Throughout this prospect profile series, I’ve maintained a high level of optimism while discussing these players. Every prospect that I’ve profiled has a few flaws to their game, but their strengths have been consistently able to outweigh those issues. However, that constant optimism might fade away as we look at Kentucky freshman Trey Lyles.
When discussing any Kentucky prospect name not named Willie Cauley-Stein or Karl Anthony-Towns, one must determine if they were able to use a particular asset to help the high-powered Kentucky team (i.e Devin Booker’s perimeter shooting ability or Andrew Harrison’s athleticism). That wasn’t exactly the case for Lyles, who displays a bevy of different offensive skills but wasn’t great in any particular area.
Perhaps the most appealing part of Lyles work would be his apparent potential as a pick-and-roll big. The 6’10 forward has displayed an ability to spot-up and hit the mid-range and perimeter jumper. He’s also mobile enough to put the ball on the floor and take it to the rim.
As a shooter, he has a pretty smooth shooting stroke that finishes with an extremely high release point, which would be tough for any defender to contest. And as you can see from the following shot chart, there are areas of the court where Lyles has been an efficient shooter.
At least with Kentucky, Lyles wasn’t really able to display that solid shooting stroke on a consistent basis. According to Synergy, Lyles shot 37% (32/87) on jumpers during his freshman season. While that isn’t a particularly bad shooting percentage, especially when you consider that he does have his hot spots, you’d like to see him be a bit more efficient if that skill is something that he’s going to base his game around.
Lyles has some potential as a roll man. He’s an aggressive off-ball threat, very mobile for a player his size. Furthermore, once Lyles gets an open lane, he’s able to finish at the rim with authority. Lyles is also able to work off-the-dribble, with an ability to use both hands to drive to the rim. While he isn’t as explosive as Cauley-Stein or Towns, Lyles finds his way to the rim, where he shot 75%, according to hoop-math.com.
On the rare occasion where he was asked to post up, Lyles displayed some solid fundamentals. At 6’10 and 241 pounds, he had an immediate size advantage over the majority of his opponents. He was able to use that advantage to pull himself closer to get an easier look at the rim. Following that, Lyles displays a pretty solid hook, which he mainly used on the right block.
A lot of my questions about Lyles revolve around his work on the defensive end. At Kentucky, working alongside Cauley-Stein and Towns, Lyles worked mainly as a small forward. While he’s definitely mobile for a 6’10 forward, he was in over his head when it came to defending those players. Those wings were regularly able to drive their way past Lyles, due to the difference in mobility and the poor defensive fundamentals he exhibits.
Lyles also had a tendency to get beat in the low post, which is pretty significant for a long, bulky player. He averaged less than a block and steal per-40 minutes, which is extremely rough.
Although Trey Lyles exhibits several individual skills, the fact that he doesn’t particularly excel at anything isn’t appealing. Especially for a Jazz team that’s looking for a stable stretch four, picking an inefficient shooter like Lyles might not be the best move, especially when threats like Frank Kaminsky, Bobby Portis or even Devin Booker could be available at the 12th pick.
Add those inefficiencies to his struggles on the defensive end, and I really can’t see any case where the Jazz would use their lottery pick on Lyles. Could he develop into a useful player down the stretch? Sure. But the relative uncertainty that surrounds him scares me away, especially when you consider that there will be more well-rounded talents that the Jazz could use with their 12th overall pick.