In the first installment of this series, we looked at 2022 NBA Draft prospects who have great potential to provide vertical spacing for the Pistons. Now, we turn our attention to what seems to be everyone’s go-to question when analyzing draft prospects…can he shoot?
While, the title of this piece is profiling “shooters,” it’s important to know what makes for a good, projectable shooter — it’s not the making but the shooting that matters. To put it another way, the most important thing I look at is three-point attempt rate.
Three-point attempt rate measures what percentage of a player’s offense are shots taken from three-point distance. Why I look at this stat first when trying to determine “shooters” is because nowadays, most players that are designated as shooters are ones that emphasize the three-point shot in their arsenal.
The name of the game in basketball offense is spacing, and three-point shooting provides more horizontal space for a primary ball handler to operate. So, for example, if you have a guy you just drafted No. 1 overall like…oh, I don’t know, Cade Cunningham, and he consistently runs into defenders as he drives into the lane; one way to draw more defenders away from Cade on his drives is to have more three-point shooters around him. This causes the defense to send more guys towards the shooters and thus more horizontal space is provided for Cade.
The following list is by no means exhaustive (and in the off-season leading up to the draft, I will let you know who I deem “Legit Shooters”) but serves as a preview of the guys I think most NBA teams have on their radar as guys they view as shooters who can provide spacing. I will designate them in different tiers to give you an idea of where each prospect’s current draft position stands. Each tier is named after a shooter who famously went in the same draft range. Let me be clear, I AM NOT SAYING THESE PROSPECTS WILL BE AS GOOD AS THE GUY THEIR TIER IS NAMED AFTER, I just wanted to send some love and recognition to shooters of all types!
The Duncan Robinson tier are UDFAs, The Gary Trent Jr. tier are 2nd rounders, The Wayne Bullock (combination of our old friends Wayne Ellington and Reggie Bullock) tier is end of round 1, and the Cameron Johnson tier are shooters who are so good they need to be considered in the lottery. I will list each player as well as their three-point attempt rate (abbreviated 3PAr) and their current three-point percentage. Let’s get started.
Honorable Mention: Jabari Smith
I put Jabari here because he is a great shooter, but also I just want as many reasons to talk about him as possible. He definitely belongs on this list, but he is so much more than a shooter that he just gets honorable mention. Still, his ability to stretch the floor in catch-and-shoot situations, pick-and-pop, and even some off-the-dribble is a PERFECT complement to Cade, Saddiq Bey, and Beef Stew as we have another offensive hub who does not need the ball in his hands a ton (currently 26.6% usage) that the Pistons would be taking the ball out of Cade’s hands by drafting him. Plus he can give the size and strength at the 4 to make he and Saddiq a stout 3-4 combo. AND his floor spacing and rim protection help to complement Beef Stew to form a formidable front line on defense. I am definitely on team #Sorry4Jabari and would love the team to draft him if they get a top-3 selection this summer.
The Duncan Robinson tier
Those are not typos ladies and gentleman, this man can shoot! Really, I wanted to start the list proper with Rice as he is someone I had my eye on all last season and does fit quite a few boxes similar to Duncan Robinson in his profile. For one, he almost exclusively launches 3s, and he has consistently kept his percentage at 40% or better all season. Listed at 6-foot-7, he is also a size mismatch at shooting guard similar to Duncan Robinson. Unfortunately, though, this is where the similarities end. He’s also putting up threes at a volume NO ONE on this list can match. Right now he is averaging 9.0 attempts per game and is on pace for his third straight season of over 230 attempts from long range.
The major red flag in Rice’s profile is that he is shooting an inexcusable (and borderline unbelievable) 28.9% from two-point distance. Another red flag — his age. In his defense, he is asked to handle almost all the floor spacing for Aminu Mohammed and Dante Harris who are not good three-point shooters and who are the first- and second-option on offense every night. Both guys are extremely inefficient scorers with the pair each posting True Shooting Percentages under 49.0%. Rice, meanwhile, posts a 55.7% True Shooting clip despite that horrible two-point percentage. This is Rice’s fifth year in college, and he will be 23 years old come draft night. To me, I never downgrade a player due to their age as I think it is more fair to base the evaluation on their skill and context in which they operate, but most evaluators will hold the fact he is older against him and see him as having limited or no upside.
