Baylor Scheierman: Shooting for the Stars | The Prospect Overview
An examination of what an NBA rotation player looks like, and why Baylor Scheierman may fit that bill. PLUS: Saint Joseph's vs. UMass in the Mid-Major Game of the Week and Quick Hits!
Feature: Baylor Scheierman: Shooting for the Stars
Growing up, one of my favorite college basketball players was Drew Nicholas. He was the first man off the bench for the 2001-2002 Maryland Terrapins team that won a national championship. When he came into the game, he provided an instant spark of offense. The following year, Nicholas was the team’s leading scorer, posting 17.8 PPG on 44.0/41.0/85.2 splits. During the NCAA Tournament, he hit a clutch buzzer beater over #11 seed UNC Wilmington to avoid a first round upset. The Terps wouldn’t repeat as title winners, but I enjoyed every second of the ride. That game-winner against UNCW is one of the memories that defines my childhood as a basketball fan. 12-year-old me couldn’t wait to see Nicholas at the next level.
One of the most important elements of scouting is understanding what works in the NBA. A player might be effective in college, but if the way they play isn’t conducive to an NBA role, things become trickier. Drew Nicholas taught me that lesson. As the 2003 NBA Draft approached, it broke my heart that Nicholas wasn’t turning up on the few mock drafts I came across. Looking back, I get it—he was 6’3”, 160 pounds, and not a point guard. The league was more strength-based back then, too. While he was a truly special college basketball player and a fantastic overseas pro, his game didn’t fit the NBA that stood before him. Ironically enough, his job is now to make these types of deductions, working as the Director of Scouting for the Denver Nuggets.
Finding players who match what works in the league can work wonders for teams on the margins. Let’s look back at the 2021 NBA Draft class. Sam Hauser went undrafted, but he’s become an everyday player for the Boston Celtics. At 6’8”, he brought real size to the table and had physical strength to him at 215 pounds. His shooting track record was bonkers, as he hit 43.9% of his college threes on 10.3 attempts per 100 possessions. He also made snappy, sound decisions with the ball. He wasn’t the flashiest dude in the world, and he turned 24 during his rookie season. But as he’s improved, he’s gotten to the point where you could plug him into any NBA roster, and he’d have a place in the rotation.
Conversely, Sharife Cooper was drafted with the 48th pick. His dazzling passing and breathtaking quickness made him a darling of Draft Twitter. As a Chicagoan, I remember seeing many Bulls fans upset when they passed on him with the 38th pick. Like Hauser, Cooper wasn’t the greatest defender in the world, but unlike Hauser, he was 6’0” and 176 pounds. He also struggled from behind the arc in his lone college season (22.8% in 12 games but 82.5% at the free throw line). To this day, Cooper has yet to catch on at the NBA level. His three-point shooting has improved to 34.8% across his G-League career, but it still hasn’t been enough. While he’s feasted on G League opponents (19.4 PPG and 6.5 APG as of this writing), NBA teams haven’t placed enough value on what Cooper does to put pen to paper on a standard contract for him.
Few, if any, expected Sam Hauser or Sharife Cooper to be NBA superstars, but both could have reasonably been projected as NBA role players. When making that type of projection, though, one must ask—what does an NBA role player look like? There’s a lot that goes into that, and Nathan Grubel covered a similar topic in great depth last year. But for this exercise, I kept it simple. Well, fairly simple; I had to manually do a bunch of math, but nobody cares about that stuff. I looked at a few key stats for the sixth through eight men for the top eight teams in each conference. Here’s what I found:
Average height: 6’5.75”
Total 3FG% for that group: 39.1%
Combined A:TO for that group: 2.13:1.0
Additionally, the median weight among players who have appeared in NBA games this season is 215 pounds. On paper, the idea of Sharife Cooper made sense—a team could bring him in off the bench, change the tempo of the game, and push the pace while he sets the table for others. But the reality is that most bench players don’t look like Sharife Cooper. Most guys aren’t coming in to run the show but rather to be a character actor alongside the star. Generally, 20 MPG players are dudes with some height and size who shoot threes at a high clip and take care of the ball. That’s not to say Sharife Cooper still can’t find a place, but looking back, Hauser was clearly the better value play. On-ball creation shouldn’t be entirely dismissed, but in a star-driven league, it’s not a be-all-end-all trait for non-stars. Teams would rather have these bigger, floor-spacing players like Sam Hauser than a creator like Sharife Cooper. Teams want shooting for their stars, if you will.
