Ulis, the rookie point guard out of Kentucky had an impressive Summer League debut in Las Vegas after being selected with the 34th overall pick by Phoenix. At just 5'10, 150 pounds, Ulis looks extremely small on the court from a physical perspective, but he's got a ton of talent and showed major confidence in Vegas, as he hit a couple huge shots for his team. He doesn't back down because of his size, and is a leader and floor general when he has the ball in his hands. He has an excellent handle, and looks very comfortable making decisions out of the pick and roll, in drive and kick situations, and in transition. He finished second overall in assists per game at 6.3 and fourth overall in AST/TOV ratio at 3.5. Ulis already looks comfortable shooting the pocket jumper, and his 3-point shot looks mechanically sound and balanced, and should get more consistent with time. He will need to continue to show that he can consistently finish with floaters and runners because of his lack of size, as he will be challenged by length in the paint.
On the defensive end of the floor, Ulis has quick hands and competes but is obviously at a disadvantage because of his size and weight. He'll benefit from adding some strength as he gets to the NBA, but his size may always be an issue against bigger guards. Ulis may have a hard time finding consistent playing time as a rookie, being seated behind Bledsoe, Knight, Booker and many of the other Phoenix guards so it would not be surprising to see him spend some of his rookie season in the D-League.
Thanks to our friends at Krossover, here's a quick look at how Tyler Ulis looked at the EYBL level. Ulis was a fan favorite over his two seasons in Lexington and will face an interesting transition to the NBA level next season with a number of significant factors working both for and against him. It's interesting to evaluate his film from his AAU days and see what's translated and how he's changed.
Tyler Ulis 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: What does a day look like for you out here in Los Angeles?
Tyler Ulis: Wake up around 8, eat breakfast. Get ready, go over and get my body right. Stretch and stuff, and get ready for the workout at 10:30. After that, we end around 11:30 12. I'll go lift weights at 12:30 across the street, and from there get a massage, or maybe get a little treatment, and then we're done for the day.
Jonathan Givony: What kind of basketball stuff do you guys usually get into?
Tyler Ulis: A lot of 3 on 3 stuff. When we go live it's usually 3 on 3, a little 1 on 1. Everything else is a lot of actions. Pick and rolls, shooting, hand off drills, you know a lot of movement.
Jonathan Givony: How is it different here? This process is all about you, being able to showcase your talent, being able to show NBA teams what you can do. At Kentucky it was about the team, and getting wins, about picking up for guys. You were the leader of that squad. How is that different for you out here?
Tyler Ulis: It's not that big of a difference because you know they understand you're still working on your game, as well as thinking about the team, you're thinking about yourself and getting in the gym, late at nights, working out. Here it's different because there is not as much teamwork, but we get into 2 on 2 and 3 on 3, so you still got to work as a team and help each other. So I still try and lead these guys out here.
Jonathan Givony: What do you think you were able to show the NBA guys at the Pro Day in Los Angeles that they might not know about you already?
Tyler Ulis: I don't know, hopefully they left here with some good compliments, and some good comments. I just come out and try to play my game, don't really think about it too much. Play like they weren't in the gym, if you try to impress people you're going to have a little too much on your shoulders, more pressure on yourself. So you know, I just go out there and play my game.
Jonathan Givony: What do you think you need to work on to reach your full potential as a basketball player?
Tyler Ulis: Just get my body right. Start working on my body. Get more flexible, get more explosive, quicker laterally. Try to gain a little weight and get stronger.
Jonathan Givony: How about your shooting. How is it moving out to the NBA Line? How has that been for you?
Tyler Ulis: I like the NBA line. I just keep working on my shot, that's an everyday thing. You got to get in the gym and get shots up because that's what you do for a living. You know, I've always been a guy who is going to get in the gym and get shots up, so I'm going to keep doing it.
Jonathan Givony: You have a really developed in between game. Is the added spacing of the NBA line going to give you more room to operate in the mid-range area?
Tyler Ulis: I believe so. I believe that the way they space the court, and the way some bigs play ball screens, they step back and give you that mid-range. A lot of people say that the mid-range shot is the worst shot in the NBA. That's something I love, and fell in love with this year, so I can't wait to get there and see what it's like.
Jonathan Givony: As a freshman your role was to come off the bench and bring energy, and we saw you picking guys up full court, and just really locking down. It seemed like you didn't have the ability to do that as much this year because you had to play so many minutes and you couldn't afford to get in foul trouble. Is that something we're going to see you get back to now? That in your face 94-foot defense.
