In advance of the 2018 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops will be breaking down prospects, both from the college ranks and internationally, with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks will be evaluating in the coming days. More than 50 prospects will be profiled in this space and, in the end, the goal is to inform Hawks fans prior to June 21, when the Hawks are scheduled to make four selections with the first 34 picks.
Today’s breakdown glances at Syracuse sophomore Tyus Battle.
Tyus Battle has decided to test his NBA draft chances after a sophomore season in Syracuse during which he helped his team make an impressive NCAA tourney run. Two things immediately stand out about him when you watch his game film: he has an NBA body and he is very happy to shoot the basketball.
The 20-year-old guard is officially listed at 6’6 and 205 pounds and possesses a wing span of 6’8. He often looks longer than that on defensive end of the court when he puts his impressive athleticism and his frame to work to jump passing lanes and create deflections.
Battle is not a very refined basketball player as of yet but, if you are looking for upside in the 2018 NBA draft class, Battle is a prospect that deserves some consideration.
Battle was a significantly more efficient player during his Freshman season when Andrew White, who played for the Hawks on a two-way contract last season, and Tyler Lydon led the team in field goal attempts. This season, his usage and number of field goal attempts shot up and his scoring efficiency regressed quite significantly.
He partnered with his teammate Franklin Howard to initiate the Syracuse offense. Howard was more of a distributor while Battle was trusted to create shots for himself. He did a lot of things on offense that don’t fit into what most modern NBA teams are looking for their players to do. He dribbled the basketball, a lot! And he often worked his way into shots that weren’t high percentage looks from the field.
He’s very raw but, if he is coachable and willing to put in the work, there is a solid possibility that he could grow into a real NBA career.
His perimeter shot looks good when it is going in, but that can really be a trap in an evaluation process. The mechanics of his shot look very workable with one noted exception.
He shoots the ball after his he reaches his highest release point and when he is on the way back down toward the floor. You might need to watch both of these first two videos several times to key in on it.
When a shooter kicks his feet forward toward the end of his motion, it typically means that either the shooter does not have the core strength to push the ball to the rim from that distance (see Kyle Kuzma early in his NCAA career) or he’s shooting the ball when on the way back to the floor (see Taurean Prince prior to the 2017-18 season) or both.
The rest of Battle’s mechanics are very clean, fluid and repeatable. And since this defect is one of the easiest to help a shooter correct, there is optimism that he could become a very good perimeter shooter as he continues to develop.
Battle is at his best for now when he is attacking the paint from the wing with dribble penetration. On this play, you can see how he uses his long strides and his really impressive hesitation instincts to throw the timing of the defenders off which opens a path to the glass for the uncontested lay up.
Battle is most comfortable attacking from the angle that starts near either three point break. He is able to use a quick first step to work past his own defender. He has more feel than craft around the rim but he can work past a big defender in front of the basket with his ability to find the angle that offers the uncontested shot. And he is as comfortable finishing with his left hand as he is his right hand.
On this play, he is attacking from the top of the key. He instinctively uses the timing of his big man rolling towards the rim to open up a path for him toward the glass.
Battle’s pick and roll game is pretty pedestrian for now but this skill could be a foundation upon which to start developing stronger play in this action.
He can use a nice crossover dribble to clear his defender as well. And when a natural path is not evident he can put his hesitation instincts to use to throw of the timing of the defenders off to remain elevated just long enough to get a pretty clear shot off.
On this play, you can see how methodical he is in the pick and roll action. But his communication skills are evident and he uses his feel near the paint to get the runner to fall and get the opportunity for an extra point from the free throw line.
To understand his overall lack of efficiency last season just take a look at this play. He forces a very contested mid range shot. It falls, but one shot like this with 12 seconds remaining on the shot clock at the next level will have him back on the bench in no time.
Far too many of his shots looked like this.
It’s incredibly hard to evaluate the defensive play of players that play in the 2-3 zone that Jim Boeheim runs at Syracuse, especially guards. But Battle and Howard were able to use their length and athleticism to cover an immense amount of territory at the top of the zone defense and lead to Orange to the 5th best defensive efficiency in the NCAA, per kenpom.com.
The most encouraging overall aspect of his play as an NBA prospect is that Battle could grow into a player that could make an impact on both ends of the court. Too many young players that play the way he does on the offensive end (dominate the basketball) have little to offer on the other end.
When he is making his biggest impact on defense, it tends to look like this. The inbounder on this play sees this pass as a simple toss out to the top of the offensive formation, but Battle baits this pass the whole way.
While Howard is covering right half of the defensive floor, Battle seemingly settles right into the middle of the play. This is the basketball equivalent of a free safety giving the opposing QB a supposed clear passing lane to a receiver. Except the defender has the play measured the entire way as he sets up the pick 6 opportunity.
If you were to evaluate Battle only statistically, nothing would indicate that he is remotely ready to be drafted by an NBA team. And he has retained the right to return to Syracuse if his evaluation suggests that might be the right choice. In the same breath, there is a robust raw skill set that is obvious when you watch his play.
A team that can help him put the finishing touches to his shot and help make him a better decision maker could end up having done well for making the choice to use a late first or second round pick on him.