Name: Aaron Craft Age: 22 School: Ohio State
Height: 6’2 Weight: 195 Projected Position: PG
2013-14 Stats (Through 3/14/14):
9.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.6 apg, 2.6 spg, 2.5 tpg (34.3 minutes per game)
46.8 FG%, 74.6 FT%, 30.6 3FG%, 56.4 TS%, 50.2 eFG%
17.3 USG%, 26.8 AST%, 22.7 TO%, 4.7 STL%
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images
SKILLS & ATHLETIC BREAKDOWN
Craft can be effective when he looks to get into the lane and to the basket, but his inability to hit the mid/short-range jumper or floater, forces him to try to get to the basket as much as possible. He has a decent first step to both his left and right, and he relies more on control than acceleration to get into the lane. Craft has the ability to finish in a variety of ways around the basket, though he relies heavily on his right hand to shoot no matter where he is around the basket. He does a great job using angles around the backboard to make shots when the help defense stops him, though he doesn’t shy from taking contact on his way to the basket. Craft keeps his head up and sees the defense when he gets into the lane, but he needs to do a better job reading his options and seeing where he can find an open teammate quicker. Craft has some issues shooting the mid-range jumper off the dribble as he has trouble getting set quick enough to get his shot off. Also, he needs to work on his shooting touch when he shoots floaters in the lane. Craft is strong at using screens to get into the lane, and he is very good at being patient to see where he has openings. He needs to do a better job making reads quicker off these screen situations, though the Ohio State offense doesn’t rely much on pick-and-roll situations.
Craft is a very good ballhandler, able to use both hands well and having a few advanced dribbles to get by his defender or create space. He has good control, keeps the ball low and close to his body, and always has his head up and seeing the floor. At times, he can get himself too far into the lane without a shot or good passing option, so he needs to make some decisions better. Craft has shown a good change-of-pace dribble, as well as the occasional spin move, to help him create space to get into the lane. Craft will attack the basket from either side, though he is better going to his right. Also, Craft needs to work on finishing around the basket with his left hand, especially when he drives to left, to avoid block attempts. Craft uses his dribble well to create space for the mid-range jumper or floater, though as discussed above, he needs to work on hitting those shots somewhat consistently. Craft has very good court vision and though very conservative with his passing, he is capable of some spectacular looks. He does need to work some more on finding open teammates when he draws help defenders off of penetration, and at times can find himself trying to force passes when he has no other options. Craft is not as much a playmaker as he is a facilitator of the offense, so he needs to continue to improve making all the reads off of pick-and-roll situations. One area where Craft does a very good job is as a post-entry passer, using many different angles to get his man the ball where he wants it.
Craft’s jumper leaves a lot to be desired, but he has shown that he can knock down shots if left alone. Craft’s release isn’t ideal, being both low and out in front of him, along with a follow-through that seems to create backspin on the ball. He has the ability to hit his jumper off the pass when he has time to get his feet set, but he needs to work on knocking down shots off the dribble. Craft’s off-ball movement is rarely to set up a shot, but to keep the offense moving, so much of his ability to use screens and such to get open has really not been seen. Shot selection is not an issue for Craft, as he doesn’t put up many shots, but he may be a player where he will need to show that he can look for his shot more often.
Free Throw Shooting
Craft is an average free throw shooter, though like his jumper, his form leaves a lot to be desired. He has a consistent routine, but he has a low release point and a release that looks like he is almost getting backspin on his rotation. It works for him, and he has been very consistent from the line over his 4 years, but the low release/over-follow-through can leave him with little margin for error on the shots. Craft does get to the free throw line at a good rate (over 1 free throw for every 2 field goal attempts), and he has shown over the years that he doesn’t shy from contact.
Perimeter Defense (On/Off Ball)
Craft is one of the best on-ball defenders I have seen in college over the past few years. He positions himself well between his man and the basket, and moves very well laterally, even showing the ability to defend the ball the length of the court. He does a good job getting low in his stance, and his hands and feet are constantly active. What separates Craft from most other defenders is his ability to key into his opponent’s weaknesses and tailoring his defense to force them to those weaknesses. He anticipates his man’s movements well, though he can susceptible to good ball fakes. Craft does a very good job getting over the top of screens consistently, as well as knowing when he can afford to go under a screen. Off the ball, Craft positions himself well, though he can sometimes have the urge to want to make a play and will cheat heavily towards the ball. He is a good help defender though, and can frustrate post players with ability to help quickly and get his hands on the ball. He anticipates very well off the ball and is very adept at jumping passing lanes, even giving extra space to entice a pass he thinks he can intercept. Craft handles himself well on off-ball screens and often the only option teams have to free up a man from Craft is to run him through 2 or 3 screens. He has excellent defensive awareness, and is clearly the team’s leader on defense.
Craft is a very capable defensive rebounder for his size, but more important, he almost always looks to put a body on an offensive player to slow them up trying to get a rebound, even those much bigger than him. Craft is also very good at chasing down long rebounds, anticipating where they will go and looking to beat everyone to the spot, or sneaking in if someone is there. Craft is capable of grabbing long rebounds and getting out in transition quickly, so teams need to account for him on missed shots.
Craft is a good ballhandler in transition, seeing the floor well and generally making good decisions. If Craft decides to keep the ball himself, he will look to beat the defender straight off the dribble to the basket.
There haven’t been many better leaders on the court over the past few seasons as Craft. He understands his role has been to get Ohio State into their offense quickly and efficiently, but he has shown at times that he can score when the team needs him to. His ability to knock down jumpers consistently is a major area which needs to be addressed, as well as seeing how he makes reads in pick-and-roll situations. Still, it is Craft’s ability to defend which makes him a legitimate NBA prospect. In four seasons, I can’t quickly think of a match-up where he was significantly outmatched on the defensive end. He tailors his defense to match who he is guarding and if you want to create enough space from him, you’ll just have to keep running him through multiple screens. Even then, it’s no guarantee that you’ll shake him. The stories about how he’ll sacrifice his body at any time to get a loose ball are well known, but his ability to disrupt an offense just with his on-ball defense is more impressive. He’s a high IQ player who understands his limitations but isn’t defined by them.
Draft Value: Mid-Late 2nd – #44-51
Craft doesn’t project to be a starting NBA point guard, but he has the potential to be a quality backup for many teams. Even as he works on some offensive deficiencies, his defense is enough to make him a contributor down the road. By all accounts, he is the kind of player that coaches would love to have on their team, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he lands on an NBA team next season, though D-League time would probably help him a lot.
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