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PJ Hall, Casserole Player | The Prospect Overview
PJ Hall's shooting, feel, and physicality could lead him to a long NBA career. PLUS: Weber State vs. Yale in the Mid-Major Game of the Week and loads of Quick Hits across college hoops!
Feature: PJ Hall, Casserole Player
Thanksgiving is right around the corner. As a big-time eater, it’s a joyous occasion for me. In recent years, though, turkey has become a hotly debated subject. Some claim turkey is a bland, lower-tier meat. Others will say that turkey is good, and that if you don’t like it, that’s only because you don’t know how to cook it or you’re not seasoning it enough. Personally, I like turkey. I like both the white meat and the dark meat, because I’m not a loser with an itty-bitty baby pallet.
But if we’re being real, turkey is toward the bottom of the Protein Big Board. When I put together a meal, I like the protein to be the star of the show. I don’t care if it’s beef, chicken, or seitan; that’s the focus for me. But proteins, like even the greatest NBA superstars, have their positives and their shortcomings. They have strengths that can be heightened and weaknesses that can be better hidden by their surroundings. Turkey just happens to have more flaws than others, so it needs a bit more help. That’s why you’ve got to load up on sides.
Much like a Thanksgiving plate, an NBA team has more complementary components than focal points. A slice of turkey breast by itself probably isn’t winning a Michelin star, and even a great like Nikola Jokic isn’t winning an NBA title if he’s surrounded by me and three dudes from my pick-up team. But I’ll gladly chow down on turkey alongside mashed potatoes, stuffing, and sweet potato pie. And when Nikola Jokic is surrounded by shooters, athletes, and defenders, he’s able to feast on his opponents. In the NBA Draft, more often than not, the stars are at the top. There are exceptions (see: the guy I just named two sentences ago), but oftentimes, teams picking in the later part of the first round or in the second round are best served seeking players who can play a role alongside a star and make their life easier. One such player in the 2024 draft could be Clemson senior PJ Hall.
Screening and Scoring
The easiest way for a role player to carve out a rotation spot is by contributing to winning in a low-maintenance manner that opens up the floor for the team’s best players. Hall is able to do that through his screening and scoring. First of all, Hall is physically built for the NBA. At G League Elite Camp, Hall stood 6’8.25” with a 7’1.5” wingspan and a 9’0” standing reach. Physically, he compares closely to guys like Richaun Holmes, Trey Lyles, and Daniel Theis (shoutout to YoungWizzyDFS and his measurements comparison tool). He knows how to use his raw power, particularly as a screener. When a guard runs his man into PJ Hall, the defender is going to feel it for the next month. He’s like a brick wall, and his willingness to lean into his physicality helps get his teammates advantages.
A lot of guys can set picks, but what sets Hall apart is his versatility as a screener. First off, he’s a reliable floor spacer and knockdown pop man. Hall is off to a scorching start from deep, hitting 40% of his triples on five attempts per game. This isn’t new, either. While the volume was lower, Hall hit 39.8% of his threes last year. His high release point helps him in the face of a closeout, as he hit 36.4% of his contested threes last year, per Synergy. At G League Elite Camp and the NBA Combine, Hall looked more than comfortable, and in fact, looked confident, getting into his jumper from behind the NBA line.
If a team wants Hall to make contact, pop, and knock down a triple, he’ll be able to do that. If they just want him to stand behind the arc to give space for their star players to cook, he’ll be able to do that, too. But what makes Hall unique at his size is that he’s polished when it comes to moving into his shot. His pre-shot footwork, the bend he gets in his knees prior to the catch, and the minimal dip in his motion are a beautiful combination that you rarely see in players with his body type. These tendencies also help him get the ball off in a hurry, a necessity given the fast-paced stylings of the modern NBA. Hall could add further punch as a ghost screener, or as a player who comes off ball screens at the next level.
Given Hall’s gravity on the perimeter, he adds to his screen versatility as a roller. His strong frame and broad shoulders make him a potent threat as he speeds downhill. Because teams are worried about his jump shot, when Hall does slip a screen, defenses are often caught off guard. He also has good spring off two feet and goes up strong, looking to tear the rim off the basket. Contact won’t dissuade him, and he won’t wilt when another big body bounces into him. He has the touch to convert a layup or hook if he can’t get a jam, and he’s adept with both hands around the cup. Hall shot nearly 70% at the rim in the halfcourt last season, per Synergy.
