Exploring Tier 3 of Max Carlin’s Big Board and some potential options for all three Celtics first-round picks.
Another day, another tier. This is Tier 3 of my 2019 NBA Draft Big Board (check out Tier 4 here), which I’ve labeled “high probability rotation players, possible starters, tail star outcomes.” Tier 3 is the strong point of the 2019 Draft. It’s perhaps a little weak at the top, but the talent is flat throughout with players I’d feel comfortable taking in the mid-teens from other draft classes. As within any tier, I see the rankings as fluid—I could see an argument for the following 12 players being ranked in any order, but this is the one I’ve settled on. Before reading, be sure to check out Tier 4 and the philosophies underlying these rankings.
10. PJ Washington, Forward
Something I’ve come to appreciate about the Celtics of the last couple years is the value of players without glaring flaws. In a series like the 2019 first-round match-up with Indiana, you see how large an advantage it is to have guys who can’t be exploited on either end in contrast with guys who can all be exploited in one way or another.
With that said, PJ Washington doesn’t have any glaring flaws.
He has great size for a combo forward at 6’8” with a 7’2.25” wingspan. He uses that size well, getting vertical at the rim and serving as a major deterrent. Washington marries that size with strong movement skills, which enable him to be an impactful defender in every facet of the game.
Washington emerged as a reliable 3-point shooter in his sophomore season at Kentucky, hitting 42.3% of his 2.2 3-point attempts per game. But range isn’t really a new discovery for him. It’s more a reprisal of a role he filled prior to his freshman year with the Wildcats (read this wonderful piece from Ross Homan at The Stepien for more on that). And delving into that history reveals some hidden upside for Washington, who could have some legitimate off-the-dribble shooting ability.
He excels, perhaps even more, as a passer. Washington can pass on the move, hit cutters and shooters out of the post, and is an outstanding interior passer, throwing eye-popping little darts to his front court partners. He’s a very good finisher and equally comfortable doing so with either hand. He’s a very capable ball-handler who’s highly effective attacking closeouts.
Some people are a little more enamored with Washington’s self-creation upside than I am, but he doesn’t need that high ceiling to be worth a lottery pick in this draft. If I had to nitpick, Washington’s vertical explosion around the rim isn’t the greatest, and he’s not some basketball genius, but overall he’s just super solid at most basketball things that matter.
11. Cam Reddish, Wing/Forward
I was so in on Reddish coming into the year. I hadn’t seen a ton, but in a few prep games and the All-Star circuit, he looked special. He was enormous with intimidating range and real passing vision. I had hopes of Reddish as a 6’8” point forward and the best or second-best prospect in the draft. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
In those settings, he overwhelmed with size, and flashes obscured overall ineffectiveness. Reddish was fully exposed in his year at Duke.
I think the very first misconception about Reddish that must be addressed before we have any rational discussion of his outlook is “upside.” It still seems to be the case that a lot of people are tantalized by the Reddish I was enchanted by a year ago. However, Reddish is the furthest thing from an “upside” play.
Reddish’s remarkably poor play at Duke was not a product of a lack of optimization or an ill-fitting role. Reddish struggled because he legitimately might not be an NBA-caliber athlete. It’s not that he’s not a good athlete by NBA standards, Reddish genuinely might be such an inept athlete that he cannot survive in the NBA.
Statistically, his complete lack of burst and vertical explosion presented themselves in his rim attempt frequency and efficiency. Just 17% of Reddish’s halfcourt shot attempts came at the rim, and he finished in the 29th percentile. He’s slow and has zero vertical pop whatsoever:
Reddish is a non-threat as a driver to an extent few players are, which means he’s almost entirely reliant on his jump shot for offense. In that respect, Reddish, dating back to high school, has always been more willing than able. He took an absolute boatload of 3’s at Duke (7.4 per game), but hit at just 33.3% and had difficulty maintaining consistent mechanics.
