Players are getting smarter at a younger age. That makes scouting difficult; it's easy to be impressed with their level of skill and understanding of high-level concepts, but really hard to sift through which are going to blossom at the pro level when they all have some important skill tactics.
Pick-and-roll reads have advanced a great deal. College programs run and teach them better than ever. Snaking, reading the low man, hostage dribbles, setting up the dribble and understanding PNR coverages are the norm nowadays. What used to be so impressive for a college player to exhibit is now so widely common that it feels mundane.
Today, we'll dive into the works of a few guys who either have signature moves or standout statistical features. These are guards who have wide ranges and might be in differing areas than consensus on my board. Regardless, they've turned in fantastic college seasons and are guys we'd love to see play on the big stage this March.
Bones Hyland - Refusing the PNR
Hyland is a first-round guy in the eyes of many, and a lot of that eval comes from his deep shooting range, impressive off-the-dribble scoring and how confident he is with his shot selection. But Hyland is a fairly competent PNR creator with some instincts for scoring inside the 3-point line.
If a guy frequently refuses a pick-and-roll on the side, it usually means he is a score-first player who can fill it up. Hyland is shooting 56% at the rim this year, a solid mark, and a little unexpected for someone whose athleticism doesn't pop on TV. He's super long and uses a good jab-and-go move to set his man up for the screen, then rip baseline to get to the rim. When he gets there, he knows whether he's beat his man with some long strides, or whether a quicker inside-hand finish is needed:
Hyland is growing on me as a prospect. His funky Haliburton-like set shot has enough range and consistency to buy into. He's a better finisher than I thought, and his feel off the PNR as a scorer is fairly impressive. Not sure if the Rams will find their way into the NCAA's, but one signature game from Bones on the big stage could be enough for NBA teams to view him as a first-rounder.
David Duke - Step-back Shooting
The Providence point guard has opened the eyes of many this year. After his freshman year in 2018-19, Duke was a really poor 3-point shooter, disappointing after the reputation he gained at Cushing Academy. Duke has picked it up since, shooting over 40% from deep on mostly shots he creates himself. The stroke is a tad long and he takes a split second to get set, but he's fired up a decent amount from deep.
Perhaps his best attribute is how much separation he creates on his step-backs. He's sped it up, worked on his footwork to get behind the 3-point line when possible and is credible with a strong bounce that gets defenders to believe he's going to drive it:
Duke is a unique prospect. He's a junior and a tad old to be seen as a common first-round threat. But back-to-back seasons shooting over 40% from 3, and a major increase in scoring this season has many excited about the pro he could be. He's a true 6'5", is anchoring an offense in a power conference and has the aforementioned level of self-creation as an off-the-dribble shooter with that step-back move.
Then there are the worries. Duke could be the latest in a line of Ed Cooley players who don't quite cut it in the pros on offense. He's more volume than efficiency, shooting below 41% from the field in all three of his college years. He struggles as a finisher, too. I don't have Duke as a top-50 guy on my board right now, but the flashes of this scoring from a 6'5" lead guard isn't something to be ignored.
Ayo Dosunmu - Kofi Cockburn Connection
Analytics is a tricky subject for many, but it's essentially a simple concept when it comes to shot selection: get the highest-percentage looks possible in terms of points per shot. That is, and always will be, at the rim for dunks and layups, especially when uncontested or lightly contested.
That's why, when studying pick-and-roll passers, I have a tendency to favor guys who frequently look for the roller. It helps when the spacing around them encourages such a pass, or when they're partnered with a really strong big who can finish and catch any pass.
Ayo Dosunmu has a really strong connection with Kofi Cockburn. Whether with big Kofi or another Illini member, Dosunmu's teammates are 27-30 as the roller on shots coming after an Ayo pass. He and Kofi's connection is pretty notable and has helped propel the Illini to a top-five team in the nation:
Ayo's prolific season should continue deep into March. He's the engine that drives this Illini team, with clutch buckets, fantastic playmaking and relentless on-ball defense. He's a first-round guy in my book and should open some eyes to just how dominant he can be as Illinois makes a deep run.
McKinley Wright - Polished Floaters
I've written before about Wright's fantastic floater game, and as the season has gone on, his percentages really haven't faded that much. He's 34-57 (59.6%) on floaters, 29-48 (60.4%) finishing at the rim and for a smaller guard, is a stout 8-15 on post-ups. He's a natural born scorer inside of 15 feet and is one of my favorite draft sleepers as a result.
Wright's floater isn't just about his insane touch and how he consistently makes it going to his right or his left. He's good at getting to it while executing those complex, high-IQ maneuvers like snaking and hostage dribbles. He goes to his quick split-step floater after those moves and initiates or handles contact well to score:
Wright isn't seen by many major outlets as a draftable guy. He's currently not in ESPN's top-100, and since he's shooting only 23% from 3 since January 16th, it's hard to see him climbing much. But with Colorado now nationally ranked and likely an at-large team for the NCAA Tournament, we could get to see Wright show what he's capable of on the grandest stage of them all.