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Jaylen Forbes is Consistent, Jaylen Forbes is Consistent, Jaylen Forbes is Consistent | The Prospect Overview
Tulane's Jaylen Forbes wasn't just one of college basketball's best three-point shooters last season, he was also one of the most consistent. That consistency might pave him an NBA future.
It’s easy to find comfort in the familiar.
I’m awful at finding new music to listen to. Part of that is that I’m getting older, but the truth is, I’ve been this way for a while. I listened to the 2013 album Talon of the Hawk by The Front Bottoms incessantly for, like, three years after it came out. I had to stop playing it around my wife for a little bit because she was so sick of their songs, and she only heard it a small fraction of the times I did. When I find something that I like, I run it into the ground. There’s a soothing reliability. When I throw on an album that I’ve listened to a million times, I know exactly what I’m getting. I’m not alone in doing this! Ted Gioia published an article in The Atlantic last year about how old music now makes up 70% of the U.S. music market.
Basketball is different than recorded music, though. Every single game is different: the arena, the layout of the stands, the intensity of the fans, the officials, the tightness of the rims. Then there is the matter of the opposing team—their personnel, their coaches, their schemes, their sets, their ball-screen coverages. Add in the possibility that some of those factors might be switched throughout the game itself. For all of those reasons, it’s hard to stay consistent. And consistency is a skill. At the NBA level, coaches want to surround their best players with role players who fulfill their respective duties night in and night out. If a player is high variance in terms of what they bring to the table, it becomes harder for them to hold down a consistent rotation spot. For that reason, when I’m looking at players on the margins of the NBA draft, I tend to gravitate toward the “I know what I’m getting” guys. Jaylen Forbes could be one of those guys.
Three-point shooting is Jaylen Forbes’s bread and butter. Forbes has taken over 10 threes per 100 possessions each of the past three seasons, and he’s knocked down 38.2% of his triples during that timespan. During our conversation (which you can watch here), Forbes noted that his development as a shooter came during high school.
“I actually wasn’t always a shooter, as crazy as it may sound. I really didn’t start shooting the ball as well as I do now until maybe 10th or 11th grade year of high school. Just constantly getting in the gym, staying in the gym, working on different mechanics, just the basics. I just loved doing it, and ever since I started making it, I just stayed working at it, and obviously I’m a pretty good shooter now.”
NBA teams will be getting a willing, high-volume three-point shooter that connects with consistency. The consistency element of his game cannot be understated. Forbes hit a three-pointer in all but one of his games, and he scored over ten points in all but two of his outings. For someone who thrives on a riskier shot diet, he presents an uncanny ability to get steady results. Let’s compare that to other high-end shooters projected to go in the 2023 NBA Draft based on our most recent $DRFT rankings, compiled by our own Corey Tulaba.
Obviously, there are caveats. There are differences in terms of role, defensive attention, and level of opposition. Basketball is also about a lot more than simply making three-pointers and scoring ten points in a given game. Size and age play a factor, too. I’d much rather have someone like Taylor Hendricks, who is larger, can guard more positions, can protect the rim, and is almost three years younger. But the bottom line is that Jaylen Forbes brings a lot less volatility to a normally volatile shot than some of the best shooters in this draft class. Part of why he scored 18.5 PPG on 42.5/38.8/86.1 splits is because he didn’t have many stinkers. Forbes attributes this to his work ethic and the different types of threes he gets up in practice.
“I feel like it’s the work I put in. I’m just constantly in the gym, I don’t go out too much…it gets to the point that my coaches just tell me to not come in the gym any more…I’m just a gym rat, honestly.”
“…Just working on different actions and situations. Transition threes are something I’ve always worked on. I can get conditioning in at the same time as shooting. Transition threes are probably my favorite besides catch-and-shoot.”
Forbes mentioned that whether it’s coming off a screen, taking a deep three, or flying off an action, he does it in practice. The end result is a well-rounded shooting arsenal. Per Synergy, he made 37.5% of his threes off the catch and 42.9% of his threes off the dribble. The transition three, which Forbes noted his affinity for, is a specialty of his. He’s able to use his speed to run the floor, and he knows which lanes to fill on the break. His ability to catch, slam on the brakes, and beautifully spring into his jump shot with clean mechanics is stellar. He converted 38.7% of those threes. This skill lends itself beautifully to the faster pace of the NBA and could make him a threat in early-offense situations, too.
Should his three-point shooting scale up, there’s a clear offensive role for Jaylen Forbes on an NBA roster as a three-point shooter. He can’t be left open, he’ll provide spacing, and he can act as a decoy, running various actions to preoccupy the opponent.
The days of “guys who just shoot threes and can’t defend at all” are coming to an end. For players like Jaylen Forbes, the “D” aspect of “3-and-D” is critical. He’s made steady, stair-step improvements on that end of the floor over the course of his four college seasons.
“Defense was more of a want-to thing. When I first got here, that’s something Coach Hunter was preaching…Coach Hunter kept preaching it, and I found the fun in stopping somebody from scoring the ball. Taking pride in defense, stopping someone from scoring on me. It’s fun stopping people from scoring.”
