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NBA DAILY: Malik Newman Is More Than Just a Scorer

The point guard from Kansas believes he can do everything effectively at the next level.

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The NBA Draft is never a sure thing. Experts and scouts come up with numerous editions of mock drafts only to have a few surprises come draft night. And even after the fact, there are players who either don’t live up to where they were drafted or players who outperform where they were picked.

One intriguing name in this year’s draft is Kansas’ Malik Newman. None of the mock drafts have him being selected in the first round and those that do, have been taken late in the second round.

Part of those projections probably comes from the fact that he’s been labeled as primarily a scorer and nothing more. He did average 2.1 assists per game last season. Having a reputation as a player who can only score is one of the biggest misconceptions about his game. It’s one of the biggest things he hoped to showcase at the NBA Draft Combine last month.

“That I’m only a scorer or that I’m only a shooter,” Newman told reporters at the combine. “That I can’t make plays for other guys. I think that is my ability to play make.”

Being able to play on both ends of the floor is another key attribute that most certainly will endear players to NBA front offices. Standing between 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-5 wingspan, there may be questions about Newman’s ability to defend at the NBA level.

He did have a strong showing defensively during March Madness, however, especially in the Jayhawks upset of Duke that saw Newman put on a solid defensive showing when matched up against Grayson Allen.

Another aspect that will help him stand out in NBA circles is being able to be effective without having the ball in his hands. Good scorers often need to handle the basketball in order to put up points and be effective. Great scorers are brilliant at moving without the ball and being able to free themselves up for a pass while being in scoring position.

“I think one of my biggest strengths is I’m able to play on the ball, off the ball, and still be productive,” Newman said. “I think that’s one of the things that teams are looking at.”

And while all these little things will surely help Newman catch the attention of NBA teams, his main strength is still the top thing to look at. He is a flat out talented scorer, he can get buckets. In his lone season at Kansas, he averaged 14.2 points per game while shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from the three-point line.

The NCAA tournament is where he really exploded. He upped his scoring to 22.5 points per game on 52.9 percent shooting from the field and 49.1 percent from three-point range. In the Jayhawks first-round game of the Big 12 tournament against Oklahoma State, he put up a then season-high 30 points in a win.

He would explode for 32 points in Kansas’ upset win over Duke in the Elite Eight. Newman was able to play the best basketball of his collegiate career on the biggest stage under the brightest lights.

“It definitely helped a lot, being around that time, being in March. It’s one of the biggest parts of the collegiate level,” Newman said. “Performing the way I did during March, I think it definitely raised some eyebrows and woke a couple people up and made them question, ‘is this the kid we’re used to seeing or is it just luck?'”

Following the initial workout period during the combine, things have sort of calmed down a bit for Newman. He hired an agent, so he’s already forgone his college eligibility. It’s just a waiting game now, some workouts here and there in preparation for the big night.

“It’s been great, it’s definitely been a grind, three or four workouts a day,” Newman said. “Right now, it’s kind of like a resting period for me. You don’t have to workout as much but these interviews and tests and things like that, it’s definitely important. But it’s been a grind.”

His best projection is probably a scoring guard off the bench who can make plays for his teammates and be a solid defensive player as well. Don’t be surprised to see Newman end up as one of those players who eventually outperform where he was drafted.

David Yapkowitz has been a staff writer for Basketball Insiders since 2017. Based in Los Angeles, he focuses on the Pacific Division as well as the NBA at large.

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