This scouting report kicks off Peachtree Hoops’ annual NBA draft scouting report series. With just under four weeks until the draft, we will profile many prospects that could potentially be targets for the Atlanta Hawks on draft night. This year’s NBA Draft is set for July 29. Our first installment examines Togolese-German big man Ariel Hukporti.
The Philadelphia 76ers once tried one of the most egregious methods of securing high draft picks with their ‘Trust the Process’ era under former GM Sam Hinkie.
The Sixers set aside a number of regular seasons, essentially writing them off, with the sole goal to get to the other side of the draft and secure the top pick while trying to find a few hidden gems along the way during the season (Robert Covington, for example, who was undrafted in 2013).
The 2014-15 season was one such season for the Sixers where they only emerged with the third overall selection for the 2015 draft after a 18-64 season. The Sixers selected Jahlil Okafor with that third pick, a year after having selected Joel Embiid with the same selection in 2014.
Okafor struggled, and two years later was traded to Brooklyn, essentially rendering the Sixers’ suffering for that 2015 season worthless. Meanwhile, a number second round talent from the 2015 draft have gone on to enjoy more impactful careers so far than Okafor, such as Montrezl Harrell, Richaun Holmes (who was also drafted by the Sixers and outlasted Okafor in Philly), Josh Richardson, Pat Connaughton and Norman Powell to name a few, not to mention undrafted players such as Quinn Cook, TJ McConnell and, probably most notably, Christian Wood.
The point I’m trying to make is this: you can find talent anywhere in the draft, and beyond, which leads us into today’s draft prospect ahead of the 2021 NBA Draft, which leads us into today’s prospect.
Ariel Hukporti is a 19 year old Togolese-German center who stands at 7’. He currently plays for Lithuanian side Nevezis and averaged 10 points per game on 41% shooting from the field on 10 attempts, 27% from three on over two attempts from three a game, 53% from the free throw line on 2.6 attempts per game, seven rebounds, 2.5 offensive rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.2 blocks and three turnovers in an average of 23.5 minutes per game in 21 games (and starts), per RealGM.
For some advanced stats, Hukporti’s effective field goal percentage averaged at 44.8%, his true shooting at 46.5% to go along with a usage rate of 27.6.
Off of the bat, not ideal shooting percentages all across the board but especially that overall field goal percentage from a center — that’s less than ideal looking at the numbers.
A strong physical presence, Hukporti is a very interesting prospect to look at, as are all seven footers with an NBA-type body at 19 years old and athletic.
Well, there’s only one way to really get a better look at Hukporti and that’s by digging into the film and seeing what is what. If you’re new to how these work from me, I break each prospect into three different sections: offense/scoring, passing/playmaking and defense and we go from there.
Let’s start on the offensive end of the floor with Hukporti.
I think it’s immediately worth showing the athleticism of Hukporti, it will obviously be one of the first things that teams will be drawn to.
Here, Hukporti turns from the potential hand-off to face his opponent before attacking the basket off of the dribble then follows with the strong spin and dunk at the rim:
On the defensive end, Hukporti intercepts the pass and is all alone heading towards the rim and unleashes the windmill dunk:
Hukporti’s size and athleticism also come into play on the offensive glass, where he averages over 2.5 offensive rebounds per game, leading extra possessions and second chance points for his side.
Off of the miss at the rim, Hukporti steams in from behind the crowd at the rim to reach the miss. He then collects his own tip to tuck-away the second chance points:
Off of the three-point miss, Hukporti grabs the offensive rebound before hitting the sweeping left-handed hook:
Off of another three-point miss, the big man manages to grab the offensive rebound in between two players and draws a foul:
Hukporti isn’t always successful converting from second chance opportunities, such as this possession where he collects the offensive rebound off of a missed shot at the rim but can’t finish amidst the crowd:
Off of the airball miss, Hukporti collects the loose ball and hits his defender with a lovely shake that Hakeem would’ve given a thumbs up but can’t convert on the turnaround jumper:
Another of Hukporti’s better aspects on offense is his ability to score in the post.
Being a lefty, the right block is a decent one for him to operate from, hitting the turnaround jumper from the post:
On this play, Hukporti does a good job sealing his man deep in the paint, and when the ball is given to him, it’s an easy task to spin to his left and this time he uses his weaker right-hand to score at the rim:
Again, Hukporti establishes great position deep inside, spins to his right this time, ducks in slightly at the perfect time to open up a margin of space and finishes with two hands at the rim, plus the foul:
Hukporti shows a willingness to use his right-hand and as well as his left, converting on the right-hand hook on the left block/baseline after the spin:
While his post-play is one of his better aspects offensively, I wouldn’t call Hukporti’s post-play totally smooth either.
