Our 2021 NBA Draft scouting report series rolls on as we examine Brandon Boston, a one-and-done wing prospect out of Kentucky.
What can an NBA team expect to get if they use a draft pick to acquire Brandon Boston Jr. (sometimes referred to as BJ Boston). He played a one-and-done season at Kentucky, where many a prospect have been limited in what they were allowed to do. That’s how a talent like Devin Booker almost slipped out of the lottery once upon a time.
Not to worry regarding Boston, who got plenty of chances to show what he can and can’t do at the age of 19, for what that’s worth.
It was in many regards a tale of two seasons for the former elite collegiate recruit who, in the end, led the Wildcats in shot attempts on his way to a fairly ugly statistical season in which he shot 35.5% from the field and 30% from the three-point line.
He was a high-usage player in the early going getting the opportunity to create on offense. And, frankly, that was the roughest part of his season. In Kentucky’s first eight games - during a pretty tough schedule that included matchups with Louisville, Notre Dame, Kansas and North Carolina - Boston averaged 13.9 shots per game (shooting 36% from the field) while converting just five of his 33 three-point attempts. Additionally he managed just 10 assists while committing 17 turnovers.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari eventually began making adjustments including moving Boston into a role in which he played mostly off of the ball. The two-point shooting percentage never improved - Boston has real trouble finishing at or near the rim - but the three-point shot improved (37.6% the rest of the way) and he found ways to be more helpful on offense.
Here is a look at him attacking a set defense with dribble penetration:
He is quite a bit right hand dominant as a ball handler and driver and doesn’t have much craft at this point which limits his ability to use his length as a finisher.
The handle is OK-ish. He gets into the interior of the defense. But he ends up just having nothing for the shot contester.
It looks the same even when he doesn’t get a deep with his penetration:
And doesn’t look any different when he is in transition:
Similar results when he is working the baseline:
That said, I don’t know that the NBA team that drafts him is going to completely give up on his ability to develop some on-ball equity.
In space he demonstrates a more impressive handle and looks more like the elite prospect he was coming out of high school working his defender in search of a shot in the midrange or on the perimeter. But he just couldn’t string together enough constructive possessions at Kentucky to get moved back to working on the basketball like he did early in the season.
And as mentioned, we shouldn’t trust at this point that a player can’t do things he did not or could not show during a single season playing under Calipari.
Over the latter part of the season when the Wildcats ran plays for Boston in the half court, it was predominantly “floppy” action...something just never seen at the amateur level in any setting.
Here is a look:
As was often the case this one ended up a face up opportunity that he seemed unprepared to do anything with.
When working off ball, it become obvious that he knows how to play and function within team concepts:
He works just as hard in these situations as he does when getting opportunities to create. That will serve him well at the next level.
As to have any hope of getting playing time early in his professional career, he will need to demonstrate more consistency as a shooter.
As you can see here, he has a pretty lengthy load up:
But the footwork is solid:
Even when coming out of broken action of sorts.
Thanks to the influence of James Harden, many young players today have more repetitions (from practice and other development work) shooting off of a dribble step-back than they do shooting off of the catch. By appearances that would apply to Boston.
In a vacuum his ability to get to his shot when working a defender one-on-one is his best shooting-related skill at this point. But there is no reason he can’t become a more consistent shooter with more work.
His work as a defender isn’t all that different from an evaluation difficulty standpoint from the rest of his work. Kentucky ran just enough zone mixed with just enough switch-based man-to-man schemes that we didn’t get to see him working at the point of attack without help all that much.
But the fluid athleticism and length (6’10.75 wingspan) comprise an attractive if somewhat raw toolset. As is the case on offense he works well within team concepts on defense.
He has good instincts working passing lane, creating deflections and positively impacting 50-50 balls. And he’s just a reliable defensive worker.
Boston is a Norcross, GA product but played his final year of high school basketball in California on a loaded team that featured Ziaire Williams, Bronny James and Zaire Wade.
So, how does one evaluate a prospect that finished his high school career sharing the floor with such high profile teenagers and then played at Kentucky where skills sometimes get hidden away for entire seasons?
He was absolutely one of the very top recruits in his high school class and then posted underwhelming stats in his only collegiate season.
The defense and shooting seem to project in at least a reliable fashion, even if he needs to get much stronger to maximize his defensive versatility. It will be whether or not he can get back on track developing as any kind of offensive creator that will set his upside trajectory. As it stands to today he will get absolutely swallowed up as a ball handler on the interior at the next level.
That makes him somewhat of a lottery ticket with a decent floor. Most outlets are mocking him in the early second round. But he’s the type of player that can, at times, get a promise from a team picking at the very tail end of the first round when said team has reliable intel on his current development status.