In recent years there have been a handful of prospects leaving the comfort of home testing the waters in Oceania’s NBL — the likes of R.J. Hampton, Ousmane Dieng, and most notably LaMelo Ball back in 2020, to name a few.
You can certainly see the appeal not only in terms of locale but the appeal of playing in a professional league with great crowds with and against some hard-nosed players where you will grow up in a hurry.
For R.J. Hampton, his reasoning for playing in the NBL was “to live like a pro and to play with grown men and not have to juggle books and basketball and just focus on my main goal.” His point I think is one of great validity, and it’s a surprise you don’t see more prospects from certainly the US, but also Europe where playing time can be really limited for some prospects. Off the top of my head, how many more minutes would James Nnaji have played, for example?
That brings us to today’s prospect, 19-year-old French guard Rayan Rupert who played with the New Zealand Breakers in 2022-23, a big step up in competition after playing in the French third division the previous year.
A right wrist fracture disrupted Rupert’s season and missed almost two months and his averages across the season reflect that. Rupert averaged 6.8 points per game on 37% shooting on six field goal attempts, 31% from three on 2.5 attempts, 73% from the free throw line on 2.1 attempts, 2.3 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.1 turnovers and 1.9 personal fouls in 18 minutes per game in 31 games, per Real GM.
While Rupert’s efficiency from the field pre-injury were a bit mixed (38%), Rupert had averaged 38% shooting from three prior to the injury but only shot 25% from three thereafter, and this obviously had a negative impact on his stock and his percentages.
Without context, the stats tell a bit of an inaccurate story but the film tells another as to why Rupert is projected to be a first round selection, with his physicals at 6-foot, 7-inches and a 7-foot-3 inch wingspan doing their part to help his draft stock.
Rupert was an important contributor on a team that finished 2nd in the NBL regular season and went to the championship series, falling to the defending champions Sydney Kings in five games in their best of five series, although Rupert saw less time to end that particular series in the final two games.
With that said let’s look at the film and see what’s what (Rupert wears number 12).
Rupert’s strongest aspect offensively is his ability to get to the rim. For better or for worse, Rupert goes hard to the rim. This can result in finishes, free throws or tough misses but that won’t stop Rupert from attacking the rim.
Rupert is at his most dangerous when he gets a head of steam in transition — he’s going to that rim.
With the Breakers running the floor in transition, Rupert receives the ball and euro-steps his way to a layup at the rim:
After a miss, Rupert receives the ball in transition and his intent is clear. He steps his way around the defense nicely and draws the foul and free throws at the rim:
After miss, Rupert leads the charge himself this time and again steps his way to elude the defense and his good length helps him to finish at the rim:
Rupert collects the loose-ball on this next possession and sets off in transition and you know exactly where he’s taking it, and he does so with intent and draws the foul and free throws:
He may not be explosive athletically, but it’s this craftiness and ability to draw contact and fouls that helps Rupert, and he earns another trip to the line in transition:
This time Rupert receives the ball at mid-court, drives inside and somehow manages to get this shot to fall as the defender’s length alters Rupert’s course of action:
Rupert occasionally can create his own offense with his active defense, knocking the ball away here for the steal and leads the charge, getting to the rim and drawing the foul and free throws:
Rupert can get to the rim in halfcourt scenarios too.
The screen gives Rupert extra space to drive into the paint, where he rises and draws the foul and free throws:
From an out-of-bounds scenario, Rupert does well to recognize that the space will open up as his teammate comes across and he drives into this space, takes the bump and gets his runner to go:
Coming off the screen this time, Rupert drives and glides through the lane as he rises, extending to finish at the rim:
On the catch coming from the out-of-bounds play, Rupert drives to his left and doesn’t shy away from the contact at the rim, taking the hit, scoring the layup and drawing the foul for the and-one play:
Given his field goal percentage, it obviously isn’t all roses from Rupert getting to the rim. He can end up taking some difficult shots at the rim. It’s just a situation where you know it will get you results but sometimes there are misses and mishaps.
Rupert comes off the screen here and gets to the rim, but his layup attempt is a tough one and the shot is missed:
In transition his step is anticipated and the shot at the rim is missed, but fortunately his teammate follows home the miss:
In transition, Rupert tries to get into a spin, but the defense is able to knock the ball away and the turnover is committed:
Generally speaking though, Rupert makes more good in transition than he doesn’t. This is mostly how Rupert’s main offensive scoring comes about: head down, get to the rim.