Here, Hukporti has the chair pulled from under him in the post and bounces the ball off of his foot and out to the perimeter:
Next, Hukporti finds himself on the right block, where he posts up, turns but his left-handed floater is missed:
His foot-work was decent here and he’s able to get himself into a good position but the finesse is lacking at times, and that’s one thing I would say about Hukporti overall is that he lacks an overall finesse right now (we’ll see more of this later).
On this play, Hukporti finds himself in a good position near the basket but when it’s clear he’s not going to be able to take a good shot inside, his decision-making lets him down and instead of admitting defeat and passing out to a teammate, he tries to make something happen but the shot taken is a poor one:
Hukporti’s decision-making on offense, in general, can be a bit spotty at times and he finds himself taking some poor shots and other situations that don’t bode well for his team.
Here, Hukporti tries to take his man off of the dribble, struggles to break through the perimeter and when he does get inside, he’s met with another defender but elects to hoist a poor shot inside that is missed:
In the post, Hukporti gets a decent seal on his man but can’t pivot his way into an opportunity and when he should pass it, he elects to stick with the play rather than give up on it, resulting in a poor shot:
Hukporti’s work on the move can also lead to turnovers/other sloppy moments for his side, that part of his game still needs to be refined.
On the catch at the free throw line, Hukporti moves ahead of the play too quickly, doesn’t put the ball on the floor for the drive and is called for the travel:
On the ‘psuedo’ pick-and-roll, Hukporti receives the ball and tries to get towards the baseline but is well defended on the move. Hukporti tries to track back but the ball is poked away for the turnover:
All-in-all, I think there are interesting aspects of Hukporti’s offense but he is, as you would expect, quite raw at this stage.
Coming to Hukporti’s passing, we won’t spend long here but enough to see some of his work in facilitation at his position.
To start off, Hukporti brings the ball up the floor as his side get into their places. He exchanges a bit of a messy hand-off before slipping the pick-and-roll before making a nice read and pass to the baseline cutter for the assist at the rim:
On the pick-and-roll once again, Hukporti receives the ball inside and makes a nice spot to see his teammate in the corner and the pass to get it to him gives his teammate a good-look at a three-pointer, which isn’t converted but Hukporti helps buy his side a second chance on the out-of-bounds as he contests for the offensive rebound:
Sadly, that’s as good as we’re going to get here today because, in general, Hukporti’s passing leaves a little bit to be desired, even as a big-man.
This next clip is an odd one, as Hukporti receives the ball inside, is met with a stifling defense, attempts the shot anyways (going back to poor decision-making) but at the apex of his shot he realizes this is not a wise play and elects to try bat it to his teammate under the rim but bats it out of bounds:
On the out-of-bounds play, Hukporti receives the ball on the perimeter but his pass inside is far too easily telegraphed and pounced upon for the turnover:
Hukporti can just be a little unfocused at times, highlighted by this play here where his pass to the wing just sails out of play:
I think he’s a little shocked himself after that play, there’s no particular reason for Hukporti to fire the ball out of play as he has. I certainly wouldn’t say that passing/making pick-and-roll reads is an especially developed part of Hukporti’s game thus far in his career.
Let’s move onto Hukporti’s defense, always a critical part of a big-man’s game.
I’m going to mash the best of Hukporti’s defense into one segment here and you’ll get a pretty general idea of the things he can do well defensively/has the potential to add to from his current foundation.
Here, Hukporti gets baited off of his feet to contest the pick-and-roll ball-handler, who delivers the ball inside to the big. Hukporti is able to recover and block the shot at the rim:
On this play, Hukporti’s man receives the ball at the free throw line, where he fakes, drives, spins and his jumpshot is blocked by the sheer size and length of Hukporti:
Heading down the floor, it looks as those the opposition look as though they’re going to spring a pick-and-roll and Hukporti plugs the gap in front of the ball-handler, preventing him from driving to the rim. The big is found on the move and his floater is blocked really impressively by Hukporti, who skies high to reach for the block:
Here, Hukporti initially falls behind the play after biting on a fake but is able to recover to block the shot from behind:
Hukporti can offer a solid presence at the rim, you’ve seen some of those blocks above but he can also affect shots near the rim with his verticality and just his size.
Off of a missed shot, the opposition grabs the offensive rebound underneath the rim. Hukporti isn’t able to get the rebound himself but offers a solid defense inside with his verticality and helps force a miss at the rim:
Again on the pick-and-roll, Hukporti switches onto the guard as he drives into the paint and influences the fadeaway jumper, to which he gets a good contest and helps force a miss:
Again, following a screen, Hukporti picks up the ball-handler on the drive into the paint and Hukporti’s presence seems to pressure the offensive player into a rushed, contested shot at the rim:
In the post, Hukporti displays a solid physical presence to force a tougher shot near the rim which is missed:
On a switch out of the pick-and-roll, Hukporti does decently well to stay with the ball-handler as he drives/spins inside before contesting the shot inside which is missed:
On this possession, Hukporti finds himself active defensively as he hustles from the rim to the three-point line to close out and show a solid contest on the three-pointer, that is missed:
This next play was an interesting play the opposition ran as Hukporti is the pick-and-roll bog defender as the opposition run a third man into the action for the hand-off and screen to add a bit of misdirection as the big rolls but Hukporti is alert to the threat and intercept the pass inside to the roller for the steal:
I honestly don’t have a huge amount of positive things to say when it comes to Hukporti’s defense — he can offer good size near the rim and his athleticism you can see comes in handy at times, flashing highlight plays with those blocks.
