Alex Poythress was assumed to be another one and done John Calipari recruit when he entered Kentucky as the #8 recruit in the 2012 high school class, according to the RSCI. Instead, he turned into a four year player and was a crucial role player for the team throughout his career, bouncing between a starter and a sixth man.
After Poythress decided to return for his sophomore season, he expressed that he “wanted to develop more as a player”. He hasn't quite shown the level of improvement that scouts have hoped for and there are still some question marks as to what his offensive role might be in the NBA.
Poythress' offensive production climbed up to 17.3 points per 40 minutes as a senior, still on the lower end relative to other top 100 prospects, but which represented his highest mark since his freshman year. His 65.3% true shooting percentage shows he can be efficient in a low-usage role, but he has yet to demonstrate the type of versatility teams increasingly expect from the forward position.
His draft potential still revolves largely around his physical profile with his 6'8” height and 6'11” wingspan providing him with a nice foundation as a potential combo forward. He also has some impressive athletic ability and doesn't seem to have lost anything since his ACL tear early in his junior season. He has a strong, developed frame at 240 pounds with great open court speed and explosiveness in the half court that makes him a physically imposing prospect, particularly on the defensive end.
His best offensive skill is his ability to finish at the rim where he converted an impressive 65.7% of his shots. Cuts made up 25.7% of his possessions logged by Synergy Sports Technology and he relies on his teammates to get him open looks. He does excel at cutting from the free throw line or the baseline, getting to the rim without a dribble and rising up for a dunk or two handed layup. He was one of the most impressive finishers you'll find at the college level, and will come up with a highlight reel caliber play at least once per game.
Poythress is not nearly as effective when forced to create offense on his own, as he struggles when he needs to put the ball on the floor more than once and doesn't get the same level of explosiveness after needing to take a dribble to get to the rim. Many of his cuts start close from inside the arc to limit the amount of dribble he needs to take because of his weakness in creating off the bounce. This inability to put the ball on the floor is also true in other offensive possessions including isolation or rolling to the rim off ball screens. He will likely be asked to play a more perimeter based role and will need to be comfortable timing his cuts and moving the ball from that spot on the floor.
Poythress' perimeter game is also hurt by his lack of growth as a jump shooter, as he made just 7-23 three point attempts (30.4%) and attempted just 28 jump shots overall according to Synergy Sports Technology with a 35.7% accuracy. His mechanics haven't improved and he is still a hesitant shooter with a rigid release who sprays the ball all over the rim with limited touch. NBA teams will want to see him become a semi-reliable option as a catch and shoot threat from the perimeter, as otherwise defenders will just sag off him and make things very difficult for his teammates.
Poythress will make some contributions by attacking the offensive glass, pulling down 3.0 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes. This is somewhat of a product of him playing around the basket but he attacks the offensive glass, rips the ball away from his opponents and will chase down loose balls outside his area. He's also a strong defensive rebounder at 7.2 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes which helps teams project him as a role player.
There are some questions about Poythress' basketball IQ and feel for the game which is especially problematic for a senior. He clogs up space on the perimeter by filling space already occupied by a teammate, failing to have a big picture for the spacing on the floor. His 0.27 assist to turnover ratio is third lowest among all prospects in our top 100 and Poythress has been unable to create offense even by making simple passes to teammates in scoring position.
This is also manifested defensively with Poythress committing 6.1 fouls per 40 minutes. Many of his fouls are avoidable and are not caused by aggressiveness but rather are careless fouls with him reaching in needlessly or losing focus off ball, being a step late to react and having to foul.
This lack of focus and awareness is especially frustrating considering the physical tools Poythress has that gives him the potential to be a versatile defender. When he's engaged and locked in, he can stay in front of basically anyone with his lateral quickness and use his strength to assert his will on players big and small. He produces from a box score perspective by being one of 17 players in our top 100 to post at least one steal and one block per 40 minutes to go along with his rebounding numbers.
He needs to clean up his effort level and fundamentals to become a more consistent and imposing defender without fouling, both on and off the ball. This has been a problem throughout his collegiate career and defensive contributions will need to be a major part of his professional role considering his offensive limitations.
Poythress turns 23 in September and will need to answer several major questions before he can be trusted as a NBA rotation player. That said, he clearly has the body and athleticism of a NBA forward and if he can make some key improvements to his game, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he will play himself into the league down the road, possibly in an Andre Roberson type role. [Read Full Article]
Alex Poythress Interview Transcript
June 1, 2016
Alex Poythress sits down with Jonathan Givony to discuss what he's working on in anticipation of his private workouts, his daily schedule, the type of player he is, how he sees himself fitting onto an NBA roster, and much more.
Jonathan Givony: How long have you been out here in L.A. for?
Alex Poythress: I've been out here in L.A. since about the end of April. My teachers let me finish my classes early, so as soon as I got done with that I came out here and started working towards my goal.
