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 edition profiles Virginia guard Ty Jerome.
The 2018-19 Virginia Cavaliers cut down the nets in Minneapolis as NCAA champions and, while it should not have been a surprise to see a No. 1 seed emerging victorious, Tony Bennett’s team put a period on a tremendous journey. Long story short, the 2017-18 Virginia team became the first in college basketball history to lose in the first round as a No. 1 seed and, with a few exceptions, the Cavaliers brought the band back for the ensuing campaign, with a nucleus of De’Andre Hunter, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome. By the end of their national title run, Virginia’s “big three” was prominently recognized for their collegiate brilliance but, from a professional perspective, each member of the trio seemingly helped their stock.
Hunter is an unquestioned lottery pick in the 2019 class (we’ll get to him later in this space) and Guy unexpectedly declared for the 2019 draft, in part to capitalize on what was an impressive spurt on the national stage. As for Jerome, it is unclear what might have happened if Virginia fell short but after his rock-solid performance against top-level college competition, the logical choice was to join his teammates in entering the 2019 NBA Draft.
Jerome essentially serves as a midpoint between Hunter and Guy. Some view him as a first-round prospect, while others are more skeptical, pegging him as a player that should land between No. 31 and No. 60 when names are being called on June 20. At the very least, however, Jerome should be drafted and he is an interesting evaluation on a number of levels.
On the positive side, there are traits that make Jerome a potentially tantalizing player at the next level. He stands at 6’5.5 in shoes while operating as a lead guard and, while no one would mistake Jerome for a “pure” point guard prospect, his offensive versatility could be valuable. Beyond that, he is a (very) strong shooter, connecting on 39.9 percent of his three-point attempts as a junior. That number is impressive in any context but Jerome also succeeded on a relatively challenging shot profile, as he was often tasked with being Virginia’s late-clock operator in an offense that moved at a glacial overall pace.
With the ball in his hands, Jerome can be effective, both as a shooter and a passer. He is a high-IQ player by any measure and his passing acumen is quite impressive. Jerome posted a 32.6 percent assist rate during his final college season and, while he may not qualify as an “elite” passer, it is certainly a strength of his game.
Without the ball, Jerome separates from the competition in that he is exceptionally astute at moving and cutting off screens. He manages to fill in gaps by understanding spacing and often takes the time and effort required to set up defenders in an effort to create additional space. That, combined with his ability to shoot off movement, makes Jerome an interesting role player projection at the NBA level.
Defensively, there are also strengths with Jerome. He displays great hands on a regular basis, generating deflections and creating general havoc, and Jerome’s steal rate (3.2 percent over the last two seasons) is above-average. Jerome is almost always well-positioned, both on and off the ball, and he defends with toughness and vigor that is encouraging.
Of course, the overarching concern with Jerome permeates the entire evaluation and, simply put, he doesn’t have a normal athletic profile for an NBA guard. Despite his very solid 6’5.5 height measurement, Jerome checked in with a negative wingspan (6’4) and that takes away some of his inherent advantage. In addition, Jerome lacks athletic tools, with very little burst to naturally separate from opponents and testing times that lagged behind backcourt contemporaries.
Is Jerome’s lack of athleticism disqualifying? Absolutely not, but it does shine a light on why some are extremely skeptical of his translation to the NBA. Skeptics would point to Jerome as a player that could be bound for Europe as a result and, in some ways, he would be a fantastic fit as a borderline elite player at the highest levels of the international game. However, Jerome’s shooting provides a clear path to NBA viability and, at the very least, he should be able to parlay that potentially elite skill — in concert with his passing and general awareness — into a top-40 landing spot in this class.
Through the lens of the Atlanta Hawks, Jerome could make sense. First, the team’s front office has prioritized players that can dribble, pass and shoot, opening the door for Jerome as a player that checks all three boxes. Furthermore, Jerome’s size as a potential backup point guard option could be tantalizing and, offensively, it is easy to see how he would fit in Atlanta’s system. The big question, both for the Hawks and any NBA team, is how Jerome’s defense might translate and it might be the difference between a potential investment at No. 35 overall and a willingness to pass on him entirely. At the very least, Jerome is a name to closely monitor in the coming days.