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Could DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell Follow In Footsteps Of Torrey Craig?

Dakota Schmidt writes about Nuggets two-way prospect DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell and if he can follow in the footsteps of current forward Torrey Craig

NBA: Summer League-Toronto Raptors at Denver Nuggets Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the Denver Nuggets used one of their two-way slots to sign USC Upstate alum Torrey Craig, who had previously played for various teams in the Australian National Basketball League His best season came in 2016-17 with the Brisbane Bullets where he put up 15.2 points, 8 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.1 steals on 46% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. He was also named as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.

That strong play continued when Craig made his way to the States as he started the year in the G League with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. He shined with the team as he averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.1 steals on 48% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc on 6.7 attempts per game. While his performance at the NBA level wasn’t the best, as he only averaged 4.2 points, 3.3 rebounds on 45% from the field in 16 minutes per game, it was still good enough for Denver to sign him to a two-year, $4 million deal earlier this summer.

One year later, the Nuggets are looking to recapture that success with 6’5 wing DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell to a two-way deal. Like Craig, Akoon-Purcell is an American-born player that has had the majority of his success come from playing overseas ball. While Craig shined in Australia, the current Nuggets two-way prospect spent the last two years in Denmark playing with the Bakken Bears.

No matter if he was playing in the FIBA Europe Cup, Basketligaen or Basketball Champions League, Akoon-Purcell showcased himself to be a solid offensive threat. That status was evident last year as the wing averaged 18.2 points, 5 rebounds (1.4 offensive), 3.9 assists, 1.6 steals on 46% from the field and 32% from beyond the arc on 5.1 perimeter attempts per game. That production allowed him to maintain a pretty solid 56% True Shooting Percentage.

Although those are solid numbers, his low perimeter shooting percentage stands as a smudge in another decent stat line. Those struggles could be even more troubling when he note that Akoon-Purcell shot an extremely efficient 43% from beyond the arc during the entire 2016-17 season. His sudden drop-off as a perimeter shooter is really confusing as his averages fluctuate heavily on a month-by-month basis and it doesn’t appear that he missed any games due to injury.

When those shots are dropping, Akoon-Purcell is a pretty lethal offensive weapon and can get it done in either catch-and-shoot or off-the-dribble situations. Among those two traits, he’s probably best in the catch-and-shoot as he’s incredibly smooth and quick when it comes to that act.

Although he’s definitely an inconsistent shooter, Akoon-Purcell is better as an on-ball driver, whether he’s working in transition or half-court sets. In either area, he shines by maintaining both athleticism and body control. His athleticism is definitely his most evident trait as he uses his superb speed to move his way down the court in transition or work past a perimeter defender in half-court sets. After he moves around the defender and gets into the paint is where the real magic happens. That’s because of how Akoon-Purcell is just fantastic at the art of finishing at the rim as he can find a way to score no matter the angle he’s at or whether there’s an opposing big in the way.

When it comes to finishing around contact, he does a great job of using his 200 frame and athleticism to hang in the air for a bit while muscling his way to get some kind of opening. An amazing example of that is seen in the play below as he somehow finds a way to squeeze between the big and the out of bounds line before finishing with a acrobatic up-and-under finish.

In addition to his work as a scorer, Akoon-Purcell excels as a facilitator as he averaged 3.9 assists with a 1.6 Ast/TO ratio. While those stats are solid, his actual play on the court might be more impressive as the 6’5 guard combines natural quickness and athleticism with great instincts and court vision. Those tools are most evident when he’s working in the drive-and-dish as he does a great job of using his quickness to drive to the rim and capture the attention of the opposing team.

Another way that he can shine as a distributor is working on the perimeter in pick-and-rolls. Akoon-Purcell definitely exhibits great patience in that end as he does a nice job of waiting for his roll man to get any kind of opening before he decides to make the necessary decision.

Although there are definitely some questions pertaining to his efficiency as a perimeter shooter, Akoon-Purcell should still be an entertaining player to watch when he makes his way to the G League next year. Because no matter how efficient his shooting, he should still be solid due to his tremendous work as an on-ball driver and facilitator. That knack as a driver should translate over to the G League because of a tremendous first step and fantastic ability to finish around the rim, whether there’s an opposing big standing in his way or not. Meanwhile, his court vision and distributing instincts could actually give him some potential as a G League team’s lead facilitator.

In addition to those offensive traits, he could be solid on the defensive side of the ball as he’s an active player that loves to work the passing lanes. Akoon-Purcell definitely had success due to being able to read what the facilitator is going to do and be able to quickly react. That allowed him to average 1.7 steals per game during his season with the Bakken Bears.

From a G League perspective, those traits should allow him to be a pretty solid player, no matter what team he may be playing on. However, when it comes to his future at the NBA, it might be hard for Akoon-Purcell to get a consistent role if he’s unable to somewhat recapture the efficiency he had from beyond the arc in 2016-17.

If he’s able to do that while still shining in other areas, then there’s a great chance that DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell could be in the same position as Torrey Craig at this time next year.