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 installment focuses on Tulane’s Melvin Frazier.
Melvin Frazier is not a household name. He played in relative obscurity at Tulane for three seasons, although the last two seasons were under the guidance of former NBA head coach Mike Dunleavy. Last week at the NBA combine, he measured at just 6’4 1⁄2 without shoes. His wingspan, however, of 7’1 3⁄4 was the longest of any player at the combine shorter than 6’6 in height.
He is a dynamic, explosive athlete and his status as a defensive prospect is what is driving most of the attention he is getting. But he improved his shooting across the board in each season at the collegiate level. After shooting only 51.6 percent at the free throw line during his freshman season, he would shoot a healthy 55.6 percent from the field including 38.5 percent from beyond the three point line last season. He used that improvement to produce 15.9 points per game, which would have been virtually unthinkable just two years ago.
Offensively, Frazier is still working on growing into his rangy body. As a ball handler, his length works against him at times and results in dribbles that can get away from him. But he is capable of doing more than just playing off of the ball. He demonstrates very good vision as a passer but the precision of his delivery can be all over the place.
He is capable of playing well above the rim especially when he has the time and space to load up and jump off of both feet. But last season he consistently showed an improved ability to use his length to get to the rim and finish over and around bigger defenders.
Frazier can be difficult to handle in transition when the decision making is solid. He runs and cuts with purpose and urgency when playing off of the basketball. But to beat legitimate NBA defenders, he is going to have to develop the ability to do something with his left hand. At the NCAA level, he was able to work almost exclusively going to his right and get away with it. That most definitely will not be the case at the next level.
His shooting mechanics are clean in his lower half and he demonstrates excellent balance. But like other young shooters with that much length to work into his shooting motion the release is very slow at this point and will need to be improved.
As is seen on this play, when he is in the pick and roll, he will often use the screener as more of a decoy and try to dribble past his defender in the other direction. He does not need much of a path to get the rim and he finishes this play with a monster dunk.
Frazier’s persistence to work even when he does not have the basketball can be seen on this play. His defender denies the passing lane and he cuts with purpose and gets free to receive the ball and is able to use his length to finish in traffic.
Too much of his play still looks like this. His precision as a passer is not quite there yet and he simply need more repetitions to improve his real time judgement as to know when he is nearing the point of playing out of control.
On the defensive end of the court, Frazier has as much potential to become a lock-down perimeter defender as any prospect in this draft class. He operates with significantly more precision defensively than he does on offense.
He works very hard as an on-ball defender and recognizes that he as a special ability to operate pretty far from his man in help defense while still having ample opportunity to get back if the ball is moved to his man.
Frazier also profiles as a potentially elite wing defender that should be able to operate in a switch heavy scheme or to simply slide up and defend at the power forward position. He has flashed the ability to act as a weak side rim protector at times. His versatility as a defender will likely be the thing that eventually gets him drafted where he is selected.
Like the dunk we looked at previously, this is another ‘wow’ play. Few defenders have the length to get a hand on the basketball from a trail position like he does here. He does not give up when it looks like he is beat and uses every tool possible to try to make a play even after the ball handler is completely ahead of him. And he has an elite ability to switch ends of the court with his speed and long stride.
On this play, his activity as a defender is evident. He looks for every opportunity to be a presence in the middle of the entire play helping even below the nail all the while staying connected to his responsibility on the perimeter. He closes out on shooters with urgency and precision.
Here, he gets all the way to the restricted area as a help defender and is still able to get back on the perimeter to chase the potential shooter off of the three point line. There are only a handful of players in this draft class that have demonstrated this level of defensive awareness and execution.
Most mock drafts have Frazier being slected somewhere between No. 25 and No. 40, but he is the classic 3&D prospect that nearly all NBA teams are trying to get into their organization. In addition, his emerging ability to function as a passer might be just enough that a team is willing to take a shot on him before the first round nears completion.