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 break down the play of LSU guard Skylar Mays.
Skylar Mays was mostly a complementary player in his first three seasons, playing alongside the likes of future NBA players Naz Reid and Tremont Waters at LSU. However, he exploded onto the national map on the offensive end with more on-ball opportunities as a senior. His wits and craftiness is earning him some recent chatter around circles of the never-ending 2020 NBA draft process.
Mays increased his scoring production every season in college, going from 13.0 to 17.4 points per 36 minutes from his freshman year to his senior year. For his career, he averaged 14.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.9 steals per 36 minutes.
He was a very steady shooter, logging a career true shooting mark of 58.0% and a senior year mark of 62.2% by tailoring his game toward taking shots from the most efficient of areas on the floor. For his efforts, almost half of Mays’ career field goals were from three-point range — 42.9% to be exact for a career mark of 34.5 3PG% — and he posted a free throw rate (a ratio of free throws to field goals taken) of 40.9%.
Mays checks in at 6’4” and 205-pounds, with a 6’7” wingspan to boot, coming off his senior season from Baton Rouge. He earned first team All-SEC honors in 2019-20 after stepping his game up in a big way this past winter and spring.
Mays developed a reliable long range shot and acted primarily as a spot up shooter for the majority of his college career. His 1.12 PPP (points per possession) in the catch-and-shoot game is strong and something that should translate well on a team with capable ball handlers around him, especially given his marksmanship from the charity stripe (84.5% career FT%).
I really enjoy his composure at all times. He never rushes his shooting form and uses the rhythm dribble here to lock in his stroke from deep.
The former LSU standout is a bulldog defending at the point of attack with active hands, often taking on the opponents’ lead guard as soon as he steps across the half court line. I see him defending the 1 and the 2 at a high level, and he should have no problem switching onto smaller wings in a pinch.
Mays has a nose for knowing when to help off his man as soon as the adjacent player takes a dribble to force him to pick it up. Or, you know, just pick his pockets and head the other way.
He showed the ability to recognize a play being run and beat his man to the spot, as shown by his career mark of two steals per 36 minutes. This will allow him to be utilized as a roaming defender at the next level.
Mays contests every jump shot with high energy and smart closeouts. It was clear to see by his junior and senior year, he acted as a captain for LSU, constantly communicating with his team on the defensive end and calling out assignments for himself and others.
Mays has a ton of experience and wore a few different hats over the years for the Tigers. He almost never took the ball up the court in his first three year, but as a senior he was bringing the ball up and triggering the offense like a natural.
He wasn’t much of a volume dribble drive player, but did manage to pick his spots well. When slashing to the basket, he was rarely out of control, giving himself the opportunity to kick the ball out to the perimeter if a double team crashed down or just take it to the rim himself.
Mays is a pretty impressive rebounder for his size, logging 5.2 rebounds per 36 minutes. He added strength to his frame over the years, and that allowed him to fight with taller guys in the post when shots go up.
Mays was the Academic All-American of the Year for men’s NCAA Division I basketball with a 3.93 GPA while majoring in kinesiology. This is an incredible achievement to receive, especially while playing at a high level of Division I competition, and it showcases his multifaceted hard work on and off the court. He has stated he wants to pursue a career in the medical field if his basketball career doesn’t pan out, and I certainly can’t fault the ambition of his backup plan.
The toughest question to answer is where exactly Mays fits on the offensive side of the ball. He is a tad undersized for the shooting guard position but lacks the passing and vision to operate at the point guard position. It would help his stock if he could present to the league as a combo guard, but breaking down the defense and facilitating an offense just is not his forte.
As a shorter guard without a quick bounce off the floor, Mays will struggle to get his shot off near the basket without being heavily contested or rejected altogether.
Mays can moonlight as a ball handler in the pick-and-roll but isn’t a strong passer in those situations (0.99 PPP when he passes in the PnR). He doesn’t have a ton of wiggle or shiftiness with the ball in his hand on an island, as he posted just 0.82 PPP in isolation (finishing or passing) as a senior. His first step is sluggish and robotic, which results in him getting to the basket infrequently and finishing in the paint at an inefficient rate.
Mays isn’t a very instinctive cutter and generally doesn’t move very well around screens without the ball. Using down screens and back screens to create separation will be critical to his success going forward. Mays can’t be statuesque without the ball in his hands, or else he’ll be hidden in a corner and merely receive infrequent touches.
While he flashes the ability to play lockdown defense on the perimeter, often his stance will be too high. This can leave him susceptible to speedy guards who can blow by him on drives. Similarly when defending pick and rolls, he has limited bend to get under or around screens and will often immediately trail the ball handler.
While an extremely cognizant and operationally smooth team defender, he can sometimes go overboard helping off his man unnecessarily, like below.
Mays will be the ripe age of 23 by the time the draft finally rolls around in October. All in all, his physical measurements and low levels of athleticism for someone with an eye toward the NBA severely cap his ceiling, so expectations of finding a diamond in the rough should be significantly tempered. As he is not an overly quick or strong player by any means, he will have to rely on his cerebral approach to the game to adapt quickly to the professional level.
Possible fit with the Hawks
Mays’ potential fit in Atlanta is decent. His functional game raises the floor of any team looking for spacing and team defense, which checks off many of the boxes that were left unfilled this past season. Put him next to a skilled passing ball handler and let him stretch the floor from the corners and cross match to defend the toughest backcourt opponent.
Two guys who come to mind when watching Mays’ tape were Landry Shamet — despite Mays being a lesser shooter but a stronger all-around defender — and Kyle Anderson, for his patient and deliberate style of play. He possess a very unique feel for the game, and carries a level head on the court even if he’s having a rough game.
He fits a role more as a glue guy than creator or playmaker, but for a team with an established core, that may be enough to invite draft interest. I could see him going as high as early in the second round, so Mays profiles as a player to keenly watch if he slides toward the No. 52 pick.