NBA draft profile

NBA draft profile: Duke G Grayson Allen

NBA draft profile: Duke G Grayson Allen

Grayson Allen

Position: Guard

Height: 6-4

Weight: 195

School: Duke

For a good chunk of NBA players, their first professional season is all about adjustments. Adapting to a new city/teammates, the speed/physicality of the game, increased travel, etc.

Another major change is going from being mostly revered in any arena you step inside to instantly becoming a target of fans’ abuse away from home.

That won’t be a problem for Duke product Grayson Allen. He was the subject of just about every taunt imaginable during his four years as a Blue Devil. And while a lot of the criticism he brought on himself, Allen has matured and now simply lets his game do the talking.

Strengths
Allen’s biggest asset is that he’s a chameleon on the court. 

You need him to provide a spark on a team full of stars? He becomes the energizing sixth man like his freshman season when Duke won a national title. Want him to be your go-to scorer? He turns up the offense such as his sophomore campaign when he averaged 21.6 points a game on 46.6 percent shooting. Need him to run the show? Allen morphs into a primary playmaker similar to his senior year when he recorded a career-high 4.6 assists.

In all, Allen posted 14.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steal a night during his collegiate career. He also proved to be a capable long-range shooter as he connected on 38.0 percent of his three-pointers.

Not bad for a guy that was under constant scrutiny because …

Weaknesses
… Allen couldn’t control his emotions on the floor.

There were the well-documented tripping incidents and ensuing suspension. Allen also was known to lose his cool on the bench when things weren’t going his way between the lines.

“It’s something that comes from my competitiveness,” Allen said to reporters at the combine. “Competitiveness that I’ve had as a player, competitiveness that was pointed in the wrong direction and went over the line. It’s obviously something that I needed to work on.”

And while the Jacksonville, Florida, native was able to finally get his emotions under control, he’s only going to be tested even more at the next level by trash-talking players and fans.

In addition, the fact that Allen stayed at Duke for all four years is viewed as a bit of a knock in the NBA. While he tested the waters multiple times, his decision to remain in Durham is seen in some circles that the now-22-year-old was never fully comfortable making the leap in competition.

NBA comparison
A hated Duke player that plays the shooting guard position? Has to be JJ Redick, right? 

While there are certainly some comparable experiences between Allen and Redick, that’s not an actual basketball link we’re ready to make. Instead, Allen is much more in the mold of Miami guard Tyler Johnson. Both players have sneaky athleticism, can handle the ball and stretch their jumpers out to the three-point line well enough for opposing defenses to respect their range.

How he’d fit with Sixers
The Sixers hosted Allen for a private workout earlier this month under the watchful eye of then-president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo. While Colangelo has since resigned, the team’s interest in Allen still makes sense.

He would be able to spot up alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to knock down open shots, while also being able to take on the burden of ball-handling duties when asked. 

He may struggle to stay in front of some of the quicker players in the NBA, but he does have the explosion at the basket to make up for it and one of the best rim protecters in the game in Embiid if he gets completely beaten by his man.

Draft projection
Allen’s name can be found popping up for teams selecting anywhere from the early 20s to early in the second round. If his name is still on the board at No. 26 and the Sixers are still holding onto that pick, they will give some consideration to choosing the versatile guard.

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NBA draft profile: Villanova G Jalen Brunson

NBA draft profile: Villanova G Jalen Brunson

Jalen Brunson

Position: Guard

Height: 6-2

Weight: 198

School: Villanova

As Mikal Bridges cements his status as a consensus lottery pick and Donte DiVincenzo’s name becomes hot enough to reportedly receive an invite to the green room of the draft, their Villanova teammate who was the consensus national player of the year has seen his stock remain static.

Jalen Brunson was the leading scorer on Villanova’s national title team last season, pouring in 18.9 points per game while dishing out 4.6 assists. Bunson, a three-year starter and two-time national champ, was also highly-efficient, shooting 52.1 percent from the floor, 40.8 percent from deep and 80.2 percent from the free throw line. And as a result of his remarkable junior season, the Villanova point guard took home a ton of hardware in sweeping the major national player of the year awards.

But, Brunson isn’t considered a surefire first-round pick.

Two of the main reasons for this? His position and age. The point guard position has the greatest depth in the NBA so lead guards don’t tend be high draft picks unless they have All-Star upside. If Bridges was five inches shorter, he wouldn’t have the same kind of value. Teams are starving for rotation three-and-D wings and not so much for high-floor/low-ceiling point guards. 

With Brunson set to turn 22 years old in August, he doesn’t possess the tantalizing upside of the top point guards in this draft like Trae Young, Collin Sexton and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Even so, there's still a place for Brunson in the NBA.

Strengths
As a three-level scorer, Brunson can fill it up in a variety of ways. He has a smooth jumper that extends beyond the three-point line. In the mid-range area, he makes up for his lack of quickness with crafty moves to create separation for pull-ups. On drives, Brunson can initiate contact to draw fouls, contort his body to avoid contests and has good touch around the rim. And believe it or not, the 6-2 guard utilizes his craftiness to be an effective post player as well. 