Tyler Ulis: Definitely, that's what I got to do to survive up here. My freshman year Cal told me when I walked in the door that's what I'm going to have to do. Like you said this year I couldn't do it as much because I didn't want to get in foul trouble. I like to play with my hands, I like to gamble so you know I didn't want to get in foul trouble this year and hurt my team. I backed it up a little bit, but I still had to try to deflect passes and disrupt offenses. I feel like I did it for the most part, but I still got to turn it up a notch.
Jonathan Givony: It seems like we saw a big contrast at the Pro Day between drills and the 2 on 2 and the 3 on 3. You honestly looked a little bit bored in the drills, but in the 2 on 2 and the 3 on 3 your game came out. Are you not a drills guy? Is what you do better reflected in the competitive stuff?
Tyler Ulis: Definitely. I think what I do is better reflected there because that's real live game situations. You can make reads, and I'm a guy who makes reads. My game is based off my decision making and you know I can't make reads in drills. But you know you go through drills, its hard work out there. I went to work out there, you know I'm working hard, clapping guys up, making shots, stuff like that. I never get bored with anything in this sport, but you know with the live action is where I'm better.
Jonathan Givony: What are you looking for in an NBA team? What are you hoping for in terms of where you might end up next season?
Tyler Ulis: I have no idea. I'm just hoping someone gives me an opportunity. Look past my size, look at my game, and just give me an opportunity to get out there and show what I can do.
Jonathan Givony: Have you been in touch with the guys at Kentucky? How much of a role is that going to play in your future? Going back to the coaching staff, and the fan base, and all that.
I love Kentucky, so you know I'm always going to go back and show the fans some love. I'll be back there August 1st for the Pro Camp. You know, seeing guys, go back there and see my friends and talk to them again. It's always love there, see KP [Kenny Payne], and Coach Cal, and the coaching staff. It's a family that I'll always be a part of.
Scouting Report by Jonathan Givony. Video Analysis by Mike Schmitz
After playing an important backup role on the Final Four squad that lost their first and only game of the season in the NCAA Tournament semi-finals, Tyler Ulis came back for his sophomore season and showed what he can do in a more prominent role, winning SEC Player (and Defensive Player) of the Year honors, as well as being named a First Team All-American.
Ulis established himself as arguably the best point guard in college basketball as the leader of one the NCAA's most efficient offenses, upping his draft stock tremendously in the process. His 3.57 assist to turnover ratio ranks first among DX Top-100 prospects, while his 7.45 pure point ratio ranks second (behind only Denzel Valentine). On top of that, he scored a smooth 19 points per-40 minutes, on solid efficiency at 57% TS%.
Ulis' value goes far beyond the numbers, though, as he's your consummate floor general who runs a team exceptionally, while also finding ways to put the ball in the basket himself when needed. Kentucky head coach John Calipari freely admitted that Ulis coached our team, giving him the freedom to make adjustments and run the team as he sees fit, due to his outstanding basketball IQ and leadership skills.
He is very aggressive pushing the ball ahead in the open court, getting his teammates good shots early in the shot-clock, in transition or in early-offense situations. He's also very effective in the half-court, showing an advanced understanding of operating on the pick and roll, while also being capable of going out and creating good looks in one on one situations as well.
Ulis is an outstanding ball-handler, showing great command of the ball getting low to the ground, while using his quickness and ability to operate at different speeds to keep defenders off balance. He has a variety of moves he can utilize to create space, including crossovers, behind the back dribbles and subtle hesitation moves, as if often looks like he's playing at a different pace than everyone else on the floor with how calculated and under control he is.
He surveys the floor wonderfully with great timing and patience, whipping the ball all over the court with vision and creativity. While he's aggressive and decisive with his moves, he does a very good job of keeping mistakes to a minimum, only turning the ball over on 12% of his possessions.
While many floor general types are looking to pass the ball almost exclusively, Ulis finds a nice blend between creating for others and keeping defenses honest by looking for his own offense as well.
That starts with his jump-shot, which is a very effective weapon, having made 37% of his 3-pointers in his college career. Ulis is capable of making shots both with his feet set and off the dribble. He has a quick release and good elevation on his pull-ups, showing range out to the 3-point line and doing a nice job finding space to get it off when things break down for his team in the mid-range area.
Although not a prolific slasher, he has one of the best floaters in college basketball, something he'll certainly need at the next level as well to finish among the trees at his size.