One such player who checks these boxes, at least at the college level, is Creighton’s 6’7” graduate wing Baylor Scheierman. Like Hauser, he’ll be entering the NBA on the older side, turning 24 prior to the start of the next season. He won’t be the sexiest upside play, and he’s generated little first round buzz. But for the past few seasons, Scheierman has been on NBA radars, and it’s because he does several “important role player things” at a high level. Let’s get into it!
Scheierman can shoot the cover off the ball. Over the course of his college career, he’s hit 39.0% of his triples on 9.9 attempts per 100 possessions. It’s not Hauser-level, but it’s really good. This year, Scheierman is launching more than ever before, taking 13.8 threes per 100 possessions. Understandably, his efficiency has dipped a bit as a result, but his 37.1% on that type of volume is more than respectable. While it doesn’t take a *thinking of a smart guy profession* brain scientist to figure out that making threes is good, it’s the type of threes that Scheierman is able to hit that makes him so appealing.
When watching an NBA game, it’s immediately obvious how tough it is for shooters to get their shots. Opponents aren’t just going to let Doug McDermott stand in the corner unattended. He has to shoot from deeper behind the NBA line to make closeouts more difficult. When closeouts come, he must be able to shoot them. Occasionally, he’ll need to pull up after sidestepping a defender or after they blow by on a closeout. He has to get out and run in transition to get easier looks. He’ll also have to fly off ball screens and handoffs to get himself space. It’s not easy. A lot of guys make shots, but to be a shooting specialist, a player has to be great at making tough shots.
That’s what Baylor Scheierman is bringing to the table. The big lefty can hit without setting his feet. Whether he’s coming left or right off a screen, he can send the ball home. When he does set his feet, though, he does a great job of getting his gather together in a hurry. His high release point and ability to hit from the logo stretches out a defense to the furthest degree, and even a hard closeout doesn’t guarantee a miss. This knack for hitting tough ones gives him tremendous versatility as a shooter.
So far this season, he’s hit 48% of his transition threes (25 attempts), 40.6% of his threes off screens (32 attempts), 53.8% of his threes as a pick-and-roll ball handler (13 attempts), and 41.2% of his threes in handoff settings (17 attempts). While Scheierman can knock down the easy ones (49.3% on uncontested catch-and-shoot threes), it’s his proclivity for knocking down difficult threes while coming off of different actions that makes him special. If a team wants shooting for their stars, Baylor Scheierman is one of the safest bets to bring that to the table.
Chased Off the Line
When talking about shooters, especially those who have been given the specialist label, it’s important to ask the question, “what do they do what the defense chases them off the line?” Scheierman can answer that question in a few different ways.
While he doesn’t get all the way to the rim often (only 17.4% of his halfcourt shots), he does well at the basket, converting 58.2% of his shots there, per Synergy. Scheierman is both strong and tough, so when he’s met with another body at the rim, he’s not going to fold or lose his touch. He’s completely ambidextrous and is more than comfortable using whichever hand is best suited to his positioning. While he’s not a Dalton Knecht level athlete, his five dunks this year is five times more than he had last year, and he does get up well off one foot. The biggest step to improving here would be to develop a more potent first step. He doesn’t have blow-by speed. Oftentimes, he has to use his frame and physicality to get to the rim because he doesn’t get past opponents easily. Adding more spring to his initial attack would get him both more looks at the rim and cleaner looks at the rim.
