In these frustratingly uncertain of times, writing about something like basketball seems pretty trivial. We all have more questions than there seems to be answers to: questions related to health concerns, distancing concerns, political concerns, economic concerns - you name it. Questions about sports (as in “if/when they are even coming back in the summer, fall, or beyond) in our society are pretty low on the list of important or prioritized concerns at the moment.
But this is a professional basketball blog; I’m not here (because I’m nowhere near equipped nor qualified) to even attempt to try and tackle the unprecedented problems the world currently faces. We’re here for you at Orlando Pinstriped Post to try and provide a short-term getaway/distraction in any way that we can.
For me, that’s talking the NBA Draft. It goes without saying that the process leading up to the NBA Draft this year will be unlike any other players, agents, scouts, and league executives have ever experienced. I would assume the league passes on holding a pre-draft combine. With travel basically coming to a halt, teams likely won’t have the benefit of bringing prospects in for workouts/interviews. Advanced scouting (through March) and film-study appear to be avenues teams will have to heavily rely upon with this draft.
I mean, at this point, we don’t even know if there will be an NBA Draft in June (could it possibly be postponed, re-scheduled?). There is still so much to be determined regarding the immediate future of the NBA (finishing this season or not, possible abbreviated playoffs, etc.). Without the information or guidance to answer many of these basketball related questions, I’m going to push forward with scouting reports of players in this class that could be available when the Magic pick in the first round of the ‘20 NBA Draft (although, we don’t know at this time when that pick will be made - I assume somewhere in the 15-16 range).
I will be putting these reports together over the next couple of months (and possibly longer), which include loose NBA comparisons for each prospect, film observations, talking points, a case for the Magic needing/drafting the prospect, and more. In baseball (which I’m also missing dearly), it’s ideal to have speed at the top of your lineup. Well, Kira Lewis Jr. is leading-off our scouting reports, and speed is something he undoubtedly has plenty of.
|Kira Lewis Jr.|
('18 Team USA U18 Training Camp)
('18 Team USA U18 Training Camp)
Probably won’t happen comparisons: John Wall (similar bodies, both possess end-to-end lighting quickness; Wall possesses superior vision), Ja Morant (similar body-types, both play at similar paces; Morant plays above the rim more often, possesses superior vertical ability; Morant possesses superior vision)
Possibly could happen comparisons: Anfernee Simons (Lewis Jr. is more of a natural lead guard, Simons is more of a combo-guard), Elfrid Payton (Lewis Jr. is a more natural shooter/scorer), Dennis Schroder
Eye in the sky
— Really crafty/adept at finishing at the rim (seems to favor using his right hand from either side of the cup)
— An absolute blur with the ball in his hands in transition, his coast-to-coast speed is elite for this class
— Finds teammates with ease off the dribble, his gravity off the bounce pulls defenders/creates opportunities for others
— Has an advanced handle, ability to beat defenders off the dribble with or without a screen, continuing to develop his floater will be a huge swing-factor in his development
— Potential to be a lethal pick-and-roll player in the NBA (if shot holds up)
— Body is obviously very light, but he possess positive defensive instincts and uses speed to jump passing lanes (13 games with 6+ rebounds, 10 games with 3+ steals in ‘19)
— Shows nice balance/solid shot mechanics, uses lower-half well into his shot, shot-release point is a bit too low
Best films of the season:
February 8th, at Georgia: 37 points (12-21 FGA’s, 10-15 FTA’s, 3-6 3PTA’s), 7 assists, 5 rebounds
February 25th, at Mississippi State: 29 points (11-19 FGA’s, 4-8 3PTA’s), 7 rebounds
Video Credit: Tremendous Upside
Resume & By the Numbers
- SEC All-Freshmen (2018-19), All-SEC 1st Team (2019-20)
- 3rd in SEC in assists and assists per game (‘19-’20)
- 3rd in SEC in steals and steals per game (‘19-’20)
- Three games with 30 or more points in a single contest, eleven games with 20 or more points (‘19-’20)
- Nine games with 3 or more three-point field goals in a single contest, five games with 8 or more made free throws (‘19-’20)
- Eight games with 7 or more assists in a single contest, ten games with 7 or more rebounds (‘19-’20)
- One career triple-double, one career double-double
When assessing Lewis Jr., I think it’s very important to remember that he’s a full-year younger than nearly all of the other players in his class (he turns 19 years-old on Monday).
Despite having 65 career games at the collegiate level under his belt, the Alabama-native is still younger than most of the other “one-and-done” freshmen that are expected to be drafted somewhere in the first round this year (Isaac Okoro, Tyrese Maxey, Josh Green, Nico Mannion, Jaden McDaniels to name a few). For example, despite being a class behind Lewis Jr., North Carolina point guard Cole Anthony is nearly a full-year older than the Crimson Tide lead guard (Anthony turns 20 in May).
I bring this up because the one thing that worries me about Lewis Jr., more than any part of his game/skill-set, is the fact that the young man weighs 165 pounds (possibly a generous number). There are currently ten active NBA players who are listed at a weight below 180 pounds (Chris Chiozza, Mike Conley, Yogi Ferrell, Morant, Shabazz Napier, Chris Paul, Schroder, Ish Smith, Tremont Waters, and Lou Williams). In other words, about 98 percent of the players in the NBA play at a weight of 180 pounds or more.
Yes, Lewis Jr. is still very young (and yes - he has plenty of time to add weight to his frame). But still, we’re talking about an added 10 to 15 additional pounds before Lewis Jr. would even be approaching the lightest players in the NBA, most of whom are three to four inches shorter than him.
