It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
For those like myself who crave the annual excitement of the draft process, it can be a little underwhelming when the Raptors don’t have a first round pick to utilize. Luckily, there happens to be a few prospects that have caught my attention in the early second round range, and I’ll be arguing for them to be selected with the Raptors’ pick on June 23rd. This is the first part in this series, and I plan to write about more prospects who would be attractive to the Raptors in the coming weeks.
In the mean time, let’s take a look at a couple of my favourite prospects who are expected to be on the board at pick 33…
Jaylin Williams | Big | Arkansas | H: 6’10, WS: 7’1 | Age: 19.9
Aside from the bigs who are expected to be in the lottery like Jalen Duren, Chet Holmgren, and Mark Williams, I believe that Jaylin Williams is the best big man prospect in the draft.
Players like Christian Koloko and Ismael Kamagate have generated some buzz among Raps fans due to their more traditional big man playstyles, but they project to be much more one dimensional players in the NBA due to their rim-running focused skillsets, lack of offensive potential, and inability to make plays for others. I like to believe that the Raptors can do better than a typical athletic diver who catches lobs on one end and blocks shots on the other. Enter Jaylin Williams:
Where I believe Jaylin separates himself from these other mid-draft big man prospects is in the IQ department. An incredibly intelligent person both on and off the court, Jaylin is always making plays to help make his team better. Often in the same play, Jaylin can be seen throwing some difficult passes with pinpoint accuracy on one end of the floor…
…and hustling for a charge on the other end.
That’s right – Jaylin is elite at drawing charges. Your desire for a charge-taker in the post Lowry era can finally be satisfied.
It’s rare for NBA teams to have big men who are capable of being this type of connective presence on the offensive end. Only a few names come to mind, and while I’m certainly not saying that Jaylin Williams will reach the illustrious highs of a Gasol brother or Nikola Jokic, his ability to function as a playmaker at any position on the court will make him a matchup nightmare, and will nonetheless prove incredibly valuable for teams who like to have multiple playmaking options.
In addition to being one of the smartest players in the draft on the offensive end, Jaylin is also an intelligent and mobile defender. He was a first team all defensive selection in the SEC, and while he doesn’t have the gaudy block numbers of players like Walker Kessler or Mark Williams, he always finds himself in the right spots and manages to move his feet well enough to stay in front of his man – something that several non-lottery bigs in this class struggle with. That said, he can still collect steals and blocks at a decent rate.
In this particular clip, Jaylin may not get the rebound but he does an excellent job of staying in drop coverage, making it difficult for Ole Miss to get a good shot off, before forcing the jump ball:
Here as well. He sags off a little early, but is able to stay in front of the driving player and recovers for a block:
Due to his handle and playmaking abilities, Arkansas often let Jaylin bring the ball up the court, and he’s also a capable roll man:
Jaylin unfortunately tested poorly in some of the Combine’s athletic drills, ending up near the bottom for the lane agility and vertical tests, while being around the middle of the pack in the shuttle run. Attempting only 2 threes per game at Arkansas on a 24% clip, he’s also not a shooter at the moment. That said, he shoots about 74% from the free throw line, and his shooting form isn’t broken, so I would have faith in him becoming a respectable shooter before long.
While his athletic numbers are disappointing, I also don’t think his draft stock should be affected too much simply because he’s not the fastest in a straight line and can’t jump out of the gym. As Jaylin has showcased throughout his collegiate career, he is still very much capable of being an impactful force due to his skills on the court.
I’ve talked about his skills at length, but I really think he has the ability to be special in the NBA. His playmaking, defensive ability, and mobility for a player his size is just a recipe for success. He just needs the right situation for it all to come together. The Raptors having a big like Jaylin falling into their laps would be a blessing. His fit would be great since he serves an obvious and pressing positional need, but he would also be able to run plays similar to the ones that Nurse loved to run with Marc Gasol, due to his ability to move the ball around.
Plus, he’s always smiling. How can you not love him?
Andrew Nembhard | Point Guard | Gonzaga | H: 6’4.5, WS: 6’5.75 | Age: 22.4
Let’s get the Canadian factor out of the way early. It’s merely a bonus on top of what is already a fantastic player. At the combine, many are coming around on Nembhard as the best pure point in the draft, especially after his dominant scrimmage showings.
A senior out of Gonzaga, Nembhard is an older prospect. That said, it’s expected that he will be ready to contribute right away, and I see no reason why he shouldn’t expect to be a long-term fixture for whatever NBA team drafts him. He’s a floor general through and through.