Hall can score in other ways that don’t involve screening, too. He’s an adept cutter. On the low block, he blends his power with finesse and can finish with touch. He also has a bit of a shot-making bag out of the mid-post and can hit a nice fallaway jumper at the end of the shot clock when needed. He’s also willing to bang it out on the offensive glass to generate easy putbacks. In total, Hall is a guy who can score at multiple levels, provide spacing, and score points in a way that doesn’t require taking the ball out of your star player’s hands too often.
Keeping It Moving
Go look up the NBA stats for guys who play over 15 minutes per game and have negative assist-to-turnover ratios. There aren’t many of them, especially on good teams. Teams need guys who can make good decisions with the ball and make them in a hurry. Hall has done that so far for Clemson, posting a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and a stellar 25.3 AST% in a leading role through their first three contests. While Hall has no issue moving off the ball or swinging it to the next man, he’s shown the advanced, more creative chops that help players pop at the next level. He’s able to see multiple reads, make cross-court passes to open shooters, and pass players open when they have a path to the rim as a cutter. His gravity as a shooter, screen-setting prowess, and floor vision should make him a formidable handoff operator. Some prospects struggle to adapt to a more tertiary role, but Hall’s skill set should make that adjustment an easy one.
Coming into the year, my biggest concern with PJ Hall was on the defensive end. Positionally speaking, he’s a bit of a 4/5 tweener. That’s far from a kiss of death, as players like Jaylin Williams and Santi Aldama have made that work in recent years. In terms of defensive production, Hall’s numbers are in a similar vicinity to those two. That’s made more impressive when understanding the context of Hall’s season last year, as he was injured out of the gate and took a while to get going. Even better, Hall’s early returns this season have been encouraging.
Around the basket, Hall has been able to use his length and strength to his advantage. On the block, he’s using his chest well and using his feet to maintain position. He’s avoided overplaying guys to one side and giving them an easier path to the cup. Hall rarely bites on fakes, an important micro-skill that prevents him from getting off-balance and needing to recover. He’s visibly talking and communicating throughout any given possession. His instincts as a rim protector are rock solid, and he knows when to help at the basket. When drivers go at him directly, he’s able to maintain verticality.
Hall’s pop off two feet and ball-tracking have helped him to swat two shots per game, a career high. He excels at getting in low and meeting the ball where it is as opposed to trying to beat everyone above the rim. The icing on the cake is that he’s made this improvement without much additional fouling. He’s also displayed an unrelenting motor on the defensive glass, preventing opponents from getting easy second chances. He’s always finding somebody and throwing his body on them.
Where Hall worries me is that he can be a little heavy-footed. Though his discipline does a wonderful job of compensating for this issue, Hall can struggle against sudden changes in direction. His stop/start, quick-twitch movement ability isn’t anything to write home about. Still, I’ve been impressed with how Hall has done when switched down this season. He’s far from dead meat on an island because he doesn’t get his feet crossed up, he stays wide in his stance, and he gets up easily out of his slide. Against UAB, he had a critical block late in the game after cutting off Eric Gaines, one of the best athletes in college hoops. Between plays like that and his increased block rate, there’s reason to be optimistic about Hall holding up well at both the four and five spots in the NBA depending on the construction of his team’s roster.
Four/five tweeners can be scary to some, especially when they don’t fit neatly into an archetypal box. They might not be the most imposing rim defenders, and they might not be the “switch everything” athletic marvels that have front offices foaming at the mouth. Sometimes, as evaluators, we have to push aside the desire for positional homogeny and simply acknowledge that a dude can ball, and that’s what PJ Hall does.
Also, there are guys who play like PJ Hall who have made quite a bit of money in the NBA while playing for winning teams. There are shades of players like the previously mentioned Daniel Theis, Patrick Patterson, and Zach Collins. He’s got a rugged toughness about him that enables him to control the glass. He’ll pop off two feet to finish the easy stuff inside. He’s a skilled outside shooter who can move seamlessly into his jumper from long range after a screen. Whether he’s operating on the block or at the top of the key, he’s able to wire the ball to open teammates for open looks. His strength, footwork, and savvy help prevent easy looks on the defensive end. The nature of his game isn’t one-note, like a piece of broccoli. Instead, it’s layered and multifaceted, like a mushroom wild rice casserole. He can be complementary, but rather than just a specialist, he’d be more of a…casserole player. For whatever reason, it felt like Hall’s buzz waned after a strong combine performance. But after a blazing hot start to the year, it’s time that we all make like the most annoying kid in our high school and become Hall Monitors. His skill set, which is both malleable and conducive to winning basketball, could lead him to a long, productive NBA career.
Mid-Major Game of the Week
This week’s Mid-Major Game of the Week was Weber State vs. Yale. And folks, it rocked. Regulation ended in a tie, so we got five minutes of extra basketball before Weber State pulled away, 75-65.
