As the offseason hits its dog days and college international tours ending with classes resuming, I talked to some NBA, college, and international scouts and coaches about the under the radar prospects that could profile as under-the-radar shooters. Many thanks to them, as they share insight having either coached against these players or scouted these players up close, which gives a perspective of how NBA decision-makers view these prospects as well. These 10 names are players that I have identified during deep film studies this offseason, with some freshman, some returning players, and one international player that all project to be anywhere from mid/late first round picks, or as fringe draftable.
Nolan Winter, Wisconsin:
Richard Stayman: What feels like a perfect clone of the archetype Kyle Filipowski is, Nolan Winter is a 6’10 shooter that has upped his frame from a previously listed 195 pounds to almost 220 pounds. He is mobile defensively, being able to defend drives, but how that scales up to college will be a question mark for him. At the minimum, a 6’10 shooter is always going to create buzz and demand in NBA circles.
Asa Thomas, Clemson:
RS: While Asa Thomas lacks much 2 point scoring, he is careful with the ball and keeps the needle moving to impact the game positively when his shot isn’t falling. With outstanding footwork on jump shots, being able to land on his toes and quickly get into his beautiful shot motion. One thing that may be simultaneously alarming and promising is that his left hand still flicks, making his shot a bit of a two-hand shot by accident. With elite shooting touch and fixing that mechanical issue, his shooting could be stronger than his already elite Under Armour shooting numbers indicate: splits of 45/38/83.
Jared McCain, Duke:
RS: While McCain has an awkward set of weaknesses, including being only 6’3 and lacking a great slashing element of his game, McCain has beautiful shooting form, excellent footwork and an ability to both spot up off-ball and create his own jump shot off the dribble in isolation or out of P&R sets. McCain has the best chance of being a high first round pick of any player in this list due to his advanced shooting abilities.
High school coach: “McCain just plays the right way. Checks out, plays hard, he’s skilled. Would like to see him do well just because of that. As far as shooting goes, his stroke is repeatable, clean, fluid, quick. Huge legs, wide base- but doesn’t always square up his feet. He’s confident in his shot which is the most important part. Shoots it at a high clip and I don’t really expect that to change in college. In the NBA I think he sticks. First name that comes to mind is Malcolm Brogdon. If his role is to hit open shots and play hard, he should do that well.”
Alex Ducas, St. Mary’s:
RS: Although a fifth year senior, Ducas fits a complimentary role as a quick release shooter with adequate defensive footspeed. Teams will want to see better overall efficiency from the field, but his primary role will always likely be as an off-ball threat. A big part of this will stem from how well he finishes off of cuts at the rim; while he had near-elite efficiency on catch & shoot jumpers, he was only in the 36th percentile in finishing efficiency at the rim. Being a mistake-free shooter, Ducas should latch onto a Summer League roster next year, and make a name for himself there.
Australian scout: Alex Ducas has already proven himself as a remarkably consistent outside threat, his outside proficiency growing year to year, peaking with a 41.4% mark from behind the arc on a career high 7.7 3 points attempts per 40. Sporting a beautifully compact release, Ducas is automatic with his feet set, and his savvy off-ball movement and positional size help make him a prolific outside threat. If Ducas wants to take a further step in his final college season, diversifying his offense through a greater ability to shoot off the dribble and attack closeouts with more craft could further unlock new levels in his offensive ceiling.
Tristan Da Silva, Colorado:
RS: Da Silva is often scouted as a well-rounded forward, but what happens when his role is scouted from a specialist role, going micro to macro, rather than macro to micro? At the moment, the ruling on Da Silva is that he’s a forward with several ball skills, good size, but needs to prove himself as a self-creator and defender. However, those flaws become significantly less glaring when his outlook is changed to as being a 6’8 shooter with other skills that can be called upon when needed. A shooting specialist that has a variety of ways to get to his jump shot at 6’8 is appealing for every NBA team.
Power 5 coach: I expect Da Silva to be even more assertive as a scorer this season. Now as an older guy, I think seeing him expand his game as a ball-handler will be nice to see. He’s always been a reliable C&S guy as well as a versatile piece but seeing his decision making off the bounce I think is the next step for him. I believe he will play in the NBA if he continues to simply make shots. Spot-ups and on the move and hopefully with better guard play next to him that can happen.
Tucker DeVries, Drake:
RS: While his poor outing against Miami hindered his draft stock, ultimately playing a key role in him returning to school, Tucker DeVries has made a name for himself as a top shooter in the country at 6’7. DeVries will likely get better as he is another year older in a mid-major conference, and with his size and movement shooting teams are still going to line up for him either at the end of the second round or as one of the top two-way contract candidates.