His jumpshot, however, is a bit inconsistent at the moment and it drags his offensive profile down. Granted, Rupert does get a bit of a pass considering he was shooting 38% from three prior to his wrist injury, so you do have to take some of this with a grain of salt.
I don’t think the release looks broken but the result of an airball here is tough:
Most of Rupert’s threes I found to be in catch-and-shoot scenarios, a lot of them from the corner but his success here was limited on over two attempts per game:
Rupert didn’t fare a ton better off the dribble:
It got to the point in the championship series where Sydney were more than happy to leave Rupert alone:
Adding a reliable jumpshot is essential for Rupert’s development. He is fantastic at getting to the rim and causing chaos, especially in transition, but with no consistent jumpshot teams are just going to treat him like this, and his impact offensively is nullified in halfcourt scenarios. It’d even help if Rupert — and there were possessions this occurred of course — where he can come off the screen and hit a jumper inside the arc:
But these just didn’t happen consistently enough and it’s going to be a huge area of focus to refine Rupert’s jumpshot.
You’ve got the sense already watching Rupert offensively that he’s not a point guard and not a pass-first guard either, and at 0.8 assists per game that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Nor should the way that Rupert can find his teammates, which is on the move.
Arguably you could argue that Rupert gets stuck in tunnel vision when it comes to transition, but to be fair him getting to the rim and either scoring or drawing free throws is better than some of his other options — a lot of whom won’t be near him by the time Rupert gets down the floor to the rim.
But that doesn’t mean Rupert doesn’t try.
Rupert leads the break in transition and kicks the ball out behind the arc for the assist on a three:
Again in transition, Rupert spins and finds his teammate but the basket remained elusive:
From the wing, Rupert drives and kicks out to the perimeter for a three-point attempt:
This next play was a play where Rupert goes to the rim in transition and arguably should take the layup himself but instead chooses to pass it off, resulting in a turnover:
I liked the intent here, even if the result wasn’t the ideal one.
I really don’t have much else to add when it comes to Rupert’s passing. It’s mostly in transition/off of drives. I wouldn’t call Rupert selfish or in possession of poor IQ/passing ability. I just think it’s just average really, that’s all there is to it. He can find a pass off his drives, and to be fair that’s really all he needs. He’s not handling a ton in pick-and-roll, he doesn’t need to be Chris Paul — Rupert’s game is not about that.
He just needs to get his head up sometimes and not always get stuck in tunnel vision and that assist number would be higher.
Rupert is a fun watch defensively because not only does he get after it and pressure his opponents but he’s very, very switchy — a lot of switching defensively when Rupert was involved, and given his size and wingspan it helps.
To start, Rupert picks up his man in the backcourt and despite the action around him switches multiple occasions and ends back with the ball-handler and Rupert sticks with the drive as the offensive player drives into the defense and the block is made, but great activity from Rupert all the way through as he switches:
Rupert again picks up at fullcourt, displays the defensive pressure and showcases his switching ability and desire to get around the defensive body to stay with his man before the ball is given up:
This pressure can very much be to the annoyance of offensive players, as exhibited here where Rupert avoids the multiple bodies to stick with the ball-handler and when the ball is given up you can see the frustration:
From fullcourt, Rupert brings the pressure and sticks with it all the way down the floor, preventing the drive to the rim, keeps up the intensity as the offensive player retreats to the three-point line and the ball is given up:
Rupert can create live-ball turnovers with his combination of pressure, length and his hands, as he does on this possession as he picks up the pressure and times his reach beautifully and knocks the ball away for the fastbreak opportunity though nothing comes of it on this occasion:
Here, Rupert knocks the ball loose on the drive to the rim and he does a good job keeping the ball in play, helping to fuel a fastbreak opportunity which is scored:
We looked at this play earlier but from an offensive perspective, again it’s Rupert poking the ball free on the dribble to create the live-ball turnover and he turns this into free throws as he goes to the rim:
His length not only helps him make plays like this but to get into passing lanes and contest shots.
