The Riveting Rise of Ryan Rollins
Silky smooth with an advanced scoring package, Ryan Rollins draft stock is on the rise. But is he ready to be an NBA Draft mainstay?
The Draft cycle is a marathon not a sprint. You start out with one group of prospects filling out the top rankings and end the process in a completely different place. New names to scout pop up at almost ever point of the cycle; keeping up can feel arduous at times. It’s also what makes the process so damn fun because there is always new film of an exciting prospect that you weren’t expecting to watch. There’s been plenty of hot names improving their stock in major ways as we enter March, but there’s one name in particular that keeps poking at me to watch more of every time I hear it. That name is Ryan Rollins.
Rollins is a 6’4” shooting guard with a deep bag that plays for Toledo. Rollins has mostly flown under the radar playing in the MAC, but when you turn on the film your eyes bulge up. The dude is a silky smooth operator, constantly making defenders who line up in front him look silly for even trying. Rollins loves working in the midrange where he can slowly rock you to sleep before violently crossing you into oblivion.
These two clips against Ohio nearly made me jump out of my damn chair. Am I watching Ryan Rollins or Devin Booker?
Rollins is connecting on 47% of his long twos this season per Barttorvik. The craft and comfortability to operate this smoothly in the mid-post at 19 years old isn’t something you see everyday from a prospect.
While Rollins thrives in the midrange, he’s still searching for consistency as a three point threat. Rollins has made strides in most aspects of his game but the three ball percentages are nearly identical to last season. With that said, the flashes are there and I’m bullish on his long term shooting potential. Rollins has soft touch, workable form, and the percentages are hampered some by the contested shots he takes. But he already has advanced off the bounce combo moves to get the shot off cleanly that he knocks down consistently. As long as he can knock down shots at a respectable clip, it’ll be enough to open up the rest of his scoring package.
As an attacker, Rollins is slithery. Most basketball players move around the court, but Rollins looks like he glides. The majority of college players barrel into the charge in the first clip, but Rollins shows off his excellent spatial awareness and is easily able to avoid the defender.
And then there’s the footwork! Rollins uses spins and body contortions to wiggle past defenders. To be able to spin off the first defender and then slide around and not fumble the ball when the second defender recovers back to the play is impressive stuff.
While Rollins has that slither to avoid running into defenders, it by no means implies that he looks to avoid contact. Rollins is getting to the charity stripe five times a game this season, using the threat of his pull up game to get defenders to play him tight, where he can then shake his man and use long smooth strides to make his way to the hoop.
While Rollins is used in a mostly on ball role at Toledo, he’s shown signs of being a capable off ball mover; a skill that will surely help him at the next level where he’ll see his usage decrease. Rollins is good at throwing little shoulder shimmies at his man to get him leaning and then using a quick first step burst to beat his man back door for easy buckets.
For scorers, mastering how to get to their spots is crucial. Once a young player finds some success getting to their spot consistently, they may start showing up on the scouting report. All of a sudden that spot at the elbow may have a defender rotating that normally isn’t there. This is when it becomes important to be able to leverage the threat of your scoring to make plays for your teammates.
Playmaking is an art. It took guys like Devin Booker and Zach Lavine years to feel comfortable making plays. The key to being a playmaker is proactive thinking. You have to know when and where the rotations are happening ahead of time instead of reacting at the last minute. Rollins is a reactive playmaker.
That isn’t to say that brilliance doesn’t come out of last second improvisation, it surely does at times, but the greats operate at a deeper understanding of how to leverage their scoring to open up their passing. It isn’t about the first guy in front of them. Great NBA scorers are way too good to consistently be held in check by one guy. It’s about knowing where the help is coming from and how to make the defense pay.
Chris Paul is a brilliant midrange operater, but not just due to his shooting touch. He knows exactly how to systematically pick you apart based on how the defender plays him. He isn’t going to walk into the help defender digging at the nail, as Rollins does here. Great playmakers see the help ready to pounce and make the easy kick to the shooter. That’s an NBA level read he has to make.
Rollins isn’t a ball stopper but he operates best with the ball in his hands. In the NBA however, his role will undoubtedly change from primary option to role player. While that role may be instant offense, NBA teams still want to play .5 basketball and Rollins will need to be able to be ready to make quick nuanced decisions when the rock swings his way.
It’s easy to see the intrigue with Rollins. He’s got a smooth game and an advanced offensive skill set. Scoring is a huge part of basketball and Rollins is a bucket. NBA scouts may question the level of competition that Rollins faces in the MAC on a nightly bases, but the dude is producing big numbers in impressive fashion. Get ready to start seeing and hearing Ryan Rollins name more and more in the coming months, because he’s a prospect on the rise.