If the Pistons were looking for a pure shooter on the wing then it would be incredibly hard to beat Kaiden Rice—especially if he is undrafted.
Someone who got love last draft cycle from evaluators like Matt Pennie, Laszewski is what Davis Bertans looked like before his shooting regression. For one, Laszewski is 6-foot-10 and weighs in at 227 pounds. He has connected on over 43% of his threes in the past two seasons. He is also incredibly efficient as last year he posted a True Shooting Percentage of 69.1%(!!!) and this year currently he is posting a 63.7%. Unlike Bertans, however, Laszewski is an actual big man who does not mind mixing it up down low. He was Notre Dame’s leading rebounder last season and is on pace to repeat that feat again this year. Laszewski definitely have the makings of a stretch big that play the 4 or the 5.
As far as negatives go, profiles as a great role player and maybe only one who comes off the bench. Defensively he is not strong or mobile enough to hold his own against NBA starters, and would need to be a Kyle Korver level shooter to make up for that deficiency to even sniff 20 minutes per night. He also is a below average passer as he has never averaged 0.9 assists per game in any of his four seasons. He is also going to be 23 years old when the season starts so he will get the “old” label by some.
If the Pistons were looking for a mismatch in the frontcourt coming off the bench to pair with non-shooters like Hamidou Diallo or even Killian Hayes, then Nate Laszewski is one of the best options out there.
Abmas got a lot of love last year from the NBA Draft community, but it seems that love does not translate to the NBA scouting world, and he ended up returning to school after going through the NBA combine. Abmas is the definition of a microwave scorer as he is able to generate offense anywhere and everywhere due to his mechanically sound and quick jumpshot. Abmas is also a legitimate 30-foot-and-out scorer as he regularly pulls up and drains shots from the logo. He is one of two guys on this list I will already bestow the title of “Legit Shooter,” and for Abmas the reason why is in this: Currently he is 2nd in the entire nation in three-point field goal attempts at 234 AND 2nd in three-point field goal makes with 97. This is the second year in a row where he is top 10 in both categories.
Standing 6-foot- and having a listed weight of 165 pounds, physicality questions abound with Abmas. You will still see him on some NBA Mock drafts around the internet, but it is always at the end of round 2 if he shows up at all. The main reason he returned to school was this concern over his size hindering his ability to get shots off in the NBA. Really, this is the determining factor in whether or not he gets drafted and it is totally up to the individual evaluator. But, the fact he is shooting under 45% from two-point range currently is only hurting Abmas’ case to be drafted.
Still, if the Pistons wanted to take a chance on a Microwave scorer, then Abmas is a good name to start with.
The Gary Trent Jr. tier
Abmas and Stefanovic could very easily flip-flop positions here, but I am going to go out on a limb and say Stefanovic is this year’s Joe Wieskamp. Wieskamp was mainly noticed due to the stellar spacing he provided to Luka Garza and the rest of the Iowa Hawkeyes last season. Well, if you’ve watched any Purdue games this year and wondered how Jaden Ivey doesn’t get more wing and guard defenders sent his way, Stefanovic is one of the main reasons why. He has put up 154 total attempts this season and this is his second straight year where he will lead the Boilermakers in threes and drain them at 40% or better. He also an incredibly underrated passer. Last season he was second on the team in total number of assists with 64 and he has improved that number significantly this season as he leads the team with 89—and he’s only turned the ball over 28 times to boot! The translates to a 19.9% assist percentage and a 11.0% turnover ratio—both better marks than his much heralded teammate Jaden Ivey.
What can Stefanovic do well inside of three-point shooting is a bit of a mystery, however. Stefanovic finds himself in a similar situation to Kaiden Rice where he is not taking many two-point attempts. Currently he is only taking 2.0 attempts from two-point range per game. Unlike Rice, however, he is draining those at a high percentage of 53.2% so he is not wasting what little opportunities he does get. Similar to Wieskamp, though, I can’t imagine this being too big of an issue and teams will want to know he can attack a closeout consistently and he’s not just firing away from three no matter what.
