Let's Rave About Jake LaRavia
The do-it-all prospect for Wake Forest is flying somewhat under the radar. Overshadowed by some bigger name prospects in the ACC, Jake LaRavia deserves your attention as a potential first round pick.
When reviewing the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) for 2022 NBA Draft Prospects, it’s easy to be enamored by the group at Duke with the likes of Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin, Mark Williams, Wendell Moore, and even Trevor Keels. However, as you work your way down the standings, there are still some very intriguing prospects who are sometimes overshadowed by the names at the top of draft boards. And no, I’m not talking about exciting freshmen like Blake Wesley or Terquavion Smith. I am referring to an upperclassman who has been a key driver of Wake Forest’s success this season. No, not Alondes Williams, although he is awesome. I am talking about none other than 6’8” 235 lbs.
guard forward center basketball player Jake LaRavia. The junior averaged 14.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.7 SPG, and 1.0 BPG with shooting splits of 55.9 FG%/38.4 3PT%/77.7 FT% this season, per Sports Reference. He was incredibly efficient and effective in terms of advanced stats as well, boasting a 64.7 True Shooting % (TS%), 60.4 Effective Field Goal % (eFG%), and 7.9 Box-Plus-Minus (BPM), per barttorvik.
LaRavia has a unique set of skills for a guy his size that is tough to find in the college basketball world. I spoke to this a little bit during our NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday NBA Draft Live Show, where there were only a few guys with his stat profile and size this season, and the list of names included David Roddy and Chet Holmgren (two other very unique players who have polar opposite frames):
His level of efficiency, mixed with his basketball instincts, makes him a prospect worth your attention. While he may not have the flashy passes like his aforementioned teammate, Alondes Williams, there is no doubt that LaRavia is a plus playmaker. Add that to his scoring ability, and you have the foundation of an excellent role player on offense. Oh, and let’s not forget about the defense. LaRavia is not just a one-way player—his versatility on the defensive end is also something to focus on with his game. Whether he is the weak side help defender, stuck on an island in isolation, or defending the PNR, it’s clear that Jake LaRavia knows what he’s doing on the defensive end. And that matters. In this piece, I will take you through the aspects of his game that get me excited about him as a 2022 NBA Draft prospect and why he should get more first-round buzz.
I mentioned the passing earlier, and for good reason. It is one of the things that makes Jake LaRavia such a solid offensive player. He is much more of a “ball mover” than a “dimer” but that’s really all you need from a non-primary guy. The ball doesn’t stick with him, and that is so important when building a good offense. Now, that isn’t to say he just makes the Hoosiers style two-handed chest and bounce passes with the thumbs pointed down like your 4th-grade basketball coach taught you. He has some versatility to his playmaking that players his size usually do not have. His vision to see open teammates is also something worth noting as it allows him to hit guys on skip passes and on cuts as well.
For example, he does a great job here of keeping his head up when he receives the ball in the post and makes the quick skip pass to the open shooter. A lot of big’s first instinct when getting the ball in the post is to back your man down, but LaRavia does a nice job of keeping his options open.
This play is another prime example of LaRavia scanning the floor to find an open teammate. While it’s not ideal to pick up your dribble there, his ability to keep his eyes up and process the game quickly allows him to thread this pass in between defenders for the and-1 dunk.
Another aspect of Jake LaRavia’s game that I see translating nicely to the NBA is his cutting. To become a viable threat off-ball, you need to either be a good shooter (more on that later) or cutter. LaRavia does a great job setting up his defenders, and playing alongside a great passer like Alondes Williams really emphasized the impact of his cutting on Wake Forest’s offense. He also has shown the ability to read the defense and know where the weak parts are. Here is a great example:
This play shows me that Jake LaRavia knows that NC State plays a switch everything defensive scheme. When he starts to make his cut, he knows that his initial defender will leave him to go guard Daivien Williamson (#4 on Wake Forest) cutting to the corner. This then leads to LaRavia making an immediate cut towards the basket as Dereon Seabron (#1 on NC State) is turned around, with no idea that the switch was coming. Perfect scheme and play execution here by LaRavia to cut into the open space.