I’m optimistic on Reddish’s shooting, not in that I expect him to be great percentage-wise, but in the sense that I think there is value in taking a lot of 3’s of varied type and hitting at a respectable enough percentage to matter to the defense.
The main reason I haven’t offloaded the remainder of my Reddish stock is his defensive impact. While he’s thoroughly bereft of explosion, Reddish is a smooth mover who should bring on-ball positional versatility. As a team defender, he’s far more exciting. Reddish stands 6’8” with a 7’0.5” wingspan, which he translates to defensive impact around the rim:
He’s definitely prone to off-ball lapses, but his off-ball awareness is generally quite good and results in consistent high-impact plays at the rim and in passing lanes. For all the statistical concerns with Reddish (and there are borderline-disqualifying numbers on his finishing, overall efficiency, and decision-making), the one area in which he excelled at Duke (other than 3-point attempt rate) was steal percentage, signaling his intelligence and the ability to consistently apply his length.
A year after falling for Cam Reddish, I’m still in on him, but the impetus could not be more different. I’ve realized he’s far too physically limited to ever live up to my delusions of traditional stardom, but Reddish has great appeal as a high-value role player. Oversized wings who can defend multiple positions, create significant impact as team defenders, and launch a high volume of difficult 3-point attempts are both intensely valuable and hard to come by.
12. Romeo Langford, Wing
I have a bad Romeo Langford habit I just can’t quit. I see his shot mechanics and 27.2% 3-point percentage, but believe in his touch translating to passable 3-point shooting eventually. I see bad off-ball lapses in which he surrenders back cuts for uncontested layups, but believe in the occasional out-of-area play he makes around the rim thanks to a spark of defensive awareness. I see plenty of missed passes, but believe in the occasional pocket pass to the roll man or kick out while attacking a closeout.
Langford has considerable flaws. Most damaging is his shooting (if I could pitch the optimistic point of view on that, he has amazing touch and was 65th percentile in the halfcourt on off-the-dribble jumpers, proficiency which likely stems from his preference to shoot with backward momentum). But his strengths are real:
great romeo closeout and on-ball d highlighting movement and strength pic.twitter.com/GL0xVleJUi
— Max Carlin (@maxacarlin) May 15, 2019
Langford’s an awesome on-ball defender with excellent physical tools (height, length, strength). I expect him to be a very plus on-ball wing defender with legitimate positional versatility.
As a slasher, Langford’s powerful. I’m concerned that he won too much with strength and not enough with his handle or explosion, but he should be strong even by NBA standards, and he knows how to apply that strength to dislodge defenders at the rim and create space to capitalize on his elite touch.
I have a suspicion Langford has some semblance of athletic upside, too. Langford subjected himself to every anthropological measurement at the NBA combine except for weight and body fat percentage. My guess would be this was a not-so-subtle attempt to hide the fact that he’s a bit chubby.
While portraying fat as a positive might seem like a stretch, consider that these are 19-year-old men who have never committed to rigorous strength and conditioning programs. When you’re not carrying as much weight, it takes less force to overcome gravity to get your body off the ground, and with the same force, you can get farther off the ground. Take, for example, Luka Doncic. Watch Doncic at the beginning of the 2018-19 season; he was fat. By the middle of the year, he had played himself into shape and was notably quicker. It’s far from a guarantee, but Langford could have some more athletic ability hidden under that baby fat.
There are other areas I believe Langford might have some unexplored upside:
Don’t know if this would technically be logged as a post-up, but Romeo hasn’t really worked in the post at all this year. Nice way to make use of his strength and touch, especially at the 2, though pic.twitter.com/09T4O4PSS3
— Max Carlin (@maxacarlin) January 12, 2019
Strength and touch is a potent combination, and post offense could be yet another avenue for Langford to create for his team. It’s a throwback suggestion, but I believe Langford is a bit of a throwback player. I buy these sort of low-end star outcomes, where Langford can shoot off-the-dribble, destroy as a slasher, create in the post, wreak havoc on-ball defensively, and create events off-ball.
