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No Stone Unturned: The Guards
Scouting reports and notes on intriguing under-the-radar wings, including comments from VCU's Jayden Nunn! The final installment of No Stone Unturned!
Welcome to the final installment of No Stone Unturned! In this series of articles, I will be digging into five players at different positions who are flying under the radar but warrant attention. For my methodology, I started by seeking out players with interesting statistical profiles. From there, I compiled a list, worked my way through the film, and chose my favorites. I did my best to avoid prospects who have received rankings on mainstream Top 100 lists and early mock drafts. I’m looking for deep cuts who aren’t receiving much love yet but still have a real crack at making a mark this coming season. You can read the previous articles in this series below:
Jayden Nunn, 6’4”, Sophomore, VCU
2021-2022 Stats: 8.6 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.6 TOV, 1.3 SPG, 0.3 BPG
2021-2022 Shooting Splits: 40.2/36.0/75.6
Signature Performance: vs. UConn, 21 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, 1 block. 6-14 FG, 2-6 3FG, 7-9 FT
Tough Test(s) (Games Against Quad-1 Competition):
-vs. Vanderbilt. 11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover. 3-12 FG, 2-3 3FG, 3-5 FT
-vs. Baylor. 6 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 turnover. 1-3 FG, 1-2 3FG, 3-6 FT
-vs. UConn. 21 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, 1 block. 6-14 FG, 2-6 3FG, 7-9 FT
-vs. Davidson. 9 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists, 1 block. 3-8 FG, 3-6 3FG
-vs. Saint Louis. 8 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 turnover. 4-9 FG, 0-4 3FG
-vs. Wake Forest. 18 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers. 6-11 FG, 6-10 3FG
Jayden Nunn consistently picks up his man as soon as the ball is inbounded. Then, he pesters them the entire length of the floor. He’ll do it the entire game. He’s relentless. Both the physical and mental toll it takes on opponents becomes evident as the game progresses. I had the pleasure of speaking with Nunn, and there was one question I wanted to ask him more than anything: “Where does your mentality on the defensive end come from?” His answer was equally amusing and informative. He said, “That came from my high school years, my freshman year. My friend was a senior and he was the starting point guard. The first practice, the head coach told him to bully me. He guarded me the length of the entire court the whole entire practice and I could not score.” I could hear the frustration in Nunn’s voice as he thought back to this experience. He continued, “It was so hard to score on someone so much stronger than me. That’s where I got it from. I’m a dog on defense— I like making my man feel uncomfortable.”
His defensive acumen goes beyond being an effort guy or a high-energy hustler. Nunn has good technique, too. His stance is balanced, he moves well side-to-side without crossing his feet, and he doesn’t get stuck watching the ball. When he goes to dig on a driver or interior player, he’s able to spring back to his man in a timely manner. Nunn is active with his hands and doesn’t let the ball-handler forget that he could swipe the rock away from him if he isn’t careful. He does a great job of defending pick-and-roll ball-handlers. Nunn has a good awareness of screeners and often manages to avoid contact thanks to his hip fluidity and preparedness. When he does get clipped by a pick, Nunn’s foot speed, flexibility, and determination allow him to do a solid job of recovering and still preventing the dribbler from getting to advantageous spots on the court.
On top of being an exciting, skilled defender, Nunn is an electric offensive player. The crux of his game revolves around the fact that he is a devastating outside shooter. He finished the year at 36% from three on 2.9 attempts per game, which doesn’t leap off the page on paper. If you dive into the deeper numbers and the film, though, there is more to the story. Nunn is an excellent shooter off the dribble. He plays with wonderful rhythm off the bounce and knows how to make his man dance. His array of stepbacks and seamless ability to change directions keeps defenders on their toes. “I have a trainer back at home that I’ve trained with since I was in eighth grade. That’s where I saw the biggest improvement in my game. He’s like a brother to me. He taught me so much more than basketball, but he worked on my footwork, dribbling, getting my shot off quick, and making quick decisions. I still work out with him to this day,” Nunn noted. He connected on 34.8% of his threes off the dribble as a freshman and knocked down 38.1% of his threes when operating as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, both intriguing marks. If you give him too much space, he’s guaranteed to make you pay, and even if you don’t, there’s a good chance he’ll still convert.
