With the help of our AutoStats data, we’re breaking down five players in the 2024 NBA Draft who have a unique skill and might make intriguing picks outside of the lottery.

In an NBA Draft that lacks any sense of consensus, two things are certain.

First, every team’s draft board may look different, potentially radically so. Second, the main reason there is no real consensus is because this draft is widely regarded as among the weakest of the 21st century. 

And actually, there’s a third certainty. This class will still produce a fantastic player or two, maybe even historically so. Look no further than the 2013 NBA Draft that this one has been most frequently compared to. The best player selected in the top 10 was either Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or CJ McCollum, depending on your taste of player. Michael Carter-Williams was selected 11th and won NBA Rookie of the Year honors.

That’s not good! But you know what is? Rudy Gobert was selected in the first round – 27th overall – and he’s putting together quite an intriguing Hall of Fame case, having won his fourth NBA Defensive Player of the Year award in 2023-24. Giannis Antetokounmpo was selected 15th overall, and if he stopped playing today, he would be a Hall of Famer. 

Even the draft in 2000, probably the leader in the clubhouse for the worst draft ever, produced a player in Michael Redd whose career accomplishments include an All-Star team, an All-NBA team, a career-high 26.7 points per game in 2006-07, and a gold medal as part of the USA’s “Redeem Team” in the 2008 Olympics.

All of which is simply to highlight that even this draft class likely features some gems. There are many different strategies to go about trying to find those players – ideas such as selecting the most athletic player be damned, or the most productive player against the best competition be damned.

And then there’s another strategy. Find the players who are singularly unique and elite at one skill, draft that player, and hope that over time and practice and with the weapon of that single skill in tow, they become a productive (or hopefully better) player. 

That’s what we’ll do here. The following are five players who, with the help of our AutoStats data, have a unique skill and might make intriguing picks outside of the lottery. Let’s start with maybe the player I’d consider to be the biggest sleeper in the class. 

Note: Not every one of these player’s games were tracked, so our AutoStats data points are limited to the games that went through that process. 

Rebounding: Dillon Jones (Forward, Weber State)

Jones led the Big Sky in points, rebounds, and assists on his way to winning the conference’s regular season MVP award in 2023-24. The best game of his collegiate career, statistically anyways, came this past season when he scored 30 points, notched 23 rebounds, and dished out nine assists in a game against Northern Colorado.

Only two players in the NBA have reached those numbers in a single game since 2000 – DeMarcus Cousins in 2018 and Nikola Jokic in 2022 – and no college player during that time recorded a game with at least 23 rebounds and nine assists. 

It’s fitting that the performance came on leap day, because Jones’ best skill is rebounding. Jones finished fifth in the nation in total defensive rebounds and third in defensive rebounds per game (9.03). 

According to AutoStats data, Jones’ rebound percentage of 81.4 was the highest mark in the class and second in the nation – just ahead of projected top-10 pick Donovan Clingan.

jones rebound percentage

And only Clingan had a higher contested rebound percentage than Jones’ 61.9%. The main difference between those two, and between Jones and all the other elite rebounders in the class? Jones is only 6-foot-6. 

Combine his size with a career 32.0 3-point percentage, and you get a player who is not highly thought of heading into the NBA Draft. But it only takes one team to view his rebounding skills with his lack of size as a positive. 

3-Point Shooting: Antonio Reeves (Guard, Kentucky)

A lot is being made of the two other Kentucky guards in the class – Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard – who are both potential top-10 picks. In fact, Sheppard’s signature skill is shooting, but our advanced tracking data suggests that Sheppard isn’t even the best outside shooter on his own team.

That honor would belong to Reeves, who is also quite significantly the best 3-point shooter in the draft class. He shot 51.4% on uncontested 3s in 2023-24 – 4.7% better than the next highest mark in the class. He had an even better mark on catch-and-shoot 3s, as his 52.3% was 3.3% better than the next closest player in the nation and a whopping 7.0% better than the next closest player in the draft class.