While Stefanovic is more of projection from me in terms of being someone who will for sure get drafted, it is hard for any team to ignore a shooter with a True Shooting Percentage of 63.0% who is his team’s main floor spacer and leader in assists who very rarely turns the ball over.
Again, ladies and gentlemen these numbers are not typos. While Grady is in his fifth year in college, the argument can be made that if it were not for him, this Kentucky team would have NO spacing. Grady has taken 156 total three-point attempt this season. His next closest teammate in attempts is Davion Mintz with nearly half Grady’s total at 88. Grady is currently the ONLY Kentucky Wildcat shooting over 36.4% from three. This is a major workload for one shooter to handle—and he’s doing it at Kentucky no less! Grady also has four years worth of game film as THE man at Davidson where he took far fewer three-point attempts (42.2% 3PAr across four seasons) so you CAN answer what else he can do besides shoot when you study his film.
The main hurdles Grady will have to overcome in the eyes of evaluators are that he will be 25 years old at the start of next season and questions about his physicality. 25 is a tough age to sell someone on as a rookie in any sports league in the world. Shooting is a skill that has shown can get better with age and a team would really have to buy in that Grady could be the next Damion Lee who came into the NBA at 25 and found his way as a reliable shooter. Grady also has a weird combination of lower rebound numbers and troubling free throw percentages for me. Grady has never averaged over 4.6 rebounds per game in all five seasons in college and the past two years he has shot under 70% from the free throw line. To me this makes me question if he is not that physical. Throw in that he never posted above a 29.5% Free Throw Attempt rate in college and it makes one think Grady is a shooter only.
Even if that does end up being the case, Grady is someone who can do a lot of heavy lifting as a floor spacer and should get a shot in the league to continue being a shooter teams can easily rely on for space in their second units.
Plummer might be the most efficient shooter in this class. His current shooting splits are 50.0/40.4/92.4 and this is NOT on low volume either. Plummer is first on Illinois in three-point attempts with 171, third in two-point attempts with 82, second in free-throw attempts at 66, and No. 1 on total field goal attempts with 253. He’s also Illinois’ second leading scorer with 350 points. He is also creating almost all of his offense inside the three-point arc on his own as only 8.7% of his shots at the rim come off assists and only 29.4% of his midrange offense is a result of his teammates getting him open. As our friend Ant Wright so correctly stated recently, Plummer is an underrated star who should be getting more love.
Plummer’s lack of passing is going to be what gives many evaluators major pause when trying to determine Plummer’s stock. While Plummer is point guard sized at 6-foot-1 and 182 pounds, he has yet to display even average court vision. Plummer has yet to post a season where he averages more assists than turnovers. This year, he has posted his career high in assists… at 27 … and he still has 34 turnovers to boot. Not once has he posted an assist percentage over 7.5% across an entire season. Plummer is the definition of a gunner, and I am sure there are some teams that are just going to pass him up with his size and lack of passing hindering him from playing point guard in the NBA.
Yet, I am sure teams like Denver, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia would be more than eager to add an ultra-efficient gunner next to their big men who do a great deal of the playmaking and need more shooters to let them feast.
While I normally wait until the offseason to call someone a “Legit Shooter,” I feel safe that Hyunjung Lee is the second guy on this list to get that title right now, and it would be an insult for me not to say so at the jump. Last season, he posted shooting splits of 61.3/44.2/90.0 on 195 total shot attempts—120 from three—which is why I feel strongly he is as legit of a shooter as they come. Lee’s percentages are “down” this year at 59.4/37.7/77.6 currently—which is still a major plus in my book as there is not a significant drop off despite his volume going up and being a focal point of his offense. He’s upped his total attempts to 239 this year … and the year isn’t even over yet!
