Lamar Stevens - Penn State: 17.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.2 blocks on 42% from the field
In the current era of basketball where it seems like young prospects, no matter what position they may play, work to do their best impersonation of Stephen Curry, Lamar Stevens stands as the deviation from the script. That’s not for a lack of effort as the 6’8 forward shot 28% on 312 career three-point attempts during his four-year run with Penn State.
Despite those struggles fromm beyond the arc, he was still able to spend the final few years of his college career shining as one of the best players in the Big Ten. That status is seen by the accolades that were received. For example, Stevens was an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention by coaches in 2018 before being part of the First Team in both 2019 and 2020. Things peaked during his senior season, where he put up numbers that allowed him to finish in the top-15 in the conference in points (4th), rebounds (11th), steals (14th), and blocks (12th).
Stevens’ status as an incredibly well-rounded player honestly allowed him to be one of the more interesting players to watch since I started this series back in the summer. A lot of that comes from his work on the offensive end as Stevens stood as the backbone of their work on this side of the court. That’s shown by the amount of ways that he’s involved within the offense which included: working as both the ball-handler and roll man in pick-and-rolls, setting off-ball screens hitting the low-post, and pushing the ball down the court in transition.
Among those skills, the young forward is probably best as an on-ball driver by doing a great job of driving to the paint with his left or right hand. Although he has a heavy preference of finishing with his right hand, that shouldn’t be looked at as a detriment by doing a great job of utilizing a strong 230 pound frame and solid athleticism to be able to finish through traffic and contort his body so he has a better angle at the rim. Even if he doesn’t finish at the rim, that skill helps him get to the charity stripe as he averaged 6.2 free throws per game.
Although he struggled as a perimeter threat during his college career, Stevens was weirdly very solid as a mid-range shooter. As a senior, he shot 40% on 47 total shots that were anywhere between 17 feet to the college three-point line, according to Synergy Sports. That percentage was actually a significant improved over the 29% that he shot during his junior season in the 2018-19 campaign. His progression in that area is noticeable considering that a lot of his mid-range jumpers comes through utilizing off-ball screens or cross over moves to separate himself from his defender.
Moving back to the paint, Stevens stands as a very impressive low-post threat from the left block. In that area, he’s exhibits a lot of poise through being extremely sure of every move that he makes, whether it’s using his strong frame to gain an edge or putting up a right-handed hook shot. Although he did a good job of scoring on the left block, as he shot 49% on that area, a more intriguing skill deals with his knack as a facilitator in this area. When he’s posting up, his point helps him greatly by being able to look over the court and be able to recognize some open shooters. Once that recognition happens, he does a great job of moving the ball to his men, even if they’re standing on the opposite end of the court as him.
Although his struggles from beyond the arc is definitely concerning given where the NBA and G League currently are, Stevens should still be a player that teams across the Association strongly consider adding to their teams. Because as we’ve examined over the course of this piece, Stevens is a smart forward with a strong frame that is able to contribute in multiple ways on the offensive end. Those strengths combined with him being a solid force on the defensive end allows Lamar Stevens to be a very solid option for a two-way deal if he goes undrafted.
Freddie Gillespie - Baylor: 9.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 2.2 blocks on 55% from the field
Sticking with the front-court, let’s move from Pennsylvania to Waco, Texas to look at our next prospect. Standing at 6’8, 240 pounds, GIllespie essentially has the same frame as the aforementioned Lamar Stevens. However, the similarities basically end there as the play style of the Minnesota-born big more replicated a center from the 90’s and 2000’s than the do-it-all forward from Penn State. That approach worked during his time with Baylor, as he was named to the All-Big 12 2nd Team and All-Big 12 Defensive Team during his senior season.
On the offensive end, he did a fantastic job in his role as a retro big that crashes the boards, rolls to the rim, sets screens, and maintains his position inside the paint. Among those traits, he excels the most as a rebounder, as he snagged a conference-best 4.1 offensive boards per game. That large amount of rebounds came through him being a tough player that simply out works others when it comes to boxing out and just exploding for the ball once it ricochets off the rim. An example of that is seen in the clip below where Freddie goes for the ball once it leaves the shooter’s hands, snags it over the heads of two TCU defenders, and fights to score at the rim and give Baylor the lead.
Besides being a phenomenal offensive rebounder, the young forward is able to soft hands and quick feet to shine as a roll man. In addition to that, the keys that I’ve mentioned in addition to his strong 240 pound frame allowed him to shine as a cutter that guards can dish the ball to for easy points.
