When you’re watching prospects that are projected to go late in the 2nd round or have to dive into the pool of uncertainty known as being an undrafted free agent, it’s rare to see a player that just jumps off the screen for one reason or another. Could you see someone that is automatic as a catch-and-shoot threat or is great at crashing the glass? Absolutely as Jake Toolson and Nathan Knight filled those roles respectively during the prior draft cycle as players that stood out for one reason or another. However, impressing for being great at a particular skill is different from being fantastic enough at one particular skill that your work is able to tattoo yourself into the cerebral cortex.
An example of a prospect that falls into that second and special category is Georgia Tech guard Jose Alvarado, who is currently testing the NBA Draft warters after signing an agent but has kept his eligibility open. Despite being a 23-year-old that would enter his fifth season if he returns to school, not fully jumping into the draft just yet is a smart decision for a prospect that you can only find on expanded top-100 big boards, where he sits 63rd and 92nd on CBS Sports and ESPN’s big boards, respectively. In fact, he’s not a unanimous choice for those lists as the Georgia Tech stud was nowhere to be seen on the board that the Athletic’s Sam Veceine dropped back in early April.
While his status as a lower-tier prospect in terms of this year’s draft class is clear when you look at those boards, it doesn’t mean you should overlook the 23-year-old prospect. During his senior season, our subject had a fantastic season by putting up 15.2 points, 4.1 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.9 steals on 50% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc on 4.5 attempts per game. Those shooting percentages were great enough to have him maintain a 62% True Shooting Percentage and 59% effective Field Goal Percentage. Along with showcasing him to be a reliable player, those numbers show a progression in the guard’s game as both his TS% and eFG% both improved by six to seven percentage points from the 2019-20 season (56% TS% and 52% eFG%) to the 2020-21 season (62% TS% and 59% eFG%).
Despite those progressions on offense, Alvarado’s main method of impacting a game on a nightly basis was through his play on the other end of the floor. As you were able to see from the above statistics, the Brooklyn-born prospect was outstanding at forcing turnovers, as the
senior guard forcing 2.9 steals per game was the 3rd highest average in Division I basketball.
That knack came no matter if he was guarding his man in one-on-one situations or if he was prowling around half-court like a hawk looking to capture its prey. When he’s stationed on the perimeter defending a ball-handler, Alvarado is a man to be feared due to how his quick hands and reflexes make him a threat to poke the ball loose in a blink of an eye. That’s especially the case if that opponent is even a little sloppy or loose with their handles as the Georgia Tech guard is able to take advantage and force a turnover.
Although that ability to use his quick hands to force turnovers was the biggest key behind him winning ACC Defensive Player of the Year for the 2020-21 season, his work on that end of the ball extends beyond that singular trait. Despite being a slightly undersized point guard standing at 6’0, 179, the Georgia Tech great still showed a tremendous ability to stick onto opposing ball-handlers like velcro when they’re trying to drive to the rim.
A great example of this came from a game against Notre Dame where Alvarado is put to the task of defending Prentiss Hubb, who was 3rd Team All-Big East during the prior season. Despite Hubb having great acceleration as he is able to burst to the rim after being stationary for a moment, our subject is able to quickly react and stay on his hip from perimeter to paint. That ability to stay on the hip and keep his hands up gets Hubbs to lose track of where he is and force up an errant shot that hits the side of the backboard just as he’s about to go out of bounds.
Another fantastic sign of that is evident in the clip below where Alvarado shows fantastic horizontal mobility to stick with the Miami driver, including a moment where he had to adjust his body to get around his teammate that’s trying to front a post-up to be able to stick with his man. After sticking like velcro, the Georgia Tech guard does a great job of using verticality to force the opposing player to take a contested shot that isn’t even close to hitting the rim.
Besides his ability to punch the rock away from ball-handlers in a blink of an eye and stick with cutters and affect shots, there are other ways that the Brooklyn-born prospect is able to make an impact on the defensive end. For one, he’s tremendous at being able to maneuver around screens and be able to quickly figure out the right angle to take to either stay in front of his man, affect the shot, or punch the ball loose from the handler.
Although standing at 6’0, 179 pounds, Alvarado isn’t afraid to defend in the low post as his lower center of gravity actually works to his benefit as his location puts him in a better angle to force a turnover on a big or forward that is using their bigger frame to try to bully him down inside.
Again, despite being undersized as a 6’0, 179 pound guard, he was able to stand as one of the best overall defenders in college basketball through his quick hands and quick recognition of how to take the right angle to stay in front of his man no matter if he’s defending a ball-handler or maneuvering around screens. Although the Georgia Tech guard might be positioned low on a lot of draft boards, his well-rounded approach to playing defense allows him to be a player that should have a positive effect on a pro team, if he decides to take that path this summer