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Editor's Notes: Volume Two
Another round of editor's notes on some of the prospects who need a little more No Ceilings shine at this point in the season.
The start of the New Year has brought with it many new gym memberships, new attempted hobbies, and renewed hope for some that this would be the year that they finally got into shape for the summer. In the NBA Draft world, it is also an opportunity to re-evaluate where certain prospects stand as March Madness rapidly approaches. Some previously unheralded prospects have not gotten as many accolades at this point as they deserve, while other more highly-touted names have slipped in their production and quietly fallen off the end of most draft radars.
Last month, I tried out something that was a bit different from my usual Sleeper Deep Dives fare, covering some prospects who haven’t gotten much time in the spotlight on No Ceilings in Volume One of Editor’s Notes.
This time, I’m back with five more prospects who we haven’t highlighted as much on the written side. Some of these players will be potential first round prospects who we’ve only written about once or twice, while other players will be further down draft boards but still worthy of discussion (at least in my mind).
Simply put: I have some notes. Let’s start out by talking about a possible first round pick who has finally made their debut after an extraordinarily frustrating start to the season.
Baba Miller has not been discussed much in written form on No Ceilings this season, but it has not been due to poor performance; unfortunately, it’s been due to no performance. He finally made his long-anticipated debut for Florida State after his 16-game suspension to start the season. I won’t go into the details of the suspension itself, other than to say that it was…let’s call it questionable even by NCAA standards. The main point, though, is that Miller finally got to see the court for his team when they faced off against Wake Forest on Wednesday night.
Miller came off the bench in his debut, finishing with four points, four rebounds, and a block in his 17 minutes. He was clearly very excited to be back out on the floor again, which mostly showed up on defense; Miller jumped at every switching opportunity and covered a ton of ground on defense. He looked every bit the part of the menacing 6’11” switch defender that I expected him to be coming into the season, and Florida State’s defense looked and performed better against the Demon Deacons when Miller was on the floor.
The other side of the ball was less effusively positive. It was only one game, of course, and he’s still knocking off the rust from his extended absence. The fact that the defensive impact was more clear-cut in this game was almost inevitable; a crazy 30-point breakout game would have been nice but also extremely unlikely.
Still, there wasn’t much to write home about for Miller offensively. He barely touched the ball, spending most of Florida State’s offensive possessions lurking on the wing or in the corner and waiting for a kickout. Miller missed both of his three-point attempts—including a rough airball on his first try. He did have a couple of nice drives to the basket, though, showing off his excellent handle for his size. His shooting form and touch are quite solid, so he should still be valuable as a spot-up threat, and he will hopefully get more opportunities to show what he can do with the ball in his hands as the season progresses.
Despite losing 90-75 to Wake Forest in this game, Florida State has played much better recently after a brutal 1-9 start to the season. The fact that Miller came off the bench for this game indicates that Leonard Hamilton will probably work him into the lineup slowly. This is a team in need of a spark, though, and Miller can provide that.
Julian Phillips is one of the shining stars of the group of extremely talented young wings in the 2023 draft class, and I’ve struggled with where to put him on my board all season. I almost covered Phillips for a Sleeper Deep Dives article earlier this year before pivoting to someone else, so writing about Phillips has been on the back burner for me for a while now.
Thankfully, I didn’t end up doing a feature article on him since Albert Ghim wrote brilliantly about Phillips last month; even with Albert’s amazing analogy ability, though, I wanted to circle back to Phillips myself.
The box score numbers for him don’t leap off the page—Phillips is averaging a solid but not spectacular 10.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 1.6 APG on concerning 41/23/80 shooting splits in 25.8 minutes per contest for the Volunteers. Those numbers, however, don’t really do justice to his game; Phillips is a steady cog offensively for Tennessee and a very solid decision-maker. His defense is slightly more erratic, but there’s been more good than bad on that end of the floor.
The baseline for Julian Phillips is that of a pretty solid wing contributor. However, what intrigues me most about Phillips are the occasional flashes of something more that he’s put together. He’s averaging 4.8 free-throw attempts per game, but he also has gotten double-digit FTAs in three games. His three-point percentage and low volume are both concerning, but he’s also trended upward in his last ten games after an abysmal 1-for-11 start to the season from deep. He’s a decent at-rim finisher with a developing handle, but every once in a while, he gets a bit of space to show what he can really do:
Even with this exceptionally loaded wing class, Phillips has done enough to prove himself as an NBA prospect. The basic box score numbers aren’t staggering, but they’re good enough—especially since Phillips is an advanced stats darling. He ranks sixth in the SEC in Win Shares and fourth in the SEC in Win Shares per 40 Minutes. Phillips also grades out in the 68th percentile offensively, per Synergy, and the 96th percentile defensively.
The basics are there for Julian Phillips, and the advanced numbers are strongly in his favor. What I keep coming back to with him, though, are the flashes. I believe in who he is as a player enough right now to have him as a first round talent, but every so often, he does something that makes me wonder if I will regret not having him much higher when looking back on this draft five years from now.
Terrance Arceneaux was another freshman wing who had an uphill battle to prove himself as a potential draft candidate in this loaded class. The start of the season went quite well for him—he averaged 9.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and 1.4 SPG in 16.9 minutes per game in Houston’s first five contests on 49/38/50 shooting splits, including an impressive 15 points, five rebounds, and three steals against Oregon.
The next 13 games for Houston have been less encouraging for Arceneaux’s draft prospects. His three-point percentage has cratered, and his playing time has been limited—Arceneaux was even DNP-CD’d in two games in late December.
