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 Vanderbilt freshman Simi Shittu.
Simi Shittu was the 11th-ranked player in the country coming out of high school in 2018 according to 247 Sports, and 19th in the ESPN Top 100. He was a five-star prospect on 247, ESPN, and pretty much every other major recruiting website. He rose near the top of recruiting boards using his combination of length and mobility to make plays for himself and others, competing with the likes of Bol Bol and and Shareef O’Neal on the AAU circuit before arriving at Vanderbilt in the fall of 2018.
So why is he currently profiled as a 2nd round flier going into the NBA Draft, as opposed to the highly regarded prospect he was a year ago? His lack of shooting is going be his biggest hindrance to being drafted near the first round, and if he doesn’t become more comfortable, it may be the kryptonite of his NBA career.
Not being able to shoot or play defense at a high level at this current stage of his development is why some feel the near seven-footer may not even be drafted. Shittu is a 6’10, 240 pound prospect, who really, really struggled to shoot the ball as a freshman. He ranks below 60th in the 2019 draft class in points per possession from nearly every spot on the floor, inside, outside, wherever. He also ranked outside the top 65 in the class on every type of jumper tracked by Synergy: catch-and-shoot, contested, open, pull-up, you name it.
The one advanced statistic favoring Shittu is his ‘MoreyBall’ rate, as he ranked near the top of expected draft pool in percentage of shots taken at the rim or from three-point range. This means his game is trending in the same direction the league is trending, with layups and open threes being the highest quality shots from an analytical perspective. Shittu even being able to get to 30% from behind the arc would substantially boost his value, and any team looking at him will certainly be interested to see how far behind he truly is with his jumper.
After committing to Vanderbilt with fellow five-star recruit Darius Garland, Shittu struggled to produce much in the way of offense. Garland was injured and only appeared in five games, stunting the possible pick-and-roll combo of Garland and Shittu. He was much more effective out of the post (as opposed to shooting jumpers) and as the roll man in the pick-and-roll. He ranked in the top third of this draft class in points per possession out of the post, including both his scoring and passing, and as the roll man in the screen game. With Garland playing only five games, you have to think it’s very possible, if not likely that Shittu would have had even more success as the roll man with more time alongside the five-star point guard.
While Shittu was measured at 6’10.5 without shoes and a wingspan of 7’1 in 2017, he profiles as more of a point forward in some respects, as he was one of the more frequent passers out of the post in the 2019 draft class, while maintaining a healthy points per possession average when taking things into his own hands in similar situations. He possesses more wing-like tendencies than a player like John Collins, who had similar height and weight measurements going into the 2017 NBA Draft but the movement of a more traditional big man.
Shittu’s greatest strength at this stage is probably his ability to grab a defensive rebound and start the break himself, while he also has shown a knack for finding the open man in such situations. Here’s an extended clip of what was probably his best game at Vanderbilt, but you’ll see him push the break off of a defensive rebound and throw a beautiful lead bounce pass to a teammate for an easy transition score in the first clip.
He also showed some prowess for finding teammates out of the high post in the half court, as Vanderbilt ran a substantial amount of offense through him after losing Garland well before conference play even began. If Shittu can maintain something close to the efficiency he showed going to the basket he displayed in this contest, whatever team he winds up on this summer will be more than pleased that they were able to grab him with a small investment, whether he’s a late pick, or signed to a two-way contract after going undrafted.
Shittu would be interesting prospect for Atlanta to take a chance on, while the lack of shooting has generally been something general manager Travis Schlenk has steered away from in his short tenure at the helm. There are so many ifs with a prospect as raw as this one, but the combination of mobility and length is rare and teams recognize that. For these reasons, it feels like Shittu is a potential combine riser, as he is going to have measurables that really stand out among the other second-round profile type guys.
The potential is there, and the hype he brought into Vanderbilt, while certainly faded, may carry into draft night for a team with there being so little for teams to lose in the second round, especially after pick 40 or so. It’s certainly not a bad idea to take a chance on a high potential prospect with such little risk is attached, and regardless of need or fit. It would be surprising to see Shittu go undrafted this June for these reasons. As mentioned previously, he does not fit the draft profile that Schlenk and Atlanta’s front office have typically hunted, but in the second round, his raw talent may outweigh any concerns any given team has about taking him over a more polished prospect.