Wing versatility is a hot topic of discussion in NBA circles and teams looking to diversify their forward rotation are going to have a fascinating option in Jarrett Culver.
Leading Texas Tech to the NCAA National Championship game only a few weeks ago he showed fans what has captivated NBA scouts all season long and that's his ability to create offense as a ball-handling wing that provides stout defense on the other end.
Listed at 6'5" and 195 pounds he plays a lot bigger than that number would suggest and I'm fully expecting him to measure taller when NBA squads get a look at him during workouts. Culver was listed at 6'5" when he first got to college two seasons ago and by many accounts he has already grown and is still growing. When you see him on the court he definitely looks taller than 6'5" and if he measures closer to 6'7" or 6'8" that could really help his stock. He logged minutes at small forward, power forward, and even the center spot for the Red Raiders this past season and while he's likely a wing at the highest level NBA teams are going to see the way he competed when playing in the frontcourt and translate that to a player that can excel in switching defensive schemes.
One of the compelling parts of Culver's game is a dedication to the defensive end that we don't always see from lottery talent. What also helps Culver is that Texas Tech played an NBA-style defensive system that denies ball reversal and sends drivers towards the baseline, something that will help his transition.
Front offices are going to be drawn to Culver's skills as a forward you can run an offense through. That skillset makes him compelling as a 6th man who can come in and generate instant offense while also providing some intrigue as a potential star down the line. When you look at the most dominant players in the NBA many of them are big wings that can handle the ball and some teams are going to see a glimmer of that in Culver.
Most of Culver's strengths revolve around his ability to handle the basketball and read the floor. He can really scramble defenses when he starts running pick and roll as his length allows him to see angles and pass overtop of defenders and if they don't send help he can get in the paint and finish on his own. Over 35% of his combined scoring and assist possessions came from pick and roll and that heavy usage is something we rarely see from a wing.
When he's not using a screen he can also break down a defender one-on-one and create for himself. Not exceedingly quick or explosive Culver isn't going to burn by a lot of players with his first step but he's slippery side to side and is great at using hesitations to confuse the timing of his defender and keep him off balance. Capable of driving either to his right or his left there aren't any tendencies defenders can pick on and that allows Culver to be unpredictable and tough to guard.
Everything Culver does with the ball is geared towards getting into the middle of the floor where he can make plays and in the heightened spacing of the NBA he could see his game go to another level. If a team thinks NBA spacing will take his already developed offensive game to an elite caliber he could see his name called very early in June's draft.
Culver's athleticism has the chance to be a dark cloud that follows him around on draft day. While he's a very fluid athlete he's certainly not explosive and some teams at the top of the lottery might be a little bit gun-shy when it comes to picking players without elite athleticism. With the league predicated on physical ability nowadays there might be some questions regarding whether Culver will be able to get the separation he lived on in college when taking on NBA defenders. Everything about Culver's game revolves around his ability to make plays with the basketball and if he's unable to be a scorer and distributor out of the pick and roll his ceiling suddenly plunges.
One of the reasons Culver needs the ball in his hands is because he's not much of a threat off the ball as the shooter. Hitting only 30.4% of his threes in college he's not going to be a floor spacer and that could be a concern for teams evaluating him. As a young player entering the NBA he's probably not getting the chance to be the primary initiator he was in college but if he can't be a role player stretching the floor he could have some challenges getting playing time.
Building muscle also needs to be a priority for the skinny Culver as he's going to get pushed around by stronger NBA veterans with lower centers of gravity. While he's a good defensive player he relies a lot of his ability to be disruptive with his hands to make up for the fact he's not an explosive athlete and doesn't have a really strong base but NBA players are going to protect the ball and take it into his body with regularity and if he doesn't bulk up he's going to get blown through.
Projected NBA Draft Position: 4-8
Projected NBA Role: Pick and roll wing.
NBA Comparison: Evan Turner
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