Functional athleticism is going to be the main question on Hyunjung as he can look pretty stiff out there at times—mainly on defense. This is probably going to be less of an issue as Lee will draw plenty of Duncan Robinson comparisons as he can operate in a similar role where defense doesn’t matter. The best way I know how to sum up his athleticism concerns is by looking at Davidson’s upset of Alabama on Dec. 21. Lee is matched up with Keon Ellis most of the night and has other possessions opposite Javhon Quinerly and Jaden Shackelford—all NBA-level athletes. Lee does a fantastic job forcing Ellis to go 2-of-7 from three and 1-of-2 from two-point range. Yet he does get pushed and shook by Shackelford in particular at times. Lee is part of a system that keeps Alabama from running loose, but he does have trouble with physicality and changing directions on smaller guys. BUT, he also shows that a hand in his face from any of these guys does not bother him as he dropped 17 points on 4-of-8 shooting from deep and 2-of-4 from inside the arc.
My guys over at the Draftdaq NBA Draft Podcast recently did a fantastic job breaking down Hyunjung Lee in incredibly detail, and if you want the full pitch on why he’s quite possibly the best shooter in this class, I encourage you to go give it a listen.
The Wayne Bullock tier
Houstan’s percentage might leave some of you scratching your head as to why he is included on this list. To put it in Dad-pun terms, Houstan did indeed have a problem to start his college career as he looked like a player in need of multiple years under Juwan Howard to hone his game. I’ll break format here as Houstan’s year so far is a story of growth more than clear strengths and weaknesses. From the start of the season until December 30, 2021, Houstan shot 33.9% from three-point range on 4.7 attempts per game. But once the new year rolled around, Caleb has started to find his groove posting 36.4% from three on 4.9 attempts per game.
I know many of you will scream “this is only nine games so it is too small a sample size!” I’d like to push back on that as Caleb has stepped up to be more of a scorer for the Wolverines managing to score in double figures in six out of these nine games—something he only managed to do five times in the first 12 games. He is also much more efficient since the New Year started with shooting splits of 55.2/36.4/68.6. He is also first in three-point attempts for Michigan with 100 so he is their main source of floor spacing. He will have to answer questions about his assist and turnover ratios however as he posts a 8.1% assist ratio and a 15.7% turnover ratio.
In this time he has also managed to claw his way to become Michigan’s third leading scorer—a major turnaround for someone who has trouble cracking double figures to start the year. And, maybe I buried the lead here but he does measure in at 6-foot-8, 205 pounds so he has clear size advantages over all but Laszewski. Factor in he is a freshman and you have all the ingredients for a team to take a flyer on him no later than the Wayne Bullock tier here. (For us Pistons fans, he was also teammates with Cade in High School at Monte Verde Academy so they do have a connection already).
I have a personal draft biased if I am being honest when it comes to end of round 1 and beginning of round 2 picks and it starts with the question, “who’s coming out of Michigan State this year?” I love Michigan State guys the way Bill Belichick loves Rutgers guys. If you don’t know, Belichick has famously drafted a plethora of Rutgers players over the years because of how much he loves the program for a variety of reasons. Ditto for me and Michigan State under Tom Izzo.
To me, the way Coach Izzo runs the program and what he emphasizes just produces pros. From Jason Richardson and Z-Bo to Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman Sr., there is a long track record of guys coming out of East Lansing ready to play NBA ball. Gabe Brown is one of two guys on this list who I believe are next in line. Brown has consistently spaced the floor for Sparty these past two seasons, posting percentages over 38.0% both seasons and he has posted free-throw percentages over 88.0% the past three seasons. He leads the Spartans in three-point attempts at 130 and total field goal attempts at 229. He is also the team’s leader in points with 295. He has definitely stepped up an taken the reigns as the leading scorer in addition to keeping his focus as a wing defender.