Jonathan Givony: What's your daily schedule look like?
Alex Poythress: I wake up around 8 to 830, go to Pro Active, get a little mini workout in. I come to the court for about two hours, and then go back to Pro Active and get a lift in, and then just get some treatment and make sure I'm healthy for the next day.
Jonathan Givony: So Pro Active is a strength and conditioning place. A guy with your body, what strength and conditioning do you need?
Alex Poythress: Everything, I'm trying to be physical and use my physicality. I'm trying to maintain my strength, and add on to it while staying lean at the same time. I don't want to just bulk up, I'm trying to stay lean and agile. We do a lot of body weight stuff, the stuff they do over there is good.
Jonathan Givony: What about Basketball stuff, what are you working on out here?
Alex Poythress: I'm working on shots, ball handling, staying in shape, changing speeds. Don MacLean does a great job teaching us stuff like that.
Jonathan Givony: How is it different, these workouts, then what you saw the last four years at Kentucky?
Alex Poythress: These workouts are different, a little bit more freedom. The court is bigger, a little bit more about spacing, and changing speed. College is more of a team game trying to get everyone else involved, but with this you got to be able to play in 1 on 1 situations, you got to be able to hit the corner 3, stuff like that.
Jonathan Givony: What do you see your role being in the NBA?
Alex Poythress: I see my role being a guy that can guard multiple positions, 2 through 4 or even 2 through 5. I have a pretty long wingspan. Hitting corner 3's, spacing the floor out, because you know its all about floor spacing the way the game is going.
Jonathan Givony: How would you rate your shooting right now, and how big of a role is that going to play in your ability to carve out a niche?
Alex Poythress: It's gotten a lot better since I've been out here, way more consistent. I started shooting a lot better towards the end of the year, and I just kept building on that. So now I'm real confident with my shot. If I'm open I'm going to let it go, but I'm still working on it each and every day.
Jonathan Givony: How do you think the NBA 3-point line is going to change things? With the college game there isn't always a lot of spacing, is that extra spacing going to help a guy with your athleticism?
Alex Poythress: It helps a lot, you know you got an extra foot, or an extra couple feet. There is more room so the help side defense won't come as fast, so you can beat your man, and you got an open lane.
Jonathan Givony: How much room do you still have left for development?
Alex Poythress: A lot, I got a lot to develop. Everybody can develop their game, get better each and every day. I'm a sponge, I'm just taking it all in, trying to get better.
Jonathan Givony: Let's say five years from now, are you going to be more of a small forward or power forward?
Alex Poythress: Whatever the team needs me to be. I don't have a preference, to me it's basically the same thing. There are a lot of stretch 4's, 3's playing the 4, spacing the floor out. 4's playing 5, so whatever it needs to be.
Jonathan Givony: How in touch have you been with the folks at Kentucky since you've left?
Alex Poythress: All the time, I talk to Coach P [Kenny Payne] all the time. He texts me to make sure I'm doing ok. He told me to just keep on working, keep my head up, and be confident.
Jonathan Givony: Do you see yourself going back their as your career progresses?
Alex Poythress: Yeah, going back there, I love Lexington. I was there four years, going back there seeing coaches, and friends I met over the years. I'll go back there a lot.
Jonathan Givony: Thanks so much, great stuff man. I appreciate it.
Alex Poythress has actually lost weight since suffering an ACL tear. He's lost 8 pounds and lowered his body fat percentage despite the time he spent on crutches. Pushing out 19 reps of 185 pound on the bench, the senior forward was the Wildcats' top performer in that test, emphasizing his maturity level which will be a key factor for Kentucky this season. He did not participate in any of the drills or competitive action, as he reportedly is still not 100% after hurting himself last December.
Top NBA Prospects in the SEC, Part 9: Prospects #9-14
October 2, 2015
A torn ACL in just the tenth game of the season ended Alex Poythress' junior season prematurely, forcing him to watch from the sideline as his teammates pursued perfection. This injury made it easy for him to decide to return for his senior season under John Calipari, something few would have predicted out of high school, and he will now be hoping to end his collegiate career on a positive note.
One of the best attributes Poythress possesses as a NBA draft prospect is his physical tools. He was measured at a shade over 6'8” and is also very strong, with a chiseled 240 pound frame. His wingspan doesn't leap off the page at 6'11” but his remaining physical attributes are stellar.
He has great open court speed and is very mobile for a player of his size. He can beat the defense down the floor and finish in transition, converting 66% of his shots around the rim in his sophomore season (his last full season). He was one of the best leapers in college basketball before his injury and will need to show his explosiveness is still there coming back from the ACL tear.
Offensively, Poythress is limited, and relies mostly on his teammates to create shots for him. His 10.9 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted last season ranked next to last among our top 100 and he wasn't very efficient in his opportunities with his 45% true shooting percentage the worst mark in our top 100. He is most comfortable around the rim where he is a capable finisher due to his explosiveness and ability to finish through contact, and will have to show he can still finish at a high level this season.
