, leading to the three-pointer: A similar play, the pick-and-pop assist on the three-pointer: On this play, the pick-and-roll is slipped and Ball finds his teammate on the lob and the end result is an assist at the rim on said lob: In overtime, Ball comes off of the screen and demonstrates great awareness of his teammate’s positioning as he finds his teammate (not involved in the screen) with a nice, snap right-handed pass for the clutch three-pointer, game-sealing three-pointer: Ball possesses flair and flash and can whip out on command but can also make it work, as he does on this possession as he links up in the pick-and-roll and whips out the behind-the-back pass for the assist at the rim, a perfect pass: On the pick-and-roll, Ball draws the attention of the rim protector and finds his teammate on the weak-side on the cut for the assist on the dunk at the rim: Again, a lovely link up play on the pick-and-roll and bounce-pass but the dunk is criminally missed: Ball was rewarded on this play however, as he executes the pick-and-roll, gets inside and throws a beautifully weighted lob-pass for alley-oop assist: So, you can see Ball is very capable of creating in the pick-and-roll, leading to creation of shots in a number of different situations. It’s a very strong aspect of his playmaking. Ball is also capable of creating off of the dribble too. To start this game against Cairns, Ball attacks in the paint, draws the help defender and loops the ball to his teammate at the rim for the assist: On this possession, a nice right-to-left hesitation dribble before the drive inside and zips the pass to his teammate at the rim, who misses the shot: Another hesitation move after the catch at the three-point line and Ball again displays good awareness of his surroundings and should be rewarded with the assist on this possession but the free-throw jumper is missed: Here, Ball rejects the screen, drives inside, draws the defense, makes the pass to the corner (a tad to the left of his teammate on the catch) and sets up the three-point attempt: The quick burst from Ball on this play leaves everyone behind and Ball finds his teammate in the corner for another three-point attempt: After briefly seeing an extra body, Ball proceeds to explode with the quick drive going to his right and finds his teammate on the weak-side of the rim for the assist on the bucket plus the foul: Here, the defender shows Ball to drive left before getting all the angles wrong and allowing Ball to drive inside before displaying fantastic awareness of his teammate in the corner and firing the overhead pass to the corner for the assist on the three-pointer: Ball is also handy as a facilitator in transition too. After helping force the turnover, Ball leads the way and finds his teammate with a two-handed pass, leading to the assist on the three-pointer: Off of a miss, there is a hand-off to Ball and he sets off in transition before finding his teammate on the baseline cut but the shot is missed at the rim: After a miss, at half speed, Ball handles the ball and whips out a beautiful behind-the-head pass for the assist on the three-pointer: Off of the turnover, Ball handles the ball heading the other way and whips out the flash that he is known for with the extravagant right-handed pass for the assist in transition: Ball also showed his ability to see plays far in front of him and then the ability to find to complete those plays with long outlet passes. He gets his head up, spots the opportunity and he’s good at it. Off of the miss on the free throw, Ball grabs the rebound and heaves the pass forward to an open teammate and while no clear-cut opportunity was created this time, you can see what we’re about to get at here: On the inbound, Ball receives the ball, chucks it forward and the ball lands perfectly to its intended target and the resulting shot is goal-tended, count the bucket and the assist to Ball: On this occasion, Ball’s toss forward is a lot more casual but still accomplishes what it sets out to do, as the ball is caught by his teammate and draws the foul and free throws: On the pick-and-roll, Ball intercepts the intended pass for the steal before sending the outlet pass to hands of his teammate, who misses the shot at the rim: Off of a make, Ball immediately looks up and one-arms a leading pass forward for the assist the other way: You can get the idea, and I think Ball will be able to do this in the NBA too — you might see them the following morning on the NBA’s top-10 plays. One of Ball’s great strengths is that he doesn’t turn the ball over a ton for how often (a) he has the ball in his hands (27% usage) and (b) his 6.7 assists per game — an assist/turnover ratio of 2.7 and an assist percentage of 36%. That said, it’s worth looking at a few of Ball’s turnovers on passing/playmaking. Here, Ball attempts to loft the ball forward but his intended pass is picked off in the sky and the turnover is committed: On this play, Ball is a little too casual with the pass here and failed to spot the danger and the turnover is committed on the steal: On the pick-and-roll, Ball gets near the rim but his pass to the roller underneath the basket is picked off in the traffic, resulting in the turnover and the basket in the other direction: Honestly, that’s effectively the extent of the Ball’s turnovers on creation: he is normally good at protecting the ball and limiting turnovers. Let’s move onto Ball’s scoring/offense — 17 points per game on 38% shooting from the field on 16 field goal attempts, 28% from three on 6.6 attempts, a true shooting percentage of 48% and an effective field goal percentage of 44.5%. We’ll start with Ball’s work off of screens/pick-and-roll first. Here, Ball comes off of the screen and sticks one in for the anti-analytics crowd as he sinks the long two-pointer: Another long-two comes in the form of Ball coming off of the screen at the top of the three-point line before taking the hit, drawing the foul plus the bucket: On the drive going left, Ball comes off of the screen, gets to the rim, takes the contact and finishes at the rim with his weaker left-hand to score the bucket, plus the foul: Here, Ball comes off of the screen, splits the defense and finishes with the dunk at the rim, plus the foul: On this possession, as Ball comes off of the screen the defense is a little indecisive and this allows Ball the freedom to stick through the very long floater: Ball can use these screens as well to rise into three-point opportunities, which seems like a good time to transition into that area of Ball’s game. Here, Ball receives the screen, the switch and though he’s a little hesitant, Ball eventually launches the three-pointer and connects: Going left, Ball comes off of the screen and with the second defender sitting just a little far back Ball finds the affordability to let it fly and hits the three: Ball has range too, and he’s not afraid to launch from deep, connecting on this particular occasion from far out, and without hesitation too: Ball can take these deep threes so casually at times, it almost looks effortless as he converts on this attempt: In a close game in the fourth quarter, Ball showed he can hit some big shots and he hits the game-tying three on this possession with five seconds left on the game: Another catch-and-shoot scenario as Ball heads up the floor unchecked in transition, receives the ball and has time to set himself before hitting the three: In transition again, Ball spaces himself well off of the ball, receives it and hits the three-pointer plus the foul: Let’s move on to some penetration/off of the dribble work that LaMelo is capable of. Ball is very capable with the ball in his hands, I’m sure that won’t be a surprise to hear at this stage. His command of his dribble is strong — it belongs in his hands. I’ve touched on the fact that Ball is able/comfortable to use his left-hand and he shows that here on this possession as he heads up the floor after the miss before the hesitation dribble from the three-point line (leading with the left-hand) before taking the contact and finishing with the reverse layup, plus the foul: In overtime, the space opens up for Ball to drive into and he duly does so. The help defense does its job but Ball switches hands mid-air, hangs and makes the left-handed layup at the rim: On this play, you can kind of get the feel of how Ball can operate at different speeds as he gets inside — switching hands, again, showing comfort with his left-hand — and hits the floater: Ball demonstrates his ability to quickly change direction as he initially hits the right-to-left cross and then follows it with the left-to-right before proceeding right and hitting the floater: On this possession, Ball switches hands as he starts his offensive move, the screen is set, Ball spins and finishes at the rim: On the perimeter, Ball hits the defense with a beautiful hesitation dribble as he changes hands in the same motion and drives right, drawing the foul and free throws: Ball can also operate in the open court, and you can probably imagine that his smooth movement and speed bode well in transition opportunities. Off of the miss, Ball grabs the impressive defensive rebound and sets off, cutting through the traffic and the open court — does all the hard work — before blowing the layup at point-blank range but it’s