Scheierman is also an exciting playmaker for others. His 20.1 AST%, 3.9 APG, and 2.1 TOV are all great marks for someone his size. Creighton allows him to initiate the offense on a consistent basis because he can be relied upon to get things going for others. At his best, he’s dazzling, slinging dishes to cutters, lobs to big men, and finding spot-up shooters on the perimeter. He’s a fluid decision-maker with a genuine creativity to him, allowing him to make more advanced reads and difficult passes. When operating out of a ball screen, nothing is off the table, and opponents can’t sag off him because of his shooting prowess. Per Synergy, he ranks in the 93rd percentile on pick-and-roll possessions including passes.
There are moments where he gets over-adventurous, and those tendencies will need to be reeled in as he scales up in competition. In general, I can live with that. I’ll always prefer the capable prospect who needs refinement over the one who may not be capable at all. But in Scheierman’s case, I’m more than able to live with it because he’s already a positive in this respect. It’s not about going from bad to okay, it’s about going from good to great. Let’s circle back to those stats at the top of this article—size, shooting, and positive playmaking are crucial traits for finding a big bench role, and Scheierman is profiling well on all of those fronts.
What About the Defense?
This is where things get a little dicey. Let’s start by talking about what Scheierman does well. His understanding of on-ball positioning is good. While his feet are far from the best (more on that later), he does a good job of using his hands and length to compensate for that. By playing long and using every inch of his wingspan, he’s able to get away with how far he needs to play back at times. His stance is good, and he’s rarely upright or lazy from a posture standpoint. I also love his effort in dealing with ball screens. He does a great job of navigating picks and staying connected to his man. Add in that he’s not a pushover at 205 pounds, and he’s not easy to mow through, either. He’ll lean into physicality and use his body to wall off drivers. Scheierman is also a good defensive rebounder (20.1 DREB%), and his playmaking acumen makes him a high-level grab-and-go operator.
Scheierman’s feet are a big problem, though. He’s heavy-footed and struggles against directional changes. Quick twitch movements can shake him at the point of attack. When teams run his man through a series of off-ball actions, he can struggle to keep pace. If he closes out hard and an opponent drives at him, he doesn’t have the tools to recover. When players set up their cuts well with misdirection, they can leave him in the dust.
While he is a sharp processor of the game, he posts shockingly poor defensive playmaking metrics. Currently, Scheierman has a 1.6 STL% and 0.2 BLK%. Very few players with a sub-2.0 combined stock rate have made an NBA impact. For example, Cam Thomas, who has long been derided for his defense, posted a 2.1 combined stock rate during his lone college season. Scheierman did post better metrics earlier in his career while playing in the Summit League, and he did have a 1.8 STL% and 0.7 BLK% last year, so it’s not totally hopeless. But his lack of burst limits what he’s able to do on this front. He’s unlikely to jump passing lanes or make a quick rim rotation before swatting away a layup. These numbers become even more frustrating when taking into account his defensive role. In certain matchups, Creighton will hide him on a non-shooter so that he can stay closer to the paint and act as more of a roamer. But even then, he’s not blocking shots, tipping passes, or getting into handles.
Ultimately, though, Creighton doesn’t do worse on defense when Scheierman is on the floor. His DBPM of 3.3 certainly doesn’t indicate that he’s a disaster. He takes pride in guarding the ball, and at least at the college level, teams haven’t had success hunting him. If he doesn’t have a favorable matchup to guard at the NBA level, there will be nights where it’s difficult for him. I’d be lying if I said I felt comfortable about him defending in the playoffs at some point. But in a lower usage role, with access to NBA training staff, there’s a path for him to hang. Given the firepower on offense, that’s all he’ll need to do on defense.