Generally speaking Rupert is quite aware defensively of his surroundings and does sometimes direct where players need to be. He tries to call out to his teammates to close on the shooter and when Rupert has to take matters into his own hands his length allows him to cover ground well on the contest and the three is missed:
Off the ball this time, Rupert’s man attempts to make a cut and though he does get the head-start on Rupert, the Frenchman gets his arms out and low and deflects the attempted pass and the created turnover leads to another fastbreak opportunity:
On the baseline, Rupert’s strong one-on-one defense helps prevent the offensive player breaking through and forces the pass out, and when the ball is returned to the wing Rupert is on hand to contest the shot well, helping to force the miss:
On the out-of-bounds play, Rupert gets a good contest with the offense wanting to get a quick shot, but Rupert’s alertness means he’s ready to stay with the play:
Rupert is also decent when it comes to plugging into gaps as help and is an alert defender.
He takes away the gap here and is quickly back to his man in the middle and would be in position to challenge at the rim, but his teammate is called for a foul on the push on the cut:
Rupert comes from the weakside here to prevent the path to the rim, keeps up the defensive pressure, and when the pass is made Rupert fronts his man to deny him the ball, and denies the ball again when the drive ends up heading towards that corner, forcing the offensive player to go down the middle and into the defensive challenge of Rupert’s teammates:
On the out-of-bounds play, Rupert is quick to react to the inbounder receiving the ball for the quick three. Rupert gets a good contest in and runs the floor in transition where he should receive the ball, does not, but again showcases his overall activity:
I rate Rupert’s defense highly, he was very enjoyable to watch. Sure, he committed mistakes as any young defender does but for someone as actively defensive as he is he does very well not get into persistent foul trouble because it would be easy for him to do so (and sure, it can happen).
He’s just fun to watch because of his activity — you always know he’s in the game. Here, he’s active out front, shows desire to stay with his man and get around bodies, and when he’s doubled on the rebound and manages to get the ball to safety:
On this play, he falls behind the action but doesn’t give up and attempts to contest the shot at the rim:
He hustles here on the switch to stay with the switch after the contact and does well to contest on the step back, and while the shot is hit, it wasn’t for the lack of effort from Rupert — a case of ‘good D, better O’:
Always on his toes and ready to go:
Rayan Rupert is an interesting prospect whose season stats do not do the justice as to his impact, as his side went to the championship series and took the eventual and defending champions Sydney Kings to the final game of the season. Injuries did disrupt his season, and he didn’t average the same amount of game time after returning from injury in January after a near two-month layoff.
Defensively Rupert is already very talented at a young age: he’s long, he’s able to switch and do a good job guarding those switches. He can prevent penetration outright and he pesters his opponents in their own halves with his constant pressure. His length and timing also help him create live-ball turnovers which he can turn into opportunities for himself and for his teammates.
Rupert is not short on effort or commitment defensively: he hustles, he gets after it, he gives multiple efforts, and even when he’s bested he’s not beaten and he’ll attempt to make up for his mistakes. He’s a smart and aware defender and there’s a lot to be said for his impressive defensive showing in a professional league across the 2022-23 season, a season in which he only turned 19 at the end of May when the season was already well over back in March — he did all of this at 18 years of age.
In terms of passing and playmaking, I’d like to see Rupert get his head up a little more in transition, but other than that I think his passing ability and feel are nothing out of this world right now. I don’t think there needs to be an emphasis here: he’s not point guard, he’s an attack first guard, so as long as he can make those reads and good decisions/passes off of those attacks that’s what I think matters more so for Rupert — it’s not the most important aspect of his offensive development.
Offensively, I love watching Rupert throw reckless abandon and attack because more often than not he makes something happen. Sure, it doesn’t always end in a basket or free throws but I love the aggressive takes inside. In the open court Rupert is a clear threat with his pace, euro-steps and his general intent to take it to the basket and it is here where at his most dangerous offensively.
However, Rupert’s overall efficiency needs improving, yes at the rim, but not nearly as much as he needs to find some efficiency with his jumpshooting, that has to be the priority of development for whichever team selects Rupert in the first round. Obviously the injury to his shooting wrist mid-season hurt his overall percentages (his field goal percentage took a small hit 38% pre-injury and 35.7% post-injury) but nothing like shooting 38% from three pre-injury to 25% post-injury. I think his true percentage lies in between but it’s obviously impossible to gauge accurately.