MVC coach: I think he is a great player. He is one of the best players in the Missouri valley conference. Everyone knows he is going left, but he has so many counters to go with it. He is a guy that’s impossible to stop once he gets going. He has good shooting range. He plays within the offense. He rarely takes any bad shots. I will be curious to see how he plays this season since a lot of the core talent has graduated last season. I felt that Penn was the backbone of that drake team last season.
PJ Hall, Clemson:
RS: Having seen Hall at the NBA Draft Combine in May and having watched him play for years at Clemson following injury, his game has always felt a bit unique as a mid range maestro, being able to stretch the floor well, but doing most of his damage within 15-20 feet. With this unique skillset and label as a 3 level scorer, there are still questions of how this will translate to the next level. He won’t get post-ups like he does in college, can his finishing translate, and is his shot fast enough to shoot over hard contests from long defenders? In addition, his limited defense requires his offense to be even better because of the risk his defense carries. Look for Hall to be either a late second round pick or a prioritized two-way contract candidate in 2024.
ACC coach: I think he has to prove that he can guard ball screens & that he is laterally quick enough to defend ball screens at a high level. His 3 point shot improved a ton, but he has to be over 40% this year and improve his range. He reminds me of a more physical version of Mike Muscala.
Jaden Akins, Michigan State:
RS: I saw Akins at the Combine in his Pro Day shoot the lights out, which made not only the media members like myself open their eyes, but it also caught the attention of scouts. What worries me with Akins translating to the NBA is his lack of finishing at the rim. To be a successful shooter and off-ball player, offensive players need to at least sell the idea of unpredictability to be able to earn respect of defenses on cuts towards the basket, otherwise face-guarding on the perimeter becomes easy for defenses. At 6’4, Akins will have to improve on-ball to stay in more multi-guard lineups in the NBA, a la Bryn Forbes and the likes. Akins has a beautiful lefty jumper, and is almost never fazed by closeouts. As a sophomore he shot 46% on catch & shoot 3s, ranking in the 96th percentile of college basketball.
Big 10 coach: “I think the hard thing for him is being the 3rd option- he’s got to play in more pick n roll actions and playmake more, but with Hoggard and Walker it’s tough.”
Tristen Newton, Connecticut:
RS: While Newton needs to improve his finishing at the rim, his jump shot offers lots of promise as an end-of-bench value add. Newton, standing at 6’5, has a quick almost set shot that allows him to quickly beat sagging defenders on the perimeter. Newton does need to improve his pull-up jumper, being a bit slow of a shot given the lack of lift on his jumper to fully capitalize on space-creating screens.
College scout: He’s underrated as a shooter. Has always shot it really well from the line so the touch is evident. Can shoot from deep both on the move and off-the-dribble. Volume has never been anything crazy but I believe he could handle a volume jump if he was asked to provide more from that aspect.
RS: The son of NBA champion and beloved European star Peja Stojakovic, Andrej inherited his father’s shooting ability. While the results in the Adidas circuit didn’t always match the mechanics, Stojakovic has a beautiful jumper that should see more makes with more reps in practice. The main area for Andrej to stick and become a one & done is to improve secondary skills; prove that he can handle responsibility with the ball in his hands, and defensive intelligence. At ~6’7 Stojakovic should be able to latch on in the NBA and get drafted as a freshman if he shoots a high enough percentage at Stanford.
Anonymous scout: Andrej Stojakovic has the make up to be a lethal shooter. His mechanics are a little funky, but they are consistent and often produce gorgeous results. Stojakovic profiles as “just” a shooter, but his continued growth with his ball skills should allow him to be a connective passer and attack closeouts. Stojakovic will get targeted on defense given his lack of overwhelming physical tools, but his awareness and work rate should at least make him passable. Stojakovic could likely benefit by staying in school for a few years, but in a draft class that has so many questions, it wouldn’t be shocking if his shot falls at a ludicrous level and he emerges as a one and done prospect.
RS: Fedor Zugic is someone that caught my eye a couple years ago as one of the youngest international prospects when he was first eligible for the 2022 NBA Draft, being able to shoot with gorgeous form, as well as playmaking ability off of screens at 6’6. However, in 2022-23 Zugic struggled with efficiency, shooting just 25.6% from 3. While his stock is down, he easily could regain traction with NBA scouts by going back to the efficiency he had the prior 2 years from 3. With a promising FT% that has generally floated around the 80% range, the shooting upside is more than meets the eye with 3P%.
European scout: Zugic has been a hot prospect since he debuted with Buducnost in 2019 as the youngest player in Euroleague. He is a 6’6 slashing shooter with a small body and lack of elite athleticism to piece everything together at high levels and to be an impactful off-ball player. Defense is the main issue for him to stay on the court, but he’s still young. If he can figure out how to play tougher and how to make an impact, he’s going to be a great option in the second round as an off-ball option.
Look for all 10 of these players to emerge as prospects this year, with some being long-term options that enter a future draft as an upperclassman ‘ready-now’ shooter.