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PI [Draft] Pulse: Potential Perimeter Playoff Pieces

Credit: Duke Athletics

Now that the NBA Finals have come to a close and the Boston Celtics have been crowned NBA Champions, we can fully turn the page to the much-awaited 2024 NBA Draft. As always, one of the best measuring sticks for identifying talent in the draft is analyzing the composition of winning players and teams in the playoffs. The Celtics boast top tier jumbo-creator talent in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, yet it was the two-way versatility brought by the rest of their core rotation that was the major differentiator for them. Thus, in the focus of this piece, we will look into players in the 2024 Draft that have the potential to be key, winning cogs in a playoff lineup.

All of that said, what has made this particular class so polarizing and ambiguous has been the matter of teams not seeing the top of the draft as players that could be winning top-option creators on a playoff team. Given this outlook, betting on players who could be playoff-level complementary pieces and could really help win the 16 games that matter the most seems to be a logical approach in maximizing draft value. Furthermore, the strength of this class is more centered around the depth of projected playoff-caliber players that could be a star in their role and potentially build from there into something more. Such players, in their most valuable forms, tend to follow a similar mold centered around two-way versatility with varying degrees of a dribble-pass-shoot skill set paired with a high-level of toughness, decision making and feel. The value of players like this is that they can operate in numerous roles and playstyles on both ends, capitalize upon and sustain advantages, and [ideally] fortify defenses — especially in an era in which any defensive weak link will be attacked.

So without further adieu, Pro Insight’s Alex Brown and Zach Welch present a group of perimeter prospects that they believe best embody this foundational skill set and archetype, with a chance to be impactful playoff contributors in the NBA:

Potential Role Vision: Derrick White, Cason Wallace

There may not be a single player in this draft that projects to fill this playoff mold as comfortably as Devin Carter. While the bar is high to be an impact defender as a 6’3” guard, he has the combination of feel, athletic tools, toughness, and motor to clear it. He is explosive, long (+6.5” WS), functionally strong, and produced the numbers to match with a 2.9 STL% and 2.8 BLK%. He’ll be able to slot right in as a POA defender on ball handlers, and can also be relied on as a lock-and-trail defender with upside as a roaming defensive playmaker, just as some of the best players in this archetype have proven to be. As he has shown as the lead perimeter option at Providence, his dribble-pass-shoot skillset is there as well, especially with his dynamic shooting profile. He may not be expected to be a team’s primary initiator or decision maker, but he thrives attacking tilted defenses and capitalizing on advantages in a variety of ways.

Potential Role Vision: Malcolm Brogdon, Andrew Nembhard

What Jared McCain lacks in size and length he makes up for by being a competitor with elite intangibles, a tremendous shooting acumen, sharp, decisive play, toughness, confidence, and a consistent, professional approach to the game will keep him in the NBA for a long time. While not a full-time creator at Duke, McCain also has that keen, connector-level passing and handling capability that is key to hitting on that playoff contributor archetype. He is also the type to fully embrace whatever is necessary to drive winning basketball, and that makes him a good bet to overachieve and maximize the tools at his disposal on both ends. Players in this mold win basketball games, and in this class, McCain is an appealing bet to outperform his draft stock and be an impactful playoff piece who will rise to meet the highest levels of competition. 

Potential Role Vision: Jalen Suggs, Isaac Okoro

It’s not hard to envision Stephon Castle fitting into this mold at the next level because he embodied a very similar role this year at UConn, and his success in doing so was critical to their championship run and enduring dominance. After coming out of high school billed more as a jumbo creator prospect, Castle embraced a role with the Huskies that asked him to take on tough defensive assignments, play hard throughout all his minutes and make smart decisions as a connector. He improved at a rapid pace, becoming one of the best defenders in the conference; he’ll be able to use his 6’9” wingspan, 210-pound frame and lateral agility to switch onto a variety of positions and be a fearsome POA defender. Offensively, he checks the dribble/pass boxes and participating in UConn’s offense prepared him to make quick decisions in an offense with a wide diversity of reads. He also plays hard and rebounds well for his position, as seen especially in his 7.8 OREB% this season. His shot will be the biggest question mark, but his 75.5 FT% and 43.5 FG% on floaters are positive touch indicators. More than anything, his defense, motor, and connector skills are strong enough that he will warrant the play-time he needs to improve his shot.

Potential Role Vision: Franz Wagner, Deni Avdija

With a value proposition of size, fluidity, explosiveness, two-way versatility, and the ability to impact the game off the ball on both ends, Matas Buzelis has real intrigue as a potential playoff piece. Historically, Matas has shown more dribble-pass-shoot equity than he was able to fully show with Ignite, entering the season in the conversation for the top pick as a result. While he (like many of the Ignite prospects) didn’t quite find his footing consistently in the G League, his archetype is tremendously intriguing as a perimeter prospect who could potentially attack a tilted defense, hit spot up 3s, and cut into gaps and finish above the rim. Teams have been weighing how much stock to put into his shooting history, as the scalability to the NBA here will be key to fitting him on the court. There is cause for optimism, with apparent maturations in his mechanics and a promising track record, including shooting 43% from deep at Sunrise Christian paired with strong free throw numbers and touch indicators throughout AAU and HS play. He will need to add strength for the defensive end, but has the upside to check multiple spots, cause havoc off the ball, and block shots from the weak side, all of which have been value-adds of his historically.

Potential Role Vision: Sam Hauser, Joe Ingles

One of the most audacious and productive shooters in college over the past few years, Scheierman’s offensive profile lends itself well to that of a potential NBA playoff piece. His extremely versatile shooting profile gives him opportunities to attack tilted defenses and he has the handle, patience and craft to make the right read time and again in these scenarios. He’s also a tough, competitive wing, exemplified by his shockingly high 9.0 RPG this season. His on-ball usage should be much lower at the next level, which will allow him to weaponize his off-ball shooting and ability to dissect defenses in advantage situations. He may be slept on more due to his lack of elite physical tools, but he’s actually made athletic gains throughout his college career and was quietly a solid defender for the Bluejays this past season. Should he prove to be serviceable on that end at the next level, his blend of shooting, feel and toughness on the offensive end could provide some real playoff value.

Honorable Mentions 


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