Before the 2019 NBA Draft arrives, Peachtree Hoops will break down more than 70 available prospects with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks may look to do in late June.
This installment breaks down prep-to-pro guard Jalen Lecque.
Darius Bazley is the most prominent prep-to-pro option in the 2019 NBA Draft, with the talented forward spending what would have been his freshman year in college as a (highly paid) New Balance intern in preparation for his professional career. However, Bazley is not alone in pursuing a spot in the NBA without stepping foot on a college court, as Jalen Lecque recently declared for the 2019 draft despite a commitment to play for NC State.
Lecque turns 19 in June and, at least according to public knowledge at this point, is eligible for the draft as a result of his age and original high school class. Comparisons are already being made to 2018 draftee Anfernee Simons, at least when it comes to his developmental path, but Lecque is a divisive prospect at this stage.
At 6’4, he is a big-time athlete and that allows for intrigue when it comes to his future. However, Lecque was only the No. 38 overall recruit according to the 247Sports composite and, simply put, that kind of high school prospect does not usually become a one-and-done, much less a direct prep-to-pro player.
At this stage, Lecque’s athleticism is by far his most intriguing attribute, with questions about his jump shot and the relative lack of point guard acumen. He is one of the better pure athletes available in the draft and, for developmentally focused organizations, Lecque could represent the kind of upside that teams crave when taking second-round swings.
It is certainly worth noting, though, that most believe Lecque is the very definition of a long-term project, with very little chance to contribute in the near term after being drafted. That is the case for most guards of his age but Lecque is particularly raw and, without the ability to stretch defenses with proven high-end shooting, the learning curve could be quite sharp.
Still, you can’t teach the ability to explode athletically that Lecque provides and, as a result, his defensive projection is quite interesting. In various interviews, Lecque has unearthed the name of Russell Westbrook as a player comparison and, while that is (obviously) quite lofty, the athletic tools make it less absurd on its face.
For NBA teams, the question becomes whether Lecque can develop offensively as an on-ball force. That would require some semblance of a pull-up game (a la Westbrook) to go along with his presumed ability to finish through contact. Because of his three-point shooting questions, it becomes difficult to project Lecque as an off-ball player, leading to some tricky fit concerns in the event that he does translate positively to an NBA environment.
As with Bazley, this is a projection based heavily on upside and physical talent and there is arguably even less certainty with Lecque given the relative lack of high-end exposure. If things work out, an NBA team would be getting an explosive 6’4 guard with two-way ability. If things don’t, the downside is relatively limited, as it would be relatively stunning to see Lecque earn a place in the first round, signifying a guaranteed contract.
The Atlanta Hawks can afford to take swings given their plethora of draft assets and that makes a potential partnership with Lecque intriguing. With that said, Lecque is not a consensus top-45 prospect (at least before individual workouts begin and he can showcase his athletic profile), meaning that Travis Schlenk and company would have to see him in a more positive light than the rest of the league in order to pull the trigger on a selection where the Hawks currently stand in the draft order.
If nothing else, there is a lot to like about Lecque’s projection, but there is also a lot to question.