2016 NBA Draft Skill Markets: Wing Shooting

Nov 27, 2015; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Michigan Wolverines guard Caris LeVert (23) makes a shot at the end of the first half against the Texas Longhorns during the 2015 Battle 4 Atlantis in the Imperial Arena at the Atlantis Resort. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2015; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Michigan Wolverines guard Caris LeVert (23) makes a shot at the end of the first half against the Texas Longhorns during the 2015 Battle 4 Atlantis in the Imperial Arena at the Atlantis Resort. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Come NBA Draft season, debates between drafting the “best player available” and drafting for need often arise. Some advocate for best player available early and need drafting later, while others are firmly on one side (or the other) of the debate. I’m not here to convince anyone one way or another, but everybody can agree that understanding how a player’s strengths and weaknesses fit with a team is an important part of drafting.

One skill that almost every team is looking for is shooting from the wing positions. A select few NBA wings, such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant and to a lesser degree someone like Nicolas Batum, hold some creation responsibility for their teams, but the majority of shooting guards and small forwards in the league are expected to space the floor and defend. Being a 40 percent threat from beyond the arc frees up space for the rest of the team and is one of the most valuable skills in the league.

We’ll be exploring a variety of “skill markets” for this year’s draft class, starting with the best wing shooters in the country.

Furkan Korkmaz | Turkey, Anadolu Efes

At the tender age of 18, Korkmaz has already proven himself as one of the most dangerous perimeter threats in this year’s draft class. Over the past two seasons with Anadolu Efes he’s shot an outstanding 44.5 percent from the shorter 3-point line, and he’s shot a slightly worse but still impressive 38.8 percent in FIBA events since 2013. He has a slightly awkward hitch in his shot as he brings it behind his head, but he gets it off quickly with noticeably good rotation.

Unlike many wing shooters, Korkmaz has the ability to shoot on the move and off the bounce in addition to spot-shooting, making him someone defenses need to be aware of at all times.

Denzel Valentine | Michigan State

Valentine has garnered national attention for his triple-doubles and overall dominance of the college game. At the next level, however, his ability to shoot the ball might be his calling card. He’s at a very strong 38.9 percent from 3-point range for his career and has been at or above 40 percent in each of his last two seasons. This season, in particular, he’s shown confidence shooting from well beyond the NCAA stripe and combined his efficiency with some of the largest volume in all of college basketball.

Like Korkmaz, Valentine’s not just a standstill shooter — his ability to pull-up in pick-and-roll situations is easy to envision as a secondary action in an NBA offense.

Nov 27, 2015; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Michigan Wolverines guard Caris LeVert (23) makes a shot at the end of the first half against the Texas Longhorns during the 2015 Battle 4 Atlantis in the Imperial Arena at the Atlantis Resort. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Caris LeVert | Michigan

Standing 6-7 with a 7-1 wingspan LeVert has the ideal release point for a shooting guard, allowing him to get his shot off with only inches of space. He only shot 30.2 percent from 3-point range during his freshman year, but he has been above the 40 percent threshold ever year since, proving that his outside shooting is one of his biggest strengths. LeVert doesn’t have the same shake to his game that Jamal Crawford has, but when you watch his skinny frame launch from outside it’s hard not to be reminded of the long time NBA marksman.

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk | Kansas

It’s fair to question whether or not Mykhailiuk deserves his spot on this list. He’s only shot the ball from the perimeter 95 times at Kansas, and over that time he’s shot a disapointing 31.6 percent. Basically, he has never shot as well as his reputation suggested in FIBA play before he came to Kansas. But I’m including him on this list because of how much pleasure I get watching him shoot the ball.

He’s got picture perfect form, a lightning quick release and a shooter’s mentatility, where he’s always got his feet and hands ready to shoot the ball. There’s a real chance he’s not that good of a shooter, but I have enough faith in his mechanics and mindset (taking 10 3-pointers per 40 minutes) that he deserves inclusion.

Patrick McCaw | UNLV

The UNLV sophomore guard burst onto the draft scene by stuffing the box score, averaging 4.2 assists and 3.0 steals per game in addition to scoring and rebounding the basketball. Additionally, he’s upped his outside shooting from last year’s 36.8 percent to 40.6 percent, and if he can continue to shoot at this level it’s going to be hard to keep him out of the first round.

McCaw has a slightly wide elbow on his jumper, but everything else is hard to critique — the elevation he gets on pull-ups and catch-and-shoots is impressive. It’s worth watching UNLV to see if McCaw can keep up his strong play, and particularly his outside shooting.

