Discover more from No Ceilings
The Rescoutables : Aaron Estrada, Kam Jones, Jayden Nunn, and Aidan Mahaney
Which returners have had their film age the best over the break? Stephen shares his thoughts!
First of all, yes…the title of this article is inspired by the legend himself: Bill Simmons. Prospect film—like movies or shows—strikes you differently when you visit it again. Upon first glance, you may like the undersized combo guard that can go on a heater. But, after further review, you might notice that the very same player holds on to the ball after the catch instead of making an immediate drive to the rim. Perhaps you underestimated the bounce of a particular wing? Or did you notice that a big you liked had a problem gathering a pass on the move? I hate it when that happens.
Whatever the case, diving into the film for the umpteenth time after a little break affords the time for clarity—for illumination.
The draft community is at its best when we’re working together. At No Ceilings, we share notes all of the time. We’re also very blessed to know a wide range of folks that we can bounce ideas and takes off. What I want to do here is share some of the names that have stood out to me when watching their film in preparation for this season. These players were not prospects I had in a range that I would have invested draft capital in last season. Therefore, you won’t see some of the players that have been buzzing in the dog days of the scouting cycle on here.
In this two-part series, I will drop some names that I feel have a legit opportunity to be drafted this coming NBA Draft if everything breaks right. This will be broken up by the backcourt, then the frontcourt.
Let’s get to it…
Aaron Estrada | 6’3” | 190 lbs. | Alabama | Senior
When I watched Aaron Estrada last season, there was a lot to be intrigued by. Throughout the year, I would check in to see how he was doing at Hofstra and would come away impressed more times than not. That being said, he was not a player that I prioritized as a “must-watch” prospect on a consistent basis.
In this past draft, 15 guards were taken in the first round, while another eight were taken in the second round—which meant that Estrada had an uphill battle to be selected. On top of that, he also had the small school stigma attached to his name. Considering all of that, it was easy for me to assume that he wouldn’t commit to being drafted despite having a solid year. When revisiting his film, a lot of what impressed me last season has only gotten better!
It’s well chronicled that the NBA is looking for height at every position. It’s immensely valuable to have plus size at your position, on top of being able to dribble, pass, and shoot. This makes the bar that much higher for guards of Estrada’s stature to clear. So…what do these guards need to possess?
For one, you have to space the floor if you don’t have that height-of-eye advantage as an NBA guard. Aaron does this very well. On over six attempts per game (190 total attempts), Estrada converted 36.8% from distance last season. When breaking down the jumper, Aaron was in the 75th percentile (Very Good) on all of his jump shots and in the 80th percentile (Very Good) on catch-and-shoot opportunities. He was in the 83rd percentile (Very Good) when guarded on jump shots and in the 62nd percentile (Good) when left alone. It’s easy to envision him playing next to a plus-sized creator and hitting 3s like the one above, or providing spacing to punish the defense on scramble plays like this next one.
It didn’t take long to remind me why Estrada was ranked in the 91st percentile (Excellent) on his spot-up plays.
Aaron was also a better finisher around the bucket than he probably got recognized for. He converted on about 55% of all of his two-pointers while grading out in the 51st percentile (Good) on his at-rim shots. He was in the 61st percentile (Good) on layups and in the 60th (Good) percentile when utilizing a runner. At the next level, Estrada won’t be asked to dribble the air out of the ball, poking and prodding his way to the basket. But, against a recovering defense or operating on second-side actions, his ability to convert in the lane is beneficial for his projections.
While Estrada may not end up being an offensive hub at the next level, the ability to find the next pass is still an essential skill. On the season, Aaron recorded an assist percentage of 23.3—higher than average.
Aaron racked up 132 assists this past season, which was down from the 160 he recorded the year before. Even still, his 4.3 assists per game were enough to land him at sixth in total assists in the CAA. Per Synergy, he was in the 78th percentile in terms of possessions including assists. Aaron is a very capable passer and decision-maker, which will help him be able to play off of other NBA stars.
Aaron had a very good season on the defensive side of the ball. While his steals percentage, 2.4, isn’t elite, it is certainly impactful. Estrada is a pest against opposing point guards, and he has been in the Top 10 in steals per game for his conference in each of the past two seasons. You can see here that he can maintain positioning with his assignment, and display smart hands when the ball handler gets a little lax.