Two big things that limit Brown’s ceiling, however, are his lack of court vision and his defense taking a back seat to his freshman teammate. This is the first year in Brown’s four years in East Lansing where he is averaging more than 0.5 assists per game—and even then it is an incredibly low 1.0 assists per game. AT LEAST he does not turn the ball over (he’s kept his Turnover Percentage at 10.2% or lower every year), but having an assist percentage under 7.0% every year makes teams believe Brown will only ever be a catch and shoot guy. And while being 6-foot-7 and 210 pounds on defense makes him an ideal 3-and-D guy, Coach Izzo and the staff have turned to Freshman Max Christie to cover the opposition’s best guard or wing the majority of the season. Christie is skinny strong at 6-foot-6 and 190 pounds, but as an upperclassman who should have an upper hand mentally and physically on the kid, this also seems to indicate there is a ceiling on Brown’s potential there as well.
Brown does share these “concerns” over passing and turnovers with 3-and-D favorite Danny Green, however, so there is precedent that this player type does not need that in his bag as long as he lights it up from deep and plays D
The lone exception on this list when it comes to a guy with a less than 45% 3PAr. Why is he the lone exception? Well for one, if you saw what he did in the NCAA tournament last season, then you KNOW Juzang is a great shooter. And more importantly, Juzang is the rare off-ball movement shooter who loves running off of screens and staying in constant motion to find space to get his jump shot off.
He’s also one of the few players in college basketball who generates over 40% of his offense in the midrange (47.1%) while also shooting over 40% on those shots (42.6%). When you add these numbers to his 3-0point shooting then you have a two-level jump shooter who leads his team in field goal attempts (290), points (344) and shoots above average from the midrange and three-point distance. He also has a textbook jump shot that many people spend years trying to perfect. I am NO shot expert, but evaluators like Adam Spinella have noted this about him, and it makes sense when you start to ask why his numbers are so good despite taking shots other players are discouraged from attempting.
Juzang tested the NBA Draft waters last offseason, but was met with questions about his defense and athleticism. It really boils down to whether he can get by defenders when he attacks off the dribble and if he can stay with NBA wings on defense. Many people believe the answer to both questions is no—hence why you will see him as a second-round pick in most mock drafts. No one questions Juzang’s ability to shoot efficiently even at a high volume, but his stock right now is one of specialist who is trying to prove he has more to his game.
Juzang is one of my personal favorites as a fit on the Pistons since he complements everyone on the roster well with his off-ball movement and shooting. I hope the Pistons do target him for at least a second round selection as he could be a great running mate with Hamidou Diallo at the very least.
The Cameron Johnson tier
Another one of my Michigan State guys, but also another college freshman in the Mitten who’s 3-point percentage requires contextualization. From game one until the end of 2021, Christie posted a shooting line of 42.3/30.8/77.8 and was not even cracking 10 points per game. Since the start of 2022, however, he is scoring 10.5 points per game on 45.8/38.9/86.4 shooting. Christie does require more film study, though, as his primary role in the first part of the season was him standing in the corner and now he is actually handling the ball and having plays called for him. And as I mentioned earlier, Christie has taken the toughest assignment on defense the majority of this season.
Christie is perhaps the most up-and-down prospect in this year’s draft—and without a doubt he is the most up-and-down prospect on this list. Currently, he has fallen back into a slump shooting 19 of 55 from the entire field in his last seven games. Part of it is just being a young guy going through growing pains, and Christie already has his fans in NBA circles who would bet on the soon to be 19 year old. And he is 2nd on this Sparty team in three-point attempts (88) and total field goal attempts (188) so he is being asked to do a lot on offense that few could handle as well as he has.
If you are looking for a wing that does have some off the bounce game and will project as a dependable shooter at the very least, then Max Christie is the easy bet to make.
Agbaji could be this year’s Chris Duarte—meaning an upperclassman who makes it into the lottery due to a skillset that just cannot be denied. Currently, Agbaji’s 45.6% from three ranks 8th in the nation, and he is posting this percentage on 147 attempts so far—which leads the entire Kansas roster and is 67 more attempts than the next closest player. Agbaji is also leading the Jayhawks in field goal attempts (315), points (447), and true shooting percentage (63.5%). Agbaji is also shooting a blistering 77.3% on shots at the rim so to say he is doing a lot is an understatement. In addition to these National Player of the Year-type numbers, Agbaji is a great athlete who has been on NBA Teams’ radar for the past three seasons and has no added a ton of skill to add to his enticing athleticism.