Conclusion and Projection
Scheierman was never a guy I was particularly high on, but I’ve changed my tune a bit coming out of this exercise. Do I wish he was faster and better defensively? Yes. But I’ve also gotten to see Scheierman add bits of athleticism to his game while getting in progressively better shape over the past few years. With role players, there will always be a give-and-take with regard to their strengths and weaknesses. Sure, Scheierman will have his limitations, but the positives here are of great importance. He’s older, and he’s not a sure thing, but he’s become one of my favorite early or middle second round bets in this class. Even if he fails to become a consistent, every game player, it’s easy to imagine him hanging around the NBA for years to come. There are worse “break glass in case of emergency” options than a big shooter who can pass. If Scheierman can become passable on defense, he has the size, shooting ability, and playmaking capacity to be one of those sixth through eighth men on a good team.
Mid-Major Game of the Week
Sickos…You did it again! We had yet another down-to-the-wire Mid-Major Game of the Week! This time, the Saint Joseph’s Hawks edged out the UMass Minute Men 78-77, thanks to a game-winner from Lynn Greer III.
Erik Reynolds II was the standout performer for the Hawks. He finished the night with 31 points, three rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block. The 6’2” junior guard also came through big in crunch time. He hit a mid-range shot to take the lead with a minute left, and then drew a key foul before draining two free throws to get the lead back again with about 30 seconds remaining.
I’m always cautioning about the uphill battle that smaller guards face. Heck, Corey Tulaba just wrote a fantastic column about it. But Reynolds has a real shot. Two key factors define his game: he’s fast, and he’s an excellent shooter. It’s hard to contain Reynolds because of his burst and shiftiness. Reynolds is shooting 41.6% from deep while launching 8.1 per game, so defenders have no choice but to play him tight. But when they do that, his quickness and wiggle with the ball still allow him to shake his way free. Even when UMass had bigger guys on him, he often found a way. When he gets to his spots, he’s done a great job as a pull-up shooter. Per Synergy, he’s hit 38.9% of his twos and 34.5% of his threes when taking a jump shot off the dribble. His elevation allows him to release the ball above his defender, and his touch takes it from there.
Reynolds isn’t the greatest passer in the world, but he’s getting better. 2.8 APG isn’t a tremendous number, but it’s higher than his total in past seasons, and he’s cut his TOV% all the way down to 9.2. He made some slick on-the-go dishes in this game. The same fluidity he displays as a shooter is starting to carry over to his playmaking for others. While more growth is needed, there is indeed growth that is happening currently, which is encouraging. His speed helps him on defense, too. He moves his feet well when guarding the ball and springs well to contest.
The biggest concern I have about Reynolds is his strength. Listed at 180 pounds, he’s simply not the biggest guy. It shows up on offense when he drives, as he often has to settle for worse angles at the rim due to his issues against contact. Per Synergy, he’s only taking 21.1% of his halfcourt shots at the rim and only converting 51.1% of them. He isn’t afraid of contact, which was good, he just has to be more efficient when he’s going up against it. On defense, he’s easy to bully and push around, and teams at the professional level will try to exploit that. Even with these issues, Reynolds remains a legitimate and interesting NBA prospect. Few can get buckets like he does, he’s improving as a playmaker, and he has the necessary athletic punch required of small guards. It’s just a matter of continuing to progress.
I also had eyes on Rasheer Fleming, who I covered during my No Stone Unturned series this offseason. He finished the night with eight points, 11 rebounds, and one block. At 6’9”, Fleming has a pro frame and impressive lateral agility. His ground coverage and ability to contain smaller opponents stood out. He also looked more comfortable putting the ball on the deck. Still, he gets stuck as a passer at times (0.6 APG to 1.0 TOV this year), and his jumper isn’t all the way there yet (31.7% from deep this year). The sophomore remains an interesting wait-and-see prospect.
Redshirt freshman Christ Essandoko was my favorite “surprise” player in this game. At 7’0” and 285 pounds, it’s hard not to notice him. I was captivated by his passing, as he slung three assists along with several near-assists that took my breath away. He’s a talented top-of-the-key orchestrator who can wire a slew of creative passes to the open man. His sheer size and playmaking skill are a rare combination. Essandoko’s feel for the game helped him nab three steals and his presence around the cup led to two blocks. Oh, and have I mentioned that he’s a 33.3% three-point shooter on nearly two attempts per game who shoots a wonderfully soft ball?