the ability to get there in the first place I want to focus on: Here, Ball receives the inbounds pass and sets off, zigs and zags up the court before taking the hard hit and drawing the foul and free throws: On this offensive trip, Ball catches at mid-court at speed, drives left before having to adjust himself before finishing the tough shot underneath the rim: Off of the miss, Ball grabs the loose ball and takes off. Again, he does a good job changing gears at the three-point line as he changes hands before drawing the foul and free throws: Ball gets after rebounds (we’ve seen a few instances of this) and when he does, he sets off and can create plays but also go coast-to-coast, doing so on this possession and finishes at the rim: We’ve seen in some clips where Ball grabs the rebound and sets off the other direction but he can also get on the offensive glass too. Ball averaged just under two offensive rebounds per game in the NBL. Nothing much to note here but worth showing a clip or two anyways. Off of his own miss on the three-pointer, the bounce is kind to Ball and he’s able to collect the offensive rebound and sets up his teammate for the assist on the jump shot: A multiple effort play here from Ball as he taps out the miss at the rim which leads to the three-point attempt. After the miss, Ball steams back in and attempts to direct the ball back to a teammate but is unable to do so. Still, can’t fault the effort: On the pick-and-roll, Ball finds his teammate on the roll to the rim, who misses the shot at the rim. Ball grabs the attempted tip and retreats to the three-point line. From there, Ball splits the pick-and-roll defense but drives into a body, hoping for a foul call that never came and the ball heads the other way: This miss — and a bit of a wild shot — leads us nicely into the next area of discussion. All of this from Ball looks great: good range (at times), good off of the dribble/on the move etc etc... But the percentages can’t be ignored, and Ball was not efficient from the field or from three. I would definitely chalk some of that that down to the fact that Ball — in many ways, and I don’t intend to be disrespectful — was a big fish in a small pond. He is the star of the team, people wanted to see Ball do his thing. As such, Ball probably took more shots than he would in an NBA setting and was probably allowed some license to take some poorer shots that you might not attempt in the NBA. Whatever the case, shot selection was an issue for Ball when it comes to his field goal percentage, which seems as good a place as any to start. To start, Ball gets bailed out on a poor drive and shot with a foul call right at the end: After getting a switch on the screen, Ball proceeds to take a poor, contested three-pointer which is missed: After Ball chucks the ball forward, receives it again at speed but commits to the shot far too early, his feet leaving the floor and attempting an ultimately wild shot: In transition, Ball gets past the three-point line and drives into traffic and his runner is missed as he tries to adjust: As often as Ball can get to the rim, he misses on occasion, such as on this possession where he receives the ball in transition but can’t complete the play as he tries to adjust to navigate the body in front of him: Coming off of the screen, Ball misses the floater but does at least grab his own rebound: To be honest, shooting inside the arc isn’t the problem — take out the 25% shooting from three in the NBL, the 1.6 makes on the 6.6 attempts and Ball shoots 46% from inside the arc. It’s the three-point shooting that is a potential problem and it’ll have to be the biggest focus for Ball to improve on when he gets to the NBA. We’ll look at a couple of misses, just to get an eye in. On this play, Ball comes off of the screen before withdrawing behind the three-point line when the space allows for it. The shot is missed but Ball is able to make something out of the play as he collects his own miss and assists his teammate on the jumpshot: From distance, Ball explores with a jab-step before launching a deep three-pointer which is off the mark: One-on-one on the wing, Ball hoists the contested three which is missed: Here, Ball is deployed off of the ball and when the drive by his teammate is made and kicked back to Ball behind the three-point line, he does brilliantly to shed his defender with a beautiful cross but misses the three-pointer: Between these and the three-pointers we briefly would have looked at when it came to poor shot selection and I think you get the idea. For more on LaMelo Ball, including a detailed look at his defensive profile and much more, click here for Part Two.