Grayson Allen | Duke 

In my pre-season scouting report on Allen, I wrote that “until we see better shooting from Allen over a larger sample, it is tough to classify him as anything more than an average outside threat.” I felt he was generally underrated as a shooter, too.

At this point in the season, Allen has only shot 51 3-pointers, so his shooting ability is still up in the air. Nonetheless, I’ve come around significantly on my thoughts on his shot. He’s hitting 41.2 percent from 3 and a stellar 86.1 percent from the line — further evidence that his shot is for real. More importantly are the type of shots he’s been hitting — he’s shown the ability to hit one dribble pull-ups and get his feet set quickly off screens to knock down more difficult shots.

Allen still shoots a set shot from outside, basically, but the rest of his mechanics are good and he’s looking more like the elite outside shooter his reputation suggested.

Mandatory Credit: Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports /

Buddy Hield | Oklahoma

Hield is a great example of how much hard work and maturation can impact the way you shoot the ball. He shot a miserable 23.8 percent from the perimeter his freshman year, over 35 percent each of the last two seasons, and is now at an incredible 51.8 percent from deep this year along with 88.5 percent from the line. His numbers are sure to regress somewhat, but Hield has turned himself into one of college basketball’s best shooters. He has a nice wide base on his shot and while he doesn’t get the most elevation, it’s a smooth shot and he doesn’t seem to be bothered by defenders in his space.

Hield is basically the argument for people who think it’s better for players development to stay in school. No one would’ve thought of him as a prospect after his freshman year, but steady improvement across the board has turned him into a potential late first rounder, and a big part of that is his shooting.

Sheldon McClellan | Miami

The Miami senior, like Hield, has started off this season shooting insanely well from all over — 51.4 percent from 3-point range and 88.0 percent from the free throw line. As someone who had never shot above 36 percent from outside before in his career, it is fair to question whether McClellan’s shooting has been fluky. Unlike many of the other guys on this list he doesn’t shoot many 3s off of screens, but he’s got a fluid dip and release to his shot. In addition to his free throw shooting (which has been great his whole career), I think he could be a good spot-up guy at the next level.

If he can shoot the ball at above a 40 percent clip for the rest of the season, McClellan should solidify himself as a second-rounder in this year’s draft.

Michael Gbinije | Syracuse

Gbinije (Ben-in-jay) has the opposite shooting profile of McClellan. He’s a career 63.4 percent shooter from the foul line, but 41 percent from 3 and 47 percent on this season. I’m not sure what the deal with his free throw shooting is, but on over 250 college attempts he’s proven to be a reliable 3-point shooter. He has a conventionally solid form, too, so I don’t doubt his ability to shoot from 3 at the NBA level.

At this point in the draft — second round — either you’re more of a spot-up shooter with some athletic ability or a pure all-around shooter with questions athletically. Gbinije and McClellan both fall in the first group.

Mandatory Credit: Gary Rohman-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Gary Rohman-USA TODAY Sports /

Ron Baker | Wichita State

Baker, on the other hand, is more of the latter. He’s only a career 37.7 percent shooter from outside, but that is in large part due to the volume and difficulty with which he shoots the basketball. Off-baseline screens, pull-ups off of ball screens and catch and shoots from deep behind the NCAA line are all common place for Baker. His shot has a solid base and he consistently hops into and sets himself for shots like the best shooters out there.

If Baker ever carves out a role in the NBA it will be on a team that needs his shooting on the wing.

Damion Lee | Louisville

After four years at Drexel, Lee transferred to Louisville for his final season and a chance to show national audiences his ability to score the basketball. Lee’s scoring starts with his shooting and as a career 37.3 percent outside shooter who’s shooting 40.7 percent so far this season, it is clear he can shoot the basketball.

At Drexel, Lee developed the ability to make all types of outside shots and he uses his long 6-6 frame and athleticism to elevate above defenders from all over the court. At a practically ancient 23 years of age, Lee has an uphill battle to finding a spot in the NBA, but his ability to shoot the ball fluidly on the move and from deep should give him a shot in the second round.

For many of these guys, questions about their defense or their creating ability are what hold them back from being higher level prospects. We’ll take a look at the defensive minded wings sometime in the future, but it is abundantly clear in this year’s class that NBA teams will be deciding between prioritizing spacing and drafting shooters, or prioritizing defense and drafting more athletic guys on the wings. If a team wants to find a shooter at any point in the draft, the list above is a pretty good place to start.