There are some drawbacks, sadly. The biggest one is his fitness level. At points, he looked downright exhausted getting up and down the floor, and he’s not vertically explosive. Essandoko also got too fancy with it as a passer at times, leading to three turnovers. His touch inside was suspect, as he failed to capitalize on a few mismatches and only scored five points on eight shots. He’s not a complete player, but he’s a very interesting prospect with a long runway of eligibility ahead of him. He’s one to keep an eye on.
I continue to see appeal in UMass’s Matt Cross. The 6’7” senior looks and moves like an NBA forward. He came off the bench for 12 points, nine boards, four assists, and a steal. The man is a force on defense. He was one of the few guys who managed to contain and cut off Erik Reynolds. His help instincts prevented easy looks at the rim, and his anticipation is off the charts. Offensively, his understanding of the defender’s momentum got him inside at will. He nabbed two offensive boards, both of which felt unattainable for most prospects. His motor, strength, and leaping ability make him a guy that defenses have to find and put a body on every single time. Cross also made some slick on-the-go passes throughout the contest.
For Cross, his shot remains the biggest swing skill. He’s at 31.8% from deep on moderate volume. Occasionally, he’ll hit a deep one that makes me say, “I don’t care about the numbers, I’m buying it.” But in this game, he took one that hit nothing but the backboard. Still, he’s a guy I’d want on a two-way. He does everything else an NBA team could want, and he has the body to scale up. It’s not a coincidence that UMass was up six with five minutes to go before Cross suffered an ankle injury, and that the lead was gone when he checked back in a few minutes later. He effects winning. Per Hoop-Explorer, UMass is 7.7 points per 100 possessions better on offense and 14.7 points per 100 possessions better on defense in the minutes that Cross plays. Give me that guy and let me try to figure out the shot.
Daniel Hankins-Sanford is a “hmm, there might be something here” guy. He had 16 points, six boards, and two blocks. At 6’8” and 233 pounds, he knows how to play the game. He can fly around and make things tough on defense. His weakside rim protection instincts stood out, as he turned away opponents and forced tough shots when helping out at the cup. His motor showed up in transition defense. On offense, he showed his intellect and timing to cut for easy ones and collect offensive rebounds. Right now, he’s too passive as a shooter. He’s at 38.1% from three, but only takes a little over one per game, and he passed up some open ones against St. Joe’s. If he can be a bit more of a willing shooter while maintaining efficiency, there’s a path for him to get onto NBA radars.
Next week’s Mid Major Game of the Week will be Dayton vs. George Washington! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter/X to vote in future MMGOTW polls!
-How about Zvonimir Ivisic?! It’s great to see the 7’2” Croatian prospect back on the court, and he looks like he’s having the time of his life out there. While the behind-the-back pass in his debut was thrilling, it was also encouraging from an evaluation standpoint. Ivisic’s offensive feel had always left me wanting more. The fact that he had the recognition and creativity to make that pass made my jaw drop. He’s always been a great rim deterrent with an intriguing jumper, adding a consistent level of passing to his game will significantly heighten my interest in Big Z.
-I’ve been stricken with Furphy Fever! Kansas freshman Johnny Furphy has been red hot these past few weeks. NBA teams will be interested in anyone who’s 6’9” and shooting 39.7% from three. Adding in Furphy’s legitimate NBA range, high-octane rebounding, and defensive versatility, and we may be looking at a 2024 first rounder. Scared off by Furphy’s 5.6 AST%? Well, he’s averaging 1.2 APG to 0.5 TOV since the start of the new year, so he’s headed in the right direction. I’m buying his stock.