As the year progressed, Nunn better realized how to leverage this scoring and turn it into playmaking. Over his last ten games, he drastically improved his assist-to-turnover ratio, averaging 2.7 assists to 1.4 turnovers. “[At the start of the season] I was more of a 2 than 1, and we didn’t have our point guard, Ace [Baldwin]. That experience made me more comfortable with the ball in my hands. When he came back, I was more comfortable with it. I had to learn how to playmake. Now I’m comfortable with the ball and without the ball,” Nunn told me. There was a greater sense of poise permeating his game late in the year. He made quicker decisions, threw passes with more zip, and made better reads out of the live dribble when defenses overcommitted to him. There was a transformation from being an undersized 2-guard to a true combo guard that took place, and Nunn is only getting more comfortable. When Nunn doesn’t have the ball, he’s still a threat. Nunn ranked in Synergy’s 79th percentile on catch-and-shoot shots, and he knocked down 38.1% of his three-point shots in those settings. His ability to make snappier reads also allowed him to make sharp connector passes on the perimeter.
What Needs Improvement
While Jayden Nunn’s offensive game has some enticing, high-level attributes, there are still a few areas of concern. Right now, Nunn’s ability to pressure the rim in a meaningful way is limited. While he’s able to separate and create space going backward and sideways, he’s less efficient getting downhill. He’s not the most explosive leaper, and he only converted 41.5% of his shots at the rim. Nunn’s finishing was one of the main focuses of his off-season development. “[I’ve been] working on my finishing. Floaters, better using my body around the basket, and high finishes, high lay-ups off the glass,” he noted. Another focal point has been furthering his development as a shooter off the catch, which would create even more gravity for him off the ball. Lastly, I’d like to see Nunn polish up his pick-and-roll offense. He can still play too sped up when facilitating, leading to forced passes and turnovers.
Jayden Nunn’s defensive effort, intensity, and talent are difficult to find at the guard spot. However, what he offers on offensive makes those tools even more tantalizing. By the end of the season, Jayden Nunn became a true combo guard in a good conference who got his teammates involved while scoring at an efficient clip. Nunn told me, “I feel like I grew really on the playmaking side, doing more things than scoring. I’m a scorer, but I had to learn how to be effective without scoring. Playmaking, rebounding, getting steals, and making plays when the shot wasn’t not going in. It’s not always about me.” Throughout our conversation, it was evident that Nunn has a selfless, no-nonsense approach. He understands what he does well, and he knows what he needs to work on. With Vince Williams Jr. off to the NBA, he’ll get to take on a larger offensive role for VCU this year. If he can play like he did down the stretch this past season but with a higher usage rate, Nunn should be in the draft conversation. He currently sits inside my Top 60. His shooting, blossoming creation upside, and defense make him an ideal complimentary player with initiation skills at the NBA level.
Jaeden Zackery, 6’2”, Third-Year Sophomore, Boston College
2021-2022 Stats: 10.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 2.0 TOV, 1.7 SPG, 0.2 BPG
2021-2022 Shooting Splits: 46.3/47.7/71.2
Signature Performance: vs. Syracuse (2/8/22). 18 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals. 7-15 FG, 3-9 3FG, 1-1 FT
Tough Test(s) (Games Against Quad-1 Competition):
-vs. Saint Louis. 12 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 turnovers, 3 steals. 5-11 FG, 1-3 3FG, 1-2 FT
-vs. Virginia Tech. 4 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 5 turnovers. 2-5 FG, 0-1 3FG, 0-1 FT
-vs. Wake Forest (1/24/22). 5 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, 1 block. 2-7 FG, 1-4 3FG
-vs. North Carolina (1/26/22). 6 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 2 steals, 1 block. 3-11 FG, 0-3 3FG, 0-2 FT
-vs. Duke. 6 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 turnovers, 5 steals, 1 block. 3-8 FG, 0-2 3FG
-vs. Notre Dame. 18 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover. 6-10 FG, 3-4 3FG, 3-3 FT
-vs. Wake Forest (3/9/22). 12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 1 steal. 3-7 FG, 2-4 3FG, 4-6 FT
Jaeden Zackery was the RKO of college basketball last season— he came from out of nowhere. He spent his first college season at Chipola College, a JuCo in Marianna, Florida. There, he averaged 12.5 PPG, shot 42.0% from three, and was named a Third-Team NJCAA All-American. Zackery then transferred to Boston College. He was given a 2-star rating by VerbalCommits, and there weren’t immediate expectations for him given the depth of the Eagles at the guard positions. By the end of the season, Zackery was the best player on the team.
