clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2016 NBA Draft prospects: Despite size, Tyler Ulis may be draft's best point guard prospect

He's small. But Tyler Ulis brings pretty much everything else to the table.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Pistons have a clear need at backup point guard and the 18th pick in the NBA Draft may be their opportunity to address that need.

As of right now, three draft prospects are projected to be selected in the range that the Pistons pick - Wade Baldwin, Demetrius Jackson, and Tyler Ulis. As previously covered by DBB, the Pistons have been in touch with each and are vetting them closely. The three are each very different players, each coming with their own distinct pros and cons.

Tyler Ulis

I like players who are fun to watch. Tyler Ulis is damn fun to watch. Me, I'm 5'9, 149 pounds. Tyler Ulis is 5'8.75 and 149 pounds. It was enough to make me want to test my wingspan. Turned out to be 6'1. Ulis' is 6'2. Woah.

Point being that I'm about an average dude. And here is Ulis, my size, tearing up the SEC. That's fun. I don't think I've ever watched a DraftExpress video that I've enjoyed more than Ulis'.

In the modern day's game, a point guard finding the balance between scoring and facilitating can be tough. But Ulis makes it look natural. You don't see a lot of sophomores posting 17 points and 7 assists. But beyond just the numbers, he's a blast to watch running an offense. It's not a matter of see player, pass to player. Ulis plays fast, pushes the ball and sets up guys that on video it seems like he should have no business seeing.

Ulis is at his best attacking the basket. Which seems like it might be a problem at the next level. He seems to have some savvy still getting his shots against bigger defenders, but he's not one of those guys who can regularly challenge seven footers and win. Despite nice quickness and a near-40 inch vertical, his athleticism doesn't exactly stand out when he's on the court.

That being the case, it'd be fair to expect Ulis to take some time to progress. Ulis shot just 38 percent from inside the arc as a freshman, but made a big step up to 48 percent as a sophomore. It seems as a freshman he was contained to be much more of a jump shooter with 48 percent of his shots coming from three point range -- a number that dropped to 33 percent as a sophomore.

Isaiah Thomas is the natural comparison for Ulis, since they have a similar size and style. But Thomas has always been very effective inside the arc, giving him more leeway to pin his ears back and attack the rim.

A fella with Ulis' size is always going to be a question mark on the defensive end, and rightfully so in the halfcourt game. But when he was playing fewer minutes as a freshman, he was able to effectively pick opposing point guards up for full court pressure. That's an awful nice skill for a backup point guard to be able to bring to the table.

Awards only mean so much, but they're also not devoid of meaning - and Ulis was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. And that's while sharing a conference with Wade Baldwin, a point guard prospect who is being projected as a lottery pick in large part to his defensive potential. And the numbers back up that Ulis might be just as good of a defender as Baldwin, as they have nearly identical steal percentages and defensive win share figures.

Tyler Ulis is short. Okay. He's always been short, he's always going to be short. But he's also extremely effective on the court despite his size.

At the No. 18 pick, every player is going to have limitations to their game. If they didn't, they wouldn't still be on the board at 18. So at some point, it takes looking at what they bring to the table rather than what they lack.

If you're looking at Ulis as a starting PGOTF, eh, those size limitations would scare me off, especially without the natural ability to score over the big guys. But the Pistons aren't in the market for a starting PGOTF; they are looking for a backup.

Ulis could wind up being an ideal match.