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 focuses on Oregon forward Louis King.
The Atlanta Hawks have history with ducks that spread their wings in the springtime. Two years ago Travis Schlenk used a second-round pick on Oregon guard Tyler Dorsey off the pedigree of him going off for 23.3 points per game during the Ducks Final Four run.
Louis King’s tournament run wasn’t nearly as prolific, but he was the driving force in Oregon’s Pac-12 Championship and NCAA Sweet 16 run. After struggling with injury to start the season, King played his best during March Madness, where he converted 11 of his 18 three-pointers.
King stands around 6’8 with a 7’0 wingspan, which are solid measurables for an NBA small forward. His lanky body gives him a towering release on his jumper. His release is a bit funky, with his head and part of his body tilting slightly left and the shot release coming before the peak of his jump, but he showed enough versatility to his jumper that teams are likely projecting him to be a plus shooter at the small forward spot.
He’s blessed with an incredibly soft touch on both jumpers and layups. King isn’t a refined post player, but he knows how to throw his body around and can use that same soft touch and high release point to shoot over the top of smaller defenders.
His handle is good for a wing. He can create space well enough to get his shot off, though he isn’t elite in this area, which could create a difficult situation for a team that wants him to play in a more catch-and-shoot-centric role, rather than as primary scoring option. He loves an off-the-dribble jumper, which can be deadly if he’s got it going but can stall out an offense with inefficient shots when he doesn’t.
King isn’t afraid to take highly difficult shots near the rim, as he maintains that touch on his shots. He keeps his elbow high on layup attempts and he throws them up with a very high arc. This stays consistent whether it’s floaters, off-glass finishes, or post hooks. The ratio of good shots to bad shots determines how greatly this will benefit him in the league, as NBA defenders are obviously stronger and better at sending high-arcing shots to the stands. Shot selection around the rim has been an issue for him, as well as deciding exactly when is the right time for him to go up with the ball. He’ll improve in this area as he gains more experience at the professional level.
His offensive role will have to be well-defined by his NBA team. If he earns the opportunity to create his own shot for significant stretches, then that means he’s made strong improvements in multiple areas, but if he’s taking those shots without having made those strides as a ball handler and shooter, things could get ugly quickly. It may come down to his mentality; would he be happy in a lower-usage role that saw him become more of a floor spacer, shooter, and occasional attacker?
King lacks a bit when it comes to lateral speed and athleticism. He’s a well-minded defender, but he might not be quick enough to keep NBA slashers from getting past him and likely won’t have the upper body strength to keep bigger players from bodying through him. With his length, he’ll be able to defend multiple positions, but he has yet to show the mental toughness and willingness to take on a wing stopper role on that end of the floor. He should have the physical tools to get there as a defender, but improving the focus and effort level is a must as he moves to the NBA.
Louis King could sneak into the late first round if a team believes he has upside as a ball handler and can improve defensively, but the second round feels like a better fit for King’s skills. There’s a future for King in the league if he’s a high-end shooter who can create his own shot with the ball in his hands; we’ve seen players like J.R. Smith and Gerald Green excel in these roles, though both Smith and Green are significantly better athletes than King is. He’s a good off-ball prospect that has room to fill out physically. He has the upside to not be a liability defensively, which would really help cement his value as a competent NBA role player. Improvements will be needed for King to earn minutes in a team’s rotation and a team drafting him will have to be patient with his development while he adds to a few different areas of his game at the same time.