While he was able to shine as a double-double threat on the offensive end, Gillespie shines as a top-100 prospect through his play on the defensive end. In a lot of cases last year, he was able to simply use a 7’6 wingspan to protect the rim against on-ball drivers. However, the most impressive thing about GIllespie is how well he’s able to move his feet on this end of the ball. For a player at his position and size, it’s really impressive to see how capable he is with sticking with opposing point or shooting guards that are protecting the rim. An example of that is seen in the clip below as he is able to stick with potential 1st round pick Nico Mannion from perimeter to paint before switching onto Chase Jeter to block his shot.
While Gillespie isn’t necessarily someone that will blow you away, his tools as a phenomenal offensive rebounder and rim protector allow him to be the type of player that a team can use a two-way contract on to give more depth to their front-court, if he ends up going undrafted.
Kristian Doolittle - Oklahoma: 15.8 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.3 steals on 44% from the field and 37% from 3 on 2.8 attempts per game
Sticking with front-court players from the Big 12, we go from Waco, Texas to Norman, Oklahoma to talk about our next players. While our current subject have those two similarities with Gillespie, they’re actually two completely different players. Because while the Baylor standout plays like your rim-protecting big, the 6’7, 232 pound forward is more modern in his approach through being a perimeter-minded presence on the offensive end of the floor.
In college, that method created a lot of madness for opposing teams, which allowed him to stand as one of the best offensive forwards in the conference. Along with the great numbers that he put up, that tremendous play led to accolades as he joined the aforementioned Desmond Bane on the All-Big 12 1st Team. Doolittle’s success on the offensive end largely came through shooting, as he excelled at putting up jumpers from both beyond the arc and mid-range.
As a perimeter threat, the young forward is really weird as only a handful of his eighty three-point attempts from beyond the arc came through catch-and-shoot looks, despite him working in a lot of pick-and-pops or receiving passes when he’s standing on the wing. More times than not, he seems to have this need to take a dribble or two before he takes the shot, which is something that I haven’t seen from a guard let a lone from a forward or big that should be familiar with how to work in pick-and-pops by the time that they’re a senior.
At least during his time in college, that unique approach worked as he shot 41% on off-the-dribble shots, which put him in the 78th percentile, according to Synergy Sports. However, that method is going to have to change up a bit when he reaches the next level as defenders close out on shooters a lot quicker than they do in the Big 12. Although it might be more difficult to change up how he approaches working off-ball, it’s a necessary step for him to take for him to make his NBA dreams come true.
While I do have concerns about his approach as an off-ball threat in this end, Doolittle is still a talented offensive weapon that can shine in a slew of different ways. For example, the forward excels as a low-post threat, no matter if he’s working on the left or right block. When he’s working in that area, the young forward is able to pop up and hit mid-range jumpers, or use a drop step to get a better angle at the rim.
Outside of those two areas that help him put points on the board, he also is able to use the low-post to help his teammates. From this perspective, the Edmond, Oklahoma native is a stud as he does a great job of using the low-post to capture the defense’s attention before moving the ball to his teammate.
While on the topic of facilitating, Doolittle shows a lot more promise than what you’d expect from someone that averaged only two assists per game as a senior. That optimism that I have in his upside as a passer is due to how well he does at driving the ball to the paint and then slinging the ball to a teammate. A fantastic example of that is seen in the play below, as he uses a slick spin move while driving to create separation from his man, before putting the ball between two Baylor defenders on a pass to an Oklahoma big.
Moving on to the defensive end of the floor, the Oklahoma alum shows potential with the work that he does both on the perimeter and inside the paint. Working on the perimeter, he shows an ability to stick with guards when they’re driving to the paint. On the other hand, the wing man did a great job of using his strong 6’7, 232 pound frame to defend opposing Big 12 bigs or forwards when they’re trying to gain an advantage inside the paint. The one concern that I have about him would be effort as I saw a few occasions where he didn’t give the best effort when defending in transition.
Despite the flaws that I’ve pointed out during this section, I still believe that Doolittle is the type of player that would be a good fit in a team’s 2nd unit as a player that can create his own offense and also do good work as a facilitator.
Trent Forrest - Florida State: 11.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1.9 steals on 46% from the field
After focusing on wings and bigs, let’s move to the back-court to take a look at one of the best guards in the ACC. Like a lot of the other players that we’ve discussed over the course of this series, Forrest is someone that had to use all of his four years in college to grind for more minutes and fight for a bigger role within the team’s system. That tremendous effort came its conclusion during his senior season where he put up the numbers that you see above you. While those numbers may not seem impressive, especially when you factor in his 54% True Shooting Percentage, it still allowed him to be named to the ACC All-Second Team and ACC All-Defensive Team.
Due to his status as one of the best defenders in the ACC, let’s start on that end of the ball. To say that he was a great on-ball defender would probably be an understatement as Forrest was an absolute terror to opposing ball-handlers by harassing them when they’re on the perimeter and sticking to them like velcro. The glue-like nature that he uses to attach himself to opposing guards is persistent when they’re driving to the rim. An example of that is seen in the clip below as he stays on the hip of Tre Jones from perimeter to paint before interfering with the attempted floater.
In addition to the great on-ball work that he does, Forrest is also dangerous with getting into the passing lanes as he can intercept passes like Xavien Howard. That comparison to an elite NFL cornerback is actually pretty apt as he maintains this instinct about when to go for the ball to the point where he makes the dash before the ball leaves the passer’s hands.
Now finally moving over to the offensive end of the floor, the Chipley, Florida native is like the aforementioned Lamar Stevens as how he really didn’t have any semblance of a perimeter jumper. There’s absolutely no hyperbole in that statement as he only averaged 1.8 3-point attempts per game as a senior where he shot 28%. That lack of a shot extends when we get inside the perimeter, as he only had six mid-range attempts during the entire 2019-20 campaign.
While Forrest’s jumper may be harder to find than rest for Chris Cuomo, he’s still been able to establish himself on the offensive end through being able to drive to the rim with his right hand. Through the help of off-ball screens, the young guard does a great job of being able to slash to the paint. Once he reaches there, he can either finish at the rim with an acrobatic layup or using a strong 210 pound frame to fight through contact.
One area of Forrest’s game that I’m a fan of would be his work as a facilitator. From a statistical perspective, he doesn’t seem that impressive as he averaged four assists with a 1.3 Ast/TO ratio. However, what you see on film leaves me with a lot more optimism as he seems to be a very well-rounded facilitator. During his senior season, he showed that he can throw a great entry pass, throw great alley-oop lobs, find his man while being pressured, working in drive-and-dish, and spotting cutters.
At this point, Forrest’s lack of a jumper is what will likely prevent him from get him selected in this month’s draft and may scare some teams from giving him a two-way deal. That weariness makes sense as it’s hard for a guard to keep opposing defenders honest when they know that player won’t be putting up any shots. However, I feel like the 22-year-old guard is still an NBA team should have within the organization, even if it’s their G League affiliate, as he’s fantastic on the defensive end and can scrap for points around the rim or even offensive rebounds.
Rayshaun Hammonds - Georgia: 12.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.5 assists on 47% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc on 3.2 attempts per game
To finish off this piece, we stay in the south by heading to the battleground state of Georgia to talk about another intriguing front-court prospect. Unlike the aforementioned Doolittle and Gillespie, Hammonds is a man that was overlooked during the 2019-20 season as the combination of his statistics and the Bulldogs finishing 5-13 in conference play prevented the 6’9 forward from getting any accolades during his three-year college career.
Although he didn’t receive any awards during his college career, that doesn’t exactly mean that his value as a prospect is significantly lesser. In fact, Hammonds used his career with Georgia to exhibit himself as a perimeter shooter that can also facilitate and do damage inside the paint as an offensive rebounder.
In terms of his NBA upside, his knack as a shooter is probably the most intriguing skill as he shined as a pick-and-pop threat during his final two years with Georgia. Although you’d like to see his efficiency trend in a better direction and the 65% free-throw percentage that he maintained as a junior is concerning, his smooth jumper with a repeatable shooting stroke leaves some room for optimism.
If he establishes himself as a reliable perimeter threat, it can really open up different aspects of his game. For example, opponents needing to focus on him could lead to the world seeing more examples of his work as a facilitator. In the small glimpses that we saw during his time in college, the 22-year-old showed upside through being an unselfish player that is quickly able to spot open cutters or players fighting for position inside the paint, and deliver the ball to them. One example of that is seen in the clip below as he delivers a tremendous entry pass to a teammate.
Moving from the perimeter to the paint, the young forward shows promise through being able to work in the low-post and snagging rebounds. As a post-up threat, he looks good when he’s positioned on the right block as he uses his footwork to create separation from his man and a soft touch on hook shots. Meanwhile, Hammonds was able to snag 2.1 offensive rebounds per game as a junior through sheer force of will as did a great job of just outworking the competition.
At this point, I definitely view Hammonds as a more flawed player than some of the other players that I’ve had a chance to write about in this series. For one, I have cautious optimism about his ability to transfer the perimeter efficiency that he showed in college to the NBA/G League level due to his lower free-throw percentage.
In addition to that, his lack of an off-the-dribble game leaves a lot to be desired if opposing teams try to defend him tight. Now in regards to defense, his ability to switch on to driving guards or wings is definitely intriguing given the defensive philosophy of a lot of different NBA teams. However, he does tend to lose focus when working off-ball, which is something that can be really concerning if he’s stationed on the perimeter more at the next level.
The indecisiveness that I’ve probably shown over the last few paragraphs makes me believe that he’s leaning more towards getting an Exhibit 10 deal. He’s the perfect example of a player that you want to see perform and develop against better competition before you make a decision to use of your two-way deals on him.