It starts with the shooting for Jaeden Zackery. He’s deadly off the catch and knocked down 48.4% of his threes in that setting last season, per Synergy. This ranked him in the 98th percentile for eligible players. Mechanically, his jumper looks the same every single time. His right foot is out slightly in front of his left, his feet are shoulder-width apart, and the ball follows a straight path up his body. He gets his shot off in a hurry when needed, too. Zackery’s shooting stretches out the defense and gives him a ready-make skill off the ball for when he is paired with a bigger initiator.
Zackery isn’t just a shooter, though. At 6’2” he’s not the tallest, but his 210-pound frame allows him to fight to his spots effectively. His handle is solid, and he finds smart angles when he needs to get the ball to a teammate. Zackery shifts gears effectively and is able to see multiple options when running a pick-and-roll set. His assist numbers would likely look prettier on a better shooting team, but Boston College finished 305th in Division I for three-point percentage last season. Keep in mind that this is a team who had Jaeden Zackery on it, who hit 47.7% of his threes…and they finished 305th. Not ideal! The player who took the most threes on their team (6.9 3PA/game) converted 25.6% of his attempts, which is a rare mix of volume and inefficiency. Anyway, back to Zackery. He mixes in misdirection and will do little things like rejecting a screen to keep the defense off balance. His dependable first step and ability to turn the corner allow him to function as a catch-and-go rim attacker. Though he’s not the most explosive leaper when he gets to the rim, his brawny physique allows him to absorb contact while his scoring craft allows him to convert. Zackery made 55.6% of his shots at the rim per Synergy, a great starting point for a guard his age.
His defensive impact is tremendous, too. Zackery’s physical profile and mental acuity form a beautiful marriage. He’s able to guard extremely tight on the ball because players can’t get through his chest, he slides his feet well, and he doesn’t get overzealous trying to nab steals. Zackery is quicker than his frame would indicate, making him a threat to get steals off the ball, too. He’ll act aggressively when it benefits him and his team to do so, but he doesn’t make silly mistakes trying to tally box score numbers. Despite not chasing stats, he still averaged 1.9 steals per game during ACC play because he consistently forces ball-handlers into uncomfortable situations.
What Needs Improvement
There isn’t a major fatal flaw in Zackery’s game, but there are a few areas where he could improve. First, he rarely attacks going left. Adding more optionality to how he drives would further open up his playmaking. I’d also like to see him add more to his offensive footwork. Right now, he’s a terror off the catch, but he doesn’t look to capitalize on his shooting off the bounce. Per Synergy, only 15 of his 109 three-point attempts came off the dribble. I’m not advocating that he force looks off the bounce, but setting up defenders with footwork and creating separation to get up clean looks could make him a more dynamic scoring threat. A more complete scoring portfolio would allow him to stand out and add to his offensive versatility. Developing his vertical athleticism would also enable him to be an even more efficient finisher while also making his defensive contests more impactful.
After a strong finish to his first season at Boston College, more eyes will be on Jaeden Zackery. Many of his teammates will be returning, too. Their progression will be heavily tied to the level of attention Zackery receives from NBA Draft fanatics. If the Eagles can’t knock down outside shots, his assist numbers will be worse for it, and he might continue to slide under the radar. Still, Zackery’s building blocks are appealing. He’s a fantastic outside shooter, he reads the floor well, and he provides great defense while never taking a play off. Further improving his craft as a perimeter scorer will be the best way for him to turn heads. An increased offensive load and a few upset wins could land him on the 2023 NBA Draft radar.
