Jordan Hawkins: The Air Fryer
Jordan Hawkins is arguably the best shooter in the 2023 NBA Draft in my opinion. But, there’s more to his game than just that. Come see why Paige thinks Hawkins has star upside.
When thinking about how to title this piece, I remembered a post-game interview with UConn’s Andre Jackson Jr. talking about Jordan Hawkins’s play style and why he has this specific nickname for Hawkins. “The Air Fryer” is what Andre Jackson Jr. calls Jordan Hawkins. Or I guess all of UConn does, because you can indeed buy a shirt with a picture of Hawkins and the slogan “The Air Fryer” on it. What a perfect description of Hawkins’s game and one of the all-time greatest nicknames in the history of college basketball. Everyone could use an Air Fryer, including every NBA team.
So, kudos to you Andre and UConn—you nailed that one.
But guys, the 2023 NBA Draft is only TWO days away. TWO. Can you believe it? I certainly can’t. But you know what they say, “time goes by when you’re having fun.” Corny I know, but also true in every shape of the saying. It has been a hell of a ride in my first year with the No Ceilings Crew, and I couldn’t have had a better time.
To close out this draft cycle, I get the chance to write some words on one of my favorite prospects in the entire 2023 NBA Draft—Jordan Hawkins.
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Jordan Hawkins was the 48th-ranked prospect in the class of 2021 by RSCI. After finishing his high school career at powerhouse DeMatha Catholic (Maryland), Hawkins chose to commit to the UConn Huskies and head coach Dan Hurley. In his senior season at DeMatha, Hawkins was named Gatorade Maryland Player of the Year.
Hawkins’s jump from his freshman to sophomore seasons at UConn was one of the best in all of college basketball and in 2023 NBA Draft prospects alone. In his freshman season, Hawkins was limited to injuries at the beginning—but bought into his role off the bench earning Big East All-Freshman Teams honors. Despite only starting four games out of 27 total, Hawkins was projected to be “the guy” on the offensive end for UConn as a sophomore. Hawkins not only delivered but he exceeded expectations and then some. He was CRUCIAL in UConn’s National Championship run and without the jump he made on the stat sheet from last season to now, the Huskies are probably not bringing that national title home to Storrs.
Coming into this draft cycle, the No Ceilings Crew had Hawkins as the 41st overall prospect on our first composite big board of the season. A lot of things have changed for Jordan Hawkins from the beginning of the season to now—especially his draft stock. With two days to go until the 2023 NBA Draft, Hawkins already has a green room invite in hand, but I think he is seriously worth taking in the middle lottery or 10-14 range of the draft.
NBA Draft Combine Measurables
6’4.25” without shoes, 6’6.75” wingspan, 186 pounds, 8’5.50” standing reach
Freshman Year Stats (2021-2022)
27 games (4 starts)
Sophomore Year Stats (2022-2023)
37 games (37 starts)
If you’ve lived under a rock this draft cycle, it’s okay, we still love you—but it’s not a secret at all around the draft community that Jordan Hawkins is known for his shooting. The dude can SHOOT. And I mean he can really shoot the ball. Whether that be spotting up in the corner, off-the-catch, and moving off-ball/coming off screens—the guy is a threat at every aspect beyond the arc. Hawkins is a madman for one coming off screens. It’s a very chaotic yet beautiful thing to watch if that makes sense. To me, he’s the best shooter in the 2023 NBA Draft. His mix of athletic tools, shooting versatility, and off-ball movement is the selling point for my claim. His shooting ability is impeccable but his all-around offensive upside is where the real intrigue begins in terms of what Jordan Hawkins can become.
The Bread and Butter: Shooting
As I mentioned previously, Jordan Hawkins had a MASSIVE freshman to sophomore leap. To not only double your efficiency on DOUBLE the volume as a three-point shooter (33.3 3PT% on 3.0 3PA to 38.8 3PT% on 7.6 3PA) in just a year’s span is super telling when it comes to work ethic and discipline. His 38.8 3PT% was off of connecting on over 100 made threes (109/281) while taking 15.2 3PA per 100. Talk about a sniper. Obviously, Hawkins came into a bigger role as a sophomore and needed to fill in more of a gap on the offensive end for the Huskies, but he also had more of a stage to showcase his skill set and he displayed a variety of his shooting versatility.
Per Synergy, Hawkins ranks in the 88th percentile off catch-and-shoot possessions (1.23 PPP), the 83rd percentile off jump shot possessions (1.09 PPP), the 84th percentile off-screens (1.176 PPP), and the 97th percentile off spot-ups (1.298). The statistics don’t lie here—Hawkins is a lethal shooter and can give you a bucket beyond the arc in any way.
