Trending Prospects: Brandon PaulApril 8, 2013
After requesting feedback from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee at the conclusion of his junior season, Brandon Paul
opted to return to Illinois to wrap up his career under first-year Head Coach John Groce. Kept out of action for a few weeks last summer after breaking his jaw in a pickup game, the senior showed no ill-effects of the time he spent with his mouth wired shut as he jumped out to a quick start early this season. Garnering MVP honors in leading the Fighting Illini to a Maui Invitational Tournament Championship and keying his team to a victory over Gonzaga in Spokane, Paul was averaged a robust 22.1 points per-40 minute pace adjusted on strong shooting percentages heading in non-conference play.
Earning plenty of attention from NBA scouts with his early play, Paul hit a wall in the Illini's Big Ten slate, shooting just 30% from beyond the arc over 18 conference games. Bouncing back to some extent in March while leading Illinois past Colorado and then giving Miami everything they could handle in the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament, Paul's body of work on the whole was quite solid, as he showed improvement on a number of fronts, but it did little to eliminate concerns among NBA decision-makers regarding his lack of consistency over the past four years.
Standing 6'4 with long arms and a strong frame, Paul's combination of speed and explosiveness remain a big part of his NBA potential, just as they did early in his career. He may be slightly undersized for a shooting guard, but he certainly has all the other physical tools common amongst two guards at the NBA level.
With Meyers Leonard
entering the 2012 NBA Draft, the Illini had to rely heavily on their guards this season, and that led to a significant change in what Paul was asked to do on the offensive end. He remained the focal point of the team's offensive attack, but was relied upon heavily to showcase his athleticism and create his own shot compared to his junior season, when spot-ups and off-screen opportunities accounted for a much more significant portion of his possessions.
|Season||%Isolation||%Pick and Roll||%Transition |
|2011-2012 Junior ||14.8%||18.8%||5.4%|
| 2012-2013 Senior||17.3%||32%||6.4%|
Paul has always had the ability to put points on the board in bunches with his scoring instincts and aggressiveness. A volume shooter, the 2009 Illinois Mr. Basketball recipient relished the opportunity to dominate the ball as a senior, finishing the year ranking 7th in points per-40 minutes pace adjusted
among all guards in our top-100.
The key to Paul's productivity over the past two seasons, and one of his more intriguing qualities as an NBA prospect, is his ability to create his own shot. Possessing a quick first step, an explosive burst when attacking off the dribble, and a strong frame to exploit smaller guards, Paul can shake defenders one-on-one and turn the corner operating off ball screens. He's a capable ball-handler, even running the point for stretches this season, but has room to improve on not over-dribbling and become more adept at playing at different speeds to help prepare for the quickness of NBA defenders.
Once Paul finds open space, he's explosive enough to play above the rim and possesses sound shooting mechanics. When he was playing with patience and his shot was falling, he was a handful for opposing defenses to contain at the college level, posting a memorable 43-point outing against Ohio State in 2012 and a 35-point performance against Gonzaga this year. The issue for the talented guard has always been his decision-making and the consistency with which he is able to make plays because of it.
For someone who shoots as many 3-pointers as he does (nearly seven per game, representing over half of his overall field goal attempts), NBA scouts surely would have liked to see Paul hit more than 32% from beyond the arc. Ranking in the bottom 20 of our top-100 in true shooting percentage
, Paul's shot selection is his biggest weakness and the main culprit of his mediocre scoring efficiency. Nearly 70% of his shots are jumpers, with more than half of those attempts coming off the dribble. Knocking down right around 34% of both jumpers off the dribble and off the catch, Paul limits his shooting percentages by forcing looks from beyond the arc, attempting a large proportion of his spot-up shots with a hand in his face and sometimes passing up a good shot for a more difficult one off the dribble. Part of this has to do with the large amount of offensive responsibility he was forced to shoulder on a team without great individual talent, but this has been a concern with him throughout his career.
When Paul attacks the rim, he similarly settles for difficult shots just outside the paint on occasion, sometimes looking out of control or unable able to get all the way to the rim when he puts the ball on the floor. Converting just 47% of his finishing attempts and 39% of his runners according to Synergy Sports Technology, Paul's inconsistency in the paint was a major factor in his relatively mediocre 48% 2-point percentage, which nevertheless represented the highest mark of his career.
