When scouting for the best shooter in the NBA Draft, there are a lot of things to take into mind. Those things aren’t necessarily illustrated by any statistics either. Although both standard statistics and advanced analytics are helpful, they don’t indicate how fast a player’s release is, how they’ll handle the deeper three point line, if they have some type of fundamental flaw that could be exposed at the next level or how they far against the kind of length and athleticism the average NBA defender possesses. Sometimes you just don’t know until you see them in live game action, but by that time contracts are signed and the pressure is on.
Many scouts and general managers have lost their jobs over shooters who didn’t translate. Ray Allen’s hot shooting for the Finals-bound Miami HEAT have a lot of people saying the old homage “the jump shot is the last thing to go”, but there are far more cases where it’s the first to go, especially when the transition from college basketball to the NBA is made.
In continuation with our NBA Draft coverage, we take a look at some of the best shooters this draft class has to offer, focusing primarily on their ability to hit from beyond the arc.
Doug McDermott – Creighton, Forward
You don’t become one of the greatest scorers in NCAA history without being able to shoot the basketball at a prolific rate. As far as pure shooters go, this draft class probably doesn’t offer a better one than McDermott, who score over 3,000 points in his career at Creighton. Most impressive was the fact that he never shot under 40 percent from beyond the arc, that’s while shooting over 110 each season and making a total of 274.
At 6’8 with more athleticism than most people realize, McDermott is going to be a tough guard at the NBA level as well. He may not be one of the league’s leading scorers like he was at the NBA, but he’s going to be the kind of offensive threat who demands attention at every moment, no matter where he is on the floor. If left open, he’s almost a guarantee to make the defense pay, reflected by the ridiculous 1.9 points per possession he averaged on unguarded jump shots this season.
He boasted a true shooting percentage of 65.1 percent this season, amongst the top in the class, which is especially impressive when you consider the load he carried for his team and that he took 17.9 shots a game. He never shot less than 52 percent from the field overall.
McDermott is quickly becoming one of the draft’s high risers as team’s fall in love with his basketball IQ, maturity and offensive abilities. Given that he settles into a position that he can defend adequately (or at least close to it), look for McDermott to be one of the rookie leaders in scoring next season.
Nik Stauskas, Michigan, Guard
As a freshman Stauskas put himself on the NBA Draft radar because of his ability to hit the three-point shot, connecting on 80 triples at a 44 percent clip. As a sophomore he did much more than just hit the long ball, which is why he’s now a consensus lottery pick. Stauskas proved to be a viable threat to put the ball on the floor on close outs and efficiently operate in the pick-and-roll, which could help him be the second shooting guard selected behind Andrew Wiggins, the potential No. 1 overall selection. Oh yeah, and he hit 92 threes, right at 44 percent efficiency once again.
Stauskas’ bread and butter is always going to be his smooth, picture perfect jump shot, though. He ranks as one of the best spot up shooters in the draft, averaging 1.3 points per possession in those situations. His true shooting percentage of 65.1 percent also puts him near the top of the class, on par with big guys who primarily shoot from within 10 feet.
The further away he is from the basket, the more reliable Stauskas is. The key for him to become a starter in the league and not just a specialist is going to be building on his arsenal inside of the arc. With the ability to create his own shot and finish in the interior, Stauskas could easily end up one of the better players in this class. However, his jumper alone should keep him in the league for several years as he possesses endless range and a quick enough release to get his shot off against NBA-caliber defenders. Ideally he’ll land with a team with creators who will allow him to play to his strengths early on until he becomes more comfortable with the other aspects of his game.
Rodney Hood – Duke, Forward
During his loan season at Duke Hood proved to be one of the best three-point shooters in the country, making 71 treys while shooting 42 percent from distance. The southpaw is silky smooth with a quick release. He averaged 1.04 points per possession in spot up shooting situations. Unfortunately, he played on a Blue Devils team that had a lot of scorers but no true playmaker, so he didn’t get to play to his strengths as much as he likely will in the NBA.
In the Blue Devils’ opening round loss in the NCAA Tournament to Mercer Hood’s difficulties creating off of the dribble were magnified. Set to turn 23 years of old by the time the season starts, he may never be the kind of primary offensive option who you can run things through and expect to create for himself and others. He could just end up being a shooter, but at 6’8 with deep range teams are always going to have room for him on their roster.
More important for his career’s success than expanding his offensive repertoire is being a quality defender.
Jabari Brown – Missouri, Guard
There’s a lot to like about Brown’s game, like the way he’s steadily improved over the last three years and how athletic he is. He’s likely going to carve his niche in the league as a shooter, though. That’s what projects to translate the best, which is surprising to say about someone who shot 14 percent from three during his freshman year at Oregon.