With all that optimism and belief and charitable interpretation in mind, Langford is still a very flawed prospect. His lapses in defensive awareness are real, he has no real ability to generate space due to a limited handle and underwhelming explosiveness, and he misses all sorts of makeable passes when his team asks him to create. I might be overthinking this entirely. This might just be a case of “if he shoots, he’s solid, and if not, he’s barely an NBA guy.” In the end, though, I just can’t quit him. There are too many aspects of Langford’s game that make sense and too many signs that there might be more there.
13. Talen Horton-Tucker, Wing/Initiator
I remember the first time I saw Talen Horton-Tucker. Not the first time I saw him play, but the first time I saw a still image of him. That, in and of itself, was an experience. THT stands 6’4” in shoes, weighs 235.4 pounds, and boasts a 7’1.25” wingspan. Those numbers are accurate.
Physically, Horton-Tucker is nothing short of hilarious. He’s a refrigerator, and applies that to basketball. His defensive versatility saw him start games with Marcus Smart-like defensive assignments on players with half a foot on him (notably against 6’10” Kansas State star Dean Wade). THT applies his length and strength as a team defender, too, creating impact plays:
Pretty nice little THT sequence helping to shut down a drive then pick up the block with his crazy length pic.twitter.com/2HBhlRtcim
— Max Carlin (@maxacarlin) May 30, 2019
Size is not always a positive for Horton-Tucker, though, as he’s carrying so much weight, it can be really tough for him to keep up with smaller, faster guards. He’ll definitely need to drop a good deal of weight in the NBA, but he’s another major candidate for fat upside (measured in with a very high 8.4% body fat percentage at the combine). Lack of explosion is a real issue for THT, so a ranking like this does hinge upon some of that upside being buried there, but Horton-Tucker’s age (he won’t be 19 until late November) inspires even more confidence that his body simply hasn’t matured yet.
Horton-Tucker has another potentially ruinous flaw. He shot 30.8% from 3, 21.9% on 2-point jumpers, and 62.5% from the line in his lone season with Iowa State. He was willing shooter, but that was yet another problem: he’s a rather bold decision-maker, to put it diplomatically.
In spite of all that, Horton-Tucker’s a really interesting prospect. A fair amount of the appeal has its roots in his body, but it’s the plays his body enables his mind to make that have me entranced. THT’s prone to typical young defender off-ball lapses, but he flashes as an incredibly aware and smart player:
That intelligence translates to the offensive end, where Horton-Tucker can be an ambitious shot-taker, but wows as a playmaker:
Long shot, I’m guessing, but does anyone have passing charts for NCAA? Seems like a disproportionate number of THT’s potential assists are to the interior pic.twitter.com/yzNSo1IdWk
— Max Carlin (@maxacarlin) May 30, 2019
I’m a huge believer in THT’s passing. His vision is good and his borderline elite touch is as apparent on passes as it as around the rim as a finisher.
Horton-Tucker is very much a flash player. He flashes as a potential primary ball-handler, tough shot-maker, versatile on-ball defender, and impact team defender. It’s totally legitimate to not buy those flashes, to get stuck on the muck in between the flashes. In my eyes, the sparks, if they are sustained and become a consistent light, are potentially game-changing enough to gamble on.
14. Coby White, Combo
There were few college basketball events this year more fun than Coby White games. Every once in a while, White would start feeling himself and he’d hit a catch-and-shoot 3 and then a stepback and then he’d break out an outrageous dribble move on a foray to the rim. When it was finally over, when you could finally sit back, you’d check the box score and then you’d check it again, waiting for it to correctly display 40 points on perfect shooting. But it never would, because it was a mirage.
In reality, it was a good game, an efficient 26, but it looked spectacular. That’s Coby White.
You watch White, and he’s creating tons of space off-the-dribble and just draining absolutely everything, and then you check the stats and see he’s a 27th percentile off-the-dribble shooter in the half court. You watch White, and he’s this speedy little thing with occasionally eye-popping handles, and then you check the stats and see he’s attempted an ungodly-low 19.7% of his half court shots at the rim.