As expected, Dillon Jones was the best player on the floor. He tested the draft waters last year, and despite a strong pre-draft process, he returned to school. At a hair under 6’5” barefoot with a 6’11” wingspan, Jones has always been talented. Some things haven’t changed—he still rebounds exceptionally well for his size, he still bullies smaller players whenever he gets a chance, and he’s always on the lookout for open teammates when he’s attacking.
That said, I believe the Dillon Jones we’re seeing now is monumentally different than the one we saw a year ago. I covered Jones for my No Stone Unturned series prior to last season. While I was highly intrigued by his skill set, I lamented his poor motor, iffy fitness level, and ground-bound nature. He still doesn’t get off the floor that well, but his body has undergone a massive transformation, and questioning his effort is no longer fair. Jones is playing his tail off the entire game. He’s getting up and down the floor the entire game, he looks much better, and his agility is much better. On defense, he’s more engaged. In this game, he used his length well to stay in front of opponents, and a few of his spirited rotations prevented easy looks. When teammates missed shots, he gave encouragement and high-fives. On offense, he’s less reliant on having to go back to the basket, as he’s developed a genuine, more NBA-style face-up game. He’s been more aggressive and assertive shooting off the catch.
This version of Jones is a Top 30 player. His feel is off the charts, he’s playing hard, and while his NBA role will be smaller, Jones has shown that he has no issue taking a back seat at times. He’s a sharp passer and a polished ball-handler, and I buy the shot. He’s long, positionally strong, and knows where to go. At his size, that’s a real rotation player. Getting to see Jones go from where he was as a sophomore to where he is now has been a treat.
On the Yale side, Danny Wolf blew me away. The seven-footer posted 20 points, nine rebounds, and two blocks. He’s got a strong, 255-pound frame and excellent hands. His jump shot looks great from behind the arc and he has soft touch around the basket. Wolf can also put it on the floor, with dribble moves and combinations polished enough to make other bigs uncomfortable in space. He got himself into trouble trying to do too much with the ball at times, but that may be the nature of his increased role to start the year. He’s a high-skill big with a body built for pro physicality, and that will always be interesting to me. I’ll be keeping an eye on him.
Bez Mbeng and John Poulakidas deserve hat tips, too. Mbeng had a rough shooting night, but he’s an unbelievable defender. He can stick to guys like glue, and that’s what he did to Dillon Jones during the second half, allowing Yale to climb back from down over ten points. He forced turnovers and ugly misses from Jones on multiple occasions, despite a noticeable size disadvantage. He ended the night with four blocks and two steals. If the (listed at) 6’4” junior can get a jumper going, he might be a watchlist guy. Poulakidas started slow, but his confidence never faded and he made some big shots down the stretch. The 6’5” wing is a legit shot-maker with NBA range who sees the floor well and has some meat on his bones. Adding more to his defensive arsenal could get him on the map.
Next week’s Mid-Major Game of the Week will be Penn vs. Belmont. Stay tuned to the rest of this column for more on one of the players in that game! Make sure you’re following me on Twitter/X to vote in the Mid-Major Game of the Week poll each week!
-I am extremely in on Ryan Dunn. The 6’8” Virginia forward is simply too potent defensively to ignore. Sure, there’s the “will he shoot it?” question. Here’s the thing—the forwards who didn’t shoot it well in college but still stuck around the NBA are some combination of strong, athletic, high feel, high motor, and potent on defense. Ryan Dunn is all of those things. His floor is safe. And if he does shoot it? You’re off to the races. I don’t see a non-Top 20 case for him.
-The next time I update my board, I’m going to strap the rocket ship to Carey Booth. Notre Dame’s 6’10” freshman is confident in his outside jumper. He’s got a fast shooting motion and can convert in the face of a closeout. When he’s chased off the line, he has real explosion off one foot, but he can also pull up and hit a tough one in the mid-range. Most guys his size don’t have his shiftiness when going to the rack. Whether it’s after he grabs an offensive rebound or catches the ball on the perimeter prior to a shot, he goes right up with the rock. There’s no loading up or dipping the ball down. He’s decisive, making his determination as to attack or shoot quickly. Booth never stops and surveys. Sometimes, he gets tunnel vision as a result of that pace, but that can be worked out in time. He’ll get caught flat-footed defensively on occasion. That said, he’s fiery and competitive. Between his mentality, size, and assertiveness as a three-level scorer, I’m completely enamored with Booth. Given how thin the Notre Dame roster is, it will be tough for him to maintain his efficiency. He already had one quiet game against Auburn, and it won’t be his last. But I’m willing to bite given the rarity of his skill set.
