Top NBA Prospects in the Big East, Part Five: Prospects #6-10 September 14, 2015 Kyle Nelson
Isaiah Whitehead finished high school as a McDonald's All-American and the 11th best recruit in the class of 2014. 11 games into his freshman season at Seton Hall, the freshman combo-guard was a key player in Seton Hall's 9-2 start. Then, Whitehead missed the next nine games with a stress fracture in his right foot and struggled to regain his early season form upon his return. Making matters worse, rumorsemerged that he was at the center of Seton Hall's chemistry issues that prematurely ended what looked to be a promising season and resulted in multiple transfers. With last season in the rear-view mirror, Seton Hall is Isaiah Whitehead's team to lead, and scouts will be watching to see how far the talented combo-guard can take the young Pirates.
At 6'4 with a 6'5.5 wingspan and a 210-pound frame, Whitehead has solid size for a point guard position, but has an average frame for a shooting guard. While not a particularly explosive athlete, Whitehead shows an intriguing combination of quickness off the dribble and body control, although he still has a long ways to go to learn how to utilize that in an efficient manner.
On the offensive end of the floor, Whitehead averaged 17.0 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted while seeing 21.2% of Seton Hall's possessions, but he did so shooting an abysmal 38.2% from 2-point range, and 35% for 3. Furthermore, he struggled mightily down the stretch, posting single figure scoring numbers in four of his last 10 games. Only two players in our extensive historical database (Josh Selby and Andrew Harrison) have ever been drafted after posting such a low 2P%, so Whitehead will have to improve that significantly to give himself a chance at developing into a NBA player.
In terms of his NBA prospects, Whitehead showed glimmers of promise operating out of the pick-and-roll. He looked particularly good at utilizing screens, showcasing his quick first step, above average ball-handling skills, and solid instincts to create space for himself. When he looked to score, he showed glimpses of ability pulling up off of the dribble, stepping back for a deep jumper, and taking the ball to the rim.
The issue, here, is the absolute mediocre efficiency in which Whitehead was able to score as a freshman. He struggled badly finishing around the basket, and was a below average jump shooter for the frequency in which he looked to hoist up shots. While he demonstrated solid body control and made the occasional acrobatic layup, his average size, explosiveness, length, and questionable decision-making ability limited his effectiveness as a scorer inside the paint, converting just 42% of his looks inside the paint, one of the worst rates among draft prospects. As a sophomore, he must also get to the free throw line at a higher rate, and find a way to become a better finisher and decision maker in traffic.
Whitehead's struggles offensively weren't restricted to his ability to convert inside the paint. He made just 30% of his overall jump shots as well. While his shot selection is undoubtedly poor, his inconsistent shooting mechanics don't help much either. Whitehead struggles to find his rhythm as a spot-up shooter and his balance and variable release point complicate his otherwise intriguing ability to create shots off of the dribble. While Whitehead had little trouble creating his own shot as a freshman, scouts will be watching to see if he can become a more effective and efficient scorer as a sophomore.
Whether or not Whitehead can develop as a point guard also remains to be seen. On the one hand, he averaged 5.0 assists per 40 minutes pace adjusted and frequently demonstrated solid court vision and instincts as a distributor, off of the dribble and out of the pick-and-roll. On the other hand, he must refine his overall instincts considerably. In particular, Whitehead never looked comfortable as primary ball handler and his frequent tunnel vision and tendency to force passes in Seton Hall's half court offense contributed towards his standing as one of the most turnover prone players in our database.
While Whitehead's offense left scouts with plenty of questions, he made up for his inconsistency with a decent effort on the defensive end of the floor. While his awareness, attentiveness and fundamentals all can stand to improve, he showed to be a solid defender when matched up in one on one situations, due to his effort, intensity, and his willingness to use his body to his advantage, even though his combination of lateral quickness and length looks average with an eye toward the NBA. He appears to have good instincts on this end of the floor, though, forcing turnovers at a solid rate, and should be able to develop nicely in this area if his conditioning improves.
While Whitehead's freshman season went about as poorly as he could have imagined from both an individual and team perspective, he still has some things to work with long term with his impressive scoring instincts, body control, creativity and defensive potential. Already turning 21 towards the end of the season, and thus being a year or more older than many NCAA sophomores, scouts will closely monitor the kind of year he has, particularly if he proves capable of taking a big step forward as a sophomore. While his physical profile may limit his ceiling at the next level, his skill set distinguishes him as one of college basketball's most versatile combo-guards and scouts will be watching to see if can maintain his productivity with improved efficiency and decision making as a sophomore. As the likely focal point of Seton Hall's offense, Isaiah Whitehead should have plenty of opportunities to prove that he is still worthy of consideration as an NBA player. [Read Full Article] 2014 McDonald's Video Interviews: Russell, Welsh, Trimble, Whitehead April 28, 2014
[Read Full Article] High School Class of 2014: Elite Prospect Scouting Reports, Part One September 27, 2012 Jonathan Givony
-Very versatile guard for his age
-True combo who can play either guard position effectively
-Solid court vision and very good basketball IQ
-Unselfish player who knows how to make others better
-Very good on the drive and dish
-Very good ball-handler. Knows how to create offense
-Excellent in transition
-Quick first step. Nice body control. Uses body well in traffic. Finishes with either hand
-Can pull-up smoothly off the dribble from distance. Capable shot-maker
-Extremely competitive defender
-Gets in a low stance. Moves his feet well
-Is he a point guard or a shoot guard?
-A little stuck between positions at 6-3/6-4
-Will he have to play PG? Can pass but looks more comfortable looking for his own shot
-Needs to improve ability to play pick and roll, create for others in half-court situations
-Sometimes settles for long jumpers.
-Long, slow release on catch and shoot jumper.
-Not incredibly finishing around the basket. May still get more athletic with age
-A little old relative to his class
Outlook: Smooth, versatile combo guard who is very advanced for his age. Shows a good feel for the game and the ability to do a bit of everything with the ball. Has a very promising future if he continues to work on his game and is able to drown out the noise around him.