This edition focuses on Tulsa’s DaQuan Jeffries.
DaQuan Jeffries has decided to test his NBA draft prospects after three collegiate seasons, the last two being at Tulsa. Of recent he has gained some internet fame, a good bit of that coming after he won the 2019 NCAA dunk contest that took place the on the weekend of the Final Four in Minneapolis. ESPN has him 89th in their top 100 list, but he is starting to show up as a projected late second round selection on some outlet’s mock drafts.
He’s an intriguing prospect because he is one of the most explosive athletes in the draft class. But it is far from certain that his size and skill set will translate into a realistic role at the NBA level.
Jeffries excels primarily in transition and as a cutter in the half court offense. He’s fast and has a long stride, which jumps out at you when you evaluate him in an NCAA setting. He has a ton of verticality whether leaping off of one or two feet. He finishes well at the rim and is a good lob target despite the fact that he is just 6’5.
He was a solid perimeter shooter from the shorter college three-point line. He converted on 36.7% attempts from deep last season on a decent volume of 123 shots, but almost every one of those attempts came from right at the three-point line which is some cause for concern that the shot might not fully translate at the next level. Very few of his attempts came even a foot away from the arc.
However, for the first time, last month’s edition of the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament implemented the NBA three-point line. Jeffries participated and played well at the event including knocking down 7 of his 17 three point attempts (an obviously small sample size.) His shooting form looks mostly clean and repeatable but his release needs to be sped up just a bit.
Jeffries was asked to play a lot at the power forward position last season with Tulsa, which went relatively well, but despite a 7’0 wing span and a legitimate NBA body, he does not have the playmaking skills an NBA wing prospect needs to have to draw serious interest from NBA teams and he might not be quite big enough to play at the four as a professional.
He had just 20 assists during his first year playing for the Golden Hurricane. Last season, he increased that number to 56, which was solid improvement, but he also had 51 turnovers. He’s a solid two-handed passer but struggles to make accurate passes off the dribble and his ball handling needs a lot of clean up to project his playmaking to eventually be good enough to play in the NBA.
On this side of the court, Jeffries is a really intriguing prospect. His combination of length and strength is quite unique and offers the potential for him to be a useful defender at the point of attack. Every NBA team is looking for players that might be able to hold up when defending some of the bigger wing creators in the league.
Even ten years ago, Jeffries would have been labeled a tweener and gotten little interest as an NBA prospect, but as the league continues to evolve towards positionless play, there is increasingly potential room for a player like him to get a decent amount of consideration.
A team with a certain roster type of roster construction might be his best hope to get a serious look. For example, in the 2018 NBA draft, I believe that the Philadelphia 76ers selected Zhaire Smith envisioning lineups in which Ben Simmons would play point guard on offense and power forward on defense, with Smith doing the opposite. At the NBA level, if Jeffries could function as a floor spacer on offense while defending at the wing, which might not require him to develop as much in the area of offensive creation as he otherwise would need to do.
Since Tulsa runs a 2-3 match-up zone defensive scheme, it’s difficult to see what level of help defender he is or how effectively he defends in space. It’s also tough to evaluate what his ability to work over ball screens might be. As he works out with NBA organizations ahead of the draft, team’s will surely use 3-on-3 three drills to probe some of these areas.
He’s a solid rebounder for his size and is proactive in getting good position to block out his man. He also averaged more than one steal and block per game. He knows how to use his quickness and length to jump a passing lane. And he has demonstrated a solid ability to time his leaps at the basket as a defender to offer some weak side rim protection.
Jeffries will turn 22 by the time the 2019-20 NBA season begins, so he will have to make quite an impression on teams between now and the draft to increase the likelihood that he will be selected ahead of younger prospects that teams might view as having more upside. He’s an exceptional athlete, but it will come down to whether or not a team believes there is still an opportunity to develop his skill set to project him as being worth taking a flyer on him in the draft.