After a promising freshman campaign, Aaron Craft
had a very strong sophomore season, leading the Ohio State Buckeyes to a 31-8 record and Thad Matta's second Final Four. Without All-Conference talents Jared Sullinger
and William Buford
on campus, however, Craft will have to embrace a larger role on the offensive end, while continuing to be the Buckeye's premier defensive stopper and distributor.
Though he is just an average athlete in terms of quickness in the open floor and explosiveness around the basket, Craft's lateral quickness is tremendous, and he still has a built frame with strength and toughness to spare. Beyond a simple physical or athletic profile, however, Craft is incredibly active, agile, and aggressive, which allows him to stay in front of his man, draw charges, and disrupt perimeter scorers better than perhaps any player in college basketball. As was the case the last time we wrote about him
, Craft's defense remains both his most effective skill and what sets him apart as a NBA prospect at this stage. Simply put, he is a lockdown man-to-man defender, who stays involved even after he has been beaten and is a terror for opposing ball-handlers to deal with on the perimeter. Though he will need to adapt his style somewhat to the bigger, stronger and more talented guards he'll find in the NBA, he projects favorably as a defender at the next level, despite possessing a seemingly average physical profile at the collegiate level.
Despite being an elite defender, Craft has a long way to go on the other end of the floor. One of the least productive scoring point guard prospects in our database last season
, Craft improved his offensive output marginally as a sophomore in a slightly expanded role on offense, and should have ample opportunities to take a much bigger jump as a junior, which teams will likely want to see him do.
In particular, one area in which he looked more aggressive is off of the dribble, operating far better out of the pick-and-roll, finding open lanes, and attacking the basket. His lack of an elite first step and average leaping ability limit him as a slasher, as he gets his shot blocked quite often, and doesn't get to the free throw line very often, but his strength and bullish demeanor allowed him to carve out space and find room to score around the basket. Additionally, he showed increased comfort pulling up off of the dribble and knocking down shots from mid-range, impressive considering his overall increased shooting efficiency and impressive 55.4% 2FG.
To Craft's credit, he is an efficient scorer, shooting 50% from the field last year, which separates him from almost all of his counterparts in the sub-11 point per-40 range, most of whom can only dream of scoring as efficiently as him.
He regressed as a long-range shooter, however, making just 35.9% of his 2.0 attempts per 40 minutes pace adjusted. His mechanics were inconsistent as a sophomore, and he struggled with a hitched and oftentimes slow release. Additionally, he looked far more comfortable with his feet set and with space to shoot, than off of the dribble or with a hand in his face. Working on maintaining fluidity in his form on contested jumpers and off of the dribble should be a priority looking forward, especially given the fact that he may be relied upon more in this capacity as a junior.
Though not as flashy as some of the NCAA's elite point guard prospects, Craft is a steady distributor, with solid court vision and an impressive 2.15 assist to turnover ratio. He is not a prototypical drive-and-dish or pick-and-roll oriented point guard, but he nevertheless dictates the tempo of Ohio State's offense well while showing the ability to find his teammates in half court and up-tempo situations alike. Moving forward, scouts will be watching to see if he is capable of developing a more aggressive and distinctive identity as a playmaker with what should be a greatly expanded role in the offense.
Despite maintaining a relatively low profile thus far in his college career, Craft will have every opportunity to raise his stock in scouts' eyes with a breakout junior season. If he continues to improve his offensive game and develops further as a point guard, he already has the IQ, basketball and otherwise, defensive ability, and demeanor to succeed in a rotation at the next level in the mold of defensive stoppers such as Derek Fisher
and Eric Snow