The NBA Draft Blog Scouting reports continue with a look at one of the most popular players in Kansas State basketball history, senior guard Jacob Pullen. Pullen who made his name as a high volume, and at times very clutch, scorer, took on the role of the team’s primary playmaker for a lot of this season. Was he able to show that he can do much more than score, and was it enough for NBA team’s to notice. Let’s breakdown the game of Jacob Pullen:
Jacob Pullen, Kansas State – Senior
Guard- 6’0, 200
20.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.7 apg, 42.6% FG, 77.3% FT, 38.1% 3FG
Perimeter Shooting- Pullen has all of the makings of a good perimeter shooter. His mechanics are solid – he squares himself well to the basket, has a quick release, a high release point, decent lift, and good follow-through. He also has very good range, though a couple of things hold him back from being a great shooter. One, his size makes it difficult for him to always get clear looks at the rim, and even though he is very good at using his dribble and head and ball fakes to make space for his shot, it isn’t always effective, and may be even less so at the NBA level. This often leads to his other main issue, shot selection. Whether it was the lack of another reliable scoring option on the team, or an inflated sense of how much he could really do, Pullen just took too many bad shots from the perimeter. He was much better when he had the opportunity to just focus on scoring and didn’t have to run the offense as well. When he is away from the ball, he does a great job working to get open, whether coming off screens, or flashing into the open areas. Biggest thing he needs to do is not always settle for the jumper and look for opportunities to get into the lane.
Ballhandling/Hands/Penetration- Pullen is a good ballhandler, capable of controlling his dribble well, protecting the ball and adding in a variety of speed and change-of-pace dribbles to keep the defense off-balance. He needs to improve his left hand, both being able to push the ball to that side of the court, as well as using it to make moves to the left side of the basket. He also needs to do a better job when using his dribble against pressure defense, making sure to not try and force his way through the defense, but to work around it. More of a natural scorer, he has made great strides in showing that he is capable of running an offense, but as I mentioned earlier, he has yet to show that he can consistently be a top-level point guard and scorer together. He does a good job getting into the lane, using speed and a variety of dribbles to get past the defender, and for his size does a very good job getting to the rim. He is solidly built and handles contact well while getting his shot off and has good body control to weave his way through the much bigger bodies. The biggest concern is that he has yet to become very good at drawing the defense and finding the open man – more often than not, if he gets by the first defender, he is looking to get to the basket. He has shown he can do it when he wants to, but he has a scorer’s, not a distributor’s, mentality.
Rebounding/Passing- Pullen will never get you many offensive rebounds, as he is usually so far away from the rim, he needs to have a long rebound come to him, and since he is usually the player who needs to rotate back against the break. Pullen has decent court vision, but he needs to show more of an ability to draw the defense and find an open teammate, as well as becoming better at hitting the post entry pass at different angles. Also, he didn’t have the opportunity to consistently run pick and rolls at KSU and will need that he can run it effectively. He needs to develop greater patience in letting opportunities set up, instead of trying to force the action too often.
Free Throw Shooting – Pullen is very good at drawing contact and getting to the free-throw line. While he has good mechanics at the line, he needs to make sure to take his time and hit the shots. He won’t be playing anywhere near the minutes in the NBA that he did in college and will need to capitalize on the opportunities when he can.
Perimeter Defense- Pullen defends the ball very well – positioning himself well, good balance, and he has very good lateral movement. He has gotten much better at working through screens, and has shown better decision-making in switching, or choosing to go over or under screens. While he isn’t a very good pressure defender, he does do a good job forcing his man into bad spots. Off-the-ball, he needs to work on positioning himself better on the perimeter, especially in terms of being able to play passing lanes better, and being able to close out on shooters more effectively. Pullen is a good help defender, and is also quick to double-teams, though he needs to do a better job recovering to his man after the double.
Rebounding- As on the offensive end, Pullen will not be expected to rebound much, but he should do a better job of getting to long rebounds quicker, and he needs to make sure to put a body on his man to prevent him from getting to the rebound from the perimeter.
Pullen can be very effective in transition, able to push the ball quickly up the court or fill one of the lanes. He is very good at getting to the rim, while also having the ability to pull up and hit the mid-to-long range jumper. When handling the ball on the break, he needs to make sure to not focus solely on scoring and look more to draw the defenders and hit open teammates. He does a very good job getting back on defense against the break, and positions himself well between the ballhandler and the basket, looking to force the ball out to the wings.
Summary & Intangibles
Athleticism – Above Average
BB IQ – Above Average
Pullen is very similar to players we have looked at earlier this year, such as Isaiah Thomas, who were primarily scorers through their college career but needed to show improvement in their ability to run an offense and distribute effectively. Unfortunately, Pullen is not as far along as he needs to be in that respect, and I have a tough time envisioning him being any better as a distributor at the NBA level. He can score, but he is not very efficient, and with him playing a bench role, if any, he will need to show that he can score consistently without a high volume of shots. There is a chance with some good workouts that a team may take a shot on him near the end of the 2nd round, but my hunch is we will not hear his name called come draft night.