Without a consistent jumpshot Rupert’s NBA ceiling is limited — we’ve seen good defensive players frozen out of the league for their lack of jumpshot, and this time of year in the playoffs/finals this also becomes a problem. It doesn’t need to be elite, just respectable.
I just love his overall impact: it feels like he’s always in the game. He doesn’t drift through games where he does nothing for stretches. He finds some way to be involved and make an impact and I think this is a positive attribute.
Let’s take a look at what other draft experts/outlets have to say about Rupert and where he is mocked to be selected.
ESPN have Rupert ranked 19th on their top-100 Best Available list, with Jonathan Givony having this to say on Rupert. It’s quite long.
Feb. 4, 2023
A right wrist fracture caused Rupert to miss two months of action, but he made his return at the beginning of January. He quickly reclaimed his spot in the starting five, having some of his best games of the season recently as the New Zealand Breakers finished their season on a winning streak to claim second place and home-court advantage in the playoffs until the Finals. Rupert seems to have used his time off wisely as he’s come back looking far more polished utilizing his left hand and has shown increasing flashes of shot-creation prowess and willingness to attack the rim aggressively looking for contact. Rupert’s numbers don’t jump off the page, but his maturity on both ends of the floor certainly does. Despite not turning 19 until the end of May, he brings a calming presence to his team’s offense with his strong feel for the game and unselfish style, as well as strong defensive versatility and intensity required to play a key role for the NBL’s most efficient defense.
Just to hop in at this point, Givony references Rupert using his left hand more post-injury, which makes sense for Rupert to use more while sidelined so a constructive use of time from Rupert while injured. Givony also references Rupert’s maturity on both sides of the ball which I absolutely agree with, and while I wouldn’t use the phrase ‘calming influence’ given how he attacks the rim, he is absolutely an influence on both ends of the floor.
Rupert’s 7-3 wingspan allows him to make a huge impact off the ball, rotating to protect the rim, contesting shots on the perimeter and coming up with plenty of deflections and steals. He’s often utilized as a point-of-attack defender, heating up the opposing team’s point guard the length of the floor and has little issues switching onto bigger players due to his length, intensity and competitiveness. Every team in the NBA is looking for long-armed wings in Rupert’s mold who can defend multiple positions, make good decisions with the ball and switch seamlessly from point guards to power forwards. Rupert’s frame needs to continue to fill out, but he’s already made significant strides in that department and has the type of shoulders and build that should be able to carry significant weight in the coming years. The next step for Rupert will be to find more consistency from the perimeter, where he’s shown flashes of shot-making both off the dribble and with his feet set, but is only making 24% of his 3-pointers. His strong shooting mechanics and the rave reviews he draws off the court for his work ethic and overall approach bode well for his ability to improve here, but it will be difficult for him to reach his full potential until he becomes a more formidable scoring threat.
Givony goes into a lot more detail here about the impact of Rupert’s defense and does it far more justice than I could hope to do myself. Defending multiple positions, makes good decisions with the ball and seamless switching: tick, tick, tick for Rupert.
Givony referenced Rupert’s ‘strong’ shooting mechanics and shooting numbers, which to be fair to Rupert are hard to fully evaluate given the nature of his injury this season, and while he may not have been shooting well from the field prior to the injury he was shooting well from three and the dropoff post-injury is no coincidence. It may have regressed anyways but dropping from 38% to 25% (finishing the season with 31%) is more than a natural regression.
Givony wraps up his thoughts on Rupert by comparing the impact Rupert has made to his side compared to some of the eventual NBA prospects that came before him.
The fact that Rupert has been a key cog for a championship-contending team, something none of his NBL Next Star predecessors such as Josh Giddey, LaMelo Ball or Ousmane Dieng can boast, is clearly a feather in his cap. A huge number of NBA teams have already traveled to New Zealand to scout him in practices and games with more expected to arrive as his team’s playoff campaign kicks off later in February. — Jonathan Givony
It’s a shame that these scouts have seen Rupert not 100%, at his best as he played after the wrist injury, but there’s still a lot to like irregardless. Whoever is selecting him may even get themselves a steal, because I’m sure Rupert would be rated even higher were it not for his percentages which need to be viewed with context.
