Holiday Scouting Nuggets (Pt. 2)
My JRE Love
Don't ever bet against Jay Wright in creating high-IQ, quality role players born and bred for the NBA.
Everyone within his offense learns how to master fundamentals, properly read spacing concepts, and is asked routinely to pass, dribble and shoot. For Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, a mismatch big forward who can defend the crap out of most positions, the shooting is a little light. Some are starting to doubt how high he can go without high-volume shooting.
If there's one guy in this class who can make up for the absence of shooting, it's him. He's an above-average frontcourt creator, a polished finisher, smart cutter and most importantly a Villanova guy! He knows how to move without the ball and read plays on offense to provide value just in where he stands:
The confidence in the offense comes from Villanova, the system, the coaching and the small things like this.
The confidence in his defense translating comes from JRE himself. He perfectly fits in a switching system because he knows how to mentally toggle between switching, switching back and staying dialed into his responsibilities as they change. He doesn't have poor switches, either -- he's really consistent with his form, aggression and ability to settle the ball.
He's still probably best guarding 3 through 5 most often, but he can go into a switching scheme and make things happen:
Right now, JRE is 15th on my board and is the highest non-freshman out there. 32% on 2.8 treys a night is acceptable; 16.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and career 80% free throw shooting to go with this level of defense... it'll be hard to not want him as a lotto guy if he keeps this up. Smart, solid, low-risk players always get a bad rep, and it's totally not deserved. Elite role players are and always will be more valuable than highly volatile guys with high ceilings.
From Nova to the South
One guy who didn't fit at Villanova: Jahvon Quinerly. First off, GREAT kid and awesome family. It doesn't speak negatively of him that he and 'Nova wasn't a great fit. There are more than one ways to have a great culture and mesh. I try my hardest not to judge guys who transfer or search for the most comfortable environment -- it's vital to their development and success to be somewhat comfortable.
Well, Quinerly is in a system that fits well in Alabama. Up-tempo, lots of ball screens, surrounded by big shooters. He looks good offensively, flashing the added weight/ strength and nice off-balance finishing near the rim. He had a good game against East Tennessee State this week:
The lack of size and burst kind of hurt Quinerly as a pro prospect. There's no real way around it. He doesn't play with the shake to compensate. I love him as a college guy, though don't see the path towards meaningful NBA impact right now. If he gets a high volume of movement shooting to his name, there might be a little more of a chance.
My 2nd Round Steal - A Buffalo
In scouting Tyler Bey at Colorado last year, I kept thinking that McKinley Wright was in for a big year in Boulder once Bey left. It seems that will be the case. The scoring combo guard is exhibiting the pros of being in a system where he isn't the only creator. He's flashing solid off-ball shooting and instincts, like knowing how to get himself open on the move and read his defender off screens.
Most importantly for the 6'0" guard, Wright is mastering self-creation out of ball screens. He makes good reads, is getting good at the hostage dribble and has a SUPER unique floater that he leans on a ton -- he made four of them against Grand Canyon.
For an undersized backup scoring guard, the mastery of the mid-range is an important place to live. He needs that to be part of his arsenal to get on the floor, stay on the floor and succeed.
Through seven games: 16.3 points, 5.9 assists, 4.3 rebounds. 42.1% 3-point shooting on 2.7 attempts a game.
Here's the kicker: he's shooting 67.3% from TWO POINT RANGE on 7.9 ATTEMPTS A GAME.
It's not sustainable. But the fact he's even there right now at 6'0" is crazy. Half of their games have been against major competition, too: Washington (2-3 zone mavens), Tennessee (with NBA prospect big man Yves Pons) and Kansas State. He's a good passer, should gain some momentum as the season goes on and is a guy I love as a middle of the second-round backup point guard. Just a big, big fan.
TJD's Translation Outside of Bloomington
The numbers are gaudy. 21.1 points per game in the Big Ten, 8.6 rebounds, 2.0 blocks with some highlight-reel dunks and an improving counter-move to when teams try to force him to his weak hand in the post. There's a reason Trayce Jackson-Davis shows up as a late-first round prospect on most major outlet boards.
I have an issue with him there, and it has to do with the funcationality of bigs. At Indiana, TJD gets all his offense from offensive rebounds, inbound play lobs or the sheer volume of post-ups called for him by Archie Miller. Indiana isn't a great offensive team (they're fantastic on defense, though, and super aggressive). They don't have shooting around him and their guards aren't dynamic creators for the team.
So what TJD gets to show in Bloomington isn't translatable to his NBA role, when he'll be in more screen-and-rolls, fewer post-ups and more of a Drop PNR-defending big. There's been talk of trying to develop his perimeter skill so he can play the 4.
Such a claim is ludicrous to me. Jackson-Davis hasn't attempted a trey in his college career. He's super uncomfortable facilitating at the top of the keys, doesn't engage in dribble handoffs comfortably and defenses sag off him quite far.
He isn't used there frequently as a result. So in order to validate those scouting viewpoints on his game, we have to look at other parts of his game that have transferrable skills. One example: quick decision-making as a passer out of the post or on hi-lows at the free throw line. If TJD looks comfortable here at making quick reads and hitting open teammates, it will be easier to feel confident that he can do things out of the short roll or pick apart defenses atop the key.
In their December 23rd loss to Northwestern, TJD struggled here. He had 5 turnovers in the game, including two from post traps on simple pass-outs and one dreadful pass on a hi-lo.
I've watched every Hoosiers game in full this year. TJD is their best player and they need to keep pounding it inside to win and generate points. He gets to the free throw line and converts 70% of the time. He's a pogo stick and might be the league's best big outside of Luka Garza.
But he's the one guy I'm really hesitant to pull the trigger on. I don't think he has the feel for the game I'd look for from a non-shooting big, is a tad undersized to rely on his rim protection/ finishing and is so left-hand dominant that instant impact might be mitigated. We'll see if this thought holds up throughout the year, especially into Big Ten play.
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Adam Spinella, Head Boys Basketball Coach at Boys' Latin School (MD)