Trenton Massner, 6’2”, Senior, Western Illinois
2021-2022 Stats: 16.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 4.0 APG, 2.2 TOV, 1.8 SPG, 0.6 BPG
2021-2022 Shooting Splits: 43.2/34.9/71.1
Signature Performance: vs. Denver. 31 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 3 steals. 10-20 FG, 1-6 3FG, 10-15 FT
Tough Test(s) (Games Against Quad-1 Competition):
-vs. Iowa. 20 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 2 steals. 9-17 FG, 0-4 3FG, 2-2 FT
vs. South Dakota State (2/17/22). 14 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 3 steals. 5-13 FG, 2-8 3FG, 2-2 FT
A few months back, I started to dig into film on players I was considering for this series. There were some players I hadn’t seen any tape of, but they popped statistically. Others, I’d seen a few times but I never devoted much focus to them. When I did that deep dive, no one surprised me more than Trenton Massner. Yeah, the numbers looked nice on paper, but it was in the Summit League. Then I watched him against big-name competition, and the results showed that the stats are legitimate. 20 points against Iowa, 21 points and 8 rebounds in a win against Nebraska, and 16 points and 8 rebounds in a win against DePaul…this is no joke. Trenton Massner is the real deal.
If you’re unfamiliar with Trenton Massner, the first thing that is going to knock your socks off is his athleticism. Yes, the 6’2” white point guard for the Western Illinois Leathernecks is an honest-to-God good athlete. Offensively, he runs hard off the ball to get himself open. He has good hesitation to set up his drives and has no problem turning the corner on defenders to get to the rim—43.9% of his shots came at the basket in the halfcourt, per Synergy. If he wants to get to the cup, most of the time, he will. When he gets there, he’s good— he converted 55.5% of his shots at the hoop as a junior, per Synergy. Massner has real bounce, especially off two feet. He’s also tough inside, not shying away from contact and even utilizing his second jump to get offensive rebounds. As a right-handed player, he can still finish with his left, but he’ll use a tricky inside-hand finish when needed. He’ll also throw down some nasty dunks when the opportunity arises. On defense, his pop lends itself well in recovery situations and his shot contests are on-point. He’s a persistent presence on the glass on that end, too, thanks to his hops.
There are polished technical elements to his offensive game, too. His footwork is solid and he can hit jumpers off a stepback. If players get tight on him, he can shake or blow by them. Even when he’s operating at a high speed, he still stays in control of the ball. He finished in the 68th percentile per Synergy on isolation possessions, a nice mark for a guard his size given the amount of attention he drew. Massner is comfortable slinging one-handed passes out of a live dribble with his right. He’s also a tremendous outside shooter, which opens up a lot for his game. As a junior, Massner converted 44.6% of his threes off-the-catch per Synergy, which should allow him to scale up to a situation where he isn’t as ball dominant. His release is snappy and he doesn’t need a long load time to get it off. Massner owns a nasty pump-fake, too, which creates nice openings for him to penetrate. He can also shoot off the dribble. In pick-and-roll settings, Massner knocked down 37.7% of his threes, per Synergy. If players go under a screen, they’re toast, and if they get caught by the screen, he can leave them in the dust. He can fit passes to the roll man through tight windows when blitzed, too.
What Needs Improvement
It can be tricky to evaluate defense when it comes to players with such a high offensive work rate, but I still found myself a bit worried about his on-ball defensive prospects. Massner doesn’t change direction that well, causing struggles against counter moves and difficulty navigating screens. While his athleticism allows him to recover well, that ability will be sapped as he faces greater opposition. His lack of size is glaring when he gets switched onto true bigs. For now, his passing reads are more basic, and given that he’s a one-position player, he’ll need to show that he can make more advanced finds. He’s also heavily reliant on driving left, and it would be interesting to see how he responded if that was taken away from him more regularly. His left-attacking drives could also improve if he were to be a proficient live-dribble passer with that hand. It’s a nitpicky critique, but he would often take an extra bit of time to pick up the ball and go back to his right hand to pass on those drives. Every split second matters at the pro level, and Massner could be more dangerous if he cleans that up.
There’s a lot working against Trenton Massner. He’s only 6’2”, he doesn’t make super high-level passing reads, and he plays in a small conference far from the media spotlight. Even worse, Western Illinois is facing massive roster turnover this coming season. After going 16-16 and earning wins against major conference opponents last year, BartTorvik projects this year’s squad to be the 346th best in the country. That means there are only 17 teams slotted behind them. For Massner, that means less to work with and increased attention from opposing defenses. Despite all of this, I’m still holding my Trenton Massner stock. He’s a true high-level athlete who can pressure the rim and he’s an outstanding outside shooter. Watching him against high-major teams, he didn’t look out of place for a second. If his efficiency can hold steady against the adversity in front of him, he deserves a Portsmouth invite and then some. Even if he faces a dip, I’d still like to see him get a nod given what he showed as a junior against great competition.