White’s moments of brilliance are intoxicating, but they are mere moments. His space-creation’s real, I think, but the pull-up jumper clearly isn’t right now. His handle does flash at jaw-dropping levels, but on the whole, it’s a major hindrance to his driving ability. He’ll throw a pass that’ll have you obsessively refreshing Twitter waiting for the replay to grace your timeline, but that moment will make you forget the seven times he did this:
Pretty good single-possession encapsulation of Coby White. Splits the D then launches himself into two defenders at the rim with Cam Johnson open one pass away pic.twitter.com/KdkNfDvWbD
— Max Carlin (@maxacarlin) May 29, 2019
White is not just a flash player. He’s an elite catch-and-shoot shooter with gorgeous off-the-catch mechanics, ranking in the 93rd percentile in half court catch-and-shoot jumper efficiency. He’s a hounding point-of-attack defender, too.
Coby White’s a good player, but he’s a limited one. Due to his inability to penetrate the defense and make decisions as a ball-handler, he’s most likely an off guard on offense. On defense, he’s a strong point-of-attack defender, but he’s hampered by his 6’5” wingspan despite his 6’4.75” height–it’s difficult to see White defending anyone but point guards.
So White’s not going to be your lead guard, which means you still need one of those. And he’s going to defend the opposing team’s smallest player, so you’re going to need a lead guard with enough size and strength to defend up a position. White puts you in a team-building predicament. Building a team around Zion Williamson necessitates that your other players must be able to shoot; that’s a team-building dilemma, too. For Zion Williamson, you gladly shoulder that burden. For Coby White, meh. In the late lottery, the calculus might work out, but where he’s being mocked? Absolutely not.
15. Jontay Porter, Big
For a big man to be a positive offensive player in the modern NBA, he should excel in two of the three following areas: dribbling, passing, shooting. Porter is borderline elite at all three:
Probably the quintessential Jontay clip pic.twitter.com/RM7FVQcxtn
— Max Carlin (@maxacarlin) May 21, 2019
The threat of his shot forces a hard closeout and entices the defender to leave his feet, his dribbling ability gets him into the paint, and his passing creates an easy bucket. Offensively, Porter has it all. He’s a high-end 3-point shooter, the rare big with legitimate shot versatility. He’s extraordinarily fluid handling the ball. He’s an outstanding passer, diming up teammates on the roll, picking apart defenses from the post, and delivering awesome interior passes:
Body and reputation have earned Porter a bad name defensively, but in college, it wasn’t warranted. As a freshman, Porter was in poor shape and was severely limited as a vertical athlete. Through overwhelming intelligence and size (and awesome hands), Porter was a meaningful positive defensively. And this is not just nebulous “impact,” it showed up in the box score. Porter was a prolific shot-blocker, posting a higher block percentage (7.3%) as a freshman than Bruno Fernando, who’s widely-perceived as much more interesting defensive prospect, did as a sophomore (7%).
Porter also moves fairly well laterally, though his change of direction is poor and his weight shifting at times looks downright violent because his body simply can’t catch up to his mind, especially at the weight he played at his freshman year.
Of course, I’m referencing Porter’s freshman performance for a reason, and that’s the super depressing elephant in the room: Porter’s torn his ACL twice in the last eight months. I don’t know how much stock to put in it, but there’s the added layer of Porter’s sister, Cierra, whose basketball career was derailed by knee injures and brother Michael, the 14th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, who has had a series of severe spine injuries and whose career is in flux.
Had Porter not re-torn his ACL in March, I’d have him comfortably in Tier 2. But we must at least confront the possibility that Porter’s body is fundamentally flawed. If he’s healthy, Porter’s an awesome prospect, a perfect modern big. I have no clue what the chances of that are, so this ranking is the point at which I can tolerate the uncertainty chasing what we know is there.
