This article is a facsimile of an earlier version published on The Basketball Writers (TBW), which recently closed its doors.
High volume has robbed Isaiah Joe of the high-efficiency 3-point shooting he enjoyed as a freshman. Still, he is a large part of why Arkansas enjoyed a renaissance season under first-year head coach (and former NBA sideline general) Eric Musselman. Taking a whopping 10.6 3-point attempts a night.
As soon as he steps in the gym, he's in range to let it fly.
A January 34-point outburst on the road at Ole Miss—a night that included him going 7-of-13 from deep—has revitalized Joe's draft stock. When we say deep, we're not just talking about behind the 3-point line—which, as a reminder, is now moved back to professional levels and no longer a short college line. Joe has the ability to score outside areas where most defender venture to pick him up, and that makes him incredibly dangerous as soon as he crosses half-court.
If the aesthetics of a jumper matter to you, Joe will be your top prospect in this class. Nobody has a smoother, more beautiful stroke. He's also incredibly long and knows how to use his length. Unfortunately, no official measurements are available for his wingspan, but he's likely upwards of 6'7".
Joe had an up-and-down season at Arkansas under former NBA head coach Eric Mussleman. Joe started the season 35.8 percent from deep over their first 16 games, and his team started 14-2.
But the Razorbacks finished 5-5, and Joe went 31.3 percent over that span.
The drop may not seem that drastic, but when you take eleven treys a game, it's the difference between three points per game.
Joe is solid in most facets, and his skill level doesn't have many glaring holes. That said, there's one major weakness with his value as a prospect: he's 6'5" and barely 165 pounds. That rail-thin frame, one that didn't improve over two years at Arkansas, will scare off plenty of teams who doesn't see the well-rounded shooter he could turn into.
I mean, look at that stroke.
We could have a conversation ad nauseam about volume and efficiency, particularly about where the best role is for someone like this. I'm not sure a season like his, with the ridiculous amount of 3-point attempts, has been seen at the high-major level. To take a step back and look at this in theory, let's examine the theory of the Bell Curve.
A Bell Curve is one that pits frequency and effectiveness on a plot, showing where the maximum output rests. If frequency is at zero, there can be no effectiveness. If frequency is entirely too high, the system tasked with handling that workload will be so overburdened that nothing is effective anymore either.
The area in the middle, shown by the curve, generally points to a sweet-spot in the center, cutting out the possibilities of doing something too little or doing it too much to try and find the perfect balance between the two:
For elite shooters, that window for peak efficiency rarely tops ten attempts per game. Bodies wear down, defenses play shooters different and the cumulative effect of other aspects of the game makes consistency over a large sample difficult. Conversely, there's a need for at least moderate volume in order for a player to feel like he's in a rhythm. Coaches know that asking a player to come off the bench cold and start jacking 3-pointers is pretty unfair to them; the skill is based on muscle memory, so the muscles need a few attempts to jog their memory.
For these reasons, I'm of the firm belief that Joe's 3-point shooting percentages shouldn't sour anyone from drafting him. His role will change, he'll be surrounded by better scorers who can shoulder the volume and create for others, leaving Isaiah to take fewer late-clock attempts and more of the right ones for his team.
The shooting ability jumps out at you, but there's more to like about Joe's defense than one might think for someone his size.
Joe is really quick laterally, a key for guarding at the 2. He's also great at using his length and squaring contact to his chest. He's a reliable help defender who's rarely out of position, knows when to gamble and showed some real competitive streaks in close, late-game situations. He's not going to be a lock-down guy, but there's hope that he's at least above average. His strong understanding of help rotations, how to pester others with his length and move his feet while guarding drivers are vastly underrated skills.
It's hard to know whether Joe's shooting numbers dipped this year because he was asked to do too much or if his body wilted over the course of that much workload. If it's the latter, there's probably some merit to keeping him out of the first-round and snatching him up early in the second. If it's the former, an NBA role will suit him well and his draft stock should change accordingly.
The context of Joe's role at Arkansas is a huge piece to viewing his biggest flaws and understanding how they might immediately change.
As draft analysts and those who project future output, we have to think about traits that are correctable and what can be taught, drilled or reformed. When it comes to shot selection, Joe's role change will take care of most of those concerns. With strength, more dedication, time and growth into his body will help.
Everything other than the strength profile is easily fixable if put in the right role. Joe's shot selection was rough at Arkansas, again likely due to carrying a load his prototype isn't meant for. He also weirdly struggled to shoot off screens, despite few flaws to his mechanics existing there.
It may take some imagination, but try to envision Joe as the fourth cog in an offense or as a reserve floor spacer at the 2. He fits perfectly next to a ball-dominant guard, is a fine defender with his rotations and form, and has more upside as a secondary pick-and-roll creator than he flashed.
Overall Analysis and Draft Projection
Right now, that strength is being cited as a main reason for Joe's second-round draft slate. There are even scouts and front offices encouraging him to go back to school for a third year, which I find ludicrous for the following reasons: