In April, the G League as we know it changed as five-star prospects Isaiah Todd, Jalen Green, and Daishen Nix announced that they’d be skipping the NCAA to take part in the league’s pro path program. Over the course of just a few weeks, those decisions pushed the league from being this overlooked entity to having three of the prospects in the class of 2020 and regularly being discussed on various sports talk shows.
Despite the massive intrigue that surrounded the decisions of those three young men, there’s a strong chance that we haven’t seen the last top high school talent to be part of the pro path program for the 2020-21 season. Although every five-star prospect besides that trio has made verbal or written commitments with schools, the decision of former UCLA commit Daishen Nix leaves the possibility in the air that other players can follow in his footsteps. Alongside that, top 2021 prospects Jonathan Kuminga and Moussa Cisse could both potentially reclassify to be able to play college hoops next year. Doing that would allow them to be options to join the G League’s professional path.
Moving back to players that are currently in the class of 2020, there remains one intriguing prospect that seems likely to take this route. That player is 7’2” center Kai Sotto, whom ESPN’s Adrian Wojarowski and Jonathan Givony linked to the G League back in April. Despite currently being 62nd on ESPN’s top 100 prospects list, the Filipino stands as an intriguing prospect that already has a solid track record for a prospect that won’t turn 18 until Monday.
A lot of that came during his play at the international level through playing a total of 20 games with the Philippines in various FIBA tournaments. He shined brightest during last year’s FIBA U19 World Cup as he put up 11.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3.1 blocks per game on 52% from the field.
After putting up those solid numbers during international competition, the 7’2 prospect spent the last year of his prep career in Georgia competing with the Skill Factory, an institute that defines themselves as a “sports skill and development organization that specializes in high quality custom sports coaching and skill training programs”.
While there aren’t any statistics during this time with this institute, thankfully most of his games are available on YouTube. In the five games that were watched for this piece, it’s clear that Sotto is a skilled big with upside on both ends of the court. From an offensive perspective, the center showed an ability to work as a roll man, making on-ball drives to the rim, facilitating, snagging offensive boards, and mid-range jumpers.
Among those bevy of traits, his best skill at this point is probably best as a facilitator. Whether he’s standing on the perimeter or working in the low-post, the 7’2 center has an innate ability to both find his players and throw precise passes no matter if they’re open for a three or cutting to the paint. In my eyes, the best example of his passing prowess is when Sotto is stationed on the three-point line as he’s able to sling these great dishes that land in his teammates’ hands in stride. A visual example of that is seen in the clip below a he throws a precise bounce pass that goes through the pocket and lands in the hands of the cutter.
Aside from his solid work as a passer, he’s shown frequent glimpses of being able to shine in other ways. For example, the’72 big stood out as a solid roll man for the Skill Factory as he’s a big target with soft hands that is comfortable with being able to score at the rim. On the topic of him being able to work around the rim, the 17-year-old has upside in the low-post with being able to work on the right block.
While posting up against much smaller players, the young standout shows solid touch and pretty good footwork for a player of his age. An example of that is seen in the clip below as he fakes out his opponent by pretending to go left before moving to the other side and finishing with his right.
While passing currently stands as his best skill, Sotto’s upside as a shooter stands as the most intriguing skill to keep an eye on as he prepares himself for a shot in the NBA. At the Skill Factory, he showed small glimpses of his potential through working in catch-and-shoots.
Despite his size, the Filipino standout looks really smooth when it comes to the process of collecting the pass, setting up and then firing off a shot. An example of that is seen in the clip below where he moves to his spot, collects the feed, and nails a smooth jumper.
Transitioning over to the other end of the floor, Sotto was able to use his long frame and wingspan to shine as a solid rim protector during his games with The Skill Factory. Along with being able to utilize his natural gifts, the young prospect does a great job of being able to quickly spot drivers and then moving his feet to be in a good position to block the shot. Those traits allowed him to average 2.6 blocks per game during play in FIBA competition.
Although he excels at being able to protect the rim, the young big is still a work in progress on the defensive end. The biggest area he’s going to have to grow at is being able to go out to the perimeter and defend on-ball drivers. Although it might be too much to expect somebody of his frame to effectively stick with athletic guards or wings, the young prospect looks lost through lack of a defensive stance and not having the focus needed to put up a challenge. That flaw will need to be improved if he wants to gain momentum as an NBA Draft prospect. This is due to how teams throughout the Association have this hunger for bigs that can hedge pick-and-rolls and be able to switch onto forwards or guards.
That weakness is one of the issues for the Filipino standout. Other problems that will need to be solved deals with the prospect’s stamina, balance, and strength. In regards to that first weakness, it’s been bad enough where his effort level when it comes to moving up and down the court fluctuates heavily in each of the games that we watched for this piece. On some occasions, Sotto just stays on the offensive end of the ball with the opposing squad pushing down the floor in transition. If it doesn’t get fixed, this would limit the amount of minutes that he’d be able to play.
Standing at 7’2” and 210 pounds, Sotto is a prospect that definitely needs to continue packing on muscle whether he goes to the G League or college. Although he was still able to have success with the Skill Factory, his lack of strength became evident a couple of times during that run. An example of that is evident in the clip below as a simple push from the opposing defender leads to the big both losing the ball and his balance.
Despite his strong offensive skill set and ability to protect the rim, Sotto is a prospect that’s much more of a work in progress than any of the other prospects. Although that may scare off some, he’s the perfect type of project for the G League to have if he decides to go that route. In the first year of this Select Team era, the Filipino standout can be this piece of clay that coaches and staffers can mold.
While his on-court potential is apparent, the athletic trainers and strength and conditioning will be put to the difficult task of pushing the 7’2 big to develop his core strength, be able to move down the court quicker, and have the stamina needed to be able to move up and down the court at repeated intervals. This type of training wouldn’t be new to the young prospect as that’s basically what he was doing with the Skills Factory and P3.
Would the process be easy for Kai and the G League if the young Filipino prospect decides to take this route? Nope. It’s going to be the opposite. For the 7’2 big, he’ll have to work his tail off to have the frame to have the mobility to switch on the perimeter while also staying in the game for an extended period of time without getting exhausted. Meanwhile, this will allow the G League and the individuals involved in the Select team project to prove that they can effectively develop a prospect that’s still so physically raw.
Although he hasn’t officially announced whether he’ll be taking this route, all of the factors that have been pointed out in this piece makes me really excited about the possibility of Kai Sotto joining the G League Select team.