In the reel above, Hawkins shows why he is able to be so efficient from three-point range and as a shooter overall. What makes him so effective is how quickly he can square his body and feet to the basket in any action. This is not an easy thing to do especially at the rate and volume Hawkins is shooting. A lot of the time, players will catch the ball stagnant and not move all in one motion into their shot. Meaning that they don’t have their lead foot planted/already squared to the basket and don’t catch the ball in the triple threat position or in their loading zone for their shot. Not only does this take more time, but allows your body not to be entirely squared up to the basket.
Hawkins is able to set up his body and feet coming off various screens, changing speeds to confuse defenders, spotting up in the corner in transition/pulling up off the dribble in transition, and off-the-catch. It’s extremely hard to get Hawkins out of his mojo as a shooter—it’s just an automatic process for him to do this. Hawkins is able to do this at an insane consistent rate which makes him so effective and how he will continue to be effective in the NBA.
This is vital to becoming a great shooter and Hawkins has mastered his timing and footwork here. At times, Hawkins will use a rhythm or pound dribble with either hand as he doesn’t really prefer driving to his right or left over the other. 48.5% of his drives are to the right while 45.5% are to his left. Hawkins not having a “preference” statistically when it comes to which direction he usually puts the ball on the deck helps him manipulate the defense even more as he’s not predictable compared to other prospects—making scouting him even more difficult when you factor everything he can do as a shooter and how fast he rises into his shot.
Now, Hawkins isn’t known for his off-the-dribble creation'; he’s known for his off-ball movement. But I think this is an area of high upside and at UConn, he didn’t get to show as much as he can do here.
Hawkins ranked in the 56th percentile (0.82 PPP) off dribble jumper possessions while shooting 32.7 FG% (35/72) this season off-the-bounce. The sharpshooter only spent 38% of his possessions creating shots off-the-dribble for himself rather than coming off screens—which occupied 99% of his possessions per Synergy. It’s not that Hawkins can’t create separation from his defender as I think he can on his handle, athletic tools, and feel for the game alone. It’s due to the fact he is a damn mastermind at off-ball movement and can create any shot for himself without taking a dribble if need be.
As I mentioned earlier, most of Hawkins’ shots off-the-dribble come off only one - three dribbles. Whether it’s a couple of dribbles coming off DHOs (shot 38.2 FG% off dribble handoffs), a rhythm dribble into a step-back jumper, a singular cross-over behind a screen, or a quick 1-2 and he rises into his shot. He rarely takes more than three dribbles when looking to score off dribble jumpers.
At the next level, I would project Hawkins to look to increase this aspect of his game due to the fact he’s dealing with exceptional talent in the NBA and he’s not going to be open as much as he was coming off-ball as he was in college. That’s just a fact. If Hawkins is able to create the same confidence in his off-the-dribble creation in comparison to the other aspects of his shooting game — things could get really scary in terms of his future outlook. This will just continue to unlock more options for himself as he looks to develop into a potential All-Star level shooter which I believe he can become.
Rim finishing/Mid-Range Game
Jordan Hawkins is a long, mobile, and slender wing. However, despite his frame, he’s still able to make strong and smart decisions when attacking the rim. He might not be ‘strong’ considering the true definition of the word — but it’s not all about physical appearance when looking at if a prospect is strong or not. Hawkins is able to contort his body in various ways to absorb contact when finishing at the rim. He can stay in the air long enough to aim a layup high off the glass to avoid being blocked, can finish with either hand, change directions, and is super crafty around the rim. His feel for the game stands out here along with his athletic ability which I think is vastly underrated.
At the rim this season, Hawkins shot 52.6 FG% (50/95). He shot 51.3 FG% (41/80) on layups this season and only had nine dunks on the season out of 14 attempts. When Hawkins does get an open lane his burst and pop as an athlete jumps off the film to me. There are flashes of him being like a lightning bolt to the rim, but that’s the thing: they’re flashes. With all the tools Hawkins has as an athlete along with his basketball IQ and shooting touch, he should be getting to the rim more, and be able to finish at the rim more consistently and from the field overall.
Hawkins is one of the most confident shooters in the draft. I do believe he is confident in his finishing ability and his ability to get to the rim in general he just needs to be more willing to showcase that confidence by doing more of it on the court. Hawkins attempted just 12 field goals off cuts this season for UConn (7/12) and with his gift as an off-ball mover that absolutely needs to be higher. If he continues to improve his willingness to get to the rim, he has the potential to become a true threat here in time; adding more cuts to his game is a move in the right direction.