2) Pure speed
As someone who was born and raised in the capital of speed, Daytona Beach, FL, I appreciate a prospect who pushes the pace like he’s trying to pull-away on the backstretch of a NASCAR motor-speedway.
Here is a really good breakdown from Spencer Pearlman (The Stepien) of Lewis Jr., pay attention to the first clip (0:03-0:11) where the Alabama guard goes nearly the length of the floor in under four seconds.
So much of Lewis Jr.’s offensive game is predicated on the speed he plays with on the floor. In transition, taking advantage of secondary-break opportunities, playing downhill in pick-and-roll and isolation situations in the half-court, etc. - it all comes back to Lewis Jr.’s “horsepower”.
3) Will he be able to defend?
On defense, Lewis Jr. reminds me a little of former Magic point guard Elfrid Payton. I realize that won’t exactly be received as a ringing endorsement around these parts. But hear me out.
Like Payton, I feel Lewis Jr. uses his speed and quick-twitch athleticism routinely to jump into passing lanes. The Alabama point guard was given the freedom to gamble on defense quite often in Tuscaloosa, and that resulted in Lewis Jr. accumulating a decent amount of steals. On film, he fairly regularly shows the ability to use his defensive instincts to get into passing lanes and disrupt plays.
What he doesn’t seem to possess is superior length. Don’t get me wrong, Lewis Jr.’s 6-5 wingspan isn’t going to hurt him completely, but it’s certainly not the kind of reach that would be considered exceptional by today’s NBA standards. Lewis Jr. has great feet which he utilizes very well on the defensive end (and again, his speed really helps him recover defensively). He has the athletic ability to both navigate his way through defending and/or recovering in pick-and-roll situations, as well as to stay in front of his man when defending on-the-ball.
But I think he plays too upright; he must find a way to get in the habit of getting down more in a defensive stance. I think the best way to attack Lewis Jr. is to go right at him. Without superior length, nor much weight to speak of on his frame, how will he be able to hold up against NBA opponents? It’s not uncommon for young point guards to struggle with the physicality of the NBA early in their careers. I think that trend will certainly be the case for Lewis Jr. (getting pushed off spots, fighting through screens, etc.).
Making a case for the Magic to select Kira Lewis Jr. in the ‘20 NBA Draft
|With D.J. Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams set to hit free agency
this summer, would Lewis Jr. provide the Magic with needed depth at the
point guard position?
|With Evan Fournier's decision to possibly opt out of his contract and
become an unrestricted free agent this summer looming, would Lewis Jr.
provide the Magic with needed depth at a wing position?
|The Magic ranked 28th in the league in eFG% last season, 27th in
scoring, 27th in field goal percentage, 25th in three-point field goal
percentage, and 24th in Offensive Rating. Could Lewis Jr. potentially
help the Magic in any of these areas?
|Does Lewis Jr. fit the Jeff Weltman/John Hammond archetype?||No|
|Would selecting Lewis Jr. in the middle of the first round be considered
a BPA/value pick?
Through the three drafts that Orlando’s current executive team has been in charge (led by Jeff Weltman: President of Basketball Operations, John Hammond: General Manager), the Magic have been painstakingly predictable with the type of players they’ve targeted. Weltman and Hammond value character first and foremost. They also seem to be infatuated with wingspan/length (Isaac, Iwundu, Bamba, Frazier Jr., Okeke) and defensive positional versatility (maybe not Bamba so much, but holds true for the other guys).
Lewis Jr. doesn’t have the freakish length that Orlando targets in a player, and he will likely be just a one-position defender in the NBA. But just because something has been a repetitive trend (as in, drafting “long bois” over the last three drafts), I don’t necessarily believe that it can be assumed Magic executive will always approach the draft this way. I guess what I’m trying to say is, they have to mix it up and draft for need one of these years, right?
I put together a Magic-specific draft checklist above, and drafting Kira Lewis Jr. would help Orlando address a few areas of need. First of all, the Magic will likely need to bring in a point guard (or two) in the off-season due to the fact that both of their current back-up point guards will be free agents at the conclusion of this season. The organization can address this probable need through the draft, or possibly through free agency (mid-level exception).
Orlando’s team offensive struggles were well-documented throughout the majority of last season, and there’s at least a possibility that drafting Lewis Jr. could help resolve a bit of their ineptitude in a few key areas (on offense). According to his Synergy Sports profile, Lewis Jr. ranked in the 80th percentile or higher in the NCAA (this past season) in spot-up opportunities, catch-and-shoot opportunities, and jump shooting off the dribble. If Lewis Jr.’s shooting translates at the next level, he could easily develop into a legitimate scoring threat (due to his speed and dribbling aptitude).
The Magic have been hesitant of late to draft for need, instead opting to stay true to their board (and draft the best player available, regardless of position). When Orlando does make their pick in the ‘20 draft (whenever that may be), Lewis Jr. probably won’t be at the top of their board as “the best available player”. Sam Vecenie of the Athletic currently has Lewis Jr. sitting 22nd on his board (Vecenie’s Big Board, 4.0 - April 2nd); ESPN currently lists him as the 25th best available prospect in the class; Ricky O’Donnell of SB Nation pegged him to go 22nd in a mock draft he put together last month.
However, if management decides to alter their approach and draft from a standpoint of “need” this time-around, then the Orlando Magic could very well opt for speedy (and young) sophomore guard Kira Lewis Jr..
Aaron Goldstone has been writing for Orlando Pinstriped Post since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @AaronGoldstone.