Updated: Apr 28
After a brief hiatus throughout the NCAA tournament, P.I. Pulse’s recurring column, The 5-Point Play, returns for volume seven. While past volumes have focused on singular skills or ideas surrounding certain prospects, this week, basketball analyst Henry Ward will instead outline some thoughts on five prospects more generally, with the goal of highlighting some players who stand out as worthwhile gambles beyond the first round. From targeting impactful, experienced players in desired roles like Trey Murphy and Quentin Grimes to taking swings on unique players with outlier skills like Chandler Vaudrin and Vrenz Bleijenbergh, there’s plenty of interesting investments to be had beyond the first 30 picks in this year’s draft.
Here’s what's caught our eye, lately:
Quentin Grimes’ Scalability
While every draft has its fair share of both “busts” and “sleepers,” looking at it holistically, there are trends to be gleaned in terms of what sort of value can be expected from each pick slot. Generally speaking, it’s unlikely that a team finds a star beyond the first 10 picks, so despite the fantastical stories of stars like Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo, it’s often best to temper expectations and consider what sort of player is worth hunting for as picks go by. Because we’re focusing primarily on guys who seem able, going off of publicly available information, to plausibly slip to the second round or beyond, it’ll be a decent mix of projectable role players and off the wall swings. Quentin Grimes, who experienced a renaissance this season at Houston, fits the former bill. With his 6’5” frame, hawking on-ball defense, shooting prowess, and ability to put the ball on the floor, he reads as a solid investment for any team looking to bolster their wing rotation with an off-guard who can operate in nearly any lineup.
This draft is not lacking in intriguing wing bets, from the top end of the lottery all the way through pick 60. Due to the value wings bring to a team context, from jumbo initiators all the way down to spot-minute specialists, teams should be excited to dip their toes in and nab some guys with serious value additions to offer from wherever they find themselves picking. This is perhaps the most fun part of this years’ draft — parsing out what makes these wings special amongst each other successfully could mean grabbing a legitimate role player on a rookie deal, and with so many to sort through, it’s an intriguing challenge to take part in. While the baseline for entering contention among this group, give or take a couple candidates, is a requisite level of high-leverage shooting and worthwhile team defense abilities, Grimes submits an interesting case as one who will stick long term due to his ability to attack closeouts with burst and handle creativity, as well as his knack for sticking with several positions at the point of attack defensively.
Offensively, Grimes’ calling card is without a doubt his sniperism, finishing the season hitting 40% of his threes on a shocking 8.2 attempts per game. While Houston’s offense could be a bit disjointed sometimes and often relied on their unique ability to manufacture points on the offensive glass and at the free throw line, Grimes was a reliable knock-down threat for the entirety of the season, both off the catch and off the dribble. With a fluid, notably high, one motion release that he gets off with considerable lift, he was able to shoot over nearly any defender at only 6’5”, making him the ultimate bail-out candidate when things got stagnant. This won’t be his role in the NBA, given his lack of on-ball creation ability from a standstill, but the efficiency on such massive volume and a decent degree of difficulty is more than enough reason to buy the shot going forward as a high-level asset for him.
Where he can separate himself even further, though, is in his exploitation of the aggressive closeouts he’s likely to draw. Even though Grimes currently doesn’t have much in the way of advantage creation with the ball in his hands, he has shown flashes of significant reactivity with his handle and a good amount of burst to go along with it — two skills that lend themselves to the idea of him becoming a multiple-level scoring threat in a way he was not this year. We can see in the clip above that when the opportunity is right, Grimes has the ability to slink through traffic with craft to convert easy looks once run off the line. Combining these microskills with his touch and dense, strong frame makes for a clear scenario in which he’s not just a shooting threat, but one who's able to hurt defenses that overplay him. This very distinction is often the difference between stud college shooters and shooters who make an impact in the NBA, which strengthens Grimes’ case as being a guy that sticks.
Defensively, Grimes took a real step forward this season under the tutelage of Coach Kelvin Sampson and staff. Once viewed as an on ball creator with some defensive tools and instincts, Grimes completely embraced his role throughout Houston’s fantastic season as a defensive menace, first and foremost. As mentioned, it’s essentially a prerequisite for any ancillary wing in the NBA to be able to make an impact as a team defender, but a separator in this arena is often the level to which these players can cause problems on the ball. With active feet, a strong core, quick hands, and instincts to spare, Grimes took pride in making life difficult for opposing guards all year. Excellent at navigating screens due to his proclivity for playing with physicality, Grimes was a handful for his matchups with how eager and able he was to disrupt the simplest of actions, blowing up ball screens and DHO’s with ease.
Having taken an untraditional path through his first few years in college, Grimes has been placed on a somewhat odd, yet largely beneficial developmental track. Switching roles from a scoring guard who could drive Kansas’ offense to then acting as a cog in the Houston machine that could stretch the floor and wreak havoc on defense, he was able to play a variety of characters in his brief college career, that in turn helped him develop his especially scalable skillset he has now. The list of NBA teams that would benefit from adding another high-feel, floor-spacing wing with some secondary playmaking potential and defensive aptitude feels permanently infinite given where the league is headed, making Grimes an intriguing value once the initial set of these guys are off the board.
Trey Murphy’s NBA-Ready Translation
A worthy qualifier to submit alongside all of these candidates is that it is simply too early to tell where exactly all of them will end up come draft month in regards to likely pick ranges. Currently, the best we can do is cobble together publicly available info to estimate who has a chance to be around once Deputy Commissioner Tatum takes over for Adam Silver on draft night. I mentioned this with Grimes, but feel required to repeat when discussing Virginia’s Trey Murphy. This is because it’s entirely possible, given his prolificity as a shooter, that he has a stellar pre-draft session and vaults himself into the first round once it’s all said and done. Yes, Murphy is simply that great at arguably the NBA’s most desirable skill, and manages to combine this ability with an NBA-ready 6’8” frame and stellar defensive instincts off the ball.
Murphy’s remarkable college production from beyond the arc is what will garner him looks initially, but ultimately, shooting alone is a skill that can be found on a budget as long as it’s below a certain threshold, and I don’t quite know if Murphy will be the type of nuclear shooter that comes around once in a blue moon. Instead, his separating skill will be his ability to shoot at his size, which in turn allows him to rack up deflections as an off-ball defender when combined with his savvy. Murphy was a perfect fit in the Cavaliers’ scheme and fit in immediately after arriving from Rice, picking up the pack line principles without problem on his way to his best season yet amongst the strongest competition he’d faced. Often put into situations in which he had to cover multiple responsibilities and guard multiple men at once on the weak side, he was able to get the most out of his positional length to deter passes and swoop in to force turnovers when defenders thought they had a window. Length and instincts go a long way, but Murphy’s reactions and ability to manipulate space are what stand out most.