You won’t find Aaron’s name on the big boards of many reputable outlets, but I am willing to bet that the faces behind those places are keeping their fingers on the pulse of his draft stock. It’s very difficult for a mid-major star to pop as a draftable prospect unless their talent is undeniable. I love the move to transfer to Alabama for Estrada, as he has the typical size, acumen, and physical traits that have succeeded in the university’s history. He’s a Top 100 talent…the question is: How high does he climb?
Kam Jones | 6’5” | 200 lbs. | Marquette | Junior
Marquette was a very fun team to watch last season. The 24th pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, Olivier-Maxence Prosper, feverishly climbed up the boards as the draft night grew closer following a successful year with the Golden Eagles. Another returning player for this team, Oso Ighodaro, is projected to go anywhere from a late first round pick to becoming an undrafted free agent. Guard prospect Tyler Kolek is also on the radar for several outlets as a draftable player.
When re-watching Marquette, the one player that aged gracefully on film to my eyes is the seemingly-growing Kam Jones. On my database from last year, Kam was listed as 6’4”. The 2023-2024 roster on the team’s website now has him listed at 6’5”! Now, I understand that schools can oftentimes stretch the truth when they publicize a player’s height, but if Jones is growing, sign me up for his draft stock following suit.
Jones graded out in the 92nd percentile (Excellent) in overall offense, not grading out any lower than in the 60th percentile (Good) in any offensive play type.
Last season, Jones showed the potential to be able to create something out of nothing. That’s not to say he didn’t have great teammates, but his contributions went a little under the radar. On handoffs, he graded out in the 77th percentile (Very Good) on 60 possessions, per Synergy. When conducting the pick and roll, he was in the 86th percentile (Excellent) on 122 possessions.
On these play types, Kam was able to use the threat of the two-man games to create separation. But he also possesses a nice handle and smooth footwork. Running this pick-and-roll, Kam is able to use the threat of coming off of the screen to set up a beautiful step-back jumper. With the threat of running the pick and roll to completion, Jones was able to score on 46.9% of all possessions that fell under this play type. Interesting note: he also shot 45.5% when rejecting the screen.
Kam has a great sense of knowing when to drive, but he also knows when to pull up. I’ve mentioned it before—and it’ll continue—but having the requisite skillset to play alongside other initiators is vital for guards looking to be drafted. If Jones winds up being 6’5”, he’ll be afforded more opportunities to initiate if everything breaks right. If not, Kam will still be able to contribute as a floor spacer.
Kam was in the 92nd percentile (Excellent) in spot-up opportunities—shooting 43.5% on no-dribble jumpers. He was in the 56th percentile (Good) when guarded on catch-and-shoot plays and was in the 74th percentile on unguarded ones. On plays like the one above, you can see that Jones steps confidently into his shots and has beautiful mechanics.
Jones ranked in the 83rd percentile (Very Good), per Synergy, when combining possessions and assists. There’s a lot to be said about how passing metrics accurately capture a player’s ability to process the game, but let’s just take a look at the following:
Assist percentage: 12.7
Turnover percentage: 8.9
Total Assists: 72
Total Turnovers: 36
For those who are not super familiar with the analytics, these numbers are favorable. The assist numbers and percentages aren’t earth-shattering, but the turnover numbers are solid.
Jones isn’t what I would call a floor bender. He hasn’t shown the ability to manipulate the defense in a way that makes him a heliocentric initiator. But what he does do is make simple-but-smart plays with the ball. You can see in the clip posted above: Jones is rightfully trusted to make intelligent plays with other players who are considered to be draftable prospects.
The immediacy with which he makes the pass here is exactly what you want to see. Being blitzed doesn’t phase him, as he has the awareness to understand where the roll man will be based on how the defense reacts.
Jones also has some stuff to his game on defense. While being credited with 229 total defensive possessions, Kam was in the 55th percentile (Good) in overall defense. He did well when defending spot-ups—like the one posted above—to the tune of ranking within the 53rd percentile (Good). While defending the pick-and-roll, he was average (48th percentile).