When Brunson has the ball in his hands, he carries a calming force with him. He plays at his own pace and just always seems in control, rarely committing egregious turnovers or taking bad shots. He's also a willing, talented passer who will make the unselfish extra pass and can also fit the ball into a tight window to a cutter/roller.

Weaknesses
Brunson’s weaknesses have less to do with his skills and more with his physical traits and tools. He’s not an explosive athlete with crazy bounce and doesn’t possess game-changing speed or quickness. So will he be able to create enough space against more athletic wing defenders to penetrate to the rim or get off his pull-up jumper? 

Defensively, Brunson works hard and isn't way undersized as a point guard. But he doesn't have the size to switch across multiple positions and the one position he will defend is deep with high-level talent. He can survive against backups, but how will he fare against quality starters and stars?

NBA comparison
Lefties tend to get compared to other lefties, but I'm passing on the Derek Fisher comp and going with fellow Big 5 alum Jameer Nelson. The St. Joe’s product is shorter and had a little more quickness during his prime, but was a solid starter capable of scoring at all three levels despite some physical limitations. Brunson projects more as a backup but has the ceiling of a player like Nelson.

How’d he fit with the Sixers
Let’s look at the Sixers’ current guards beyond Ben Simmons. Markelle Fultz is an unknown. T.J. McConnell is set to be an unrestricted free agent next summer. And the only others under contract are Jerryd Bayless, Timothe Luwawu-Caborrot and Furkan Korkmaz.

This team needs guard depth, specifically ball handlers and shot creators/makers. While it may not come at an elite level, Brunson could fill both of those needs. And because of his shooting ability, he could also play off the ball as a spot-up shooter and secondary creator alongside Simmons and Fultz.

Draft projection 
A fringe first-rounder, Brunson's range will start right around the Sixers’ second pick at No. 26. If they pass on him there, they shouldn’t count on him still being on the board at their next pick at 38.

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NBA draft profile: Miami G Bruce Brown Jr.

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NBA draft profile: Miami G Bruce Brown Jr.

Bruce Brown Jr.

Position: Guard

Height: 6-5

Weight: 195

School: Miami

After his freshman year, Bruce Brown Jr. would have been a no-brainer first-round pick and most likely a lottery selection. Now, it would be a big surprise to see him go in the lottery, and even the first round is far from a sure thing.

There are two main reasons for Brown’s stock falling, the first of which is the regression in his play as a sophomore, especially his shooting. Brown’s three-point percentage dropped from 34.7 percent to 26.7 percent and his free-throw shooting went from 74.4 percent to 62.9 percent. The second reason is the left foot injury Brown suffered in late January, which caused him to miss the second half of the season.

There don’t appear to be any serious concerns about the injury for Brown, who worked out with the Sixers Wednesday. But questions about his shot and why he couldn’t build upon an impressive freshman year are certainly lingering.

Strengths
Brown is an outstanding athlete and competitor. He bench pressed 225 pounds 17 times at the combine, the most by any guard, and that's not at all surprising given the strength with which way he plays. He’s an intense, physical defender with a knack for turning defense into offense. For a guard, he’s an exceptional rebounder, posting 7.1 boards per contest in 2017-18. Offensively, Brown is a solid passer who’s comfortable in pick-and-rolls, which he ran a lot at Miami. He looks capable of being a secondary NBA ball-handler.

Weaknesses
His sophomore shooting dip is obviously a major worry. That 62.9 percent free throw percentage and the fact Brown made only 7 of 46 attempts from NBA three-point range last season are ominous signs. Like his teammate Lonnie Walker IV, Brown was inconsistent on offense. In 19 games last season, he shot 50 percent or better from the floor nine times and 25 percent or worse seven times. Brown has a variety of dribble moves, but his handle isn’t the most tight or fluid. His pull-up game, in terms of shot selection, rhythm and balance, has a lot of room for improvement.  Given how talented an athlete he is, Brown isn’t a great finisher (he shot 58.5 percent at the rim last season) and he doesn’t seem to like using his left hand.

NBA comparison
Brown has said he models his game after Russell Westbrook. He definitely has a little bit of Westbrook in him, especially with his intensity and explosiveness. He also seems to have some Westbrook-like confidence – he thinks he’s the best guard in the draft. And like Westbrook, Brown left college after his sophomore season without a great offensive résumé.

All that said, it’s not fair (or at all realistic) to compare Brown to a player who has averaged a triple-double in back-to-back seasons. Lance Stephenson is a much better comparison. Like Brown, Stephenson is a strong defender, excellent guard rebounder and subpar shooter. It’s important to note, however, that Brown won’t come with any of Stephenson’s notorious, ear-blowing antics.

How he’d fit with Sixers
On the defensive end, Brown will help any NBA team immediately. With his ability to guard one through three at a high level, he’ll have a role off the bench. There’s no doubt Brown’s defense and rebounding would make the Sixers better in two areas where they’re already strong. His athleticism would also be a boost for a second unit lacking in that department last season. 

Draft projection
Because of his injury history and disappointing sophomore campaign, Brown has a slightly wider range than most prospects. He’s expected to be taken in the late first or early second round. He could be an option at No. 26 for the Sixers, or he could be a potential steal at No. 38 or No. 39.  

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