NBA Position: SG, wants to transition to PG
General Information: 19 year old freshman, played at UCLA. From Seattle, Washington
Measurables: 6'6", 185 lbs, 6'8.5" wingspan, 8'4" standing reach
2013-14 Season Statistics: 9.4 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.8 APG, .9 SPG, 1.1 TPG (24.4 Minutes per contest) - 44.1% FG, 69.5% FT, 37.5% 3P, 54.5% TSP
Summary: A raw but exceptionally gifted athlete, LaVine is one of the more exciting prospects due to his recorded 46' vertical leap. While LaVine flourished in fast breaks for UCLA last year and shot the ball well, he was never asked to be a go-to offensive weapon and was never trusted on defense. The physical gifts are there, but he's arguably the rawest prospect in the class.
Offensive Breakdown: LaVine thrives in transition and fast break opportunities, where his length and insane athleticism make him a dangerous player. He's got an improving handle, and once he gets stronger and more adept at reading defenses, he should continue to be a force in transition. 32.3% of his shots last season were at the rim according to Hoop-Math.com, nearly all of which were in transition (he converted on 54.8% of those attempts).
He also possesses nice range on his jump shot, connecting on 37.5% of his threes. He fell in love with the three pointer too often (44.4% of his shots were from three), but that's forgivable considering his role in the offense. His mid-range game needs to improve, as he only hit on 41.8% of his two-point shots. He doesn't have a great step-back game yet, and relied mainly on his slashing ability or the three. Given a few years to continue his shot development, he'll become an above-average shooter.
On the downside, LaVine's numbers once conference play started were very disappointing; 9.2 PPG, 1.9 APG and 38.3% FG. He continued to stay relevant due to his early season offensive success, but in the calendar year of 2014, he scored seven points or less 12 times. His true shooting percentage took a dive bomb to 49.3%, even as his usage rate stayed at about 20%.
Another criticism is his tendency to shy away from contact. For a player so dependent on his transition game, LaVine rarely attempted to draw fouls, and took just 1.8 foul shots a game (3 per 40 minutes). He's not a bad free throw shooter-he connected on 69.1% of them-but for a player who loves to attack the basket in transition, it's worrying that he isn't better at drawing fouls and getting to the line.
There's also the notion that LaVine wishes to play point guard in the NBA, but nothing in his time at UCLA backs up that move. He'd pose an insane threat with his size and athleticism, but he never showed point guard traits; his 12.5% assist rate is low even for a shooting guard, and per 40 minutes he averaged just 2.8 assists. The one positive in that area; he didn't turn the ball over much, just 1.1 turnover a contest and a 11.6% turnover rate. Still, expecting LaVine to eventually play the point is betting soli on his ability to create a mismatch at the position, and not on any statistical evidence.
Defensive Breakdown: LaVine saw improvement over the season, but at this point he won't be ready to handle NBA defenders. He has the length and quickness to become a force, but his defensive IQ is lacking and his effort levels are concerning. He got muscled out by stronger opponents and often got blown by players much slower than him. Intensity and effort on defense are the biggest concern, but LaVine also needs to add serious muscle mass-6'6" and only 185 pounds is full tweener levels.
As a rebounder, one would think LaVine could use his quickness and athleticism to score boards over other guards, but his lack of muscle and intensity make him an average rebounder at best. His defensive rebound rate was 9.5%, which isn't terrible but is below shorter guys like Gary Harris (10.2%) and teammate Jordan Adams (13.5%).
Intangibles: By all accounts, LaVine is a hard worker, evidenced by his modest improvements over the season. At the beginning of the year, LaVine was an abysmal defender against truly underwhelming competition-towards the end of the season he at least didn't look like a deer in the headlights defensively. Offensively, his stock went down over the season as discussed earlier with his in-conference stats.
The biggest concern with LaVine overall is the lack of evidence as to what sort of player he'll become. He was the 4th option in the UCLA offense, and was never asked to carry the load offensively or guard the top options defensively. He averaged 7.7 shots a contest, third most on the team, but he had only four games where he shot the ball 12 times or more.
He is one of the youngest players in this class, having just turned 19 in March, so he has a lot of time to figure it out. But the idea that LaVine will eventually transition to point guard is, at this point, laughable. There was a spot-on comment from LPKingsFan in our Big Board No. 9 post: "I think they see raw + UCLA and think that = Westbrook."
Fit with Sacramento: There's no doubting LaVine has the physical gifts to be a fantastic NBA player, maybe even a star. Everything else about his game is left up to one year of spotty game film and guesswork at this point.
He doesn't fit Sacramento's goals going forward. The Kings are a team that wants to win now, and taking a player like LaVine would not help add victories at this point. While the Kings could always use another gifted athlete with a solid shooting stroke, it'll won't be until his third or fourth season until it becomes clear how much of a role LaVine can be asked to carry on either ends of the floor.
The best case scenario for LaVine is if he ends up on a team that either isn't trying to win (Boston holds pick No. 17) or a team deep enough to basically red-shirt him in the D-League for a few years (Phoenix owns picks No. 14 and 18, while Oklahoma City owns pick No. 20). If he goes to a lottery squad and is asked to hold too many meaningful minutes too quickly, he'll disappoint.