The recent run has been discouraging, but now is far from the time to sell Terrance Arceneaux stock. For one, he was going to have a difficult time earning minutes from Kelvin Sampson no matter how well he played. If anything, his early minutes loads were more unexpected, given that he’s playing behind Jamal Shead and Tramon Mark in addition to Marcus Sasser in the rotation.
The recent cold spell of long-range shooting for Arceneaux might have played a role in him losing some minutes in Houston’s rotation, but the rest of his game has still been quite positive. He is connecting on a stellar 59.5% of his shots inside the arc; while he could be a little more aggressive in looking for his shots from close range, his efficiency is hard to overlook. His defense has also been excellent, even when his offense has wavered; he’s a long, very switchable guard who has exceptional defensive awareness for a 19-year-old. The advanced numbers back up the film and then some; Arceneaux is 16th in the AAC in Defensive Win Shares despite averaging 16.7 minutes per game, and Synergy ranks him in the 94th percentile defensively.
Given the recent downward trend in minutes and the depth of this class on the wing, it seems increasingly unlikely that Terrance Arceneaux will end up staying in the 2023 NBA Draft. However, there is a ton to like about his game—especially on the defensive end. A hot shooting stretch could potentially vault him into this year’s draft, but if it doesn’t, I am quite confident that Arceneaux will be one of the returning prospects who I will be monitoring most closely for the 2024 draft and beyond.
After missing last season as a redshirt following an ACL tear in the preseason, this has been a difficult, up-and-down season for Langston Love. While there have been some positive signs, Love is clearly behind LJ Cryer and Dale Bonner (in addition to the more easily anticipated wing/guard minutes leaders Keyonte George and Adam Flagler) for playing time for the Baylor Bears.
Love is averaging just 15.8 minutes per game this season. He played only 10 minutes against West Virginia on Wednesday and didn’t even put up a shot attempt as Keyonte George led the Bears to victory.
This isn’t to say that it’s been all bad for Love. He is still shooting 38.9% from deep, and his shot looks as pure as ever. He had 20 points in his one start this season, and he had scored in double figures in three of his last four games before the goose egg against the Mountaineers.
Still, that’s grasping at straws for positive news. The comeback arc that I’d been hoping to see from Love after his injury is looking less and less likely to happen this season. He’ll have plenty of chances next season (assuming that he stays at Baylor), with George heading to the NBA and Flagler exhausting his eligibility. That being said, it is concerning that Love has fallen in the rotation as far as he has already. Hopefully, his odds of being selected in the 2024 NBA Draft are higher than his 2023 odds appear to be right now.
Let’s close this out on a more positive note and talk about one of the most fun to watch players in college basketball. Taran Armstrong got plenty of No Ceilings words last season courtesy of Alex and Tyler Metcalf, but he’s gone a bit more under the radar so far this season.
As Alex said about the Australian guard last season, Taran Armstrong is simply a passing wizard. He sees the floor at an incredibly high level, and he has a solid, functional handle to get where he needs to go. Armstrong makes basically every pass you can imagine, from the simple two-handed perimeter passes from a standstill to the most audacious one-handed bounce passes off the dribble through traffic. He also uses his extremely versatile passing bag to generate openings with pass fakes, and he uses those pass fakes sparingly enough that defenses fall for them pretty consistently—which just opens the floor up for Armstrong to follow up on his fake-out with a real dime through the cracks in the defense.
Armstrong makes difficult passes look routine, and he makes you do double-takes on his most ridiculous dishes. He passes his teammates open better than anyone in college basketball, in my mind, and he makes something out of nothing on a consistent basis with his dishes:
There are certainly concerns with Armstrong, and those concerns are why he isn’t discussed as the lottery-level prospect that his passing might lead you to believe he should be. He struggles to score in basically all areas; his 41/33/63 shooting splits speak to that. He ranks in the 21st percentile overall offensively and the 22nd percentile in transition, per Synergy, averaging just 0.759 points per possession overall and 0.805 PPP in transition. He’s decent as a jump shooter, especially on unguarded catch-and-shoots (75th percentile) and off-the-dribble jumpers (69th percentile). However, his at-rim finishing numbers are really concerning; Armstrong has converted just 49.3% of his tries at the rim this season, ranking in the 22nd percentile per Synergy. Those are just the offensive concerns; he’s far from the worst defender I’ve ever seen, but he certainly will not be punching his ticket to the NBA with his defensive chops.
That’s a laundry list of concerns. It’s also nowhere near long enough of a list for me not to be excited about his future. The shooting indicators are encouraging—I think his form is solid, and I’m very encouraged by his off-the-dribble and unguarded catch-and-shoot numbers. Those are the shots that NBA teams would want him to take, and he’s looked better on those than the kinds of looks that he will cut out of his diet at the next level.
The advanced numbers outside of those are not great when it comes to his individual offense—but with Armstrong, that’s also somewhat missing the point. Yes, he needs to have some scoring gravity to be effective at the next level, but the vast majority of his value shines through in what he does for his teammates. His personal scoring rates of 0.759 PPP overall and 0.805 PPP in transition are nothing to write home about, but his 1.220 points per possession plus assists overall and 1.236 PP(P+A) in transition do a much better job of describing his value on the offensive end.
It’s important as draft evaluators to pick nits with players like Taran Armstrong to ensure that the entirety of his game is properly taken into context. However, it’s also important (in my mind, anyway) to let yourself get really excited about prospects sometimes. Armstrong is a very effective passer, and he makes his teammates better with his ability to find nearly-impossible passing angles and make reads that almost nobody else could make.
Taran Armstrong is more than just an effective passer, though. He’s fun to watch. A lot of fun to watch.
Isn’t that why we all started watching basketball in the first place?