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P.I. Confidential: Chapter 5

In the latest edition of  P.I. Pulse, we continue our new column, 'P.I. Confidential.' Penned by an anonymous NBA scout with a decade of experience within multiple pro front offices, the idea with this endeavor is to provide them a platform to pull back the curtain and openly discuss scouting philosophies, procedures, processes, and of course, prospects:

Almost halfway into the 2023-24 NBA season we can start to look at the players that stand out from the 2023 NBA draft. There is often a painful transition to playing at the highest level, and outside of Wembanyama, the top of the ‘23 rookie class has experienced some growing pains. 

NBA rookies are experiencing — often for the first time — not being the best or most talented player on the court….and need to adapt to finding a way to contribute to winning basketball. 

Teams often preach that “developing” top picks is more important than winning basketball games, which to an extent is true. It also needs to be said that when they use the word “develop,” what they often mean is letting them do whatever they want, creating bad habits, and not cultivating their development to the most important part of playing basketball: winning.  

One GM I worked for always talked about young players being able to “survive” on the court before they could develop their game. What he meant by surviving is being able to figure out what they can contribute right away that impacts playing good basketball. Often this is as simple as playing the right way, rebounding, knowing and executing the scout, bringing energy and toughness, etc. Playing meaningful minutes in games that matter to me is often more important than putting up counting stats and high usage. And that doesn’t mean you will be a positive player, or even a good player — but if coaches can trust that you are playing basketball professionally and with the team in mind, they are more often able to look past the learning curve associated with rookies.

Twenty-four rookies have been able to log more than 200 minutes so far this season, including 21 first-rounders. Below, I look at some rookies who have stood out (leaving out Wembanyama), my thoughts on how they have played relative to my rankings/projections from the draft cycle and what we can learn about them moving forward to use for future drafts:

The Lottery

Scoot Henderson

Scoot has had a rough start to the season playing on a 12-31 team and has dealt with some injuries, including his adjustment to wearing goggles. What has stood out to me is the very average looking athleticism. He has trouble absorbing any type of contact, often finds himself on the ground, and only has 9 dunks on the season in 900 minutes (Ausar in similar minutes has 46, Keyonte George has 6). He’s also been blocked 30 times. He’s dead-last in EPM amongst players who have played more than 20 MPG. A tough start for Scoot.

Cason Wallace

Wallace has been awesome to start the season, and if OKC wasn’t so deep at guard he would probably be playing much more, especially for any other team. Putting up 51-41-83 splits in almost 900 minutes, the shooting has been great but it’s his ability as a POA defender and slasher that has really popped. A good example of a player being able to survive with his athleticism and defensive versatility who has also improved as a shooter. 

Thompson twins

Just going to lump them together as they have played about how I would have expected so far this season. The athleticism really stands out, and they are starting to show the IQ and defensive versatility that I bought into throughout the draft process. The shooting has been worse than expected, but everything else has been very solid, including the 2PT shooting. Both are rebounding at very solid rates positionally, and both have positive AST/TO ratios. I remain very high on both moving forward. 

Brandon Miller

Not the consensus to go #2 but certainly appears to be the right pick thus far. The shooting is real and I have been impressed with the secondary playmaking he has shown. Miller needs to continue to improve his strength and defense. A new coach and culture in Charlotte are imperative as they continue to play unserious basketball.


Jaime Jaquez

I was high on Jaquez coming into the draft because of his high IQ, defensive stat indicators (STL/BLK) and his size and athleticism. He was the classic upperclassman who you felt could come in and “survive” and he has been a solid player for Miami thus far. What I like about Jaquez is that he has elite court awareness — he hardly, if ever, stands, and never seems in the way. He has great anticipation as a cutter and screener, and can really pass (13.6% AST – 70th %tile).

Toumani Camara 

Another player I was higher on relative to consensus, Toumani has played a ton for Portland this season and looks like a potential rotation player moving forward. He showed elite rebounding, STL/BLK and passing ability last season at Dayton and paired with his size/wingspan and athleticism he can hopefully develop into a rotational forward with some defensive versatility.

Trayce Jackson-Davis

TJD is a player who demonstrated ELITE passing and rebounding feel in college who fell in the draft because of being a little undersized and a non-shooter. I almost feel like it’s way better to be a non-shooter, than a bad shooter who projects to be a bad shooter but wants to become a good shooter. Another example of betting on someone to come in and play the right way who has an elite skill (passing and rebounding) and has gone to a great team in Golden State who is able to put him in good positions to succeed along with Trayce’s ability to adapt and contribute. 

2024 draft similarities: Elite rebounding and positional IQ/passing (AST%, AST/TO, TO%), STL/BLK indicators: PJ Hall, Kadary Richmond, Coleman Hawkins, Allen Flanigan

Swings on Age

GG Jackson

GG had a terrible season last year at South Carolina. Nothing went right, the stats were appalling and the intel concerns were all over the place. With that being said, he was the #1 prospect in his class before reclassifying and would certainly be a lottery pick this season. Memphis did a great job setting expectations and getting him into their G-League program, and GG has responded. Sometimes adversity is a good thing, and now with all of Memphis’ injuries, he has gotten the opportunity to get some minutes at the NBA level. 

Cam Whitmore

Whitmore was the second-youngest player drafted last season (behind GG) and another high-pedigree high school player who had both on-court and off-court issues at Villanova, last season. While he boasted some solid indicators (STL%, 3Par, DREB%) and showcased plus-athleticism, there were also efficiency issues as well as TO and AST% question marks. While he may come back down to earth at the NBA level with more meaningful minutes, he has flashed some upside as an athletic bench scorer. Whether he can take the next step all hinges on his ability to create and get teammates involved.

Thanks for checking in — leave me some feedback at @_piconfidential and tell me if and why you agree or disagree.

With the NBA Trade deadline looming, we will break down every team and mention one trade that makes sense with their trajectory in Chapter 6.

Until next time!


In case you missed our first four chapters, see below:


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