Ulis converted just 48.5% of his 107 field goal attempts inside the paint this season according to Synergy Sports Technology, a well below average rate. Not only is he just 5'9 in shoes, but he's also very much on the narrow side at just 160 pounds. Unlike some of the sub six-foot guards who have found success in the NBA, he does not possess freakish athleticism to compensate for that.
There are legitimate question marks about the difficulties Ulis may face seeing the floor and finishing in the NBA, where everyone is that much bigger, longer and more athletic than in college. Ulis will have to continue to find ways to create space without the benefit of elite quickness, using his timing, creativity and smarts, as he won't be able to simply jump over or explode past defenders.
The other question mark around Ulis, as is always the case with players who are severely undersized, is how his defense will translate. In college, he was one of the peskier defenders you'll find, using his super quick feet and hands to put tremendous pressure on the ball, and generating quite a few turnovers in the process. The fact that he has above average length (6'1 wingspan) relative to his height helps compensate somewhat for his lack of size, but what will really help him out the most is how smart and competitive he is. He's the type of player who studies opponents' tendencies and uses them to his advantage, and is not afraid to get mix things up, diving on the floor for loose balls, taking charges and playing with a warrior's mentality.
With that said, there will likely be somewhat of a transition to the NBA level, where most of the point guards will tower over him, especially if asked to play more than a backup role. He struggles to put a body on bigger and more physical guards, and it is easy to shoot over the top of him with his lack of size and average length. Until he proves otherwise, Ulis will be a target for opposing coaching staffs to go after in post-up situations as well.
The NBA has become a somewhat friendlier environment in recent years for point guards under six feet tall, with almost a dozen players in this mold finding success the past few seasons. While few expect Ulis to emerge as a star in the mold of Isaiah Thomas or Kemba Walker, it's easy to project him developing into an outstanding backup at the very least thanks to all the different things he brings to the table, not the least of which are his outstanding intangibles. He's the type of player who is very difficult to bet against.
With plenty of scouts in attendance, Tyler Ulis led the Wildcats to a 75-73 victory turning in arguably his top individual performance of the season scoring 21 points on 12 shots to go along with 8 assists and only 1 turnover. While it would be foolish to draw too many long term conclusions off this contest alone, this is a very interesting matchup to analyze nonetheless due to the relentless pressure Kentucky's heated in-state rival puts on opposing guards.
Via Jon Giesbrecht, here's a video breakdown of some of the more notable things NBA scouts were able to see last night, both good and bad, on either end of the floor.
This was a vintage performance by Tyler Ulis, calmly and steadily leading his team to victory with very solid play on both ends of the floor. He set the tone for Kentucky by executing in the half-court, pushing the ball ahead in transition, and not turning the ball over a single time despite playing all 40 minutes.
Ulis' willingness to move the ball ahead and find the open man is the key to Kentucky's offense, as he's always probing, quarterbacking and talking on the floor. He never hesitates to fire a pass into open space, and is tremendous at getting his teammates easy baskets. He fed Skal Labissiere with two gorgeous looks, one a drop-off in transition, and another a bounce pass from the baseline, demonstrating his court vision and ability to counter his lack of size with his passing ability. He also had a few notable possessions in the second half showing he can score himself as well, using his strength to fend off Derryck Thornton on two beautiful isolation possessions for strong finishes in the lane, even if he struggled to create high-percentage looks in late-clock situations in other occasions. Ulis also hit a handful of pull-up jumpers after creating a shot in the half-court when the lane was clogged, which is extremely important for him at his size.
Scouts are seeing Ulis in a very different role this season, particularly defensively where he's not picking up opponents 94 feet away from the basket and putting crazy ball-pressure on opposing point guards like we became accustomed to last season. Nevertheless, his really frustrated freshman Derryck Thornton in their individual matchup, forcing him into bad passes and even worse body language as the game wore on.
Ulis is the engine that makes Kentucky go, and every win he accumulates will be another notch in his belt as a Mr. Intangibles type that some NBA team will inevitably fall in love with.
Like Lee, Tyler Ulis's measurements are largely the same as last year. He's added 5 pounds to his frame since then to tip the scales at 160 pounds, but at 5'9 remains one of the smaller guards with legitimate NBA potential ever measured. His vertical has improved a bit, and the 39 inch mark he registered is terrific, but not quite on par with other diminutive guards like Nate Robinson (43.5), Speedy Claxton (42.5), and Pierre Jackson (42.5). He does possess elite speed though.
