In the buildup to the NBA G League Player Invitational that took place earlier this month, we compiled a list of the nine prospects to keep an eye on. Within that group, the one player who really caught my attention was former Southern Indiana guard Alex Stein. That intrigue immediately erupted after looking at his numbers that combined volume with jaw-dropping efficiency. As a senior, he averaged 20.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists on 55% from the field and 46% from beyond the arc on 3.8 attempts per game. Those shooting averages allowed him to maintain an incredible 68% True Shooting Percentage.
To truly put those tremendous numbers in perspective, Brooklyn Nets sharpshooter Joe Harris stood as the most efficient back-court player in the NBA last year with maintaining a 64% True Shooting Percentage, which stood four percentage points lower than the Division II stud.
On its own, that efficiency mixed with incredible volume could push the guard into being a potential diamond in the rough wherever he might start his pro career. Although numbers don’t lie, they don’t tell the entire story in this case as Stein was able to maintain that tremendous offensive stability while not being afraid to be dangerous through working off the dribble and launching up step-back jumpers. He doesn’t use that approach for just a single area of the court as Southern Indiana isn’t afraid to take those treacherous shots no matter if he’s working from mid-range or beyond the three-point line.
Although he was excellent in both areas last year, let’s start out with his work from beyond the arc. His tremendous three-point percentage as a senior was a gigantic step up over how he shot 37% from beyond the arc from his freshman to junior season. Increased confidence in the jumper was likely the most significant factor behind that progression as he showed no fear whether off-the-dribble or catch-and-shoot.
While stable at both, the second factor seems to be most evident for his work shooting beyond the three-point line. That approach makes sense as the young guard has seemed to have mastered the art of running to his position, catching the pass, gathering and then releasing the jumper in a blink of an eye. The ease that the guard works is seen in the clip below as he looks smooth in the process of getting to his position, retrieving the pass while hop stepping to his spot and then quickly shooting before the Truman State defender is able to close out.
The combination of confidence and a smooth shooting stroke with a high release point remains in picture when we transition to his work as an off-the-dribble threat. In this area, he shines bright through the utilization of a lethal step-back jumper that almost seemed unguardable through the lense of Division II hoops. Alongside the crucial act of getting open, this approach becomes even more impressive as Stein always put up those shots when both of his feet were behind the three-point line. While it might not seem like much, that additional point can be the difference between victory or defeat in a closely contested game.
Although those step-backs are also part of his arsenal as a mid-range shooter, he likes to utilize other different methods to help put two points on the board. Some of the ways are pretty common among guards, whether it’s using screens to create separation from the defender and then get an open look or simply dribbling to his desired position inside the three-point line before putting up a shot.
One compelling tactic that’s in the Southern Indiana alum’s arsenal is how he acts like he’s backing down on the opposing guard but suddenly backing away and putting up a mid-range jumper. An example of that is seen in the video below with him pretending to back down his foe on the right block before stepping away and hitting an off-balance jumper.
While his work as a shooter allowed Stein to put up incredible numbers during his senior season, his work on the offensive end is questionable when you look away from that one standout skill. In the four games that were watched before writing this piece, there were barely more than a handful of times where he decided to drive to the rim.
There were three outcomes in those rare occasions: he got fouled and ended up going to the free-throw line, was unable to score in traffic due to a smaller 190 pound frame or had an acrobatic finish. That third trait is seen in the clip below as the 6’3 guard finishes at the rim with a smooth underhanded layup.
Despite standing as a score-first guard during his career at Southern Indiana, Stein was able to show some upside as a facilitator. That potential is partially demonstrated by him averaging 2.8 assists per game with a 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio during his senior season. Stein’s tremendous facilitating efficiency is impressive when you realize that a lot of his feeds come from working in the drive-and-dish. In that area, he shows a tremendous amount of upside through the mix of patience and precision that he shows. The patience comes from how the Southern Indiana alum waits for the perfect moment before hitting his teammate with that precise chest or bounce pass.
After getting intrigued from his incredible numbers and how they combined efficiency and volume, did watching four full games of Stein temper that excitement? Partially. From a positive perspective, witnessing him catch fire over the course of a long game was very entertaining to watch. In addition to that, there were some added appreciation of the tools that he uses to get open looks like the various ways he gets open mid-range looks, including the move where he bluffing working the low-post to only put up a jumper.
While he’s a tremendous shooter and has upside as a passer, the Southern Indiana guard still has a lot of room to grow on the offensive end. That area of development mostly focuses on his work as an on-ball driver which currently stands as a weak part of his game due to lack of explosiveness and ability to finish in traffic due to only being 190 pounds. Those problems could only heighten when he makes his way to the G League as he’ll be going against players that are bigger, faster and stronger than Stein’s former Division II foes.
Despite a smaller frame that might give him some issues at the pro level, it’s impossible to deny his talents as an all-around shooter and his solid potential as a facilitator. If he does decide to start his professional career in the G League, Alex Stein is a player to keep an eye on as he can be a great energy scorer for any team that adds him.