The fastest, most electric player in this year’s draft is arguably Jaden Ivey, who’s 6-foot-4, around 200 pounds, and can play both guard spots, although some question whether his playmaking is strong enough to orchestrate an offense that’s more methodical and deliberate.
If he’s on a team, however, that wants to regularly push the pace – like Memphis does with Ja Morant or Charlotte with LaMelo Ball – then we could see Ivey thrive in a lead-guard role. Like Morant and Russell Westbrook, Ivey is always looking to put pressure on the defense using his nuclear speed, aggressiveness, and explosiveness, especially in transition.
Best of all is that he doesn’t play at just one speed. He can go from zero to 100 down to 50 and back to 100 without a hiccup. His movements are slick, too, which allow him to weave in and around traffic to either finish at the basket or collapse the defense and make clean live-dribble passes.
Interesting about him as well is that he’s just as strong as he is fast. Finishing through contact is something he did routinely with the Boilermakers this past season. He made 29.5 percent of his shots that came with a foul, the third-best mark among college guards available in this year’s draft. The only two draft prospects who took more free throws than him in 2021-22 were Fresno State’s Orlando Robinson and Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell, both of whom are frontcourt players.
Also making him a more potent scorer is his blend of power and finesse when he gets into the paint. He can throw it down with authority off one or two feet, hang in the air and contort his body for conventional layups and reverse layups, or use a Eurostep and score on runners and floaters.
It was his improved 3-point shooting that led to his meteoric rise, though. In his freshman year, he knocked down just 25.8 percent of his 97 attempts from beyond the arc. This past year as a sophomore, he made 35.8 percent of his 179 tries, although he connected on just 16 of his final 59 attempts from downtown, raising some concerns about whether he will be a consistent enough outside shooter at the next level.
While efficient near the basket (shot 68.1 percent within four feet of the basket as a sophomore), Ivey struggled mightily with his mid-range shooting. From 10 to 15 feet out, he made just two of his 23 attempts, while from 15 feet to just inside the 3-point line he made only five of his 17 tries.
Through his athleticism and effort, Ivey is a solid defender. Some of his best moments this past season came on the defensive end, such as the possession below where he chased Michigan’s Eli Brooks all over the court before blocking his shot.
Not always, however, is his defensive technique and patience what it needs to be. He got called for some silly reach-in fouls late in the shot clock throughout the season that either put the opponent on the line or just simply allowed them to reset. Some of his turnovers were costly as well. He had five of them in Purdue’s loss to Iowa in the Big Ten championship game and six of them in their NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 defeat to St. Peter’s.
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Video courtesy of Purdue University Athletics