2018 NBA Draft: The danger of taking one-dimensional shooters too high

(Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /

Much of the 2018 NBA Draft process consists of talking yourself into or out of prospects. When it comes to one-dimensional shooters, we should be very wary.

Shooting might be the most important swing skill for prospects today. As we’ve seen in the NBA, it’s hard to have more than one non-shooter on the floor at any time. Preferably you have five. In the draft process, we get hung up on two types of prospects the most.

One is the defensive stud who maybe, can sort of or kind of shoot. The other is his opposite: the shooter who struggles on defense. Now, that being said, just being poor on defense isn’t reason enough to be wary of a prospect.

If they have upside as a ball-handler, pull-up shooter, creator, rebounder or even as an okay team defender, that’s a player perhaps worth drafting in the first round. The player that’s hard to justify that for is the shooter who doesn’t have that extra dimension. It’s the guy who shoots well and doesn’t read the floor well or rebound or create and who will get eaten alive defensively. Past examples include Furkan Korkmaz in 2016 and R.J. Hunter in 2015.

Someone like a C.J. McCollum, who is always defensively at a disadvantage, makes up for this by being an elite offensive player with different equities. You justify his defense by what he brings on the other end. This year’s version of that, not saying he’s C.J. 2.0, is someone like Trae Young. You can justify the selection if you believe he can be elite offensively or contribute in ways beyond just shooting. The player without those extra attributes is not worth a high pick.

In fact, he’s probably not worth a first round pick. That’s not to knock the importance of shooting or even shooting diversity. But if those are your only legitimate NBA skills, teams are better off taking a chance on someone else higher in the draft.

To put this in perspective for the 2018 NBA Draft, we’re going to use two players as an example. Both players are excellent shooters, but one is extremely one-dimensional. We’ll use Duke’s Gary Trent Jr. and Wichita State’s Landry Shamet.

*Side note: outside of this comparison, we’ll come full circle at the end with an additional justification as to why your NBA team should avoid over-drafting a limited shooter.

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As an added disclaimer, Trent and Shamet should both get drafted in this class. With that being said, Shamet should go much higher than Trent. He’s deserving of a first round pick because he brings more to the table than just shooting. At 6’6″, Trent is a great build for a modern shooter. He moves well off of motion and there’s a good chance he can become a diverse scorer thanks to his jump shot.

We’ve seen the value in that type of player in Philadelphia with Marco Belinelli. I didn’t use J.J. Redick because he’s actually a good team defender. Belinelli’s offensive diversity as a shooter will be close to Trent’s ceiling. It’s a great player to have, but he doesn’t bring anything else to the table. When his shot isn’t falling, he’s a liability. That’s not to say you don’t ever want him, but in terms of going after young talent, that’s not worth a first-rounder. We’ll get back to Belinelli in a bit.

Shamet on the other hand, offers strong team defense, secondary ball-handling and strong vision. Think someone like Fred VanVleet. Not a perfect comparison, but a combo guard who contributes in several areas. Look at how badly Toronto misses him. This isn’t rocket science; if you can contribute in more ways to winning, you’re a more valuable player.

Now back to Belinelli. This is the cherry on top as to why it’s not worth using a valuable first round pick on a one-dimensional shooter. Philadelphia got Belinelli courtesy of a buyout. Golden State, Cleveland and many more over the years have been able to add specialists from buyouts. That’s not to say a young team with multiple second round picks shouldn’t take Trent. He’s worth taking because he can help space the floor for your young core and develop with them.

Next: Full two-round 2018 NBA Mock Draft

But with your first round pick, your first crack at adding to your core, don’t cop out for just one skill. If that player never comes available in the secnd round, when your team is a legitimate playoff squad, you’ll be able to acquire that shooter. Philadelphia did so with Belinelli. Cleveland did so with Kyle Korver. Trent should have an excellent NBA career, it’s no knock on him. But team building is a major flaw in many front offices and this is one example of poor decision-making that happens often.