His athleticism popped on several possessions, and he covered a lot of ground on the weak side. He did record a steals percentage of 2.7, which is pretty good among all collegiate players—and was second among the four guards listed in this article.
Kam Jones is a player that is a player that I feel is flirting with Top 100 consideration. The shadow that is being cast over him by Kolek and Ighodaro—along with a good number of incoming freshmen—seems to be enough to keep him from being mentioned among the preseason mainstream. While I understand it, I also think that he is a “hiding in plain sight” type of player. This junior guard has NBA size and athleticism, along with repeatable shooting production. He’ll need to grow as a decision-maker—or have a higher dosage of it in order to command the level of attention his archetype typically demands.
Jayden Nunn | 6’4” | 190 lbs. | Baylor | Junior
After being featured on my guy Maxwell’s No Stone Unturned segment last season, Jayden Nunn is coming back into the preseason forefront as one of my favorite rewatches for this draft class. What’s different about Nunn this season is who he is playing for. After some strong seasons at VCU, Jayden will be playing for the Baylor Bears.
VCU has rightfully earned the reputation as a defensive-minded program, which has given Nunn the ability to be considered as a draftable prospect. Going from being a Ram to a Bear, he should be able to continue to bring his toughness to a team that values defense, while also showcasing more of an offensive repertoire.
That’s right! I’m an “old man” who still values the importance of defense, and I’m willing to lead off with it here for Jayden.
Jayden’s tenacity is as close to unrivaled as you can get defensively. You can see how he can pick up an opponent up for 94 feet and make his life miserable—no matter the caliber. Aidan Mahaney (more on him momentarily) is able to poke and prod his way to the rim against Nunn here, but he has to work for every inch. By the time he is able to get his shot up, he has been harassed on and off of the ball for the entire possession. The shot isn’t laid up with any sort of comfort.
On the season, Nunn finished the season ranked in the 92nd percentile (Excellent) in overall defense. When defending the pick and roll, he finished within the 87th percentile (Excellent). He was in the 77th percentile (Very Good) defending spot-up players, and was in the 78th percentile (Very Good) defending in isolation. He had a steals percentage of 3.0 and a blocks percentage of 2.1!
This block is against the recently drafted Toumani Camara, who is about four inches taller than Nunn. Doesn’t matter. Jayden is able to use his under-discussed athleticism and smart hands to reject the shot attempt.
I know what you’re thinking: what happens with Jayden Nunn on the other set on the ball? Nunn is one of the rare, actual 3-and-D prospects within college hoops. On top of being an utter ball hawk, Jayden shot over 40% from deep. There is a bit of concern about the volume he put up, as Nunn shot under three attempts per game from distance, but he also shot 36% the year prior on similar volume. He’s also a career 72.5% from the free throw line.
It’s also worth noting that he ranked in the 66th percentile (Very Good) on spot-up play types, and was in the 63rd percentile (Good) shooter while guarded—in the 77th percentile (Very Good) when left alone.
Nunn stated in an interview that one of the big reasons he transferred to Baylor was that Coach Drew has a reputation for developing guards to play in the NBA. Nunn wasn’t asked to do much in the creation for others or himself, but that should change in Waco, as Coach Drew typically puts trust in upperclassmen.
Jayden logged a minutes percentage of over 71 while simultaneously recording a lowly 16.6 usage percentage. With that low of a usage percentage, his 10.4 assist percentage doesn’t seem so stark.
It wasn’t often that Nunn broke out his playmaking, but he displayed plenty of flashes to get excited about. This example shows many of the intricacies that go into passing: the vision, the touch, the timing, and the coordination to pass on the move. The volume was low, but along with the flashes like the one posted above, he also recorded more assists than turnovers in each season of his college career.
I’m not sure about other draft analysts, but there are prospects that I place somewhere on my board, and it never makes me feel good. Nunn’s defense is what is going to get him noticed more in the mainstream. We saw in the recent draft that a guard like Jaylen Clark can get drafted in the second round—and that a player like D’Moi Hodge can be prioritized as an undrafted free agent. Nunn could definitely have a similar path if he repeats last season’s production. But, if he can hone his offensive skills, Jayden could rise into a more prominent standing among scouts and front offices. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares in a different system and in a competitive group of guards.