Two years later, he’s one of the best in college basketball, making 80 triples on over 40 percent shooting. Not only did he make 2.3 threes a game, he also made nearly eight trips to the free throw line, where he converted just about 80 percent of the time.
The majority of Brown’s offense came in spot up opportunities and off of screens. He averaged 1.0 points per possession in those situations, while also serving as a lethal threat in transition. For teams that like to play up temp and need some depth in the backcourt, Brown is going to be a very attractive option, either late in the first round or early in the second.
C.J. Wilcox – Washington, Guard
Although he didn’t get a lot of national attention while doing so, over the last four years Wilcox has been one of the best shooters in college basketball. He finished his career with 301 triples made, never shooting less than 36 percent from the field. Wilcox averaged 1.1 points per possession in spot up situations and nearly the same coming off of screens, where he did the majority of his work.
With a wingspan just under seven foot, good athleticism and an adept understanding of how to work without the ball, Wilcox should be able to catch on with a team next season regardless of whether he gets drafted in the second round.
One of his main selling points at the NBA Draft Combine was that he is more than a shooter. However, it is his jump shot that is going to keep him in the league and potentially give him the opportunity to showcase what else he can do.
Joe Harris, Virginia, Guard – Lowest he shot from three in his four-year career was 38 percent, other than that he was at 40 percent or over every season. Has a quick enough release to believe he could get his shot off against NBA defenders, but it’s the other side of the court that could lead to him taking his reliable jump shot abroad. Also is a surprisingly mediocre free throw shooter.
Travis Bader, Oakland, Guard –The NCAA’s all-time leading three point shooter with 504 triples made in his career. Is deserving of the top spot on this list as he could probably win multiple NBA three-point shootouts, but little else about his game is NBA-caliber, so he may never get the opportunity. That jumper is going to be worth some nice money overseas, though.
Alec Brown, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Center – The lone center on this list; Brown doesn’t have a body of work that impresses like most draft prospects, but as a stretch five he can really be a matchup nightmare. Has a better chance to stick than the average specialist because his top skill is somewhat of a rarity at his position. Lack of strength is the big thing that will scare teams away.
DeAndre Daniels, UConn, Forward – An emerging threat with his jump shot, which became one of his more valuable weapons this season after really being a weakness his first two years. He connected on a career-high 50 triples at an impressive 41 percent clip – 17 points higher than his freshman season. While he’s well-rounded, his rapidly-improving three point shooting could be his strength early on.
P.J. Hairston, D-League, Guard– The character red flags stemming from his midseason dismissal at North Carolina look bad, but Hairston has gone a long way to try and make up for them. He immediately entered the D-League after being ruled ineligible and proved to be a lethal scoring threat there as well. He wasn’t overly efficient (who is in the D-League, though?), but he did show that he can score against a competition level that many regard as higher than D-I college basketball. He’s athletic with deep range, look for him to go late in the first round. He makes a lot of sense for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Jordan Adams, UCLA, Guard – It’s almost not fair to classify Adams by his position. The most accurate label for him is a bucket maker. Far from an elite athlete, Adams has a knack for scoring and simply knows how to put the ball in the hole. He has deep range on his jump shot and a quick release. Stock may not be where he wants it to be after flip flopping on staying in school another year, but he’s too young and offensively gifted not to get a serious shot at making a roster next year.
James Young, Kentucky, Forward – Shot just 34 percent from three and 40 percent overall, but is similar to Brad Beal in the sense that he should end up being a much better shooter in the pros than he was in college. He has a really nice stroke and deep range, making shots isn’t going to be a problem for him. Taking better shots will be the key. He’s far too athletic to settle.
Jabari Parker, Duke, Forward – If all Parker did was focus on his jump shots and had quality creators around him to set him up, he’d undoubtedly be regarded as one of the best shooters in this draft class. That wasn’t the situation he was in this past year at Duke, though, and it’s unlikely that it will be his role at the next level. He’s just too good overall offensively to focus on utilizing that one aspect of his arsenal. He can score with his back to the basket, finish at the rim, score off put backs and cuts; you name it, he can do it. And if making a jump shot, from anywhere on the court, including beyond the arc, is it, he’ll come through.
Honorable Mentions: Gary Harris (Michigan State, Guard), Dario Saric (International, Forward), Adreian Payne (Michigan State), Cleanthony Early (Wichita State, Forward) and Isaiah Austin (Baylor, Forward).
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