One of the smallest prospects ever measured in our extensive historical database, Tyler Ulis's size didn't stop him from emerging as a consensus top-25 recruit, or from having an immediate impact for one of the most talented teams in recent memory as a freshman at Kentucky. Averaging 5.6 points, 3.6 assists, and just 1 turnover over 23.8 minutes per game as the Wildcats came up just short of perfection in the Final Four, Ulis figures to play prominently into John Calipari's offense in his second season in Lexington, even if the Wildcats' backcourt remains crowded as 5-star guards Isaiah Briscoe and Jamal Murray step in for Andrew and Aaron Harrison.
Standing 5'9 with 6'1.25 wingspan and a 155-pound frame that's he's clearly added some muscle to since he was measured at UK's Pro Day almost exactly a year ago, Ulis' size, as it has been throughout his entire career, remains his biggest weakness from a NBA perspective. Like so many diminutive guards that have gone before him, Ulis compensates with tremendous burst and quickness. He may not be the leaper that Nate Robinson was, have that unparalleled extra gear that propelled Mugsy Bogues to a 14 years NBA career, or the bizarre physical strength of Earl Boykins, but like all three of those players, Ulis has a number of characteristics that put him in position to rise above the stigma sub-6-footers face.
Earning rave reviews from coaches, teammates, and scouts alike last season, the Lima, Ohio-born point guard is a tremendously competitive player with a team-first attitude and an intangible toughness that belies both his age and his size. Pushing Andrew Harrison for minutes in Kentucky's absurdly deep rotation last season, Ulis seemed to relish any opportunity he received for extended minutes, showing the ability to change the pace of the game.
A terrific ball-handler who uses changes of speeds and crossovers effectively, Ulis looked incredibly natural with his ability to create shots for others last season. Possessing terrific vision and proving to be a surprisingly sound decision-maker for a freshman, Ulis ranked in the top-50 players in the country regardless of class or NBA potential dishing out 6.3 assists per-40 minutes pace adjusted. More impressive, however, is just how efficient he was while making those plays as his 4.9 assist-to-turnover ratio in transition and 3.4 assist-to-turnover ratio in the half court are simply spectacular.
Unselfishly throwing the ball ahead early on the break, seemingly always aware of when his big men had an opening for a lob pass, eagerly feeding the post, and even showing a knack for making the right read when running the pick and roll against attacking defenses, there's a lot to like about what Ulis showed as a floor general last season. It will be interesting, and likely entertaining, to watch how he meshes with this crop of Kentucky freshman in the coming months, as it may not always be easy for John Calipari to take him off the floor.
As a scorer, Ulis' role revolves around pick and roll and spot up opportunities, while he relies heavily on his ability to make perimeter shots and floaters, as is the case with most players his size. Knocking down a tremendous 53% of the somewhat small sample of 49 catch and shoot jump shots he attempted last season but only 21% of the 44 pull ups he attempted, Ulis is capable of knocking down shots from well beyond the three point line and converted a very impressive 46% of his floaters. As one would expect, he struggles to score when the defense is able to get in good position to contest his shot, but he does a nice job not forcing the issue inside.
Defensively, Ulis holds his own far better than most players his size, which is one of the reasons scouts are more optimistic about his odds at the next level than they usually are with his undersized peers. Doing a terrific job following his matchup like a shadow, the rising sophomore is an incredible pesky defender who plays with active hands and feet and can be a real nuisance on the perimeter or when he picks up full court. His length allows him to play a bit bigger than his height, but his lack of size and strength limits him when offensive players are able to get an angle to the rim or elevate to shoot inside.
Though Ulis will always face questions about how his size limits his upside at the NBA level, he already appears to have a ready-made role as an off the bench change of pace option for a team that finds a way to use him creatively. His leadership ability, attitude, knack for playmaking, and ability to apply ball pressure make him the type of player you really don't want to bet against, even if it will require a team and coaching staff to think outside the box somewhat.
Tyler Ulis measured just 5'8 with a 155 pound frame and 6'1 wingspan. As we've stated previously, size is Ulis's biggest obstacle in becoming a high-level player, as he ranks among the smallest players in our database all-time, but he's gained some 10 pounds in the last year, which is a step in the right direction. For reference, Isaiah Thomas measured 5'9.5 with shoes (Ulis was 5'9 in shoes) with a 182-pound frame and 6'0 wingspan coming out of Washington.