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 Syracuse wing Tyus Battle.
Like many NBA prospects who are potential second round picks yet may go undrafted, Tyus Battle is an intriguing player. He played three years of college basketball at a high profile school (Syracuse) in a high profile conference (ACC). At 6’6 and 210 pounds, Battle has a legitimate NBA body for a guard. Though he may easily look the part, there are enough questions about his game to keep him from being a safe bet to be selected on draft night.
One year ago, Battle declared himself for the 2018 draft without taking the irreversible step of hiring an agent. (You can see last year’s draft profile by Glen Willis here). He eventually chose to return to Syracuse for his junior season. A third season at the collegiate level likely didn’t do much to propel himself forward in the eyes of NBA scouts. His scoring dropped and he didn’t improve in a particular key area of the game where he perhaps needed to show the most improvement: long range jump shooting.
After averaging 11.3 points per game as a freshman, he became the focal point of his team’s offense as a sophomore boosting his scoring to 19.2 per game. However, the significant uptick in scoring was the result of volume and opportunity as his efficiency as a shooter dropped in virtually every aspect.
As a junior, Battle was more selective with this three point shot and relied more heavily on his mid-range jumper. As a result, his overall shooting improved from 40% to 43%, while his three point shooting was almost identical to the 32% he shot as a sophomore.
Battle does play with a scorer's mentality. At least at the college level, he proved he can put the ball on the floor and get to places he needed to go in order to put points on the board for his team. But the reality is that today’s NBA game is primarily played at the rim and behind the three point line. In addition to putting up uninspiring three point shooting numbers, Battle also did not excel as a finisher at the rim.
Clearly, the only part of his scoring game that stands out is his mid-range jump shooting, but only the most elite of mid-range shooters can make shots efficiently enough to be functional in today’s NBA game. While Battle’s best shooting does come from his mid-range game, he has not shown a proficiency that would project him as an elite NBA mid-range shooter.
One aspect of his game that did grow during his junior season was his performance as a ball handler. It is an important development, as NBA wings are expected to be secondary ball handlers. As a junior, Battle increased his assist numbers while cutting down on his turnovers. Earlier in his career, he profiled as a right hand dominant ball handler who struggles to go left. Though scouts are likely to still view him as being limited in his ability to go left effectively, he at least took a step forward in this area.
Perhaps the most critical area of Battle’s game that NBA teams will have to examine closely is his ability to defend. This is an area where, again, Battle looks the part. He has the size, length and solid build to defend on the wing. He is not afraid to play with physicality and he generally works hard on the defensive end of the court. However, as Syracuse primarily plays a zone scheme on defense, scouts will have limited tape to review when assessing his potential as a man-to-man defender.
The combine and private workouts will be critical for Battle. It will be a tough sell for him to convince NBA teams that he has the potential to be at least a league average shooter. But, if he can demonstrate the potential to defend both spots on the wing, taking on bigger, more physical wings as well as smaller, quicker guards, then NBA teams will be more compelled to show patience with his shooting.
For Battle, roster fit is not likely to be as big of a factor as to whether he is selected. Second round picks, particularly late second round picks are generally chosen based on value and upside. As Battle will be 22 before the 2019-20 NBA season starts, his age alone will cap his perceived ceiling in the eyes of many.
The Hawks have three second round picks but all three may be too early for them to consider a player like Battle. However, should Atlanta extend an invite to Battle for a private workout or even take a closer look at him at the combine, that could change.
In general, NBA teams are always looking for one more wing who can hold his own on the defensive end of the court while providing value on the other end. If Battle can project himself as a player who is ready to do just that, then his chances of being selected on draft night, or even playing as an NBA player next season, will rise dramatically.