Aidan Mahaney | 6’3” | 180 lbs. | Saint Mary’s | Sophomore
Get ready for a prospect that will be touted as an under-the-radar prospect coming into the year—but he shouldn’t be. Aidan Mahaney had a breakout freshman season, of sorts, as he averaged 13.9 PPG, 2.1 RPG, and 2.0 APG. He is in prime position to rise up draft rankings, and it’s easy to see why.
Mahaney was a spectacular three-point shooter for the Gaels last year. Of his 185 attempts from distance, he hit 74 of them. It’s also fun to see that over 43% of all of his total shot attempts were from deep. His shooting is going to be the primary means by which he will draw attention to himself and serve as the foundation of his draft stock. The shot is beautiful; the mechanics are pure. Leaving him alone is one of the worst things a defense can do, as he connected on 50.8% of his unguarded catch-and-shoot possessions. That was in the 93rd percentile (Excellent).
Oh, and when he was guarded, he hit on 41.4% of those looks—89th percentile (Excellent).
Aidan is also fun to see create for himself off of the bounce. You can see him here against Gonzaga do a great job of getting Drew Timme (#2) well clear of the paint and forcing him to decide if he wants to stick with his man underneath, or switch onto Mahaney. Timme did a little of both, which left my guy open from deep. Even on the move, you can see that he can get to his spot and get into his shooting motion relatively easily.
His shot off-the-dribble will have to improve, though, as he shot 32.6% on those looks. Still, he was in the 44th percentile in that shot type and has the tools to make that improvement.
One of the biggest concerns for college guards with textbook jumpers is figuring out what else they can do. At his size, it is crucial for Mahaney to have such a pretty and reliable jumper, but he’ll have to have more skills to continue his rise in national notoriety. His passing will have to be there.
He’s not the flashiest playmaking wizard, but he also doesn’t need to be. He has to hit the open man—especially with the shooting gravity he possesses.
In a very similar play type that was just shown, we see Aidan operate the pick and roll to create an opening. UConn opts to front him with the double, preventing him from pulling up on them. Mahaney makes the right read to the roll man for an easy two points.
With his primary skill being a shooter, Aidan was also in the 73rd percentile operating out of the pick and roll. He showed the propensity to make sound decisions as a scorer and facilitator out of this play type. His 75+ minutes percentage was paired with an assist percentage of 14.3. That isn’t a “wow” number, but it isn’t garbage either. It’s also worth noting that Mahaney had more assists than turnovers—70 to 52—and only had a turnover percentage of 13.0.
This is where things got a little dicey for Mahaney last season. And, to be quite honest, it’s what is holding a lot of folks back from thrusting him into prominence in terms of draftability.
This clip is a perfect example of the concerns that exist. Aidan had the difficult assignment of guarding the aforementioned Jayden Nunn here, and it didn’t end well. Mahaney starts off in a help position as Nunn runs baseline to the corner ball-side corner. Aidan is screened by Jalen DeLoach (#4), and is quickly left behind by Jayden. It looks like Mahaney is trying to dive to the rim to catch up, but Nunn pulls up for a middy.
Aidan was in the 22nd percentile (Below Average) at defending in the pick and roll. He will get picked apart this season—let alone the next level—if this doesn’t improve. The good news is that Mahaney is still young and can definitely do that. He did show the ability to defend players in the spot-up role, as he ranked in the 88th percentile (Excellent) in doing so.
This will be the first season that Mahaney will begin with a semblance of expectation within the public eye. The reality is that he had a very good freshman season and can get even better. His baseline as a very good shooter on good volume (5.3 attempts per game) gives him a legit shot to continue his upward trajectory, while the areas of improvement are fixable and will boost his stock. If I were a betting man, I’d say that this season puts him in position to get invitations to several combines and will allow him to get NBA feedback. With so much variability, I have him in a range to be heavily monitored for a real climb.
Tune in next week, as we’ll get into the frontcourt players whose film aged well over the summer!
Be sure to follow me on Twitter: StephenGHoops
REMEMBER, you can always catch me and the rest of the No Ceilings crew on the No Ceilings NBA Draft Podcast feed: