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Around The World: Rayan Rupert
New Zealand Breakers wing Rayan Rupert could be the name to start making some noise in the 2023 NBA Draft
What happens when we find ourselves ignoring production? Is there a world in which we can start to see something that is steps ahead on the path?
Potential can be a dangerous thing when it comes to NBA draft prospects. If we chase the idea of potential too far, we can struggle to quench our own thirst. It can also be an adventure that makes you challenge yourself when it comes to seeing the bigger picture.
Timing is everything in life. It’s also everything on a basketball court. A second too fast or too slow can completely shift the conclusion of one specific sequence on a court. If a player reacts too late, it could end up being a wide-open three. If he reacts too early, it could result in a defensive breakdown for an easy dunk.
Timing is also everything with draft prospects. Not every basketball player finds their groove at the same time. Each individual is different. Confidence is the key to all of the doors when it comes to development.
Think about your own life scenarios. Every time you’ve tried something different, you’ve probably lacked some confidence. It can be the time you passed your driving test or perhaps after a first date—the moment you threw fear out the window and found confidence, you became addicted to that new addition in your life.
When NBA teams are evaluating prospects, they have a similar mental battle to deal with. Like sitting on both sides of a see-saw, NBA organizations aren’t just looking at a player with a two-year plan. NBA teams are looking miles and miles ahead on the road. They aren’t just evaluating a talent as to how effective they might be in their rookie season. They are also looking at what sort of value the player will have with his third NBA contract.
Everything is on the table, and that’s where the idea of potential can have a fine line. If you’re willing to let potential blossom, you could find a diamond. If you are wanting to skip steps along the path, you could find coal.
Today’s topic of conversation is going to feature one of the most fascinating prospects in the 2023 NBA draft class. The international class has some raw talent when it comes to players not named Wembanyama. But one name that is trending up in a hurry is New Zealand Breakers wing Rayan Rupert.
On paper, you’re going to be sold a similar draft fanatic bedtime story…
“Now here’s a lengthy wing with great athleticism, defensive potential, and a developing outside shot.”
Listen, I can see you reading this from your screen right now. You’re shaking your head because every single year, we get a new poster boy for this same situation.
But this one has a different feeling. There seems to be some more juice in the gas tank that we might be leading on. Every NBA draft class seems to have a riser that just makes us ignore the numbers. For all of the “production truthers” out there, we tend to want to throw a pitchfork at this player. At the same time, we understand that this is the territory in which teams want to dance with fire and bang the table for a prospect they believe so much in.
This year, Rayan Rupert could be that individual. Let’s go back before we go forward, because it’s a fun one.
Rayan Rupert is a french-born wing who is listed at around 6’7” and 192 pounds with a rumored 7’3” wingspan. He will be turning 19 years old on May 31st. Rupert graduated from the INSEP Academy in France. That should sound familiar to some of you, as former NBA players Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, and Ronny Turiaf also trained there.
Rupert spent the 2021-22 season playing with Centre Federal de Basket Ball in France. During that season, Rupert averaged 13.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 2.1 steals in 27 games. He also posted shooting splits of 39.0% from the field, 24.6% from three, and 80.0% from the free throw line.
After some impressive flashes in FIBA play over the years, Rupert signed a deal to join the New Zealand Breakers of the Australian national basketball league. Rupert came into the draft cycle with some buzz, given his impressive flashes on both sides of the floor. As you could probably guess, many were quick to point out that the outside shot needed to come along.
As expected, Rayan Rupert has shown just how difficult it can be for an 18-year-old to play in the NBL. At the same time, Rupert has shown just how special his upside can be with some of the two-way flashes he’s had this year. Since everyone seems to love statistics, let’s play a little game here…
Which Player is Which?
First 16 Games in NBL:
5.6 PTS | 2.8 REB | 0.8 AST | 0.2 STL | 0.3 BLK
18.0 MIN | 28.0 FG% | 18.0 3P% | 61.5 FT%
First 16 Games in NBL:
6.5 PTS | 2.3 REB | 0.9 AST | 0.8 STL | 0.2 BLK
18.5 MIN | 35.6 FG% | 26.8 3P% | 82.6 FT%
Player A is the 2022 11th overall selection Ousmane Dieng, now of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Player B is Rayan Rupert this year.
If you followed the 2022 draft class closely last year, then you should remember that Ousmane Dieng had a remarkable turnaround when it came to the second half of the season. In his last ten games of the NBL season, Dieng averaged 12.9 points per game while shooting 51.0% from the field and 36.6% from three.
Production can be a fun thing to hang our hats on when it comes to talking about a prospect, but it’s not something that is going to be the concern of every scout and NBA front office. Some are more intrigued with the flashes of long-term upside. Rupert was showing those flashes throughout the year until a wrist injury kept him out until January.
I find myself to be a fan of chaos. Everybody knows this about me. When you turn on the tape of Rayan Rupert, you find out that he’s a fan of chaos as well. The kid’s feet on defense never stop moving. He looks like a little kid who just got to chug his first-ever soda. Rupert shows an understanding of where to be on both sides of the floor. He stays active and alert, and he sometimes looks like the Tasmanian Devil with how fast he can cover ground.
The scariest thing about watching Rupert on film is realizing what he’s going to be when the game slows down. That’s when you realize…there’s something big here.
The defensive upside and outside shot are going to be areas that get plenty of attention when it comes to Rayan Rupert. But there’s also a bundle of skills that are just oozing with ridiculous potential.
Rupert has some slick handles when it comes to his game. He also has some terrifying afterburners that can take him to supersonic speeds. Rupert looks like a kid that is realizing on a nightly basis just what he can do on a basketball court. He has shown the ability to cover A LOT of ground with the ball in his hands, but Rupert is also starting to demonstrate the ability to play with pace.
This sequence is a great look at just one of the “flashes” that gets you intrigued. Rupert pushes the ball before a LETHAL crossover and strong finish at the basket.
Everyone wants to talk about the outside shot, so let’s talk about the outside shot. Coming into the 2022-23 season, the shot had me a bit concerned. What was so pleasant about the film dive was realizing that Rupert has taken some steps in the right direction…quickly.
There’s some consistency with the form shooting, and you can tell that he’s got some confidence with it. The next step on the path will be swinging the percentages around to a more efficient rate. But compared to where Rupert was during his time with France in FIBA play, it’s a big development to get excited about.
What about off of the bounce?
I still found myself intrigued by the smoothness and form that came when Rupert was putting the ball on the floor. There’s so much raw intrigue with a talent like the 6’7” wing that you just want to continue to see progressions in the right direction. Going back to the FIBA tape, there looked to be plenty of times in which Rupert was struggling to generate that confidence from a wide-open look.
But that should be expected with a young teenager who is still waiting for his frame to fill out. A year later, we are starting to see the baby steps in the right direction.
Another great example of the quickness and intrigue of Rayan Rupert with the ball in his hands. Rupert has some lethal speed. If there’s anything he still needs to figure out, it’s when to use it.
You can see sometimes on tape he will try to see if the top-end speed can be enough to defeat a defense. It can lead to some out-of-control attempts. Growing pains, my friends, growing pains. Then, later on, you’ll see some recognition when it comes to sliding in and out of gears and setting up defenders.
If Rupert can control that speed and utilize that quickness, he’s going to be dangerous with his size and length in the open floor.
Whenever you’re looking into a prospect, you want to see how ALL areas of the game are coming along. When it comes to Rayan Rupert, the playmaking is right on schedule as well. Rupert is starting to understand the angles of the game. He will showcase some instances in which he can demonstrate patience to allow a defender to come over before hitting his teammate for a wide-open shot.
So what about the defense…
I saved the best for last. You know how they say that New York is the “City that never sleeps?” Well, Rayan Rupert’s feet on defense never sleep either. There’s a LOT of stuff to get excited about. There’s also some stuff that will draw some criticism, but I think it’s fantastic teaching points.
There are a number of times on tape in which you’re going to simply see that Rayan Rupert has the tools to be an absolute pest. His feet move on defense like they can’t contain their excitement. It’s a fascinating development for a player that is listed at 6’7” with a 7’3” wingspan.
Let’s talk about the clip above. Rupert is smothering the ball handler. He’s showcasing impressive footwork with his slides, and he’s making life difficult. That’s an effort thing, especially for a young player in a grown man’s league. Rupert will have some instances on defense in which his feet & mind are moving quicker than his body. You can see a little bit of an instance of that when the first pass happens off this high pick and roll.
But what happens next is what I absolutely love. Instead of overthinking about being out of position, Rupert will just stay 100 MPH. He also showcases impressive awareness of where to rotate and be on the floor. That’s just what happens here; Rupert knows that if he puts himself in position, he’s going to be in a perfect spot for this steal.
Active and Alert
Another example of the feet always staying active for Rayan Rupert. There are plenty of times when young prospects can simply get caught ball-watching. It happens to almost all of them, but I love how alert Rupert tries to keep himself away from the ball.
Watch this whole sequence. Rupert is constantly keeping his head on a swivel. He’s not trying to let his feet turn into cinderblocks; he’s staying bouncy on his toes but not too much. Once Rupert reads the pick-and-roll happening, he strikes like a cobra to get the steal.
There’s a lot to be intrigued with when it comes to New Zealand Breakers wing Rayan Rupert. The shot looks to be trending in the right direction, and there’s some special stuff when it comes to his potential as a three-level scorer.
The biggest developments that still need to come in the future include adding to the frame. Rupert is a willing competitor, and he will go at defenders, but there are also instances of needing to finish with more physicality around the basket. It’s not a complete fear of taking on contact; if you believe that, watch how many screens opponents try to hit him with to wear him down.
Rayan Rupert has the tools to be a special talent in this class. While some of us might obsess with the numbers throughout the year, we all need to remember that timing is everything. We’ve seen it before with prospects that click during various times at the NBA levels. If Rupert can master his timing, some NBA organization is going to have a heck of a basketball player.
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