Adding a floater to his game could take his confidence at the rim to new heights. With his exceptional shooting touch already, there’s no reason he can’t add that layer to his game. This season, his mechanics did look a little bit off on his floaters in terms of his feel for when to shoot/when not to and his footwork as he shot them in and out of traffic. He shot 13 attempts overall on floaters/runners this year and only made one.
However, this aspect of his game is one I’m the most excited to see develop as even though it’s not his ‘bread-and-butter’ right now he is willing to at least try it. I don’t think he’ll become an all-time float-game great but I think he can become league-average at it.
In terms of a mid-range game, the volume is pretty low here. On shots taken from within 17 feet to just inside the three-point line, Hawkins has only attempted 54 shots from these distances combined. He shot 36.7 FG% (11/30) from within 17 feet and 37.5 FG% (9/24) from 17 feet to < 3PT. When Hawkins is able to get to the mid-range, mostly coming off-screens and taking a few dribbles at most it looks super smooth. When he starts to try and rush a shot especially when his defender is trailing him is when things don’t look comfortable for him in this range. In some of his mid-range possessions, he even gets a little bit of his lean in his shot which isn’t there on his three-point shot. Adding volume to his mid-range game is just another layer to the onion that needs to be peeled back to unlock Hawkins’s upside as an elite three-level scorer.
In terms of playmaking, Hawkins’s passing numbers will not wow you at all. He averaged just 1.3 assists this season, had 45 assists total to 48 turnovers (8.8 TO%), and an assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.94. That is not the best and you may be thinking why I’m even mentioning it in here, lol. I am because it is an area that Hawkins can look to improve upon at the next level. He won’t be asked to solely playmake for guys, as that will never be his role. His role will be to shoot and score, whether that be coming off the bench at first or being a primary scoring threat on an NBA roster.
Hawkins had a really great relationship with his big man (Donovan Clingan and Adama Sanogo) as he constantly was able to thread the needle on his entry passes to them in a tight window. This may not be flashy like some prospect’s playmaking ability is, but being able to time and throw entry passes quickly is a skill. It’s also a necessity to do at the next level due to the fact how many dominant big men we have in today’s NBA that will demand the ball and you bet you’ll have to get it to them one way or another. So, Hawkins possessing this skill is promising and the fact he can hit the kick-out pass to shooters as well will make NBA front offices more than excited. Hawkins being surrounded by other shooters in the league will also make him look better as a passer and will open up more room for him to operate in the mid-range and at the rim, where he is looking to increase his volume at.
Having at least this foundation is a good starting point for Hawkins as a passer and he has had his fair share of “eye-popping” passes this season which makes you think how much of playmaking feel is waiting to be shown from Hawkins.
I also really loved his chemistry with Andre Jackson Jr., who was a playmaking dynamite for the national champions. Hawkins could hit Jackson in transition, off kick-out passes, on the block and off cuts which is encouraging given how elite of an athlete Jackson is — and in the NBA, Hawkins will be playing with multiple players that possess those outlier athletic tools. So, him being comfortable with Jackson and having the ability to make him look better on the offensive end is a plus in the passing book.
I’m pretty sure if you clicked on this piece initially, you most likely wanted to read about Jordan Hawkins’s defense. I’m sorry I made you wait until the very end but we finally made it! I’m actually not that apologetic; how else would I get you to read this whole piece? Kidding. Two days away from the 2023 NBA Draft and I’m basically made out of caffeine at this point.
Anyways, to Hawkins’s defense. I think he can eventually become a league-average defender at the very least. He’s great on-ball in my opinion but does have struggles as an off-ball defender.
On-ball, Hawkins is able to slide his feel well, cut off driving/passing lanes for his opponent, and is able to use his athleticism to force tough shots and decisions. One of my favorite aspects of how he guards on-ball is his ability to anticipate or track opponent’s movement patterns. If they’re looking to get to their spot or force the defense in to make a kickout pass — Hawkins knows this and is a step ahead of them. You want to know why? Because he knows how opponents try to guard him and cut off his off-ball movement. He’s basically using reverse psychology and using what defense is played on him and mimicking it with the opponents he guards. He loves to trail and use his length at the last second to get a block or force his opponent to either shoot or pass due to how little space Hawkins is giving his opponents solely on-ball. Now, his screen navigation could use some work as he can be late fighting his way around them and then is forced to rely on his athleticism and length to try and force a tough shot. Hawkins always tries to contest the shot when possible which I also appreciate. Whenever you can make a shot or decision hander for your opponent regardless if you are late off a screen, get lost off-ball, or simply get caught on a shot fake—no one will ever question your hustle or effort. And man, Hawkins has A TON of that.