16. Chuma Okeke, Forward
Okeke’s appeal rests almost entirely upon his feel. He has a preternatural sense for where to be. Paired with his 6’7” build and plus wingspan, that feel enables Okeke to generate immense defensive impact off the ball:
On-ball, Okeke is solid. He’s not the greatest lateral mover, making him slightly susceptible to blow-bys and limiting his positional versatility–he’s more NBA 4-man than wing and will not be an elite switch defender.
Okeke’s feel manifests itself offensively, too, where he’s a really nice on-the-move passer, excelling on dump offs when attacking closeouts. In two seasons with Auburn, he was a consistent spot-up shooter, too, connecting on 38.9% of his 3.2 3-point attempts per game.
I’m not worried about the long-term implications of the torn ACL Okeke suffered during Auburn’s NCAA Tournament run, but it’s a hurdle that must be acknowledged and will sideline him for some portion of his rookie season. That said, Okeke is an outstanding basketball player who produces impact in a low-usage role that will scale very well to good teams.
17. Kevin Porter Jr., Wing/Initiator
Oh, KPJ. For a long time, Porter Jr. was the most confusing prospect in the draft for me. He’s 6’5.5” 212.6 pounds with a 6’9” wingspan, but I feel that understates his size. He’s strong and plays big on both ends, flashing as a physical one-on-one defender for brief moments in USC’s zone defense. He’s an elite space-creator on offense, possibly the best in the draft, with a step back that generates massive windows for him to get to his pull-up.
As I combed through more and more film and stats, my opinion slowly crystalized: KPJ might not be any good. His body is amazing, but he has such an aversion to seizing driving lanes, instead opting for the step back, it rarely matters. He creates miles of space for his pull-up, but his shot is pretty damn questionable. His set point is basically on his shoulder, he pushes the ball, and his release point is super low. Mechanical issues in mind, Porter’s 52.2% free-throw percentage does not inspire confidence that his 41.2% 3-point percentage on 68 college attempts was real.
And it doesn’t end there. While KPJ flashes high-level defensive awareness on occasion (and has the physical tools to make an impact), his awareness is pretty poor in the aggregate. He’s also a rough decision-maker on both ends, who cannot be trusted to make the right play. If that weren’t enough, Porter Jr. has extensive off-court concerns and was subject to team-imposed suspension for personal conduct violations at USC.
I can’t help but feel KPJ’s physical tools are actually undersold, though. Beyond his awesome frame, beyond his wild space-creation, Porter is a high-level functional athlete. He underwhelmed with a 34-inch maximum vertical leap at the combine, but don’t let testing distract from the film. Porter Jr. might not have the highest vertical leap, but he gets there quickly, easily, and through contact:
With an approach correction, a commitment to getting downhill, KPJ could be a monster slasher, which would only make his step back more deadly. With decision-making improvement, he could leverage the threat of his pull-up and finishing to compromise the defense and feed teammates. With better focus, he could be an impactful on-ball and team defender.
It’s hard to label any of the above “likely,” and all the noise I’ve heard about Porter Jr. off the court in conjunction with the way he plays on is highly, highly concerning. Yet, it’s hard to rule out any of the above thanks to KPJ’s foundational tools. If it all comes together, and those raw skills fit synergistically the way they conceivably could, yielding a wing initiator with plus defense, Porter Jr. could be one of the very best non-Zion players in the draft. I don’t think it’s likely, so I can’t get too high on him, but the path is there.
18. De’Andre Hunter, Forward/Wing
I just don’t get it. Hunter’s an excellent mover and very good on-ball defender with legitimate versatility. He shoots a high percentage on spot-up 3-pointers. He’s tall.
In two years at Virginia, he made 67 threes, and 64 of them were assisted. Yes, he connected on 41.9% of his attempts over those two years, but those were easy, easy attempts, and he wasn’t exactly eager to take them. Hunter’s hesitance stems from lack of confidence, surely, but also lack of ability:
THIS IS WHERE ZION IS WHEN HUNTER CAUGHT THE BALL.