-Malique Lewis has been sliding under the radar. The 19-year-old is a draft-eligible prospect competing for the Mexico City Capitanes. Earlier in the cycle, I noted that his 6’8” frame, ground coverage, and tenacious rebounding made him intriguing. Since then, he’s been a more actualized player. In G League Regular Season games (his last 12 outings), Lewis is scoring 11.2 PPG on 54.3/34.8/81.8 splits. He takes care of the ball, too, averaging 1.4 APG to .7 TOV during that stretch. All of the good defensive and rebounding stuff is still happening, too. He’s a bit hidden because people don’t associate non-Ignite teams with the draft, but Lewis’s recent performances make him a very legitimate 2024 target.
-Dylan Disu is pretty interesting. Texas’ 6’9” graduate has always been a productive defender. On offense, his strong first step, interior craft, and baby soft touch have allowed him to be efficient inside the arc. After hitting almost 37% of his threes on moderate volume as a sophomore, his three-ball fell off dramatically. He went a combined 25.5% from deep on low volume over the next two seasons. This year, he’s at 56.7% on three attempts per game. It still looks funky, with his guide hand starting nearly in front of the ball on some attempts before coming off it entirely prior to his release. He’s probably worth an E10 or Summer League look at worst. A two-way is on the table if his shot continues to fall and/or if he improves on it throughout the pre-draft process.
-It’s time to start taking Sion James more seriously. Tulane’s 6’5” senior guard (who I covered during the 2022 edition of No Stone Unturned) has always been a potent defender and clever playmaker with an NBA frame. However, a jumper eluded him. No longer! James has hit 42.3% of his threes on 5.9 attempts per 100 possessions this year. He’s much more decisive off the catch, taking the one triple every time it’s there. Even if he’s not toeing the line or coming off of movement, he’ll still let it fly. The results are good, and so is the eye test. If you don’t have him on your board yet, you’ve got some work to do.
-Chad Baker-Mazara has become a hot name recently. Auburn’s 6’7” wing does a little bit of everything for the Tigers off the bench. His springy athleticism and pesky hands allow him to fill the stat sheet on defense (3.2 STL%, 3.5 BLK%). CBM’s slick handle and deadly pull-up game make him a tough cover, and he’s more than willing to hit the open man when a help defender comes his way. His 44.2/38.0/86.7 shooting splits are proof that he’ll work for the most efficient shot rather than just looking to get buckets. He’s rail-thin, and he’s bounced around schools a lot (four in four years), which may give some front office pause. But he’s definitely worth a look given his length, athleticism, and well-rounded production.
-Throw Brooks Barnhizer into the intriguing forward mix. Northwestern’s 6’6” junior comes with an exceptionally powerful frame and three-level scoring capabilities. He’s a herky-jerky ball handler with the toughness to finish at the rim, touch to score in the mid-range, and an ever-improving three-ball. His physicality makes him a force on the glass (6.6 RPG), but he’s not a brute, as he’s averaging 2.7 APG to only 1.4 TOV. His size and strength make him difficult to get around on defense, and his savvy allows him to make plays as a helper. A 3.4 STL% and 2.7 BLK% are both strong marks. Barnhizer will need to continue to show that his outside scoring is legitimate, as he’s never been a high-volume guy from distance. But he’s a great 2025 name to monitor.
-UNC-Wilmington’s Trazarien White could be a two-way candidate. The 6’6” senior stuffs the stat sheet. This year, he’s averaging 20.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.9 SPG, and 0.4 BPG. He’d always been an across-the-board producer and talented inside-the-arc scorer, but two things have changed this year. The first is that his jumper is falling, going from 28.2% from deep to 40.0%. While the volume is low, his shooting motion is clean off the catch. The other big development is that he’s cut his turnover rate from 16.4% to 10.2%. While he may be thin, he plays tough, getting to the line 8.2 timers per contest. With long arms, slither, passing recognition, and quickness, there’s a lot to like. He just needs to fill out his frame and be a more willing shooter.