The NBA has plenty of players that were not “blue chip” prospects from the age of 16 on. To make it, these guys have to fit a specific role for a roster and be one of the top 5 in the world at that task. Whether it’s a defensive stopper (Tony Allen), or a sharpshooter (Kyle Korver), teams need some players to fit in with the megastars.
In Springfield, there were a few players that caught our eyes as potential NBA players, within the role player world. Here’s who has a chance in the 2018 high school class.
Cole Swider-6’8″ wing with good athleticism. Versatile shooter; can run into shots, pull up off the dribble, and spot up. This is where he’ll make his mark. Swider has enough athleticism to curl into jump shots at the NBA level. He has just enough handle that he can score if he gets run off the 3PT line with a tough closeout.
Heading to Villanova, Swider will continue to develop on both ends of the floor. Worst case scenario, he’s a shooter with NBA size. Best case, he’s a more athletic version of Evan Fournier. Either way, we expect Swider to be in the draft discussion after his sophomore year, and head to the NBA after his junior year.
Luther Muhammad-We mentioned Tony Allen as a role player that has had NBA success, well Luther Muhammad is cut from the same cloth (on the court). A strong, long 6’4″ guard who loves the defensive challenge. Add in elite lateral quickness to his striking frame and he’s the prototype perimeter defender. What separates Muhammad from other defensive stoppers is his ability to handle the ball and run an offense. More of a throwback point guard in that sense, he’s never going to be a 15 ppg guy in the NBA, but he’ll impact the game on both ends.
Think Marcus Smart, in the modern era, but without the drama. His spot shooting is accurate, but a slow release prevents him from being a major threat at this point. The good thing for Muhammad, most NBA teams have someone on the staff who can help with that.
Nate Laszewski-As coaches and executives search for more and more shooting, Laszewski is entering the mix at a perfect time given his skill set and size. He’s a rail-thin 6’10”, but he plays tougher than his weight and looks like he’ll be able to fill out, eventually. All that aside, Laszewski is one of the top shooters in the country, and when you add the filter for elite size, he’s the only one left in the conversation. More than just a spot shooter, Laszewski has great footwork moving into shots along the arc.
His height and release point make for a near-unblockable shot from deep. What we also like, is his ability to set his man up and use subtle evasion techniques to create space. A 3-year player at minimum, he’ll see his draft stock rise as he proves he can rebound and defend to stay on the floor long enough to hoist a few long-range bombs.
Ty Perry-Probably the least known of this group. Perry doesn’t start for his high school team. But that didn’t stop him from having a 50+ point game the week before the Hoop Hall. His physique looks more NFL than NBA, but his shooting ability is elite. Unfortunately, his ball handling is not and may never be NBA level. Perry will find himself in the Jodie Meeks, Troy Daniels role if he makes it. We’ll have to watch his footwork and feel moving into shots more, but right now he’s the best spot shooter in the 2018 class. At 6’2″ and chiseled from granite, he’ll figure out ways to defend his man and help rebound.
None of these kids project as NBA All Stars, but they all have a chance of sticking on rosters given their elite skill.