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, today, we scout Charleston guard Grant Riller.
Grant Riller is becoming a somewhat polarizing player. In some circles, he is drawing comparisons to fellow mid-major stars like Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Statistically, he was a similarly dominant backcourt weapon in NCAA play. To others, Riller profiles more as a second-round prospect, ranked even as low as the 40’s in the 2020 draft.
ESPN currently has Riller as the No. 39 ranked prospect in the 2020 class, while Sam Vecenie of The Athletic has the guard as his No. 25 overall player for the class.
Riller is entering the NBA at 23 years old with legitimate defensive concerns. Having Riller in or near the lottery essentially guarantees you are buying the offense being very good to elite for someone his size. The defense does not project to be good, even for the most optimistic. There is not a very high chance of Riller being a non-negative on that end, but if he is even close to as effective offensively as he was in college, he will still be a valuable NBA commodity.
In the draft world, Riller is no secret. For the casual observer, though, here is some background on the mid-major scoring machine. Riller was one of the best offensive players in the country over the past three seasons, compiling a four-year average of 35 points per 100 possessions. He carried a usage rate above 30 the past two seasons.
Despite only being 6’3, Riller shot an insane 59.3% on two-point field goal attempts in his college career. Per Synergy Sports, he was over 63% around the basket on non-post ups, a staggering figure for a 6’3 guard without particularly elite burst or athleticism. Riller’s feel and touch sets him apart, and even though he did not play the best competition at the NCAA level, if you buy the scoring package, he is a safe bet to be a productive player.
Concerns with Riller, however, are his age and defensive projection. Riller will be 24 in February, which is potentially around when his rookie season could begin. From there, he was not a great defender even at the mid-major level in college, so the chances of him becoming a quality NBA perimeter defensive option do not seem to be great.
His most likely path to becoming a quality NBA starter or anything beyond that is his shot-making. His ability to generate offense for himself is his key skill, and if he is good enough at it, that will outweigh his defensive struggles. Riller had one of the best offensive runs in mid-major history, with numbers that align with the likes of Lillard, McCollum and Curry to back up the aforementioned comparisons.
His ability to change speed and/or direction combined with his soft touch around the rim make him an extremely tough cover for any defense. Give Riller a solid screen, and good luck slowing him down. The senior ranked 97th percentile in pick-and-roll ball-handling possessions in 2019-20, and he was utilized in that role in more than 25 percent of the team’s possessions this season.
Riller also grades well off the ball, ranking in the 96th percentile on spot-ups across 86 possessions, accounting for 13.5% of his overall usage. He is the type of player that should be a safe bet to be able to score, but there are legitimate questions as to what else he can do to help an NBA team.
Still, scoring is perhaps the most important thing in the game of basketball, and if Riller does it at a high enough level, the other concerns will be muted, especially when considering his projected draft slot.
Riller is an interesting sleeper to watch as some are very high on his isolation scoring, to the point there is belief he will be a quality starting guard. Whether he is able to deliver that type of outcome will remain to be seen, but there is little doubt that whichever team selects Riller is drafting a ‘bucket.’
The likelihood of the Atlanta Hawks even being on the clock around the time Riller’s name should probably be called on draft night is not high, but the odds of them selecting him seem even lower. Unless someone within Atlanta’s draft room is just in love with him as a bench scoring weapon behind Trae Young & Co., it seems the Hawks would want to go with another archetype, even in the event that they trade back into 20s or 30s.