However, Hukporti has a few shortcomings on defense too.
As a help defender, Hukporti’s contributions can be a little inconsistent, such as this possession where he is a little slow to react on the out-of-bounds play on the rotation, leading to a basket:
Next, Hukporti is a little hesitant as the help defender, unsure whether to come or go and the outcome is a quality shot opportunity near the rim for the opposition:
On the pick-and-roll, Hukporti steps up to the perimeter and attempts to get a finger on the looping pass over his head as the pick-and-roll guard tracks back inside. Hukporti is, again, a little hesitant and probably should be a little more urgent in contesting Joffrey Lauvergne at the rim for the basket:
In transition off of the turnover, Hukporti again lacks a bit of urgency as he tracks back in transition before basically giving up on the play, which ends in a dunk:
Even if the ball hadn’t been passed to the dunker and gone for the layup himself, Hukporti had already given up on the play.
Hukporti can also find himself falling for shot-fakes, and these are usually punished.
On a missed three, the offensive rebound falls to the offensive player and his shoulder fake baits Hukporti, giving the offensive player a window to get the shot off at the rim as Hukporti commits the foul:
On this possession, Hukporti initially does what he needs to do as he switches onto the man with the ball after shedding his defender. When the ball is dropped to the big in front of the rim, Hukporti gets back in front to protect the rim but undoes his good work by biting on not one but two fakes and finds himself horribly out of position as his man makes an easy basket inside:
Other mistakes show up in other areas too.
Towards the end of the first quarter, Hukporti does not do a good job executing the show on the ball-handler out front on the screen and it leads to the guard attaining penetration before kicking out to the corner for a good opportunity for a corner three (which is horribly missed but that’s besides the point):
Next, Hukporti misjudges between plugging the driving lane versus sticking with his man and allows a clear driving path to the rim for the basket:
Let’s attempt to land this thing then, shall we?
Let’s call a stone a stone: Ariel Hukporti is a raw prospect. Having just turned 19 in April, he will be one of the younger prospects ahead of this draft, so whichever team that elects to draft him will know that it’s going to take some time for Hukporti to mature his game.
Offensively, he’s quite raw. From three, it’s not really smooth, inside the paint it’s not really smooth, in the post it’s OK but not elite. He’s still very young and putting it together but tries too hard at times.
Defensively it’s not smooth either. His athleticism and size help cover up for some mistakes but cannot cover the fouls, biting on fakes...just general inexperience. There’s some potential on his lateral movement out front but his execution on pick-and-roll defense needs work — definitely more suited to drop back than hedge/show on pick-and-roll coverage.
Look, ultimately there are flashes on both ends of the floor but a lot of work to do.
But his physical attributes will entice because you don’t see too many just-turned 19 year olds with the size and muscle combination that Hukporti does. Add to that his strong athleticism and you have a prospect that, should he clean up his errors on both ends, could blossom into a potential bench-big.
For now, Hukporti still has his ring in the hat for the NBA Draft but in combination with a slightly underwhelming season, ESPN’s Jonathon Givony noted that Hukporti’s showing at the NBA Draft Combine did not help his stock, highlighting Hukporti’s impressive physical attributes versus his raw skillset.
One of the youngest participants in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, Hukporti struggled to make his presence felt, appearing lost defensively and looking like the game moved too fast for him offensively. Hukporti measured extremely well at 7 feet tall in shoes, 246 pounds with a mammoth 9-foot-3½ standing reach, but he is probably looking at being a second-round/two-way-contract type of flier if he decides to keep his name in the draft as expected.
If you’re not familiar with the process when it comes to these from me, I look at what mocks/excerpts that others have written — like ESPN’s Givony and Mike Schmitz, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic etc. — at the end of the process so as to try and form completely own evaluation and not lean on what others have written/evaluated themselves during the process which might cloud it between what I think versus what others think.
Givony alludes to quite a few of the feelings I have on Hukporti when it comes to matters on the court but that the physical attributes will certainly stand to him should he proceed onward to the NBA Draft.
I think there’s enough here from Hukporti athletically and physically to warrant a selection late in the second round and stash, or find another avenue for development because he will need it.
The Atlanta Hawks have the 48th selection in the draft, which might be a little too high to warrant a selection on Hukporti, but you never know how draft-day trades may develop.
Time shall tell on Hukporti but there’s certainly enough to be interested in...