In this most recent season, Forbes averaged 1.9 SPG and 0.4 BPG. In past seasons, Forbes’s block rate had been quite low, generally a red flag indicator for NBA size and athleticism. He went from blocking four shots as a junior to 11 as a senior and got himself out of the “danger zone” from a statistical standpoint with a 1.1 BLK%, an acceptable mark for a wing.
Like Forbes said, it’s a want-to thing. The biggest difference between Forbes last year and this year is how he moves on defense. In the past, he could be a bit slow on the draw when it came time to move off the ball. Now, he’s recognizing things quicker and busting his tail to cover ground. Forbes also springs off the ground better than I’d previously thought, nabbing blocks on threes after rotating on the perimeter. While he’ll never be counted on to block shots at the NBA level, the fact that he’s at least shown he has the tools to do it at times is a feather in his cap.
What sticks out the most about Forbes defensively is his hands and ability to get steals. His STL% of 2.8 is a great number. He’s a true disruptor. Because he’s moving more consistently, he can get your typical passing lane pickoffs. He’ll deflect passes and force the opposing offense to regroup. But what separates Forbes from other defenders is how he manages to “muck it up.” He’s so quick with his hands that he can knock the ball away from his man without a moment’s notice. Whether the ball is on the ground or in the player’s hands, if Forbes can get to the rock, he will. When it’s on the ground, he can force dribble pick-ups. It doesn’t show up in the stat sheet, but it halts the flow of the offense and forces teams into a tizzy. The man is a pest.
In a pick-and-roll heavy NBA, these traits will be valuable. On those plays, Forbes holds teams to 0.639 points per possession. He might not be the fastest or the longest, but he maximizes what he has. He’ll anticipate screens well, stay connected around them, keep his stance, and play with his arms stretched wide. In doing so, it isn’t easy for players to get where they want against him. By limiting penetration and paint touches, fewer easy passes become available. While his physical tools aren’t elite, Forbes plays with enough tenacity and intelligence that he shouldn’t be an easily exploitable target at the next level.
When I asked Jaylen Forbes what he was most focused on improving during his pre-draft process, he stated his ball handling. I thought it was a good answer! He has real shooting gravity, but with any shooter, the question is always: “what will he do when he’s chased off the line?”
The good news is that Jaylen Forbes has done a great job of limiting his mistakes and has improved when it comes to reading the floor. He posted a positive assist-to-turnover ratio for the first time this season, had a career-high in AST%, and almost notched a career-low TOV%. The bad news is that he’s still a rudimentary playmaker, and his 8.8 AST% is still on the low end for a wing prospect.
One thing Forbes does have in his back pocket is that he’s a pretty solid pull-up shooter, hitting 41% of his jump shots off the dribble inside the arc. He does a good job of slamming on the breaks after leveraging his pump fake and getting into his shooting motion. Where it gets tricky is that he struggles to get closer to the basket. A meager 12.7% of his shots in the halfcourt came at the rim. He converted 53.7%, an okay but not great number. In order to fully realize his gravity, Forbes needs to get downhill more often and make defenses pay when he does.
If you look at how Forbes plays pick-and-roll possessions in the clips above, it gives you a window into where he struggles. Everything is basic, which is fine, but it constrains him given that he’ll be undersized and a run-of-the-mill athlete at the NBA level. His dribble isn’t too wide or in front of him; he keeps his head up, his passing accuracy is solid, and he’ll shoot if he’s given space. Still, he can leave a lot to be desired. He’ll take wide driving angles coming off the screen, giving his defender time to recover and making life easier for the screen defender. Forbes tends to either shoot or simply play the screen the traditional way, making him easier to read. He doesn’t have much in the way of dribble counters or footwork to generate space or leave defenders in the dust.
At the college level, this was okay! Pick-and-roll possessions, including passes, made up 12.5% of his offensive possessions, and he ranked in the 85th percentile in Division I on them, per Synergy. But scouting isn’t about seeing past results and going, “cool; looks good!” It’s about projecting forward. The standard nature of how Forbes creates for himself and others without supreme athletic tools could make for a murky translation at the next level. This is where Forbes needs to demonstrate growth in the coming months.
Jaylen Forbes sat outside of ESPN’s Top 100 on their most recent rankings. However, throughout the course of the season, he’s appeared on many of our internal Top 60s. Forbes has one of the best shooting track records in this class, and he’s an improved defender who plays with a high motor. I saw him play in person back in December, and I was impressed with him from a demeanor standpoint. After a slow first half against George Mason, Forbes changed his approach. He started to attack the basket, getting easier buckets and earning trips to the free-throw line. His body language was stellar, talking and firing up his teammates even before he turned things around. During our conversation, Forbes noted that he does take his body language into account on the floor.
“That’s just something that comes with it. My teammates look up to me when things go the wrong way. I’ve got to make sure my body language is right, even if I’m not making shots at that point in time…Keeping my spirit up helps my teammates keep their spirit up.”