-Adem Bona is taking jumpers and looks more comfortable putting the ball on the deck. That’s terrifying! Between his relentless motor, long arms, and agile feet, there was already a lot to like about Bona as a switchable, rim-protecting play-finisher. That said, I’m not going to complain if he puts icing on the cake.
-Colorado’s Tristan Da Silva is a guy I’ve had a hard time with. On one hand, there’s a lot to like about the 6’9”, 220-pound senior forward. While the volume has been moderate, he’s knocked down over 40% of his triples over this season and the last two. There’s minimal dip on his shot and he gets it off in a hurry. He sees the floor well and can make long, cross-court passes or effectively execute a high-angle post entry. On defense, his length and size make him difficult to get around. He times digs well and generates steals at a good clip for someone his size. On the other hand, I worry about his lack of athleticism and how his strength will stack up at the next level. His first step is often slow, and when bigger guys put their body on him, he doesn’t handle it well. Defensively, he doesn’t have much spring as a leaper and he can struggle against directional changes. He’s a wait-and-see guy as far as where he’ll land on my board at the end of the year. Still, his savvy, shooting, and length give him a much safer floor than most.
-I’m coining the phrase “Hodge Candidate.” It’s inspired by D’Moi Hodge, and it’s my phrase for a prospect who is extremely old by college standards, but may still be good enough to command a two-way contract. Utah’s Branden Carlson is a Hodge Candidate. The seven-footer will be 25 come draft night. Still, he’s mobile, has great pop off the floor, and a buttery jumper. His rim protection instincts and fluidity give him some versatility on defense, and his inside-out scoring profile is desirable for a big man. The margin for error will be slim, but don’t write off Carlson.
-Staying in the state of Colorado, let’s talk Colorado State’s Joel Scott. Scott is a graduate up-transfer who shot 39.6% from deep during his four D2 seasons. At 6’7”, 225 pounds, he’s physically strong. He uses his frame to get to the basket and free-throw line on a consistent basis. He’s able to put it on the floor, and he’s got some real savvy as a passer. On defense, he uses his intellect, power, and pop to make plays within a team construct. It’s early, but he’s caught my eye as a powerful dribble-pass-shoot forward who has something to offer on defense.
-I love what I’m seeing from Old Dominion’s Chaunce Jenkins. I covered him over the offseason for my No Stone Unturned series, as he was one of my favorite sleepers coming into the year. The 6’4” guard is a ridiculous athlete. He can put anybody on a poster, but he also has some dribble craft and shiftiness to get inside. His work rate on defense is out of this world. He stays in front well, and the combination of his speed and leaping ability allows him to be an active off-ball playmaker. After a slow first staff, Jenkins dropped 21 points on Arkansas this past week. My big concern with Jenkins coming into the season was his jumper. So far, he’s not just taking substantially more threes—he’s hitting them, too. Few have the athletic tools that Jenkins possesses, and the late-bloomer is continuing to put it all together. Get him on your radar.
-Penn’s Tyler Perkins is off to a hot start. The 6’4” freshman guard asserted himself into the conversation with a 22-point outing in Penn’s upset victory against Villanova. His unrelenting motor on the glass reminds me a little bit of Brandin Podziemski last year, as Perkins is averaging 7.8 per game through three contests despite his relative lack of height. Listed at a strong 205 pounds, he uses physicality on the glass, as a screener, and as a bully against other guards on the block. He’s already built like an NBA guard. He makes hustle plays in gray areas on defense and racks up steals. He’s also a mesmerizing shot maker who can successfully pull up in the mid-range or from three. The lefty uses fakes well and uses a variety of ball screen setups to keep defenders off-balance. It’s early in the year, so it’s best to be cautious, but Perkins appears to be a legitimate NBA prospect in the long run.
-Butler’s Connor Turnbull is a long-term deep cut that I’ll be keeping eyes on. At 6’10”, the sophomore can be an awkward, clunky mover when going north-south. He doesn’t have much wiggle to him and appears stiff at times. That makes it all the more shocking when he absolutely soars off the floor to swat the shots of opponents on a consistent basis. His high motor, length, and help instincts enabled him to block ten shots and swipe four steals through the first three games of the year. Through two seasons, he’s 11-for-25 from deep, though his slow, elongated shooting motion isn’t the prettiest thing in the world. It looks weird, but I can’t quit the idea of Turnbull as a giant, high-feel floor spacer who makes a ton of plays on defense. With athletic improvements and a sped-up jumper, he could find himself in the mix at some point.