Like many of the other guys on this list, Agbaji’s court vision comes into question, and for my tastes, I think Agbaji does not get to the free-throw line nearly as much as someone with his athleticism and rim attacking abilities should. For his passing, he has never posted a season where his assist percentage was over 10.9%, but he did post turnover percentages of 14.8% and 16.6% his first two seasons. He had whittled that down to a great 9.5% this season, but his assist percentage lower than that at 7.8%. As I said with Gabe Brown, though, this might not actually be a concern if Agbaji falls into a Danny Green-like role. And for me, the most concerning stat is that he has never posted a free throw attempt rate over 24.8%. And, this 24.8% is what he is posting this season as his career high, so it could end up being lower by season’s end. I am just always insistent that if you are a good athlete and you are able to finish at a high level like Agbaji can, you should be able to leverage that into getting to the line more since the defense is going to expect you there and should send extra help that way.
But, even if Agbaji does not add that dimension to his game, we are still talking about a major finisher and shooter who has the potential to be even better than Duarte with his natural gifts that Duarte just doesn’t possess.
Thought of as surefire lottery pick, Mathurin is definitely the highest rated guy consistently labeled a “shooter.” And yes, I am aware that percentage is average, but Mathurin finds himself in a situation similar to Kellan Grady. Teammate Kerr Kriisa (someone who could find himself on this list next year) and Mathurin ARE the spacing for the Arizona Wildcats. Kriisa leads the team in three-point attempts at 154, Mathurin is next at 124, and the next closest guy on the team, Justin Kier, has just 67 attempts. In addition, Mathurin and Pelle Larson are the only two Wildcats shooting over 35% (Larson is at 37.0% but has only taken 54 attempts).
One of Mathurin’s main jobs has been to supply consistent spacing for a big man centered offense. Christian Koloko and Azuolas Tubelis start at center and power forward respectively. Neither are shooters—Tubelis has attempted 28 threes all season and Koloko has hoisted up just 2 attempts from deep. Both, however, are the focal point of the offense as Tubelis is 1st in two point shot attempts at 191 and Koloko is 2nd with 172—Mathurin does come in 3rd, however at 151 attempts.
So, while he is providing space for his big men to operate, he is also creating inside the arc as well. And, he is doing so very efficiently with shooting splits of 54.3/35.5/74.7 which translates to a True Shooting Percentage of 57.0%. Oh and did I mention he is also 2nd the team in Free Throw Attempts at 91—which is the exact same amount of Free Throw attempts as potential number 1 overall pick Jabari Smith. I know this is supposed to be focusing on the shooting part of being a shooter, but if any of you are wondering what separates Mathurin from the rest of the pack, this complete package of skills is it.
Here we have our first “Is he REALLY that size?” guy on the list as Mathurin is listed at 6-foot-7 and 195 pounds. This is a concern for folks wondering if Mathurin is a guard or a wing. If he is 6-foot-7 then there will be those teams that can see him like Otto Porter on the wing launching threes to supplement their guards. If he is a guard and under 6-foot-7 then it becomes more a question of his ball handling and creation ability to be a secondary ball handler.
One further skill that places Mathurin at the top of these shooters and what makes many evaluators—including me—see him as someone who will be an NBA starter is his rebounding. Despite playing on a team with 7-foot-1 Christian Koloko and 6-foot-11 Azoulas Tubelis, he is third on the team in rebounds with 132—just four behind Tubelis. And he is second in defensive rebounds with 96—three ahead of Tubelis and seven behind Koloko. Combine this with his free-throw attempts and you see no matter what his size actually is, he is mixing it up and getting physical when he could easily just let his two big men handle all the dirty work.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read our articles here at DBB! Tell us what you think of this list of shooters in the comments. Any one in particular you want this Pistons to draft? Any one you want them to stay away from? Anyone you feel we missed? I look forward to reading y’all’s thoughts and just choppin it up about the NBA Draft. Next time, I will look at guys that are pure scorers as we get technical and say who’s a straight bucket.