  • 2020 NBA Draft scouting report: Nico Mannion
    by Wes Morton on October 26, 2020 at 11:30 am

    Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images Could the Hawks look to add more ball handling and passing in the draft? In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, in this installment, we break down the play of Arizona point guard Nico Mannion. Nico Mannion is the son of Pace Mannion, an American ex-NBA player who also spent time in Italy playing professionally. Through marriage to an Italian woman, his son Nico was born in the Tuscany region of Italy, and as a result, holds dual citizenship between Italy and the United States. For this reason, he had the chance to select to represent the former in international competitions and has competed with the national Italian senior team since the age of 17, a feat that makes him the fourth youngest to ever do so. Mannion was a five-star high school recruit, and by some services, ranked the top point guard in his 2019 class, ahead of other draft hopefuls like LaMelo Ball and Tyrell Terry. He was also a member of the McDonald’s All-American in that year and faced off against other elite high school talents under a major spotlight. Still, his one-and-done campaign in Tucson wasn’t quite as impressive as his pedigree suggested, and as a result his draft stock has slipped a bit since a year ago. But in a weak draft class, his strengths may just enamor a team looking for a skilled leader on the court. Statistical profile Mannion averaged 15.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 5.9 assist per 36 minutes in his one and only season at Arizona. While his shooting triple slash of 44.4/32.7/79.7 percentages from two, three and the free throw line leaves room for improvement from inside the arc, his level of shotmaking is still rather high and offers the projection to stretch the floor in the NBA. NBA projection Strengths Mannion is a pass-first point guard who exudes a lot of style and flair in his ability to lead an offense and set up his teammates. At 6’3” and 190 pounds, he appears smaller than he really is on tape, but has adequate enough size to operate in most backcourts. His handle is very refined, with silky smooth dribbles in tight spaces and a quick crossover to free himself for shots. Mannion recorded 5.9 assists per 36 minutes, using his vision and his ability to whip passes with pace and wrap around passes in traffic as one of the most impressive freshman point guards in the country in 2019-20. Mannion finished second in the Pac-12 in assists (162), assists per game (5.3) — behind fellow draft hopeful Payton Pritchard in both — and second assist percentage (31.5%) or the rate of possessions in which he was on the floor ending in a teammates field goals where he recorded an assist. There are very few players in this class who can match Mannion’s ability to skip a pass to an open shooter with zip and in the shooter’s pocket. He has control over the full arsenal of passes in half court sets, whether it be a bounce pocket pass in traffic or a two-handed whip to a post player diving toward the rim. He’s really fun to watch in transition, as he can take the ball off a rebound and immediately use his vision and awareness to find teammates leaking out up the court for easy buckets. Mannion takes care of the ball well for someone with a high usage (24.5%). He didn’t commit too many turnovers, with just 2.9 per contest, and ended this past season with a AST/TO ratio north of two. His high basketball IQ and uncanny ability to see a play develop and make the timely pass was a boon for the Wildcats. His savvy on the court is a skill matched by few, and he can be a calming influence for a team going through a rough patch offensively. His feel for the game and touch is very evident in his mid range game. He shows off his pretty floater frequently, and has the touch on his giant killer to counter rim protectors. Mannion is a very smooth pick-and-roll operator and largely makes the right read to find roller when possible. With a hesitation dribble, he allows plays to develop off screens and rarely is late with a feed or lob. He can comfortably fling passes with either hand, and keeps the ball on a string, rarely giving up his dribble too early. There’s significant promise that he can operate off the ball for stretches in a true combo guard role, as well. Mannion logged a solid 1.08 points per possession (PPP) in catch-and-shoot opportunities in 2019-20. He’s good at spotting up after moving without the ball and coming off screens, especially along the