He has contributed as an offensive rebounder in the past and will need to demonstrate he still has the ability to explode above the rim and chase down balls outside his area. He should be able to easily translate this to the next level, showing NBA teams his role player potential.
Poythress is not a reliable jump shooter, demonstrating poor mechanics that shows he will need a lot of work to become a consistent threat. He's made just 22 of 73 (30%) of his 3-point attempts in his career, and isn't much better from the mid-range either. He also can't create off the dribble even after using his quick first step to get by his defender as he loses the ball off the bounce or makes a poor decision with the ball. He struggles to get all the way to the rim to finish or draw a foul and defenders have little trouble containing him in the half-court. For Poythress to emerge as a real NBA prospect as a senior, he'll likely have to show better potential as a jump-shooter, as its difficult to envision any type of role for him offensively as a pro otherwise.
The bulk of the intrigue around Poythress as a pro prospect currently revolves around his potential to develop into a lockdown defender in time, with the versatility to guard multiple positions many teams are seeking. He has the strength to guard bigger players but also the quickness and agility to move laterally, which should allow him to match up against quicker wings as well. He's an excellent shot-blocker, as his 1.6 blocks per 40 minutes pace adjusted in his last full season was the highest among small forwards in our top 100. Defense will have to be his calling card with his limited offensive game and he has the potential to be a tough defensive player.
In his senior season, Poythress will need to show an improved basketball IQ. He doesn't always make the right or simple play at times, which can leads to turnovers or missed opportunities. He had a poor assist to turnover ratio of 0.45 in his junior season as he looks jittery when he looks to create, resulting in bad turnovers. This is also manifested on the defensive end when he loses focus off the ball or misses defensive rotations. These mistakes will have to be mitigated in his senior season with Poythress being more focused on decision making on both ends of the floor.
It is becoming harder to play the wing in the NBA without being a floor spacer but if enough other roles can be filled, the opportunities will be there as players like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Tony Allen have proved. Coming back from injury, he'll have plenty of opportunity to demonstrate his value as a role player playing within Kentucky's talented roster, which will give him the opportunity to show how he fits into a NBA roster. [Read Full Article]
2014 Kentucky Combine Measurements and Analysis
October 11, 2014
Alex Poythress measured as expected, standing 6'7.25 without shoes with a 238-pound frame and a 6'11.25 wingspan, but performed tremendously well in the athletic testing, registering a terrific 3.16 second ¾ court sprint and a 41.5 inch maximum vertical leap, which would rank as one of the top-20 or so marks in our database regardless of position. His 37.5 inch no-step vertical leap would rank among the top-10 in our database. His 26 reps on the bench falls just short of our database record of 27 recorded by the 270-pound Jason Keep in 2003.
McDonald's All-American Week Player Evaluations (Part Two)
April 2, 2012
Alex Poythress had as good a week relative to expectations as anyone in Chicago, opening the eyes of recruiting gurus and NBA scouts to his considerable long-term potential.
Poythress' intrigue begins with his excellent physical tools. He's measured out consistently between 6-8 and 6-9 in shoes in a number of different settings over the past two years, and has a nice 7-1 wingspan to go along with a frame that should be able to add plenty of weight over time.
He's an outstanding athlete as well, explosive around the rim with good agility for a player his size, allowing him to make his presence felt on a regular basis in transition, crashing the offensive glass, and as a playmaker defensively.
Offensively, Poythress is still searching for an identity, as he's clearly not a post player, but doesn't appear to have the skill-level to play on the wing full time either. He shows nice form on his jump-shot, and has the ability to make shots with range out to the 3-point line, even if he was somewhat streaky in this area over the course of the week. His ball-handling skills are similarly a work in progress, and his decision making skills are still catching up to his overall talent level, as he made a handful of questionable plays over the course of the week that demonstrated his lack of experience playing on the wing.
Nevertheless, Poythress' athleticism, instincts and aggressiveness help him find ways to impact games, and he has plenty of time to continue to polish up his skill-set as he's still only 18 years old.
Defensively is where Poythress might be most intriguing right now. He has the size, length and mobility to guard either forward position effectively, as he's able to stay in front of smaller players on the perimeter and is competitive enough to handle himself on the block as well. With a year (or more) of experience underneath his belt playing for a coach like John Calipari at Kentucky, he has a chance to really develop this part of his game, which would make him even more interesting for the NBA.
Also an excellent student reportedly sporting a 3.9 GPA, Poythress had pretty much every college coach in America calling him trying to recruit him over the past few years. It will be interesting to see what kind of role he plays at Kentucky next season as he appears tailor-made to replace Terrence Jones as a face-up power forward. He mentioned in Chicago that he's been recruited to play similarly to the way Michael Kidd-Gilchrist did on the wing. [Read Full Article]