Despite his shot selection, Paul still managed to rank among the most efficient volume isolation scorers in the NCAA this season, scoring 46% of his one-on-one attempts and finishing quite effectively when he was able to make one move and go. He got to the line at a very strong rate
, and also excelled in transition, consistently doing his best work when he was able to use his speed to beat the defense to the spot on the offensive end and wasn't putting himself in a position where he'd need to make a decision as to how to score over or maneuver through help.
Paul also managed to cut his turnover rate this season. Though his turnovers per-40 minutes only dropped from 4.1 as a junior to 3.3 as a senior, that dip is notable considering just how often he had the ball in his hands, as he coughed the ball the ball up on 18% of his possessions, down from 23% the year before. Averaging 3.3 assists per-40 minutes pace adjusted, Paul isn't a natural facilitator, but showed some flashes of drive and dish ability.
On the defensive end, Paul has the size and athleticism to compete at the NBA level, but was not always focused enough to make the most of that as a senior. When he was dialed in, he had some impressive moments defending the ball one-on-one and on the pick and roll thanks to his lateral quickness, length, and strength, but he too often loses his man when sagging into help side defense.
For all of his shortcomings, Paul has a number of tools that could allow him contribute as a sparkplug combo guard off the bench in the NBA. With clearly defined weaknesses, Paul could unquestionably improve his efficiency as a pro by way of dialing back his erratic decision-making. Athletic guards that can create their own shot and have the tools to defend are not a dime a dozen, and it would not be at all surprising to see a team invest in Paul come draft day with the hopes that they can mold him into a steady role-player down the road.
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Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big Ten, Part Three (#6-10)September 11, 2012
After an up and down junior season that saw the Illini struggle to a 6-12 Big 10 conference record, Brandon Paul
will try to show enough improvement and consistency under new coach John Groce to solidify himself as an NBA prospect.
Showing average size for the shooting guard position at 6'4", Paul somewhat makes up for this with long arms, strong frame and excellent athleticism. He's an extremely fluid guard who can create his own shot at will and play above the rim. That being said, Paul suffered a broken jaw playing pickup basketball over the offseason and reportedly lost 15 pounds while his jaw was wired shut. He began working out again in August and reportedly has added most of that weight back, but exactly what kind of shape he comes in at will be interesting to watch.
When we last looked at him after his freshman season, Paul's 33.3% field goal percentage ranked dead last in our database. His efficiency has improved – from 44% true shooting percentage to 52% -- but that is still among the bottom third of shooting guard prospects in our database. He's still yet to shoot over 39% from the field in any of his three seasons at Illinois.
While showing terrific flashes of versatility as an all-around scorer, Paul remains largely a perimeter gunner, with over two thirds of his attempts coming from jump shots, according to Synergy Sports Technology. Nearly half of his attempts came from three point range, where he shot a fairly pedestrian 33.3%. His overall form can look solid, with good elevation and a high release point, but his mechanics can vary quite a bit from shot to shot, especially when defended. He has improved his catch and shoot efficiency quite a bit from the last time we looked at him, which bodes well for his success at the next level as that is a role he would likely be asked to fill, but his consistency in this facet of the game can still fluctuate greatly. It doesn't help him that the majority of his catch and shoot attempts come with a hand in his face, as Illinois lacked great shot creators.
When Paul first came onto the scene at Illinois he had virtually no mid-range game. While the majority of his jump shots still come from beyond the arc, his comfort level and efficiency from mid-range has improved, largely from his improvement shooting coming off of screens, another trend that, if it continues, would be a good boost to his draft stock and a role he could fill at the next level.
The other major change from when we profiled him after his freshman season has been his increased usage off pick and rolls, which has largely been a mixed bag to this point. While he's comfortable shooting off the dribble, his recognition and decision making place him in bad positions frequently, leading to a high turnover rate in this situations. Not blessed with the best court vision for a potential combo guard, Paul also has a bad habit of putting himself in bad positions coming off the screen, prone to picking up his dribble too early, getting trapped, and forcing bad passes. Overall his recognition leaves something to be desired as a decision maker, which is evident in both his shot selection and his increased turnover rate.
Off the dribble, Paul is a below average finisher at the rim. He is a very good athlete, but struggles finishing through contact and doesn't have much in the way of a left hand. When he does go left, his ball handling isn't advanced enough with his off hand to get to the rim with consistency, often times settling for pull up, contested mid-range jumpers. Paul needs to do a much better job of learning to create and finish through contact at the basket, as he's simply too strong and athletic to convert just 48% of his attempts at the rim like he did last season.
