Draft Profile: What Will Nassir Little Bring To The NBA?

Jeff Haynes/NBAE/Getty Images

The Hawks hold the rights to multiple picks in the upcoming June 20 NBA Draft. At Hawks.com, we'll be talking to some of the writers and bloggers who watched some of this year's key prospects most closely. 

Jake Lawrence (@TheRealestRJL), who covers North Carolina basketball for Tar Heel Blog (@TarHeelBlog) about Freshman Guard Nassir Little.

 

What does Nassir Little do well? 

Score and rebound. Looking at his averages of 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds, most wouldn't believe it. Considering that he achieved those numbers in just 18 minutes a game, and his per-40 average projections were 21.5 and 10.1, I'll stand by my assessment. His effective field-goal percentage was 50.7, while learning both the wing and power forward positions. His PER was 20.0. Lost in the narrative that he regressed is that Nassir Little simply produced when he was on the court.

The main reason he didn't play more (and thus, be able to play through typical freshman mistakes) was because he backed up two All-ACC players. One of them, Cameron Johnson, is currently projected as a first-round draft pick. Considering the circumstances, Nas probably performed as well as should've been reasonably expected last year.

Many players in his situation would become sour. Nas didn't do that. He was the ultimate teammate and consistently grew throughout the year (evidenced by his 19.5 ppg in the first two tournament games before the flu limited him in the Sweet 16). Work ethic or character issues are not a concern with him.

 

How does his game translate to the NBA?

The general consensus is it will translate very well to the NBA. Nas needs a little more spacing and fluidity than the college game allows – especially as he continues to learn the game. When he gets running with a full head of steam his only thought is putting a defender on a poster. He has an aggression that can't be taught, an NBA-ready body and jaw-dropping athleticism. Using him to screen in pick and rolls or to come off curls and slash will pay dividends early in his career. 

My concern is that he strikes me as a classic "tweener" with his current skillset. What made him enticing at UNC was the potential mismatch ability he brought to the court. Too big on the wing and too quick in the post. For most of the season he struggled to exploit those mismatches, especially on the wing.

 

What can he do to improve?

Ballhandling. Shooting. Defense. Decision making. 

He succeeded in college because of a tenacity to attack the rim and grab rebounds. That works well when less-athletic players make up a large portion of the competition. To succeed in the NBA, he will have to improve on the perimeter. 

Can he consistently guard the perimeter in one-on-one matchups? Can he develop the outside shot and offensive repertoire to thrive in the NBA? I don't have those answers, but Nassir absolutely has the work ethic and mentality necessary to grow his game. If he struggles in the NBA, it will not because of a lack of effort. 

 

What style of play suits his game best?

Nas needs the freedom to play in the open court and exploit gaps in a defense while he develops his shooting and shot creation. Any system that uses him as a secondary option, screener/roller, or slasher will allow him to provide the most immediate impact. It's probably less about the system and more about a cultural fit that will be patient with him.

 

To which current or past NBA player would you compare him?

I asked our staff and got 6 different answers. Somewhere between Gerald Wallace and Kawhi Leonard with a hint of Jae Crowder. 

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