Combine: This Year's Draft Heavy On Shooting Potential
Something stood out to Creighton’s Doug McDermott during his workouts at the 2014 NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week: There were sharpshooters in each of the four workout groups.
“You don’t see a lot of missed shots out there,” McDermott said. “Everyone can shoot, and everyone can shoot in the NBA it seems like, too. So you know, there’s quite a few to choose from, and I’m just trying my best to get better.”
If there’s one thing we’ve seen trend in the NBA over the past several seasons, it’s that the league is becoming more and more perimeter-oriented. If you can drive and score or if you can hit your jumpers from the outside, you can make an impact on a roster almost instantly.
That’s what teams might be seeing in this particular Draft class. Each player might have varying skills, sure, but at the very least if you’re looking for a guy who can hit a mid-range or 3-point look, there will likely be a few available in this first round.
Now, it’s a matter of finding who will be the right fit for the right team.
McDermott, for instance, is well-aware of what criticisms surround his game. He’s a shooter, and the question is whether or not he can defend at the professional level or handle the ball with enough control to pose a threat. And he’s matter-of-fact about those criticisms being fair. But he also said everyone has something to improve, and he’s hoping he’ll be able to do his part between now and if/when he lands on an NBA roster.
UCLA’s Zach LaVine was a guard who certainly stood out. He was controlled in his ball handling, is explosive and has strong athleticism. And when he got into a rhythm with his shot, look out. He had a strong couple days showing off his jumper by and large with a cold patch happening late in his Friday workout.
Michigan’s Nik Stauskas is another guy who came in with a reputation for hitting his jumpshots. He hit 44.2 percent of his 3-point attempts last year in college, and he’s got strong shooting potential and offensive efficiency so long as he can make the transition to the NBA 3. So far, there haven’t been visible concerns with that.
Duke’s Rodney Hood was an intriguing player because of his school, his age and his shooting. He transferred from Mississippi State to Duke, so he is 21 years old coming into this draft. That puts him older than the majority of the prospects, but it also gives him—like UConn’s Shabazz Napier—a chance to show veteran leadership and experience. He shot 42.0 percent from 3 this winter with the Blue Devils, and he’s known for being sure-handed with the ball.
He had a strong workout in Chicago and might have improved his Draft position for the time being. His experience with Duke—playing such high-profile games in pressure situations—might have helped him in Chicago.
“It helps a lot, you know, having a bull’s eye on your back,” Hood said. “You kind of get scrutinized because you played for Duke and you’re always on TV. But it’s great. I learned a lot from Coach K and the coaching staff. The things he taught me are things I’m facing now with the workouts.”
Michigan State’s Gary Harris is taking another path—one that is a bit more traveled by today’s NBA rookies. He’s leaving East Lansing at age 19 and is doing so with a reputation for being one of the more intriguing shooting guards in the Draft. His shooting percentages aren’t as gaudy as some of his counterparts, but he still shoots well. He was 42.9 percent from the field and 35.2 percent from 3 last year. He’s versatile and had good mechanics, including confidence setting his feet and coming off screens.
“I feel like I’m pretty good in the pick-and-roll, and I feel like I have confidence running that,” Harris said. “And I feel like that could definitely be a good fit for me.”
The list keeps going. LaVine’s teammate at UCLA, Kyle Anderson, is 20 years old and shot 42.0 percent from 3-point range last year. He can do a collection of things, including passing, rebounding, hitting from outside and handling the ball. He’s actually played point guard in the past, so at his size (6-foot-9) he could be a nice wing player that can handle for you on the perimeter.
James Young out of Kentucky is following in the footsteps of so many other Wildcats who went one and done. He’s another guy who professes confidence coming off screens and being able to score in a variety of ways. He also feels like he thrives in transition, so that’s something to keep in mind for teams like the Wolves who created an identity around its outlet passes last winter.
And NC State’s T.J. Warren is another guy who can score from all over the court. He averaged 24.9 points per game for the Wolfpack last year, and he has a stroke that is effective from spot-up looks and from 3-point range.
That’s just a small collection of players who participated in this year’s draft and can knock down their shots from outside. And in this particular prospect group, there are far more point guards and swingmen that stand out by comparison to bigs. It should be an interesting NBA Draft season, and it will be curious to see who is available for selection if the Wolves maintain their No. 13 pick in which they’re currently slotted.
The Draft is 39 days away. Where will these guys land come June 26?