NBA Draft, NBA Draft Scouting Reports

2019 NBA Draft Scouting Notebook: Gonzaga vs. Tennessee

Sunday’s clash featured an upset victory for the veteran Volunteers but also much to take away from a scouting perspective looking ahead to the 2019 NBA Draft.

Whenever two great teams play one another in college basketball there are many opportunities to scout for the NBA draft. This was the case in Gonzaga’s strong victory over Duke in the first weeks of the season when Rui Hachimura closed the game protecting the rim and it was the case once again as Gonzaga took on a different top team, the seventh-ranked Tennesee Volunteers.

Hachimura is the headliner, but Tennessee’s Admiral Schofield stole the show and there were still others to keep an eye on moving forward.

Brandon Clarke

The Phoenix native has burst onto the scene thanks in part to an injury to Gonzaga starter Killian Tillie this fall and made the most of his opportunity. He is averaging 16.4 points and 8.1 rebounds in addition to 3.4 blocks per game on the year, buoyed by an incredible 12.6 block percentage and 15.9 percent offensive rebounding rate. When Clarke is on the court, he impacts the game.

Against Tennessee, Clarke was remarkable creating defensive plays and going coast to coast with his dribble. He is very quick for his size and if he can survive at center defensively in the NBA, his burst and handle will be advantages.

Clarke can already make huge plays:

And his ability to stick with bigger players, as he did most notably against Duke earlier this year, will be the indicator of his position and promise at the next level.

“Very active, very physical player,” Schofield described when asked about Clarke postgame. “Very good in the paint and very athletic. He was a tough matchup.”

Rui Hachimura

Hachimura was the main event scouting Gonzaga in person and didn’t disappoint as a scorer. He is a bullet heading toward the rim, with the handle and finesse to get to his spots already at just age 20. With a monster 29.5 percent usage rate and  63.2 true shooting percentage, the junior is shouldering one of the bigger loads in the country for the Bulldogs.

At 6-foot-8, Hachimura’s ability to move in the court sets him apart. He already looks like a more exciting prospect like Jabari Parker or Julius Randle in terms of the smoothness of motion on th court, but will need to read the game more attentively to develop as a NBA prospect. Hachimura’s first through fourth options right now are to score and he has more turnovers than assists.

The Japanese-born forward could use more plays like the one he made in the second half when he grabbed a rebound, took the ball past half court and then lobbed an alley-oop to Clarke for an easy dunk. The scoring will be his fallback, but his positional size and smoothness goes to waste if every possession ends in a quick jumper.

Admiral Schofield

Sitting just 59th on ESPN’s big board right now, Schofield’s stock fell a bit since last season. Though he will be 22 by the draft, Schofield keeps getting better, taking more 3s and adding more playmaking each season in college. His six 3s on Sunday almost singlehandedly stole the game for Tennessee.

If Schofield’s shot can stay consistent off movement like the plays above, his NBA stock will rise quickly. Last season, the senior took a high volume of 3s and made 40 percent. A shooter with that defensive frame is incredibly intriguing.

The problem right now is he’s not making an impact statistically on defense (just a 1.2 percent steal rate and 1 percent block rate) and doesn’t have a ton of shot creation potential. Three-and-D players are fantastic in the modern NBA, especially guys as big as Schofield, but he needs to prove the D portion of that calculation before the draft in June.

Of course, winning with the Volunteers would do a lot to help his stock as well, keeping his impact fresh in scouts’ minds.

Next: The Step Back 2019 NBA Draft Big Board: December Update

Final Notes

  • I don’t see right now how Grant Williams is an NBA prospect, despite his overall impact on winning. He’s a below-average athlete compared with NBA wings and doesn’t have a standout skill.
  • Zach Norvell Jr. is entirely a boom or bust player right now and therefore not much of a prospect in the draft, either. His long frame would be super interesting in the NBA as a switchable defender with a knockdown shot, but he’s streaky as a shooter and clumsy as a ball-handler. Right now, Norvell to me is nothing more than Svi Mykhailiuk, who was picked in the 50s as a project, with the Lakers trying to build him into more than a shooter.
  • The SEC will provide an interesting test for Schofield, with multiple matchups against Keldon Johnson of Kentucky and Bryce Brown of Auburn upcoming.
  • It will be fascinating to see what Gonzaga coach Mark Few does upon the return of Killian Tillie, another potential first-rounder in Spokane. Clarke and Hachimura play well off one another and the Bulldogs are winning, yet Tillie brings a valuable spacing element to their offense. The draft stock of each could be dependent upon how they adjust.

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