Jaylen Forbes “gets it.” He understands the little things, and he knows his role. When he was tasked with being a leader, he led. But when we talked about playing at the NBA level, he focused on his three-point shooting and guarding his man well. He’s fully confident in his abilities, but there isn’t a negative ego to him, and he seems to firmly grasp the concept of serving the team above himself. He’s going to play hard, shoot threes with a rare level of consistency, and compete on defense. The fact that he isn’t 6’8” and doesn’t appear to have a mega-plus wingspan, as well as the fact that he’s a limited playmaker, will definitely work against him. But when surveying the landscape for players worthy of a two-way contract or late draft pick, you can’t always get everything you want. With Jaylen Forbes, though, you know what you’re getting, like that album you throw on time and time again. He’s more than worthy of a look in that range.
-I finished my deep dive on Cason Wallace, and I came away thoroughly impressed. I’d been critical of his handle, but Wallace’s use of fakes and his strength reliably got him downhill. He actually got to the rim unassisted, and finished better when there, more often than almost any of his guard peers in this class. His nuance as a pick-and-roll ball handler and reader of the floor grew throughout the season. Later in the year, he rejected and re-used screens more consistently. He’ll change speeds to keep defenders on their toes, and he knows which of his shooters have enough space. His pull-up jumper, whether from mid-range or three, is a real weapon. Wallace does a tremendous job of getting his balance in order on those shots, allowing for a clean, consistent motion. His defense has always been a huge selling point, and rightfully so. Wallace is tough, punching above his weight in terms of who he can cover. He’ll swing his hips wide to get around on ball screens, his awareness is sublime, and he thrives as a shot blocker in transition. Wallace feels like a guy who will be on good NBA teams for a very long time, and he’s my favorite of the college guards this cycle. I’ll gladly sign up for a nasty defender who could potentially score at all three levels while setting up their teammates in the top ten.
-I wanted to shine a light on a few college returners, as sadly, they’ll be on my backburner for a while as I focus in on the 2023 Draft.
-I loved the decisions of the various Duke players to return. I’ll start with Tyrese Proctor, as he seemed to have the most momentum prior to announcing his decision. For Proctor, he loses very little by staying another year. In total, he was inefficient, and he was so young that his age won’t be a deterrent next year. Even after the turn of the calendar, Proctor still shot 40% from the field. He’s also still really thin, which would hurt him as a driver and defender out of the gate. By taking another year to develop his body before heading to the league, he’ll be in a better position to maximize his income heading into a second contract. At 6’5”, he showed down the stretch that he can reliably distribute the ball and shoot. With another year under his belt to prepare for NBA physicality and further up his defensive skills, Proctor should be off to the races next year.
-Kyle Filipowski had the most consistent buzz throughout the year of the returners, but I consistently found myself lagging behind the consensus. I actually think Filipowski does a solid job of guarding out in space and plays with a real level of fluidity. I buy the shot, I like how he passes on the go, and I think there’s some real craftiness that goes into how he sets screens. His angles as a screener, and knack for flipping the screen quickly, add another level of complexity to the mix for opposing defenses. Throw in his work rate on the glass, and there’s a lot to like. My biggest hang-up with Filipowski, though, was his interior finishing. While he was great on the offensive glass, many times, it felt like he was collecting his own misses. His 50.9% at the rim in the halfcourt left a lot to be desired. With a full year of experience and more time to grow into his body, I anticipate that we’ll see a stronger, more efficient Filipowski next season.
-Mark Mitchell is simply a man I love to watch play basketball. He has the size, length, and mobility to cover multiple positions. Even better, he’s a savvy operator on both ends of the floor. He knows where to go on defense, and his understanding of rotations helps him pick apart opposing teams when he drives on offense. With his catch-and-shoot jump shot in a reasonable place (37.2% C&S threes, on a little more than 1.0 per game), an uptick in volume could solidify him as a first-round pick next year.
-Lastly, I want to touch on Donovan Clingan. Toward the end of the NCAA Tournament, The Clingan Caravan was the most crowded it had ever been. He was frequently compared to NBA Rookie of the Year candidate Walker Kessler. There are some real differences between the two, though, and I think Clingan heading back to school for a second year was the right move. For starters, Kessler played nearly twice the amount of minutes per game that Clingan played in his final college season. Kessler also posted an absurd 19.1 BLK% that year. So while Clingan’s 14.3 BLK% is nothing to sneeze at, he wasn’t quite the shot blocker that Kessler was while playing significantly fewer minutes. Kessler also held opponents to 32.5% at the rim vs. Clingan’s 42.5%. Again, none of this is said to diminish Donovan Clingan. He’s a tremendous prospect, and I believe he has a real NBA future. But I think some evaluators were putting the cart ahead of the horse with him, and the best way for him to minimalize his potential is by spending another year at UConn. In high school, Clingan was a heavy, lumbering mover. He’s already shown a propensity to improve upon that issue in Storrs, Connecticut. That’s his biggest issue right now and workshopping it against a similar level of competition will allow him to explore the studio space more freely in other areas. There’s even a chance he could catch those Walker Kessler markers during his sophomore campaign. In the age of NIL, there is no need for many players to rush to the NBA (there are always exceptions). At UConn, Clingan can continue to develop in an environment he’s grown comfortable in, with less pressure, and more stability.