Some of Hawkins’s blocks this season (18 total blocks) have been nothing short of impressive. His tracking ability is next level along with his movement patterns. His hustle also plays a role in this as even if Hawkins was the one to get the ball taken from him, he still flies down to the other end of the court to avoid giving the opponent an easy layup. His determination takes over here and I mean the guy has “Hawk” in his last name so I can use this analogy. Hawkins is going to chase you down the court like a Hawk, nothing is just given to his opponents. You have to earn the basket on him, which is one of the reasons I really believe in his defensive upside.
Off-ball, he tends to over-help, get flat-footed, over-anticipate, and be late on rotations. Okay, that was a lot of harshness in one sentence—but stay with me here throughout this section. He also doesn’t keep his hands as active as I would expect here from him. I think he can be even more of a pest to deal with on this end and let loose like he does when it comes to shooting. With his feel for the game as an assassin on the offensive end, you would think that overwhelming confidence would carry over on the defensive end and that he would NEED to make a stop on the defensive end to help the team—just like how he was wired to score for the Huskies this season. Hawkins had 26 total steals this season coming from his anticipation, quick hands, and being in the right spot at the right time—basically a gambler if you want to call it off-ball. He also tends to bounce his feet a lot off-ball rather than getting into a defensive stand at all. At times this helps him anticipate because he is so athletic, but other times this causes him to not only be late to the play but even late when calling for switches for his teammates.
When Hawkins gets the timing and position right off-ball, he delivers. When he doesn’t, it causes holes to open up in the defense and an overall collapse to occur. UConn had one of the best rim-protecting big men in college basketball in 7’2” freshman center Donovan Clingan who could fill some of the holes in the defense caused by Hawkins “missing” off-ball. But, that’s not always going to be the case on any NBA roster especially if the team plays small ball. Consistency will be the big thing here for Jordan Hawkins and his off-ball development will be one to watch throughout his projected long career in the league.
For the statisticians: on all field-goal possessions, Hawkins ranks in the 67th percentile overall. When guarded by Hawkins, opponents shoot just 37.2 FG%. At the rim, opponents shoot 50 FG% — which ranks in the 49th percentile (Average). Off dribble jumper possession, Hawkins hold opponents to lower than 32% from the field. Which is an awesome indicator when looking for value in his on-ball defense especially. On jump shot possessions overall, opponent shoot 33.3% on Hawkins and almost 35% off-the-catch. Hawkins is also more effective when guarding man-to-man compared to when he is playing zone defense. UConn wasn’t a ‘zone heavy’ team really, so the stats are a little bit skewed in terms of volume. In man defense, Hawkins ranked in the 69th percentile allowing 0.794 points per possession. In zone defense, Hawkins allowed 0.917 PPP which ranked in the 49th percentile. However, man defense was 47% of all defensive possessions while zone was just 3% so take that with what you will.
I submitted my last big board rankings for our final No Ceilings composite Big Board this weekend and I couldn’t have been more confident in having Jordan Hawkins as my 10th overall prospect. I might be a little bit higher on him than some, but there is so much more to his game that he has in his bag that I believe he will be able to show at the next level. He has the foundation in terms of shot creation, playmaking ability, and rim-finishing capability to take his offensive game to unfamiliar territory. His shooting touch is exceptional, there’s no doubt in my mind about that translating to the NBA and Hawkins as a shooter excelling in the league. But, I think with his foundation, athleticism, and hustle — he can evolve into a complete offensive player. To start, I see Hawkins being a 6th man and a microwave scorer for a franchise and even starting, but he has to work on his off-ball defense first. I’m not sure how many years that would take for Hawkins to get there, but I see him eventually getting there given the anticipation of him having a long, solid career in the NBA. In a make-or-miss league that LOVES athletic, twitchy wings that can shoot and also have potential as a league-average defender at their floor, why couldn’t Hawkins become a #1 or #2 option on a contending team?
Some of my favorite landing spots for Hawkins in the 2023 NBA Draft are the Dallas Mavericks, Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, and the Golden State Warriors. Quite the hefty list, but ‘The Air Fryer’s’ skillset is extremely valued in the league and I can’t wait to see where he goes on draft night.
Thanks for keeping up with madness all cycle long!