Sion James, 6’5”, Junior, Tulane
2021-2022 Stats: 7.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.6 TOV, 1.6 SPG, 0.5 BPG
2021-2022 Shooting Splits: 40.9/33.3/70.3
Signature Performance: vs. Temple (2/12/22). 18 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists. 5-10 FG, 2-2 3FG, 6-8 FT
Tough Test(s) (Games Against Quad-1 Competition):
-vs. Houston (2/2/2022). 7 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 1 block, 1 steal. 3-9 FG, 0-3 3FG, 1-1 FT
-vs. Memphis (2/9/2022). 4 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 turnovers, 3 steals. 0-4 FG, 0-1 3FG, 4-4 FT
-vs. Houston (2/23/2022). 13 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover. 5-8 FG, 3-5 3FG
-vs. SMU (3/6/2022). 8 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, 4 steals. 2-6 FG, 0-3 3FG, 4-6 FT
-vs. Houston (3/12/2022). 2 points, 1 rebound, 5 assists, 1 steal. 1-5 FG, 0-2 FT
Sion James grabbed my attention with his sheer ability to fill the box score and impact the game in a multitude of ways. He’s constantly leaving positive fingerprints on the game on both ends of the floor. Few players “do it all” as well as James, which is why he was second on the Green Wave in minutes per game last season.
Right now, James boasts the most upside and promise as a defender. He finished this past season with a 2.6 STL% and 1.7 BLK%. At 6’5” and 205 pounds, he’s built like a pro. The man is both big and shredded, and he’s functionally powerful in a way that lends itself to basketball. He manages to take big strides and cover ground well as a help defender. James moves at a high speed but rarely finds himself off-balance. He has a potent vertical leap and will unleash violent blocks that rip the heart out of the opposing player. James can even get up well from a standstill—in a game against Houston, he met the hyper-athletic Taze Moore at the rim with little preparation and turned him away. His anticipation is on point, allowing him to quickly dart into passing lanes for steals. James’s tools and technique prevent even the quickest guards from being able to exploit him in space. He’s patient and countermoves don’t leave him in the dust. When he’s switched onto a big man, his strength and pop prevent him from being overly disadvantaged. Whether he’s guarding on the ball or having to act in rotation, he’s reliable and a positive force for his team.
Offensively, James is a playmaker who is at his best going downhill. While he doesn’t have the straight-line burst to blow by defenders, he’s a nightmare when he gets a head of steam. James’ power makes him like a snowball rolling down a hill— the further he gets, the more damage he’s able to inflict. His handle is rock solid, and he stays low with the ball. He possesses a good second and third step. As a result, 64.9% of his halfcourt shots come at the rim. Rarely does he get stuck and make a bad choice. Instead, James kicks the rock at the right time rather than overdribbling or picking the ball up at an inopportune time. His vision is tremendous, and over the last ten games, he averaged 4.7 assists to 1.2 turnovers. Including passes, he finished in Synergy’s 75th percentile for pick-and-roll offense. James is an ambidextrous passer who is capable of slinging out of the live dribble with either hand. He excels with finding cutters when defenses overcommit. Inside, he can finish against grown men without issue.
What Needs Improvement
The biggest thing holding back James is his ability to put the ball in the basket efficiently. While he’s good on the ball, he can be a negative off the ball. James only converted 32.1% of his catch-and-shoot threes this past season, per Synergy. While he did knock down 41.2% of his triples over the last ten games, he took under two per game and defenses give him all the room in the world. It’s exceedingly difficult for 6’5” players to succeed in the NBA when they can be completely ignored on the perimeter. While I like his second and third step, he needs to add to his first so that he can capitalize on advantages when the defense is rotating. I have concerns about his physicality scaling up, too, as his strength advantage won’t be as big at the next level.
Tulane is going to have a fairly loaded roster this coming season. They returned a lot of their talent from last year’s squad and have a number of other interesting prospects, namely star point guard Jalen Cook. Given the construction of their roster, it’s difficult to imagine Sion James having a true breakout campaign or posting massive scoring numbers that land him in the 2023 Draft conversation. Still, if he can become a better shooter off the catch and a more well-rounded scorer in general, I think he has a chance in 2024. Few players bring as much versatility to the table on both ends as James; the only thing that’s missing is the jumper. If he can bring that around, he would be difficult to ignore and warrant looks as an undrafted free agent type.
