Clemson defeated TCU 74-66 last weekend, showcasing scouting opportunities for the three main prospects of this game: PJ Hall, Jameer Nelson Jr, and Emanuel Miller. Given the volume of how much I have watched these 3 players over the years, I was excited to dive into this game and see them face off against each other.
PJ Hall showcased a magnificent feel for the game, making the right plays almost 100% of the time offensively. On top of that, since his injury not only has he somehow looked almost better and more agile, but he also has not lost his touch as a shooter, maintaining his balance on jumpers even following a knee surgery. While he was out, he must have picked up on reading more angles because last year and the start of this year have gone extremely well for him as a creator for others, with less telegraphed passes and more patience within the offense. Hall’s post game is also strong, which did not get lost in this game. Around 0:25 in the video below, Hall posts up Emanuel Miller and gets the easy post score by using his size and skill to overpower Miller.
Defensively, Hall still has work to do as Clemson hides him well through P&R drop coverage, and he struggles to guard 1-on-1 against perimeter players. These traits will determine if Hall ends up a first round talent, which his offense supports, or if he falls on draft night into the mid/late second round.
Hall was in the NBA Draft Combine during the 2023 draft process, and decided to withdraw to return to Clemson for his senior year, which could pay dividends in a weaker class. If he is able to follow the footsteps of former teammate Hunter Tyson and explode as a senior to be a pick in the top 45, that is a major win for him.
Jameer Nelson had a poor outing, going just 2-12 from the field for 10 points, with 2 assists to 1 turnover, 3 rebounds, and 3 steals. However, despite poor efficiency, Nelson found a way to be the standout second best player in this game. His impact defensively is strong, being one of the nation’s best defensive playmakers early in the season with an elite 6.7 steal percentage.
In the above clips, Nelson’s defensive instincts (starting 0:30 in the video) are clearly on display. He uses high hands and strong defensive fundamentals to make the right play and he makes his teammates better on that end. He also makes his teammates’ jobs easier, because he calculates his risks, and makes his teammates’ rotations easier while also ensuring he can recover for his teammates’ mistakes without much penalty. Jameer Nelson Jr is one of the best defensive guards in the country, and if his offense can be efficient scoring with intelligent playmaking, he becomes one of the biggest sleeper guards in the 2024 NBA Draft.
Offensively, while the shot wasn’t falling, he was making accurate reads with the ball in his hands and did a good job of looking off defenders to create open shots for teammates. Even with just two assists and one turnover, the turnover was not his fault, and his teammates missed open shots that Nelson set them up with. Additionally, his two made shots were impressive drives: one drive and finish through contact, the other a smooth behind the back to create an open layup.
One of the traits I look for in players is how they can impact the game when they are not scoring or don’t have standout stats. Jameer Nelson Jr passed this test, being an outstanding defender and making it hard for Clemson to ever truly pull away, while also creating high-percentage shots offensively for others and himself.
Emanuel Miller continues to leave food on the table in games, because he rarely takes over despite outstanding athleticism and potential to play high-level defense. However, he is still mistake prone on both ends, going back to PJ Hall easily winning the post-up, as well as playing from behind on defense too often like the play below:
Offensively, Miller showed flashes of what scouts want to see as a jump shooter, making two mid-post jump shots, but went 0-3 from 3 in this game, which makes scouts wonder: not only is there concerns with ability to consistently shoot, but why does he continue to have such a low volume of 3 point shots for a wing? Miller is not an on-ball creator, so he has to be nearly perfect off-ball to prove he can translate to the next level. However, plays like this (below), where he doesn’t read the play in time, can be costly and detrimental to the offense. These plays are still not rare, which is the status of where his off-ball mistakes need to be if his jump shot is not a heavy threat.
Going back to the jumpers, the two jump shots Miller had from the mid-post were impressive to move into the spot cleanly, then shoot over the defenders. His form isn’t bad, but inconsistent 3P% and FT% numbers over the years make him hard to safely project as a shooter.
Another area Miller thrives in is rebounding, which can create efficient rim looks for him like the one below. Rebounding is an area where Miller thrives functionally using his athleticism, allowing him to win contested rebounds and use soft touch at the rim, especially over smaller or similarly sized opponents.
If Emanuel Miller can utilize his athleticism better on the defensive end to become more fluid and reactive to make up for some fundamental concerns, his defensive upside will improve in the eyes of NBA scouts. Offensively, if Miller can simply make better off-ball decisions for his teammates to avoid mistakes like the turnover above, that also will go a long way. However, the best weapon Miller can utilize going forward is efficient jump shooting on more volume. With just 19 catch & shoot 3 point attempts thus far into the season and 1 off the dribble 3, Miller still doesn’t change the defense by being out on the perimeter. As a current fringe draft prospect, Miller will turn into a solid second round prospect if his 3 point shot can explode during Big 12 play starting in a couple of weeks.