With both stats, we applied a minimum mark of 100 3-point attempts to narrow our search down to those that really shot the ball at a high volume. No one did it better than Reeves and as we’ve just seen with the Boston Celtics’ dominant march to the NBA title with a record-breaking offense centered around 3-point shooting, maybe no skill is more important in the modern NBA.

Whichever team drafts Reeves will be getting a player with the chance to be among the best 3-point shooters in the league. 

Off-the-Dribble Shooting: Cam Spencer (Guard, UConn)

There are multiple skills within the larger “shooting” umbrella. What makes Stephen Curry the greatest shooter ever is that he is elite at every type of shot.

Reeves thrives on the types of shots we mentioned above, but while he’s still above average at shooting off the dribble, it’s nothing special. Nothing like Spencer, a starter and potentially underrated player on the back-to-back national champion Huskies. 

Within our tracking data, 146 players attempted at least 100 shots off the dribble last season. Spencer ranked fourth, shooting 48.0%. But each of the three players above him barely met the 100-shot minimum. Spencer took over 200. He ranked first among all 49 qualified players with at least 150 shots and if we narrow the list even further to the nine players in college basketball with at least 200 off-the-dribble jumpers last season, only two of the other seven shot above 41%. 

Where his skill really shines, however, is when we expand the range of shots to only include off-the-dribble 3s. Spencer shot 49.5% on that type of shot last season, tops among all players with at least 50 such attempts and 9.5% better than any of the other 19 players who attempted at least 100 jumpers.  

Spencer off-the-dribble 3s

Not only did Spencer have a huge volume of attempts, but his efficiency was also off the charts. The average mark in college basketball last season in off-the-dribble shooting was 34.3%. For 3-pointers, it was 28.7%. There was nothing ordinary about Spencer’s accuracy last season and it’ll be a major asset for him when he joins up with the lucky team that drafts him this week. 

On-Ball Defense: Kyshawn George (Forward, Miami)

George has the best chance of being selected first among the group of players we’re highlighting and it’s mostly for his tantalizing upside on the offensive side of the ball as a point-forward of sorts.

At 6-8, George showed off a nice shooting touch (over 40% on 3s) and flashed enough passing chops to give teams real hope that one day he could become a plus on the offensive end. But it’s his defense that really caught the attention of our data, particularly his on-ball defense.

Utilizing his frame and smarts, George was exceptional at not allowing his matchup to score the rock. He only allowed his opponents a miniscule .148 points per iso, which was the lowest mark of anyone with at least 50 iso possessions. Only one other player was below 0.225 points allowed per iso and the college average was 0.534 points allowed.

If George can bring that level of defense to the NBA, he has a chance to become the biggest steal of the draft. 

Passing: Tyler Kolek (Guard, Marquette)

Let’s start with the basic counting stats… Kolek led the NCAA in 2023-24 in assists per game (7.7) after finishing third in 2022-2023. Twelve players averaged at least 6.5 assists per game and among that group, Kolek finished second in field goal attempts per game. That’s critical to this analysis because he isn’t just a “pass-only” type of player, rather, he’s just a special passer

But this is where diving deeper into the data only amplifies the story. Kolek’s assist percentage – which measures how many of his passes ended as an assist – of 12.3% was the best mark among any player with at least 1,000 passes and 6.8% higher than the average mark in 2023. Better yet, of his passes we tracked using AutoStats, 26.4% of them led to an assist opportunity – also the highest mark in college basketball. 

His passing numbers are such outliers that if we take the top 100 prospects in this class and include all the individual seasons by each player, his 24.7% of passes that led directly to a shot was the highest single-season mark by any player in the class. What that tells us is that Kolek wasn’t just pinging the ball around the perimeter. He was probing, attacking and setting his teammates up with opportunities to immediately shoot the ball. 

That type of “connector,” a player who can make quick decisions and set up others, is an extremely valuable skill that is usually highly valued by teammates. 

Kolek’s passing, along with the skills we highlighted from Jones, Reeves, Spencer and George make them interesting prospects in a class filled with uncertainty. 

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