2024 NBA Draft scouting report: Rob Dillingham

Kentucky's Rob Dillingham is one of the most compelling offensive talents in the 2024 NBA Draft.

Rob Dillingham, Kentucky basketball
Rob Dillingham, Kentucky basketball / Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
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Rob Dillingham is the latest example of Overtime Elite's prospect development. Parlaying his success in the Atlanta-based pro league into a productive freshman season at Kentucky, Rob Dillingham has emerged as a legitimate lottery prospect — and maybe the best overall freshman on John Calipari's talented roster.

In 2023, we saw Amen Thompson and Ausar Thompson emerge from Overtime Elite as top-five picks despite the up-tempo, defense-optional nature of OTE games. Dillingham suffered from the perception of OTE games before the season. He was regarded as a gifted shot-chucker who didn't play defense or create for teammates.

As it turns out, he's quite effective across the board. In addition to impressive scoring outbursts, Dillingham has been Kentucky's most reliable on-ball creator, generating opportunities for both himself and teammates out of pick-and-rolls. As of this writing, he is averaging 14.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 4.5 assists (1.6 turnovers) on .470/.447/.758 splits in 23.0 minutes. He has only started one of 12 appearances for the Wildcats, but don't let the bench role fool you. Dillingham has consistently outperformed the backcourt starters.

In a draft class short on established top-end talent, it's difficult to ignore the upside tied to Dillingham's skill set. As far as college freshmen guards are concerned, none have matched Dillingham's creativity, efficiency, and well-roundedness. There is downside, however. Dillingham has a couple of fatal flaws that could hamper him at the next level.

Here's what to make of one of the most intriguing prospects in the 2024 NBA Draft cycle.

Rob Dillingham NBA Draft bio

Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 170 pounds
Birthdate: Jan. 4, 2005
Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard
Offensive Role: Primary ball-handler, slasher
Defensive Role: POA guard defender
Projected Draft Range: 5-20

NBA Draft highlights

Strengths

The 2024 NBA Draft is short on players who profile as legitimate No. 1 options at the next level. Dillingham is one of the few prospects with a pathway to such a role. He's a creative ball-handler, generating advantages with sharp directional changes and constant stop-start gear shifts. Dillingham has the speed to get downhill out of pick-and-rolls, but he's even more dominant as a pull-up shooter.

Dillingham's shot mechanics are unconventional, but they work. He's lightning-quick on the release. He squares his feet on a dime and his touch is feathery. Dillingham's shot variety is, perhaps, his most compelling attribute. He will fire coming off screens. His pull-up range extends well beyond the NBA 3-point line. Factor in the tantalizing package of floaters and in-between shots, and Dillingham has one of the best scoring packages in the draft. Most importantly, Dillingham can get to those shots anytime, anywhere. He can side-step or step-back with great success and he needs very little space to get a shot up. That's essential when operating at a consistent height disadvantage.

What has truly shocked the NBA Draft community with Dillingham, however, is his playmaking for others. He's consistently making advanced reads on the move. He will worm his way around a screen before firing a pinpoint cross-court skip pass. He has developed fast chemistry with Kentucky's rim-runners. Dillingham was initially billed as an erratic decision-maker, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Sure, he's confident in his own shot, but Dillingham is more than willing to distribute. He does so without turning the ball over at a high clip, too.

Dillingham should be able to adjust to the personnel around him at the next level. He's not scheme or roster-dependent, at least not on offense. Place him next to another ball-handler, and Dillingham will fruitfully attack closeouts off the catch, operating as either play-finisher or connector. Plug him into the starting point guard role, and he should pick up the ropes quickly.

There are natural concerns about Dillingham's size on defense, but he has been remarkably competitive on that end of the floor in college. He has a nose for the ball (1.6 steals per game) and he punches above his weight class as best he can.

Weaknesses

Dillingham is charitably listed at 6-foot-2 (in shoes) and 170 pounds. It's extremely difficult for guards that size to thrive in the NBA. The list of exceptions is extremely small. Trae Young is one, but he is a top-percentile passer and pull-up shooter who completely warps defenses. Dillingham probably competes better than Young on defense, but it won't matter as much in the NBA. He is going to get picked on because of his size.

There's a chance Dillingham's offensive gifts offset his defensive limitations. That is what his future NBA team will be betting on. But, if Dillingham doesn't hit as a legitimate No. 1 creator, it's hard to envision a role bigger than bench spark plug. There are some Bones Hyland vibes. That's not necessarily bad, but Dillingham's star upside is contingent upon exceptional skill. His margin for error is zilch.

There will be challenges related to his size on offense, too. Dillingham doesn't finish particularly well in traffic. If he can't pressure the rim and draw fouls — Trae Young draws a lot of fouls, unlike your typical skinny point guard — Dillingham could have trouble maximizing his value as a slasher.

Final summary

Dillingham is a serious top-10 pick candidate. He's that good. Sometimes, skill and feel need to take precedence over athletic profiles. Dillingham understands how to play the game, and he fits a valuable archetype. The top of the 2024 draft is populated with a ton of players whose high-end upside is as a complementary piece — a second or third option. There's a world in which Dillingham is an All-Star offensive engine that can elevate an entire system. We will have to wait and see if it's this world.

The defense is the big worry. He competes hard and his penchant for steals could help offset the constant on-ball vulnerability. But, competing only gets so far in the NBA. Dillingham doesn't have Fred VanVleet's strength. NBA offenses will seek him out on switches and go right at his chest. If Dillingham can't defend, it becomes even more important for him to hit — big time — on the offensive end.

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