Scouts take on Andrew Nembhard:
"Looks like he has sincere interest from playoff teams drafting after #20. Early second is his likely floor. He looks strong and assertive and already a total pro. Maybe the best pick & roll guard in the draft."
— Rafael Barlowe (@Barlowe500) May 23, 2022
I don’t disagree with an evaluation that places Nembhard as the best pick and roll guard in the draft. This class in particular is weak on point guards, and players like Dyson Daniels, Jaden Ivey, and TyTy Washington would be better described as combo guards. Other than that, the only other high ranked guard to compare to Nembhard would be Tennessee’s Kennedy Chandler. While Chandler is younger and a much better athlete, Nembhard is still the superior playmaker.
Nembhard’s playmaking prowess has remained a selling point for him since high school. He maintained an average of over 5 assists at both Gonzaga and Florida, and is rated as “very good” as a P&R Ball Handler in Synergy in the 67th percentile. He’s completely aware of where everyone is on the court, and he uses his awareness combined with his elite decision making to facilitate his teammates.
Important to note that Nembhard’s assist-turnover ratio is a very impressive 2.97, and he improved his assists while reducing his turnovers over the course of his college career.
Nembhard has always been a decent college player, but what draws me to him from a scouting perspective is the fact that he’s steadily improved his game every year. This may not necessarily reflect in his stats, but when he first started at Florida he was pretty much just a passing guard who struggled at the rim and couldn’t shoot all that consistently. Comparing that to his latest seasons at Gonzaga, he’s shown that he’s greatly developed and diversified his skillset. Players who show continuous improvement in college often project favourably to the NBA, and Nembhard has shown no reason to believe that he would be an exception.
He averaged 46% from the field at Gonzaga and 54% from inside the arc. He came into college as a shaky shooter, and that followed him for a couple years at Florida. That said, he finished his senior year at Gonzaga with a very respectable 38% from deep on 4 attempts per game. His handle isn’t otherworldly, but it’s pretty crafty, and his size allows for him to deliver some highlight plays at the rim.
According to Synergy, Nembhard’s off the dribble shots ranked in the 93rd percentile. 40% of Nembhard’s shots were off the dribble, and he averaged 41.4% on those possessions. His step-back in particular has come a long way. Not bad for a kid who couldn’t really shoot at all during his first two years.
He’s a capable defender. I wouldn’t expect him to make any all-defence teams, but he knows where to be and his size will always be an asset at his position. Nick Nurse coached Nembhard on the Canadian National Team, and doesn’t seem to run out of good things to say about him:
Nick Nurse on Andrew Nembhard: pic.twitter.com/INWK7KN3MY
— Teru Ikeda (@TeruIkeda) August 8, 2019
If there’s anything to complain about with Nembhard, it’s that he’s been mostly low-usage in college when it comes to scoring. It’s not all that clear how he would handle a higher scoring load. Even though he was a starter at Gonzaga in his senior year, he still ranked 8th on the team in usage. Would he be capable of taking on a scoring role when needed while leading the Raptors’ bench? He’s had numerous standout performances against good teams, most notably BYU, UCLA, and Memphis, but would he be able to replicate those performances consistently? He’s also older. He’s a steady improver and has good work ethic – but would the Raptors be better suited to use this pick on a younger prospect with a higher ceiling (but higher chance of being a bust)?
Some would argue that the Raptors shouldn’t use their pick on a point guard and that Malachi Flynn should be able to slide into that role. I would respond with the fact that Malachi Flynn was not the greatest pick to begin with (I was stunned when they passed on Desmond Bane, but I digress), and I’m personally losing faith and patience that a 24 year old will magically break out into a serviceable rotation player when he has shown little to no signs of doing so thus far. The Raptors need reliable depth and a player like Nembhard would frankly be a better option.
Nembhard should project to be a solid rotational NBA point guard with his combination of size, IQ, and skills. For those reasons, along with his familiarity with Nick Nurse, I think it’s obvious that Nembhard would fit excellently with the Raptors, especially if they plan to continue bringing up the average height of the team. The Raptors also previously worked out Nembhard when he tested the waters back in 2019, so there is pre-existing interest (amusingly, the Raptors’ eventual draft pick in Dewan Hernandez was also in this group).
The Raptors will work out Canadian prospect Andrew Nembhard tomorrow.
Kyle Guy, Matt Morgan, John Konchar, Dewan Hernandez, and Zach Hankins also working out.
— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) May 20, 2019
Drafting a capable backup point guard should help reduce minutes for Fred VanVleet, and hopefully help him remain healthy for next year’s playoffs with that reduced workload. Because of this, Nembhard could end up being the best option with a pick in the early 30’s.