This somehow resulted in a block. This is impossible. pic.twitter.com/vFrZJTC8eM
— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) February 10, 2019
You’ve almost definitely seen this before. It’s the start of one of the more ridiculous Zion highlights of the season, but it’s also a pretty damning indictment of Hunter’s shot. Zion makes an absurd Zion play, but it’s only possible because Hunter’s release is so damn slow. In the NBA, I don’t trust him to get that thing off at all.
The rest of Hunter’s offensive game is questionable at best. He succeeded shooting over the top in face-ups a lot, but I don’t really see that as a viable option in the NBA, seeing as opponents will know he doesn’t have the burst to blow by. He’s maybe a bit better as a playmaker than he’s given credit for, but he’s probably not good enough to actually be tasked with any ball-handling responsibilities.
Defensively, I think Hunter’s billing as the best in the class is flat-out wrong. Among forwards alone, Zion and Brandon Clarke are both better without question. Among wings, Charles Matthews, prior to tearing his ACL in his Celtics workout, was undoubtedly better both on-ball and as a team defender.
Hunter’s very good on-ball, and will be in the NBA. While I acknowledge Virginia’s defensive scheme is conservative, Hunter’s off-ball defense simply isn’t good. It’s not just a lack of amazing out-of-area plays, he misses basic rotations. He is not a high feel or IQ player.
I see Hunter as a useful and versatile on-ball defender with vastly overstated defensive impact and highly questionable offensive ability. Combine that with his startling lack of improvement between his freshman and sophomore seasons and age–Hunter is older than Jayson Tatum and will be 22 in December–and you have an okay, yet entirely unremarkable prospect.
19. Bol Bol, Big
Everything about Bol Bol is stupid, man. He’s 7’3” and one of the three or four best shooters in the draft. His handle is outrageously, obnoxiously fluid. He blocks so many shots on the perimeter, he makes Robert Williams look like a normal human being. I mean, look at this:
Unfortunately, everything about Bol Bol is stupid:
Bol is remarkably unaware. He’ll let guys drive right by him to an unprotected rim. He exists in a permanent purposeless haze, floating around, impacting nothing. His impressive block numbers (2.7 per game) overstate his defensive impact too, since so many of them came as a one-on-one defender, often on the perimeter, instead of as a help defender. He is not much of a rim deterrent at the moment, and not just because of his lack of intelligence:
Strength, positioning, effort: they’re all enormous, crippling issues for Bol. And the most insane, stupid thing is those might not even be Bol’s biggest weakness:
I recommend clicking through that entire thread. It’s a Hindenburg-level disaster of stop/start, weight-shifting, decision-making, technique, and effort. Bol simply cannot move.
While Bol is effectively an offensive specialist at this stage, he has concerns on that end thanks to his IQ deficiency. In nine games with Oregon, Bol tallied nine assists and 18 turnovers. Yes, a 1:2 assist-to-turnover ratio.
According to Synergy, he did actually pass out of post doubles a handful of times this season, but I’m skeptical. The Houston game in the above clip was a magnificent disaster. On multiple occasions, Bol was doubled, had easy passes out–keep in mind, this man is 7’3” and should easily be able to see out of a double–and took turnarounds from behind the backboard. Multiple times. More than once.
On top of all that, Bol is a 7’3” human being with a fractured navicular bone in his foot, and foot injuries have historically been highly problematic for men as large as Bol due to limited blood circulation to the feet.
I truly would understand if you told me Bol Bol is undraftable. He’s so bad at so much of what matters on a basketball court. Add to that questions about his love for basketball, which are often unfairly attributed to players his size, but seem legitimate given how long they’ve been asked of him and the absence of force and motor with which he plays, and Bol is a tough prospect to buy.
