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Sleeper Deep Dives: Jordan Hawkins
Jordan Hawkins showed flashes last season, but he has blossomed in a much larger role this year for the UConn Huskies. His elite shooting touch and great help defense might merit a first round look.
Jordan Hawkins turned some heads as a draft prospect during his first season for the Connecticut Huskies, as he showed some flashes and even started a few games for UConn. The DeMatha Catholic High School graduate was the 48th-ranked player in his high school class, but he impressed many draft evaluators enough to mark him as a prospect to remember.
So far, in the early going of this season, Hawkins has taken a huge leap in his sophomore year. Following UConn’s Wednesday night blowout 75-54 victory against the Florida Gators, Hawkins is averaging 13.5 points per game on 40/39/77 shooting splits, along with 2.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game in 23.8 minutes per game (albeit with two games in which he played under 10 minutes, one due to injury and one due to foul trouble) through eight games, all of them as a starter. His elite floor spacing, paired with his solid play on the defensive end, has been a huge boon to a UConn team that has put together a spectacular start to the season.
While the main draw for Hawkins is his exceptional shooting touch, his growth since last season is a strong positive indicator of his future potential. Hawkins is still a bit of a sleeper prospect when it comes to first round hype, though, as he ranked 36th in the initial $DRFT rankings for the season put together by our own Corey Tulaba.
Jordan Hawkins is off to a hot start, along with the rest of his team, but he has the shooting touch and defensive ability to continue to play at that high level throughout the season. NBA teams are always looking for 3-and-D wings, and Hawkins has the requisite shooting touch and size at 6’5” and a solidly-built 185-pound frame to fit the bill. His skill set meshes so well with the modern NBA game that it will be very difficult for teams to gloss over him when it comes to the later picks in the first round of the 2023 NBA Draft. So…let’s dive deep!
Offense: Stellar Shooting and Passing Flashes
The place to start with the Jordan Hawkins discussion is his shooting touch—especially from beyond the arc. He is putting up 7.4 three-point attempts per game this season, and he’s knocking them down at a Big East-leading 39.0% clip. Hawkins has a smooth shooting stroke with a quick release, and he is adept at getting his shot off in a variety of ways, even when heavily contested. He is excellent as a shooter on spot-ups and shooting off screens, he can create his own looks from deep off the dribble, and he is also lethal as a trail shooter in transition. His shooting versatility is incredibly impressive, and it is the main driving force behind his offensive game:
Hawkins has excellent touch on his mid-range jumper as well, but the primary strength of his offense is the three-point shot—especially this season. He put up more shots from deep than shots from inside the arc in his first season for the Huskies, and that difference has ballooned in the early going of this season. A whopping 69.4% of his shot attempts this season have come from long-range, despite heavy contests on plenty of those attempts. Hawkins has a decent enough handle for a wing, and he can drive to the basket when given an opening; however, every team facing him knows that he will do the vast majority of his damage from deep.
The advanced stats for Hawkins certainly back up the impressive shooting of the film. While his overall percentage from the floor isn’t particularly impressive, his solid 56.6% True Shooting Percentage shows his efficiency on a heavy long-range diet. Hawkins also ranks in the 86th percentile scoring off screens, in the 80th percentile on spot-ups, and in the 61st percentile in transition (all percentile rankings per Synergy)—with long-range shots counting for the majority of his looks on all three play types. Simply put, Hawkins is an exceptionally gifted long-range marksman who has shown that he can score effectively in all of the ways that an NBA team would want to see from an off-ball floor spacer.
While the shooting touch and versatility are foundational areas of his game, Hawkins has shown growth as a shooter in his sophomore season—especially off screens, where he was middlingly effective in his first college season. Since he will probably spend a lot more time in motion as an off-ball player at the next level, that growth as a shooter will certainly continue to be a sizable factor in his game going forward.
The continued shooting development is important, but Hawkins has also shown growth in another key area: his passing. He wasn’t incapable as a ball-mover last season, but he could occasionally be a bit unwilling; Hawkins dished out just 14 assists against 26 turnovers in nearly 400 minutes in his first college season.
This year, Hawkins has nearly matched that assist total through his first eight games in less than half of the minutes. While the sample size is admittedly small, he has 13 assists against 10 turnovers to start the season. More important than those raw numbers, however, is his increased willingness and ability to make the right read. Hawkins has been more content to make the simple pass and keep the ball moving this season rather than forcing something up. However, he has also shown an increased proficiency to make more advanced reads and more difficult passes, both from a standstill and off the bounce, that point to more potent passing gifts. Every once in a while, he slings a pass through traffic that makes it even easier to project positive growth in his playmaking game:
Jordan Hawkins is not going to be good enough as a passer to be a primary point guard or anything like it at the next level, but he also doesn’t need to be. His elite spacing off the ball makes him a threat to find a good shot for himself behind the arc on every possession when he’s on the floor, but he also needs to be able to keep the offense moving when he doesn’t have a good look. NBA teams will look to force Hawkins off the three-point line even more than college teams, so it becomes even more imperative for players to avoid junking up the flow of the offense when they’re forced away from their strength. So far this season, Hawkins has shown promising signs on that front to pair with his incredible shooting.