baseline to shoot from the corners. He has enough body control to allow him to turn off of screens and shoot, even while fading to one side or spinning in air to locate the basket on the fly. Defensively, he does a good job on the ball despite less than great physical tools. He has the ability to pick up his matchup at half court and beyond and generally doesn’t get beat with speed. Off the ball, he’s stays in good position within passing lanes, picks the right spots to help off his primary assignment, and attacks spot up shooters with smart hard closeouts. Nico proved to be a frosh basketball player, accomplishing quite a lot despite the cancellation of the postseason. After the regular season, Mannion was named to the All-Pac-12 second team and the All-Pac-12 Freshman Team. Weaknesses Mannion is a disappointingly bad pull-up shooter, and the causes are hard to pinpoint. At just 0.78 PPP on 105 possessions, it’s possible the combination of struggling against lengthy defenders and a sometimes erratic shot selection — as well as plain old bad shooting luck — are the main culprits. The main driver of his mediocre 46.5 effective field goal percentage was this very live ball shooting. Too much stock shouldn’t be taken into it, as his shot form and space creation don’t invoke too much worry. In time, this figure should improve going forward just by getting more comfortable operating around better and more athletic defenders through experience. On the shot selection front, however, he has an odd habit of taking a lot of long threes early in the shot clock. He just hasn’t proven an ability to shoot from that range, possibly in an effort to mirror an attribute that other NBA lead guards have adopted into their game. Similarly, he’s not yet an effective isolation player at just 0.71 PPP on just 31 possessions. Mannion just doesn’t have the necessary explosiveness in his first step to get by defenders and won’t ever be asked to beat someone on a figurative island. At times, Mannion can be too passive a scorer as a pass first point guard. He was surrounded by a good bit of talent at Arizona, including two other possible first round selections in Josh Green and Zeke Nnaji, so he rarely had to shoulder the scoring burden. But he alternated between turning down easy shots and jacking up more difficult ones, which resulted in a lot of long twos taken. Mannion doesn’t have the profile or measureables of even an above average athlete. As measured at the 2019 Nike Hoops Summit, he has a “negative wingspan,” meaning his wingspan is a bit shorter than his height at 6’ 2 ½”. From there, his 8’ 1 ½” standing reach just isn’t great even for a point guard. Defensively, he does little to affect the game in a major way. There’s a giant goose egg in the category where his season blocks total should be, although he did record 1.3 steals per 36 minutes. The effort and motor are there for the most part, but there’s little chance he can significantly overcome the poor length and height. Mannion’s low level of strength and ability to operate with contact also means he’s a poor finisher at the rim. He recorded just a 1.00 PPP at the rim, a mark putting him near the bottom of this draft class. Even the slightest contact can knock him off balance in many situations. Overall, despite being a former five-star recruit, Mannion’s upside is limited by his stature. Certainly, smaller guards can be hidden on defense with more capable wing defenders around him but there’s little reason to hope he’ll ever be a plus in a vacuum in that area. Possible fit with the Hawks There are some real similarities shared between the Hawks current star point guard, Trae Young, and Mannion. Both are the sons of collegiate basketball players with five-star recruit pedigree. As high-profile stylish passers on the court with defensive concerns — save for a much lesser level of shot making from Mannion — there is some redundancy in selecting another player who largely needs the ball to be effective. Still, the Hawks possess too high a first round pick at No. 6 overall to reach and select him — at least in the estimation of this prognosticator — and Mannion should be off the board well before Atlanta picks again at No. 50 overall. Certainly, picks and assets can be traded, but for a team with many other needs, there are perhaps better uses of creative maneuvering. Despite some worrying signs in his one-and-done season at Arizona, Mannion has the ability to be a more than capable lead guard at the next level and make his teammates better through his passing and control of the offense.