Alternatively, I wouldn’t have any qualms if you told me Bol’s a top-10 talent in this draft. Bol’s fluidity with the ball, his size, his shooting, and his touch are stupidly special. For all his issues, Bol is hyper, hyper elite at a few things. You can’t say that about any other non-Zion prospect in this draft. For me, there are too many outcomes where Bol gives you absolutely nothing, and even if he does achieve a good outcome, I’m skeptical of his viability at the highest levels of competition, but the tail outcomes where he’s something stupid and special that we’ve never seen before are worth gambling on.
20. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Combo/Wing
Alexander-Walker is an oversized 6’5.5” ball-handler who is rather devoid of the explosion necessary to consistently win on the perimeter. At Virginia Tech, he compensated by leaning on guile, size, and shooting.
There is an indelible and wonderful funk to Alexander-Walker’s game:
He is not his cousin Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but he has some of those herky-jerky mannerisms that make SGA such a joy to watch. In college, that translated to very strong half court rim frequency numbers (36%). That funk sufficiently compensating for Alexander-Walker’s athletic limitations enough for him to be an NBA lead guard seems highly unlikely, though.
Then there’s the issue of his passing. Alexander-Walker is a good passer, a knowledgeable passer, but I always get the sense that his decisions are pre-made. He can hit the weak side corner, but it’s when he’s decided he’s going to do that all along. I don’t believe he has the greatest vision or feel, which would be a problem for an NBA lead guard.
All that means Alexander-Walker will be transitioning to a more off-ball offensive role in the NBA, which shouldn’t be a problem given his size and 38.3% 3-point percentage on 4.5 attempts per game across two seasons with the Hokies, including 40% on 120 attempts from behind the NBA line this year alone.
Defensively, Alexander-Walker is pesky as all hell on-ball, with active hands that disturb ball-handlers and create steals. Off-ball, his awareness is highly impressive:
Pretty impressive awareness from NAW throughout the possession pic.twitter.com/13IJDDax4W
— Max Carlin (@maxacarlin) May 16, 2019
A potential avenue of added value can be derived from Alexander-Walker’s size, too. At 6’5.5” with a 6’9.5” wingspan, I think of Alexander-Walker as at least wing-adjacent. In college, he was often tasked with guarding NBA wings/forwards, like Cam Johnson and De’Andre Hunter. While he’s too weak for the role at the moment, with some added bulk, I’m optimistic Alexander-Walker could slot in on the wing.
There’s nothing spectacular about Alexander-Walker (defensive awareness probably comes closest), but there’s a lot of good. More importantly, that good should translate well to a variety of NBA roles (bench handler, off guard, wing). Versatile, smart, and well-rounded, Alexander-Walker should be a really nice NBA piece.
21. Cam Johnson, Wing
Johnson is a 6’8.5” wing who’s the best shooter in the draft. I feel like that’s a pretty concise and convincing summary of Cam Johnson, NBA prospect. He shot 45.7% on 5.8 3-pointers per game this year. He’s an absolutely nasty off-movement shooter, highly capable of squaring his body mid-air. He has range well beyond the NBA line–162 of his 210 3-point attempts this season would have been behind the NBA line, and he shot 46.3% on those attempts.
The selling point for Johnson is potentially special shooting in a huge frame, but he also offers a bit more secondary creation than he’s given credit for:
Set play, but nice to see Cam Johnson make a read like this off the curl pic.twitter.com/DJlHNBYEmZ
— Max Carlin (@maxacarlin) May 17, 2019
There are questions as to who exactly Johnson guards in the NBA. He definitely plays smaller than his height, due to a lack of strength, limited length, and a general lack of force to his game. Though he’s improved throughout college, he has some pretty serious movement/change of direction issues:
Cam Johnson really struggles to stop + change direction quickly pic.twitter.com/V0GKr04Y2h
— Max Carlin (@maxacarlin) May 28, 2019
I’m concerned about Johnson defensively, both vs. primary assignments and as a potential target of mismatch hunting. Nonetheless, it’s hard to envision a shooter of his caliber with plus size failing as an NBA rotation player. If his movement skills continue to improve, Johnson could be as much as a good starter on a very good team.
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