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R​ashad ​P​hillips:

Revolutionizing Prospect Evaluation


The 2019-20 NBA season is off to an interesting
start. While veterans and rookies alike are working
to​ ​make their names known and remembered
throughout the league, a pair of second-year players
are key elements in today’s article.

Trae Young and Luka Doncic burst onto the scene


last season. While Young’s insane second half
vaulted him into Rookie of the Year talks, Doncic’s
steady play all year, ultimately won him the award.
While a large part of Rashad Phillips’ popularity
stems from his terrific pre-draft breakdown of
Young and his prediction that the Atlanta Hawks
would be a perfect fit for him, some of it also
comes from his evaluation of Doncic. Only of those
evaluations presents an issue.

Rashad catches a lot of flak for not being ​head over heels​ for Doncic leading up to the 2018
NBA Draft. He tweeted on several instances about his uncertainty surrounding the
European-born star’s ability to translate his previous success to the NBA, and echoed that
sentiment on the radio/television waves. However, that is far from the whole story. Rashad’s
official breakdown​ on Doncic paints a much more complete picture, if you listen carefully.

In the opening of his episode on Doncic, back in May 2018, Rashad praised the current
Mavericks phenom, noting Doncic’s IQ and craftiness. “What I absolutely love about this kid is
his crafty handle and vision,” Rashad said. “Luka has a high level of understanding the game.
He’s able to see plays unfold before they happen and make the game easier for the guys around
him.” Where that turned south for “Yoda” was when he explained which teams would suit
Doncic’s skillset the best.

In terms of team fit, Rashad offered a simple evaluation. “I’ll tell you where Luka Doncic
actually belongs, so he can continue his greatness… I don’t know if those teams (the top 5
teams) are suited for Luka’s leadership,” Phillips stated. He immediately cleared up any
misunderstanding surrounding the statement, explaining, “Is this Luka’s fault? Absolutely not.”
The Sports Talk 2319 founder and host argued that while Doncic sat at No. 15 on his prospect
board, the then-18th ranked San Antonio Spurs would be a perfect candidate to trade up for the
guard’s hybrid services. ​Fit​ was just as important as anything in this process, and that remains
true with every prospect Rashad evaluates.

Later in the video, Rashad pointed out a few areas of concern surrounding Doncic: defense and
lack of foot speed/overall athleticism. “Defensively is where Luka needs to get better,” Rashad
put simply. “There’s no margin for error on that side of the ball. That’s why I believe Luka
belongs with a great defensive scheme type of team,” he added. While it was enough to make
him a star overseas, NBA athletes are generally considered to be the best in the business. Is that a
legitimate thing to be concerned about? Absolutely.

Rashad Phillips is focused on one thing: He wants to give a complete analysis of each player.
That includes context, film, stats as well as projections for their future. Comparing his
commitment to accuracy in prospect evaluations, to his college free throw percentage, Detroit
Mercy’s all-time leading scorer knows he won’t always be right, but he continues to do the work
it takes to make his predictions a reliable go-to.

Is Hedo Turkoglu a perfect comparison for Luka Doncic? No. Was it quite a bit more feasible in
May of last year? Absolutely. During his best five-year stretch with the Orlando Magic,
Turkoglu averaged 15.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. He could handle the ball
at various positions and had an immense impact on his team. He was a leader. Although
Turkoglu never made an All-Star team, he was a solid NBA player for a number of years.

Evaluating basketball players without seeing how they perform at the NBA level is a tough
business. You’re going solely off of the film, stats and rumblings you’ve received to a certain
extent. Is it okay to not be in love with a prospect right off the bat? Yes. Does that mean you
don’t like them? Definitely not.

For instance, Rashad is so fond of Young because the Hawks’ star player reminds him of himself
when he was in college. A scoring guard who thrived on making the right basketball play and
offering lights-out shooting, Phillips was a bit ahead of his time. In today’s NBA, though, Young
fits the bill as both the present and future of the league. This is simply where the NBA is headed.

Furthermore, let’s touch back on ​fit​. Rashad was extremely supportive of Young in his ability to
step into any situation and lead a team. He elevates the play of his peers as a key cog in the
machine. It’s easier to construct a balanced roster around Young, as Atlanta has shown. Shooters
slide in perfectly alongside the floor general. Big men are constant threats to catch lobs and/or
receive easy opportunities in the post.
Doncic also possesses the ability to elevate the play of his teammates but, as evidenced by
Dallas’ trade of Dennis Smith Jr., needs specific archetypes around him in order to achieve team
success. If there was a hoops star who reminded you of yourself, wouldn’t you gravitate towards
them a bit? Yes.

Rashad referred to Luka Doncic as a “joy to watch” and even proclaimed that perhaps the
Phoenix Suns or Memphis Grizzlies could have selected him high in last year’s lottery. At the
end of the day, it came down to a few fundamental flaws and a question of fit that led to Rashad
not having Doncic in his top crop of prospects. “If the right team gets ahold of Luka Doncic… he
won’t just be a European superstar, he’ll be an American one too,” he closed his video with this
powerful statement that appears to be coming true.

Evaluators want to see everyone succeed. Sure, some players appeal more to talent research than
others. In all, it’s about the love everyone has for basketball that makes doing the homework
worthwhile. The next time you watch a college or overseas player, think about how he’ll
translate his talents to the NBA. Use their strengths to base your argument, then use any potential
limitations to temper your expectations. It’s okay to be wrong, because you’d rather be a bit late
to a great party than be the first to show up to a dud. As long as you’re constantly evolving and
evaluating, ​that​ is what basketball analysis is all about.

Talk soon.