Defense: Help Defender Extraordinaire
While the shooting touch and overall offense will be the main driver of draft hype for Jordan Hawkins, he is far from an offense-only player. His defense has been a significant factor in his success in the early going of this season, and his play on that end of the floor may end up being the deciding factor in terms of his long-term NBA future.
Hawkins is a decent but not spectacular athlete by NBA standards; while he does have occasional lapses, he is usually pretty reliable as an on-ball defender. He has a solid base already, and it is pretty easy to project him adding more muscles to his frame relatively quickly at the NBA level—Hawkins has broad shoulders, and he should continue to fill out as he grows older.
Where Hawkins really shines, however, is as an off-ball defender. He has exceptional instincts as a help defender, and he can take over defensive possessions and ruin opposing offenses by himself. Most of his lapses in attentiveness on the ball are due to this hyperactivity off the ball; it can be difficult to stay glued to your man when you’re also trying to guard multiple different off-ball actions at once, as Hawkins often does:
Hawkins does pretty well in the traditional defensive box score numbers; he is averaging 0.8 blocks and 0.6 steals per game as a primarily off-ball guard on the defensive end, and his Block Percentage of 2.7% is currently 17th in the Big East. The advanced metrics also bolster the case that the film makes for Hawkins as a defender. Hawkins ranks in the 85th percentile defensively this season, per Synergy. Despite missing two games, he ranks just barely outside of the Top 20 in the Big East with 0.6 Defensive Win Shares already, and he ranks 11th in the conference in Defensive Box Plus/Minus. He is a key component of UConn’s all-world defense to start the season.
Jordan Hawkins has the size and athleticism to guard most NBA guards and wings effectively, and his frame suggests the potential to maybe be effective on larger forwards in the future. Even if he is primarily a 2/3 defender at the next level, though, Hawkins has the off-ball chops to be a defensive menace in the NBA. When combined with his elite long-range shooting, his defensive excellence off the ball makes Hawkins a ready-made 3-and-D threat.
Jordan Hawkins and the UConn Huskies have a sold argument as the best team in college basketball so far. Their drubbing of Florida in their previous outing brought the Huskies to 10-0 on the season. After finishing fifth in the most recent AP Poll, they seem poised to jump even higher in the next edition, barring what would be a stunning upset loss to Long Island on Saturday.
Hawkins has been the breakout star of this Huskies team. He is second in points per game behind only preseason Wooden Award nominee Adama Sanogo, and Hawkins has been a huge part of the team’s defensive success as a switching, chaos-creating off-ball menace.
While there are certainly plenty of games left to be played, UConn has steamrolled teams in the early going, and the Huskies appear to be on track for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. With Hawkins and Sanogo leading the way, and with a bevy of talented players behind them, UConn has as good of a chance as pretty much anyone at capping off the season with a National Title.
Jordan Hawkins arrived at the University of Connecticut as a freshman with plenty of legacies to carry forward. The DeMatha Catholic High School graduate was yet another player in the storied legacy of one of the greatest high school programs in the country. NBA Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley honed his craft at DeMatha; more recently, Victor Oladipo, Jerian and Jerami Grant, and Markelle Fultz all starred for the Hyattsville, Maryland powerhouse. As a UConn shooting guard, Hawkins was also, of course, following in the footsteps of another Hall of Fame shooting guard, Ray Allen, along with Rip Hamilton and the countless others who have made their way through Storrs, CT, on their way to the NBA.
While the legacies of DeMatha and UConn are nearly impossible to live up to, Hawkins has begun to carve out a space for himself among those greats this season. After an up-and-down first season with the Huskies, he has really started to blossom in his sophomore season as an integral part of one of the best teams in the country.
Regardless of the legacies of those who came before him or the expectations for this season, though, Jordan Hawkins has started to carve out a path of his own this season. If he continues his stellar play on both ends of the floor throughout the season and builds on his already impressive 3-and-D skill set, Hawkins will make a case for himself that playoff-caliber teams in need of one more piece on the wing would be wise to consider selecting him before Adam Silver walks off the stage at the end of the first round of the 2023 NBA Draft.