Sam Vinson, 6’5”, Sophomore, Northern Kentucky
2021-2022 Stats: 11.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.4 APG, 2.4 TOV, 2.1 SPG, 0.3 BPG
2021-2022 Shooting Splits: 39.5/35.2/67.7
Signature Performance: vs. University of Illinois-Chicago. 24 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal. 9-18 FG, 2-6 3FG, 4-8 FT
Tough Test(s) (Games Against Quad-1 Competition):
-vs. Indiana. 6 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, 1 steal. 2-9 FG, 1-5 3FG, 1-3 FT
Sam Vinson came from out of nowhere to win the Horizon League’s Freshman of the Year Award. 247Sports had him pegged as the 93rd best shooting guard in the country and a 2-star recruit, but he still made an immediate impact for the Norse. While I doubt Vinson will be making a leap big enough to warrant draft consideration this year, he’s going to be an interesting player to monitor over the next several years due to the skillset he possesses.
Vinson is a persistent thorn in the side of defenses. It starts with his active hands. He has an uncanny ability to generate strips, knocking the ball loose from ball-handlers and unsuspecting big men in the post. Vinson dives on the floor, mucks things up, and is a general instigator of chaos. He monitors the ball and pounces on the opportunity to get his hands dirty as a helper. His knack for generating loose balls and jump balls is second-to-none. Given his length and aggressiveness, there is a lot to like on that end of the floor.
Offensively, Vinson has a lovely set of talents that should theoretically allow him to fit within any context. He finished in Synergy’s 69th percentile on pick-and-roll possessions accounting for assists. His handle is solid, and he finished in the 52nd percentile on runners, a growing tool in his bag for when he gets inside. He’s a capable one-handed passer with both his left and right, and he’s able to drive in either direction. His impressive vision paired with his bag of fakes and misdirection maneuvers allows him to get to his spots effectively as well as find open teammates. There’s some wiggle to his game, enabling him to weave through traffic. His ability to dramatically hesitate and then burst forward freezes defenses and enables him to get to the paint. Vinson’s length creates difficult passing angles to read and intercept. He does a great job of finding the low man on the baseline when the helper comes on drives, and he can also make quick skip passes on the perimeter. Vinson sees the entire floor and delivers sharp, effective cross-court reads.
Off the ball, he’s a more effective floor spacer than his three-point percentage might indicate. Vinson can truly hit from NBA range and he’s a willing shooter who took 8.2 threes per 100 possessions. Defenses can’t ignore him when he’s spotted up. He knocked down 38.6% of his catch-and-shoot threes as a freshman, per Synergy. Vinson also stood out in “gray area” plays. When things don’t go as planned and the offense gets muddled, his ability to hit tough shots often bailed his team out.
What Needs Improvement
While Vinson creates extra possessions with his defense, he can be frustrating on that end at times. He has a tendency to watch the ball. Though this trait doesn’t totally derail things when Northern Kentucky is in a zone (which they play most frequently), it rears its ugly head in man defense. I’m also uncertain which position he would guard best at the next level. His feet don’t move quickly on the ball yet. He can struggle in isolation, and the fluidity that allows him to snake his way to the lane on offense isn’t as present in his hips on the defensive side of the ball. Offensively, he struggles when heavily pressured, which can result in turnovers. Lastly, he’s not an impressive leaper in traffic and he finished in Synergy’s 21st percentile on shots at the rim in the halfcourt. He’ll need to become both more reliable with his floater and a more consistent lay-up finisher against length at the cup.
Sam Vinson has plenty of time on his hands. He’s a player that we as evaluators should be patient with given what he displayed in his first college season. His ambidextrous passing game, floor spacing capabilities, and defensive doggedness at 6’5” are all intriguing. The troubles in his defensive game can be worked out through experience and developing his athleticism. Given his first step against a closeout and general shiftiness, I don’t think it’s out of the question that he can become a steady on-ball defender, at least at the college level. Offensively, he needs to be a bigger threat at the rim. If he can do these things over the next few seasons, he’ll be in the mix for NBA teams.