Yesterday, we released Part 1 of Clint Johnson’s PG prospect breakdown, covering the shooting and finishing games of Michael Carter-Williams, Shane Larkin, and Dennis Schroeder. Today, Part 2 focuses on their athleticism, size, and passing ability.
Michael Carter-Williams: 3.22 sprint; 10.68 lane agility. MCW is faster than he looks, particularly in the open court. His long strides remind me a little of Scottie Pippen, who always looked languid even when you knew he was really moving on the court. MCW is also quite quick, both of foot and hand, which is emphasized by his size and length. The combination of stature, speed, and quickness is really quite impressive.
Shane Larkin: 3.08 sprint; 10.64 lane agility. Larkin is FAST, and he plays that way. His game reminds me a lot of Ty Lawson in that he goes from still to really moving very quickly, and he likes to do so in straight lines. Unlike a Tony Parker, who curves and winds his way through a defense, Larkin is like a knife—he makes straight, sharp, direct slashes whenever possible. He’s so fast, in fact, that I’m a little concerned he doesn’t accent that with more feints or defensive manipulation with the dribble. Against most college defenders, he was simply so much faster he could stare his defender in the eye; then, in a blink, drive past him. The extreme speed perhaps limits Larkin’s quickness somewhat, because, even though his game always looked like it was put in slight fast forward, there was less sudden change and surprising shiftiness to his game than I expected. Maybe you don’t have to make a move if, once into it, you’re so fast no one can match you. That will be less the case in the NBA, certainly, but Larkin has world class basketball speed at any level.
Dennis Schroeder: 3.21 sprint; 11.09 lane agility. Schroeder may have less raw speed than the other two, but he looks the quickest to me; what’s more, he is one of the rare players who looks faster and more agile with the ball than without it. With the ball in his hands, he looks like he’s on ice skates. He moves smoothly, dribbling lower when there’s more traffic around him, and can go any direction at any time with the ball. He accents his natural quickness with a lot of subtle body motion, feints and jabs and leans and dips, which gives his game real suddenness and unpredictability. Defensively, he doesn’t appear to dart about as much as the others, lending less a sense of raw speed, but this appears to me partially due to his greater awareness and anticipation of a play’s development. Schroeder isn’t the fastest of the three, but he strikes me as the player most able to rapidly go anywhere at any moment in a game.
Carter-Williams: 6’5.75” in shoes, 6’7.25” wingspan, 184 lbs. Williams’s most intriguing trait is his height, which is common knowledge. But what struck me repeatedly when he played was how light he seemed, much weaker than 184 lbs. His height does change the game given his ability to see, pass, and shoot over defenses where other guards might struggle, but the physicality he brings to the court is that of a much smaller player. Unless he becomes stronger, he will play shorter than he is at the next level.
Larkin: 5’11.5” in shoes, 5’10.75” wingspan, 171 lbs. Ouch. There really isn’t another way to say it: Larkin is short, stubby, and slight. He’s a gamer who isn’t afraid of a challenge, but there is no getting around his physical liabilities. Sometimes in college, he looked like a younger child playing with the big boys, who would back him down or box him out or block his shots, making him look helpless in the process. That is likely to be a daily occurrence in the NBA.
Schroeder: 6’2” in shoes, 6’7.25” wingspan, 168 lbs. The youngest (only 19) and lightest of the players, Schroeder’s game is clearly the most physical. He bodies up as a defender and wedges himself into the defense with his dribble. Though of average height for a point guard, his extremely long arms give him substantial physical advantage for his position. The European competition against which he’s played probably exaggerates the physicality of his game, as many of his competitors were certainly finesse-oriented, and that must be taken into account. But physically, Schroeder projects as average or slightly better in stature for his position with superior length.
Carter-Williams: 7.3 asts. While I won’t go as far as others in declaring MCW the best playmaker in the draft, I see the skills that make people say this. Carter-Williams has excellent court vision in both the full and half court. He is particularly good at kicking out to shooters after driving to the hoop. From the perimeter, he has uncommonly accurate skip passes and uncanny vision and anticipation for lobs and alley-oops. He is also excellent at advancing the ball up court in the fast break using the pass to teammates who have leaked out and bypassed the defense. His height also gives him the ability to see and pass over a defense, an advantage he sometimes accents by jumping to pass, though this sometimes gets him in trouble. His ability to consistently make simple, functional passes and feed the post are somewhat questionable, partially due to the offense he ran at Syracuse, but overall, he is a very good passer.
Larkin: 4.6 asts. A very good passer out of the pick and roll, he predominantly passes in one of two ways: either penetrating to the hoop and dumping off near the end or, when he’s doubled off the pick, he stretches the defenders from the hoop and hits the big rolling to the hoop in the space he’s created. He is skilled at hitting jump shooters from similar areas of the floor, either deep in the paint off a drive or early off a pick and roll while drawing defenders. He is much less apt to pass from the middle of a dribble drive, so once moving he is most likely to reach the deep paint before considering a pass. Also, his predisposition to shoot sometimes results in long, quick jumpers where a pass would have been the wiser course. He is a good and willing passer in the pick and roll at certain times, but this is a secondary option for a player who is, essentially, a gunner.
Schroeder: 3.3 asts. An extremely eager passer (assist numbers are typically lower in Europe than the NBA), Schroeder clearly gets more excitement from feeding a finisher than scoring on his own. He is a fantastic passer out of the pick and roll, capable of making the pass at any point from any location on the floor. He feeds the ball in many ways, including snapping passes long distances off the dribble one-handed (a la John Stockton). He is exceptional when it comes to setting up his passes through body positioning and use of his dribble, manipulating defenders to open up teammates and passing lanes. He does sometimes telegraph passes, particularly in set plays, taking the simple pass for granted. But overall, I find him the best passer in this strong group.
That concludes Part 2. Tomorrow, Clint’s Part 3 will break down these PGs ball handling and defensive skills, and get to an overall conclusion about where the prospects rank. Tune in then!