  • NBA Sets Target Date For Return; Atlanta Hawks Could be Back Before 2021
    by Dallin Duffy on October 24, 2020 at 10:44 am

    Reacting to news that the Atlanta Hawks (and the rest of the NBA) could be back in action on December 22nd. It’s been over seven months since the Atlanta Hawks last took the hardwood. Because of the initial suspension of play and the team not qualifying for the Orlando bubble, Hawks fans have been patiently NBA Sets Target Date For Return; Atlanta Hawks Could be Back Before 2021 - Soaring Down South - Soaring Down South - An Atlanta Hawks blog

  • NBA reportedly mulling shorter 2020-21 season, potential Christmas Day start
    by Brad Rowland on October 23, 2020 at 4:55 pm

    Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images In recent public comments, NBA commissioner Adam Silver expressed the desire for the 2020-21 season to include 82 games, played in front of fans in home markets, with a likely start date sometime in January. While that scenario could conceivably come to fruition, reporting from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Zach Lowe, Tim MacMahon and Brian Windhorst on Friday sheds light on various changes that could be in the offing. ESPN reports that the league’s Board of Governors is convening on Friday to discuss myriad topics, including “playing fewer than 82 games,” as well as “not waiting for fans to be permitted to all league arenas.” From there, the discussion is also reportedly set to include a timetable that puts Christmas Day on the table and the general goal to start the 2020-21 campaign “as quickly as possible.” Moments later, Marc Stein of the New York Times echoed the sentiment on a potential Christmas start, reporting that it is “gaining momentum” in some circles. The push for a Christmas Day start to the 2020-21 NBA season, which would naturally please the league's TV partners, is gaining momentum, league sources say— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) October 23, 2020 Later in the afternoon, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported a target date before Christmas and the potential for a 72-game season. The NBA is targeting Dec. 22 for the start of the 2020-21 season and a 72-game campaign that finishes before the ‘21 Olympics, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 23, 2020 The ESPN piece does note that “numerous teams” are not sure a Christmas Day start is “feasible,” with the oft-discussed timeline of a Martin Luther King Day tip-off more reasonable. When examining the league’s current calendar, it does seem that Dec. 25 would be a highly aggressive start date, especially when considering the 2020 NBA Draft is scheduled for Nov. 18 and free agency will follow. Given the need for training camp and some sort of ramp-up to the season for teams that made deep playoff runs, a turnaround in less than a month could be too optimistic. Multiple outlets have reported that the NBA and the NBPA have settled on Oct. 30 as the deadline for CBA modifications, though that date could be pushed back as it has been already. Still, that remains a date to circle on the calendar, as decisions have to be made in the coming days, especially with regard to the salary cap and other considerations necessary to hold the draft in typical fashion. While this reporting is undeniably interesting, it also underscores the lack of clarity around the league for the 2020-21 season, though most seem to believe that the NBA is angling to establish (relative) normalcy for the calendar by 2021-22. Stay tuned as more information becomes available, but the Atlanta Hawks and the league’s other 29 teams will be keeping a close eye on the next steps.

  • 2020 NBA Draft scouting report: Ty-Shon Alexander
    by Brad Rowland on October 23, 2020 at 2:31 pm

    Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, this time, we break down Creighton guard Ty-Shon Alexander. The search for quality role players is ongoing in NBA circles, particularly for teams attempting to build around established stars. As such, prospects without star upside can be attractive at a certain point in the NBA Draft, particularly in the case of players who can contribute in a variety of ways. Creighton guard Ty-Shon Alexander fits that mold and does so beautifully. The 6’4, 195-pound Alexander projects as a “3-and-D” combo guard at the professional level, though he actually carried a substantial workload during his final season with the Bluejays. Alexander, who turned 22 years old in July, finished as a first team All-Big East selection in 2019-20 after averaging 16.9 points and 5.0 rebounds per game on quality efficiency. Though Alexander almost certainly won’t act as a primary offensive option in the NBA, he is an accomplished prospect that turned heads during his third season at Creighton, rising on draft boards in the process. Offensively, Alexander’s