In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, in this edition, we look at San Diego State guard Malachi Flynn.
Malachi Flynn was one of the best players in the nation for San Diego State during the 2019-20 season. Flynn sat out the 2018-19 season due to NCAA transfer rules, as he played his first two collegiate seasons at Washington State.
Standing at just 6’1 with a 6’3 wingspan, Flynn’s offensive prowess, particularly his shot-making and pick-and-roll ball-handling trait, will have to pan out in order for him to become a quality NBA player.
While he’s not likely someone in the range of one of the Atlanta Hawks’ projected picks (No. 6, No. 50) heading into the 2020 NBA Draft, it’s well documented how active Travis Schlenk has been in recent drafts when it comes to making trades, so you really never know where the Hawks will end up on the board by the end of the night.
Per Synergy, Flynn ranked in the 96th percentile in pick-and-roll in his position group, generating 228 points on 215 possessions (1.06 PPP).
Flynn was even more effective when passing out of pick-and-roll, generating 238 points on 186 possessions (1.28 PPP) when passing off the screen. Overall, Flynn amassed 466 points on 401 pick-and-roll possessions (1.16 PPP) in 2019-20, grading in the 96th percentile among guards.
In the overall halfcourt, Flynn ranked in the 92nd percentile, generating 489 points on 470 possessions (1.04 PPP).
Flynn uses feel and touch to score at all three levels. The efficiency he’s able to maintain at his size is impressive and could be a swing skill at the next level. Flynn had a 58.3 TS% for San Diego State this season while attempting 11.5 three-pointers per 100 possessions.
He has the ability to shoot the three off the catch or the bounce, and looks very fluid when shooting off of movement. Flynn ranked as an excellent spot-up shooter, converting 30 of 74 attempts last season (40.5 FG%). He also has a solid pull-up mid-range game, and that pull-up ability extends to deep three-point range. Flynn is one of the more dangerous shot-makers off the bounce in the 2020 class.
In terms of passing, Flynn has the ability to read and manipulate a defense from the point guard position, particularly when a screen is involved. He uses head fakes, ball fakes, etc. to create extra space for pocket passes. He also has the ability to split trap coverage with his dribble, an important counter to have for a player who uses a lot of screens.
His feel in this area is special, and his gravity as a shooter forces defenses to press up on him, making things even easier. Go under the screen and he’s pulling the shot, overplay him and he’s making a great pass to someone going downhill towards the basket or splitting the defense and finishing it himself. Flynn can pass from all angles, on the move, mid-dribble, etc. If someone breaks open, he’s likely going to see them and deliver an accurate ball.
Synergy tracked Flynn as a good college defender, holding opponents to 34.5% on field goals (68-for-197). These numbers don’t always mean something in terms of NBA projection, but with Flynn it at least illustrates his effort level and IQ. He’s a very active defender, who’s just as sharp on defense as he is on the other end of the floor. He understands the way the floor moves and what opposing offenses are trying to do, and he’s able to impact the game that way despite often being the smallest guy on the floor. Flynn tallied 3.2 steals per 100 possessions in 2019-20, staying active with his hands and in passing lanes.
This is not a surprise, but size is the most limiting factor for Flynn defensively. He’s able to read the floor and make smart rotations, but his lack of length does hurt him in other areas. Naturally someone who’s only 6’1 with a 6’3 wingspan is not going to be the most intimidating closeout onto a shooter. Bigger, more physical guards who are quick enough to get Flynn on their hip can also give him trouble especially in the paint. And perhaps most importantly in terms of draft stock, he’s mostly a one-position defender at 6’1.
Flynn is currently one of the better players in the draft. Projecting to the next level, however, there are some questions such as whether he will be able to maintain efficiency in the paint at the next level and exactly how good of a shooter he’s going to be. Still, even if he’s a below average finisher, like a Fred VanVleet for example, all of his other intangibles should leave him position to carve out a role in a rotation somewhere.
Flynn has enough projectable skills to buy in on the intangible traits somewhere in the back half of the first round. If he pans out all the way, he could potentially be a starting caliber guard. He’s not the best athlete, so he’s really going to have to be creative inside to be efficient.
For Atlanta, he may not be an ideal target, even if a trade leaves them with a pick somewhere in the late first round somehow. Obviously, the Hawks already have a 6’1 player locked into their rotation for the foreseeable future in Trae Young, so it may be a tough sell to bring in another ball dominant guard with a sub-6’4 wingspan.
If Schlenk views Flynn as one of the better players in the draft, which is certainly possible given his affinity for players who are as good at passing and shooting as Flynn is, it is not impossible to envision the Hawks bringing in Flynn as Young’s potential long-term backup in the event the Hawks did have a selection somewhere in the late first to early second.