On the defensive side of the ball, Paul shows good ability to fight through screens and defend the pick and roll. He also moves his feet fairly well. He does have a tendency to lose his man off the ball a little too much, but overall shows good physical attributes and effort on this end of the court.
The wild card in his draft stock is the arrival of John Groce, who replaced Bruce Weber last spring after the Illini's disappointing 17-15 season. With Groce, the Illini could play a faster paced game, which could help Paul get more efficient looks at the basket.
With a solid senior season, Brandon Paul
has more than enough talent to have a breakout year and force NBA teams to reevaluate him after underachieving consistently relative to his talent level for the past three years. Very few collegiate shooting guards display the same combination of strength, athleticism and shot-creating potential, but for whatever reason, he hasn't been able to produce efficiently outside of a few eye-opening performances
Paul would do better on a team with good shot creators next to him, where he could get more open catch and shoot opportunities and shots off screens and be forced to create for himself less, but with an overall dearth of shot creators on the Illinois roster he is likely going to be asked to fill a larger role. How he's able to handle that will play a deciding factor in where his stock ends up at the end of the season.
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Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big Ten, Part Two (#6-10) September 3, 2010
While some freshman guards are able to step onto the floor and make an immediate impact, the majority of them take at least one season, if not more, to acclimate themselves to the college game. Brandon Paul saw considerable playing time in his first season with the Illini and did contribute a few strong performances, but it was abundantly clear that his time on the floor was meant to accelerate his learning curve more than anything else.
Bruce Weber threw Paul into the fire, letting him learn on the job, make mistakes, and gain invaluable experience. The former Mr. Illinois Basketball struggled for stretches in a moderate offensive role, but has some very intriguing tools and plenty of time to figure things out.
While it is hard to be overwhelmed with Paul's play last season considering his glaring lack of efficiency, it is important to remember that he was one of the younger players in our freshman rankings. He won't turn 20 until the end of this coming season. Considering his age, it seems fair to expect his game to mature considerably moving forward.
Paul made his mark at Warren Township HS using his athleticism and outside shot. Slightly undersized for a shooting guard from an NBA perspective and a bit on the skinny side, Paul has the leaping ability, quickness, and wingspan to compensate for his lack of size. He has a great first step and runs the floor well in transition. Though there's a lot to like about his physical profile, one of the biggest challenges Paul faced last season was learning how to use those tools.
Paul was considered a capable shooter on the high school circuit, but had an extremely hard time finding any kind of rhythm or consistency last season, but was just as aggressive from the perimeter as he was at Warren. His mechanics aren't awful, highlighted by a high release point and nice follow through, but he tends to take far too many difficult shots with a hand in his face and is prone to altering his release whenever he's defended. He's the type of player that will drill a 21-footer on one possession before throwing up an airball from the same spot on the next. Considering that half of Paul's field goal attempts came from beyond the arc ( ranking him in the top-25 in our database in three-point attempts per-40 minutes pace adjusted), but he made only a quarter of his overall jump shots according to Synergy Sports Technology, it is clear that his shot-selection needs quite a bit of work.
The flashes he showed putting the ball on the floor make his tendency to settle for tough jump shots that much more problematic. Despite some 64% of his shots coming from perimeter jumpers, the young guard had moments of brilliance attacking the rim off the bounce. He changes gears in a hurry, and while he still needs to tighten up his ball handling ability and show more poise and vision looking for teammates, his knack for turning the corner in one-on-one situations can become a huge asset down the road. At the basket, his lack of physical strength limited him at times, and he gets a bit out of control even when he's not under pressure, but as he matures and adjusts to the speed of the college game, he'll have the chance to become an incredibly productive shot-creator.
Similar to the way he shows signs on the offensive end, Paul had some excellent defensive possessions as well. His lateral quickness makes him a very solid defender in isolation situations, and he's willing to step in and take a charge. However, his focus and effort level can be inconsistent, and he was prone to making the mistakes that plague most freshmen when playing off the ball. Paul needs to continue to improve his physical strength and become more disciplined, but he has the tools to be a quality defender.
Paul had a rough freshman season, as evidenced by his incredibly poor 33.3% shooting from the field—which ranked him dead last in that category amongst all prospects in college basketball. If he can cut back on the mental mistakes and continues to improve, though, his development could allow him to blossom once Demetri McCamey moves on, possibly in a combo guard type role. Paul isn't likely to see his role expand too much this season, but 2011 will be a pivotal year for his development as he could definitely stand to prove that he can be an efficient role player.
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