CBS Sports aren’t quite as high as ESPN when it comes to Rupert, with three of their four draft experts slotting Rupert in the 20’s.
Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer mocks Rupert out of the first round entirely at 32nd overall, with this to say:
Harasses opponents using his 7-foot-3 wingspan. He can pressure the ball handler taking the ball up the floor or disrupt opponent actions in the half court by slipping around screens. Effort is not a concern.
Active hands in all situations on defense. He jumps passing lanes and attentively looks for chances to pickpocket unsuspecting post players. He might someday lead the league in deflections.
Skilled ball handler who looks fluid dribbling into pull-up jumpers even if his results as a scorer aren’t there yet. With his height and length, he can shoot over the top of any defender.
Potential secondary creator who could bring the ball up the floor and motor by defenders in transition to get to the basket. He makes some tasty passes such as crosscourt skips to corner 3-point shooters, and he follows up by relocating behind the arc.
Savvy mover without the ball. He looks for chances to cut to the basket, and he has the athleticism and touch to finish.
He comes from a highly accomplished basketball family. He’s the son of French national team captain Thierry Rupert, and his sister, Iliana, was a WNBA first-round draft pick who won a championship her rookie season.
Just to chime in here, I do like O’Connor’s assessment when it comes to Rupert being ‘a skilled ball-handler who looks fluid dribbling into pull-up jumpers even if the results aren’t there yet.’ I think that’s a very good way to describe that aspect of Rupert’s game: looks good but the results aren’t there yet.
O’Connor also references Rupert’s family, which is a nice detail of Rupert’s background.
Suffered a broken wrist in early November that sidelined him for two months.
Doesn’t handle contact well. He opts for pull-up 2s and floaters rather than leaning into defenders to get to the rim.
Streaky shooter who looks the part but hasn’t seen any consistency from 3 or midrange. The only saving grace is that he’s a solid free throw shooter with soft touch around the basket.
He’s a defensive ace overseas but will need to be more selective about when to go for steals in the NBA.
I couldn’t disagree more when O’Connor says Rupert doesn’t handle contact well — so many plays where Rupert went straight to the rim, for better or for worse, and earned himself free throws and wasn’t afraid of contact.
Overall I’d be shocked if Rupert falls out of the first round and I think that’d be a steal for any team who selects him there.
Lastly, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic mocks Rupert at 26th overall, with this to add:
The Scout: Rupert is arguably the first NBL Next Star in Australia to make a positive impact on a winning team. He was terrific as an aggressive, defensive-minded wing for a New Zealand Breakers team that made the NBL Finals this past season. At 6-7 with a 7-3 wingspan, Rupert has immense upside on that end. He’s laterally quick and aggressive, plus has strong instincts in help defense for a teenager. How far Rupert goes will be determined by his offense. He’s an iffy shooter right now who isn’t quite strong enough on the ball to make consistent plays. He has good passing vision from growing up as a guard, but he doesn’t really have the handle or burst to pressure the defense yet. He’s a project, but the physical tools make him one with very real upside.
Like Givony, Vecenie references the winning impact Rupert has made, and praises his physicals and defense and the upside that comes with that. His concerns of Rupert’s ceiling linked to offense echoes my own, while his concerns of strength/not taking contact well echo O’Connor’s.
Vecenie is a little higher than I am on Rupert’s passing, and I’d disagree with his assessment of Rupert not having the burst to pressure defenses yet, though NBA defenses are likely what he is referencing. Overall, Vecenie seems likes the upside of Rupert and bills him more as a project.
That’s obviously a fair assessment but I think Rupert is a little more advanced than some of the other international projects we’ve looked at, like Tristan Vukcevic and Bilal Coulibaly, though Coulibaly is the fair comparison here. I’m personally interested to see which of Rupert or Coulibaly will be selected higher in this draft but alas...
The Atlanta Hawks have the 15th overall selection and while I really like Rayan Rupert I would be surprised if he went this high. I do like the pick for Atlanta to add some needed defensive intensity and effort, I think it would be infectious for this team if he played but with the 15th pick I have to imagine the Hawks will want to select someone who can make a quicker impact on the offensive end of the floor and perhaps not one they’ll want to spend on a project — lest they trade back.