biggest appeal to NBA teams is his long-distance shooting. He converted 38 percent of his three-point attempts over his final two college season, and Alexander was able to get shots up at substantial volume. He attempted 469 three-pointers in those two campaigns, translating to 12.3 attempts per 100 possessions. Though Alexander may not be a game-changing shooter, his mechanics appear to be strong and the volume is such where it is safe to believe in him as a long-range threat. That is critical for Alexander, especially in an off-ball role, as he does not profile as an incredibly dynamic creator for himself and others. Alexander’s career 14.2 percent assist rate is reasonable, though relatively underwhelming for a combo guard-sized prospect. He does take care of the ball, however, as Alexander posted a 10.7 percent turnover rate in the last two years and only an 8.7 percent turnover rate in 2019-20. Elsewhere, Alexander is only a 47 percent career shooter on two-point attempts, and he doesn’t put a great deal of pressure on the rim as a downhill creator and finisher. On the plus side, Alexander maintains solid-or-better overall efficiency, with a 56.8 percent career true shooting mark and a 59.2 percent mark in 2019-20. Most of that success can be attributed to his three-point marksmanship, as Alexander attempted 57 percent of his shots from long range. Because he was able to convert three-pointers at a high level, his efficiency saw an uptick and, given that his NBA role will likely follow that model, it is easier to project what his efficiency could resemble. In addition, Alexander was excellent in spot-up situations, ranking in the 84th percentile per Synergy, and he was in the 89th percentile as a cutter and the 77th percentile in catch-and-shoot situations. Though Alexander’s three-point shooting is a significant plus when it comes to his overall projection, the defensive side is perhaps his calling card. He was one of the more effective on-ball defenders in the nation as a junior, and Alexander is excellent in terms of positioning. He moves his feet well, takes advantage of a solid frame for a combo guard, and puts pressure on smaller offensive players with tenacity at the point of attack. He does not profile as a Marcus Smart-level brick wall in terms of strength, but Alexander was able to flash enough resistance to make his relatively thin frame less of a concern. There were a few instances in which elite creators were able to win against Alexander but, in the grand scheme, he projects as a plus defender that can hold up against both guard spots. He is quick enough to use his length to deter point guards and, while Alexander isn’t going to be a dynamic defender against 6’8 wings, he can credibly defend the lion’s share of NBA shooting guards. As a team defender, Alexander is solid, though unspectacular. He makes the correct reads, is usually in the right place and has enough anticipation to make some plays. Alexander posted a 2.1 percent steal rate over the last two seasons, using quick hands to generate “events” defensively, but his on-ball strength likely outpaces his overall effectiveness as an off-ball deterrent. Alexander does have a sweetener in that he is effective on the defensive glass, especially when accounting for his size and role. As a junior, he posted a 14.5 percent defensive rebound rate and, overall, Alexander grabbed 8.3 rebounds per 100 possessions. That isn’t a defining skill by any means, but it is a check mark in his favor that Alexander is willing to mix it up on the glass. Broadly speaking, Alexander is highly enticing as a role player, though some evaluators aren’t buying his upward trajectory in full. Currently, Alexander ranks as the No. 81 available prospect for ESPN, essentially projecting him as a potential Two-Way consideration or even a step below that. He ranks at No. 56 for Sam Vecenie of The Athletic, putting him firmly in a range to be drafted, but also on the periphery when considering how volatile the bottom half of the second round can be. It is worth noting that, at 22, Alexander is older than many prospects available in the 2020 class, and he certainly doesn’t appear to bring star upside. However, Alexander is a highly intriguing role player prospect and, at present, he remains underrated. Broadly speaking, Alexander is a top-40 player available, at least in the view of this writer, and he would be an enticing fit with the No. 50 overall pick. Given the uncertainty near the bottom of any draft, it is tough to fully project where Alexander might land but, when envisioning a role in Atlanta or elsewhere, Alexander can shoot at a high level, defend two positions, make strong decisions on both ends, and avoid taking anything off the table. In short, that package of traits is exceptionally appealing in the second round of a largely underwhelming 2020 NBA Draft.