Jake LaRavia won’t just have a positive impact in the half-court; he also loves to get out and run in transition. Whether he’s initiating the break off of a steal, block, or rebound, or running on the wing waiting for a pass, there is no doubt that LaRavia is comfortable in the open court. He can handle the ball well enough to push it and find open teammates, or he can finish off plays with an easy dunk or layup. LaRavia finished 15.7% of his possessions this season in transition, and he scored 1.33 PPPP (Points Per team’s Possession in Playtype) on those looks, which was good for the 85th percentile per InStat. He should be able to come in right away and offer positive value in transition opportunities for whichever NBA team drafts him.
Straight up, Jake LaRavia is a STOCKS king. No, not in the Warren Buffett sense, but the Steals + Blocks (aka “STOCKS”) sense. His instincts and processing speed don’t just aid him on offense—that carries over to defense as well. When you think of guys on the perimeter who get a ton of steals in the NBA, your mind goes to players like Marcus Smart and Patrick Beverley, but Jake LaRavia should be on that list as well. He has the ability to both poke the ball away without fouling and jump passing lanes for interceptions.
Here is a great example of him waiting for the perfect opportunity to poke the ball away from Mark Williams right after a spin move in the post. While LaRavia did lose sight of AJ Griffin, I still love his ability to time these swipes when the opposing player is most vulnerable.
This is just your classic free safety style play where LaRavia almost baits the opposing player to throw the pass by sagging off his guy a little because he knows he can make up the ground. It works to perfection here as he intercepts the pass leading to an easy dunk in transition.
Jake LaRavia is also an underrated rim protector, especially from the weak side. His ability to time rotations for blocks is a valuable asset to his team’s defense. Again, like with the steals, he can sometimes gamble and hunt for blocks at times, but overall I feel it’s a plus aspect to his defensive package. Here are a couple of examples:
Nothing to see here, other than Jake LaRavia going from guarding Paolo Banchero in the post to rotating over to block Mark Williams, who is 7’0” tall with a 7’7” wingspan.
This is probably my favorite block from LaRavia. Blocking an alley-oop attempt is one thing, but doing it while running back in transition with your body fully turned is another. The combination of instincts, timing, and body control that are needed to execute this is just absurd. Different situation both in terms of play type and game moment, but it reminds me of perhaps the best play in NBA Finals history:
While LaRavia may not be a guy you want switching onto quicker guards on the perimeter (especially at the NBA level), he does do a great job sliding his feet and bumping guys off their spots due to his strength. I think his primary assignment in the NBA will be guarding 4’s, and I do not have many concerns about his ability to hold up physically or when left on an island. When Wake Forest went up against Duke twice this season, LaRavia got the Paolo Banchero assignment for most possessions. Across those two games, Banchero shot just 39.4% from the field (13/33 FG/FGA). While there were plenty of times that Paolo got the better of LaRavia, there is no doubt that LaRavia frustrated the potential #1 pick with his ability to stay in front and hold his ground. A few examples of that are below:
One of Paolo’s favorite moves is the spin out of the mid-post area, but here we see LaRavia doing a great job sliding with Paolo and forcing an errant pass in mid-air.
Similar situation here, except this time Paolo uses the spin to get to his fadeaway, but LaRavia gives him absolutely no room to get a good look off.
Lastly, this time Paolo is facing up and trying to take LaRavia off the dribble. LaRavia’s footwork here is exceptional as he cuts off Paolo’s first cross-over attempt, and when Paolo attempts to get to his step-back jumper, LaRavia is right in his face so he can’t get it off, which leads to a travel.
Another skill that makes Jake LaRavia a fascinating prospect is his shooting ability. With a career 37.1 3PT% (per Sports Reference), it’s easy to see why. However, those numbers come on very low volume. Over his three years in college, he has only attempted 132 3PT FGs. That equates to a 3-Point Attempt Rate (3PAr) of 18.1%, essentially meaning that only 18.1% of his FGAs are from the 3-Point Range. While this number has increased each season, it is still pretty low, but I do expect this number to continue to tick up as he plays a smaller scoring role in the NBA. When it comes to him making shots, especially off the catch, I don’t have many concerns. He has pretty clean mechanics, and I think he has good touch overall. He will just need to be a more willing shooter from deep to unlock his full potential.