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 report centers on Wake Forest’s Jaylen Hoard.
Jaylen Hoard may be one of the most experienced players in the 2019 NBA draft class. He was born and mostly raised in France, and his rise in the French national basketball program eventually afforded him the opportunity to play in French leagues at a young age, before he relocated to the states to get some American high school experience. He also had opportunities to play for the French national team in FIBA events, accumulating more exposure at a high level.
He was a consensus top-25 prospect in the 2018 collegiate class, mostly because of his length and athleticism, and Hoard had a mostly successful season at Wake Forest during the 2018-19 campaign. He is not ready to play in the NBA right now but, at the same time, Hoard could be an interesting project pick for a team that believes in his work ethic and finds him agreeable to a developmental timeline.
Lacking a robust skill set, Hoard put up his 13.1 points and 7.6 rebounds mostly by functioning in simpler actions such as hitting the offensive glass, rolling to the rim, etc. Wake Forest allowed him to operate in other actions, but he mostly kept it simple and played methodically in those instances. Any time he tried to speed it up in more complex actions, it got ugly pretty quickly.
Hoard’s perimeter shot looks mostly functional, despite the fact that he only connected on 22.6% of his shots from the three-point line last season. To start with, he is a willing shooter, which is important, and his form doesn’t have any wasted motion. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could develop into a reasonably effective shooter, and it’s also encouraging that he converted 72% of this free throw attempts.
This possession allows us to see a few things. Wake Forest allowed Hoard to help with ball handling responsibilities when facing the soft press. Also, when Hoard would get a mismatch in the post, he would quickly go to work with basic footwork to get the easy bucket.
It’s important to note that some of the ways he produced scoring were in actions he will not be allowed to do at the NBA level. For example, this low percentage runner was fine while he was playing on a college team that was 175th in the country in offensive efficiency. This shot at the next level would swiftly land him back on the bench.
Here, we see a possession that reflects a few areas of improvement that are needed. On a baseline out of bounds (BLOB) play, he gets to the restricted area and sets up with good footwork. But he eventually coughs up a turnover for a few reasons. He simply needs to be stronger with the basketball and he needs to learn to not bring the ball below his waist.
This play is an example of the “project prospect” he might be. It’s the immediate recognition that the defense is overloaded to the strong side. It’s his length and his ability to measure the play perfectly to get the easy bucket. It’s that long stride to clear traffic. This is a play you watch which elicits a reaction such as “not many players at this level can make this play.”
Hoard has the raw tools that one needs to have to profile as a player that could help on the defensive end of the court at the NBA level. He’s 6’8 and 210 pounds. He possesses a 7’1 wingspan and won’t turn 21 until 11 months from now. If he is able to add a natural 20 pounds or so over the next year, he might be able to be developed into a valuable versatile defender.
He shows good awareness defending away from the play. He knows where he is supposed to be at all times. He is an impact defender in transition and he looks for opportunities to help his teammates.
Notice the anticipation Hoard demonstrates on this play. He knows he is going to need to be present at the rim before the opposing player even starts working toward it. This is excellent weak side rim protections.
This possession offers another example of Hoard helping on defense. It’s evident he knows what his athleticism and intelligence allows him to do. Here he helps off of his man onto the ball handler and still has the ability to get back to the rim and block his man’s shot attempt. That is an incredibly unique recovery ability.
The upside he has as a defensive prospect is quite high, especially if he can develop a stronger body.
It’s almost as if he is the opposite type of prospect as another Wake Forest prospect, John Collins. The Hawks forward had a bottomless toolkit to work with on the offensive end of the court at the collegiate level which allowed him to led the country in PER, but lacked the length to project as a plus defender at the NBA level.
Hoard has the length that Collins does not, but, as of now, he lacks the robust offensive skill set. It’s not as if it’s completely absent at the moment, but when you watch him play, you can see there are a handful of skills that are just a tick or two away in terms of player development that might bring along some upside on the offensive end of the court.
Sam Vecenie suggests in this piece for the Athletic that Hoard could be a draft-and-stash prospect assuming that he would be happy to play in Europe for a season or more, where he has family and some experience in his youth, before starting on a rookie scale deal. Given that the Hawks could struggle to find roster spots for all 5 draft picks, should they keep all of them, Hoard could be an intriguing option for the organization.