  • Community update: Hawks partner with APS; Pierce, Koonin appear on ‘Game Time’
    by Rashad Milligan on October 23, 2020 at 12:27 pm

    Photo by Moses Robinson/Getty Images Atlanta’s basketball club is making sure the cities’ youth is staying active. Kids may be forced to sit in front of a screen for seven-to-eight hours to learn nowadays, but the Atlanta Hawks organization is doing its part in making an unideal situation more manageable. On Thursday, the Hawks announced a formal partnership with Atlanta Public Schools for an online program for students to stay educated and active during this time of social distancing called “Hawks at Home.” “The pandemic has limited student access to extracurricular programs,” Jon Babul, Atlanta Hawks’ Vice President of Basketball Development, said. “We are thrilled to partner with Atlanta Public Schools to bring the Hawks at Home program to the APS community. Working together to promote healthy living and providing physical, social and emotional learning opportunities to students is teamwork at its finest.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hawks coaches, players and Hawks Basketball Academy instructors have taught basketball skills, from their own homes, to students across the state of Georgia and beyond. The program launched at the beginning of this past summer, and more than 10,000 area youth have participated, according to Hawks communications. Now partnered with APS, the students in the city have access to the Hawks’ weekly program focusing on health and wellness. “Time and again, we have been humbled by the support of the Atlanta Hawks and we are especially excited about Hawks at Home,” Rachel Sprecher, APS Executive Director of Partnerships and Development, said. “Every week, our students and our school community look forward to working out with the team’s trainers and pros and we’re so grateful for this outlet for them to get moving and have fun!” The Hawks have partnered with APS previously, including when the organization presented a special “Hawks at Home” live class for hundreds of students during the school system’s “Back to School Bash.” To register for upcoming “Hawks at Home” live classes, visit Hawks.com/HawksatHome. Earlier this week, Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce and team president Steve Koonin joined NBA TV’s “Game Time” to discuss the team’s decision to push for making State Farm Arena a voting precinct in Fulton County. Koonin said when he saw the passion of Atlanta’s youth in front of the CNN Center and State Farm Arena in wake of the George Floyd protests, he wanted to see how the organization could lead tangible change. Koonin presented the idea of converting State Farm Arena into a voting location, which Pierce made public during an NAACP protest in June. Pierce said it was an honor for him to volunteer at State Farm Arena for a few hours to help the voting process move as smoothly as possible during general election early voting. “You remove the ‘head coach’ title, and you just go down and do your civic duty as a citizen in this county and in this city,” Pierce said. “I’ve been honored to be there, and see the many people come through the arena. The opportunity we have at our arena with 300 voting stations and the many staff members that we have in our organization we have volunteering as well, it just seems like this is how voting should be. We should be able to just walk to the front of the line, get registered, get our information taken care of, get our ballot, get right to the booth and exercise our right. In less than 20 minutes, in less than 15 minutes, you’re people who are so excited about that experience to vote. Like Steve said, we’ve had tens of thousands of voters come through the county in just nine days.” The segment ended by briefly revisiting the celebrity guests Pierce brought in on the team’s Zoom calls throughout the pandemic. The head coach said he wasn’t much of a talker, and bringing in guests was a way to keep the energy of the Zoom calls fresh. The full video can be seen here and a clip of the segment can be viewed below. “The opportunity we have at our arena.. it just seems how voting should be.”@ATLHawks head coach Lloyd Pierce describes working as a voting volunteer at State Farm Arena. #GameTime pic.twitter.com/6hdgh9TzTH— NBA TV (@NBATV) October 21, 2020

  • How the Atlanta Hawks Can Win the 2021 Finals in 3 Easy Steps
    by Dallin Duffy on October 21, 2020 at 10:44 am

    A 3-step plan for the Atlanta Hawks to follow to win the 2021 championship. Yes, you read the title right. This is a 3-step guide that the Atlanta Hawks can follow to win the 2021 NBA championship. Why are you laughing? Even with All-Star point guard Trae Young and a roster full of young talent, How the Atlanta Hawks Can Win the 2021 Finals in 3 Easy Steps - Soaring Down South - Soaring Down South - An Atlanta Hawks blog

  • Atlanta Hawks: Can Brandon Goodwin be Long-Term Backup PG?
    by Dallin Duffy on October 14, 2020 at 11:34 am

    Looking into Brandon Goodwin’s future with the Atlanta Hawks. One of the most interesting parts of last season’s Atlanta Hawks is how they handled the point guard position. The position (and the whole offense) was anchored by All-Star Trae Young, but outside him, they had no others to bring off the bench Veteran Evan Turner Atlanta Hawks: Can Brandon Goodwin be Long-Term Backup PG? - Soaring Down South - Soaring Down South - An Atlanta Hawks blog