Put your Doc Brown wig or Marty McFly vest on and let's go back in time…10/15 years in the NBA space-time continuum. What would we see? Gridlocked offenses with zero sense of spacing, for sure. Not so many touch fouls…yes, please. Positional basketball looked drastically different, especially at the lead guard. More styled towards orchestrating an offense, point guards were responsible for tuning all the team's different instruments for a maximum offensive symphony.
Today's landscape of a "your turn, my turn" basketball - stemming from such talented isolation scorers- has assembled an age of shoot-first guards. The mold of the pure facilitator is essentially a fixture of history. Possessing scoring proficiency as a lead guard is viewed almost as a necessity in today’s game; combine that with the crafty qualities of a “facilitator” and you might catch something special.
Today, TyTy Washington is a 6’3’’ player who has put his incredibly well-rounded skillset on display at The University of Kentucky this season. While draft prospects are commonly highlighted for one or two signature talents, Washington’s skillset is against the grain. Instead, he brings a winning attitude, high impact in numerous areas, and knowledge of the game exceeding his youth. Highlighted by his unselfish style, basketball IQ, and his intention on involving teammates, Washington has exhibited the qualities of an old-school point guard this season.
It's his passing ability that most impresses me. TyTy is not the most flashy, and that is okay; it is more the passes that he makes, rather than how he makes them. Incredibly adept at utilizing his eyes to set up passes, Washington also thrives at threading a pocket to rolling bigs. Super unselfish, TyTy is always searching for his teammates, posting a 2.37 AST/TO ratio which is extremely encouraging.
Check out these quick-decision passes by Washington:
Splitting the ball-handling role with Sahvir Wheeler-a contrasting but talented facilitator himself- Washington's proficiency both on and off the ball has shined. (Washington set a school record of 17 assists against Georgia in a game Wheeler was sidelined.)
Washington reminds me a bit of Tyrese Haliburton in his college days at Iowa State: a "team-player" mentality combined with the ability to excel in roles both on and off the ball. A worn cliche, Washington plays the "right way"... a clear-cut team player who shines in the finite details. The sense I get when watching TyTy and Tyrese feels identical; you witness someone who seems incredibly enthralling to share the court with.
Shot creation potential has flashed this season; Washington has shown tantalizing potential as a self-creator. He's not the shiftiest of ball-handlers but sports a sweet crossover and deadly mid-range pull-up. Shooting off the bounce is his forte, ranking in the top 15 out of 210 eligible players in the NCAA. Mostly lying in the mid-range with his pull-ups, the development will be centered around expanding his range to maximize the shot's value in the pick and roll. His pull-up offers a translatable skill to more modern guard play carries value.
Check out Washington's mid-range pull-up, as well as his potential as a shotmaker:
Shooting 35% overall from three on the year, Washington's catch and shoot numbers are encouraging (racking them up at nearly 45% percent on the year of the catch). Washington shoots with a strong base and good feet; his shooting potential is encouraging, displaying a soft touch with quality shot selection.
Defensively, TyTy's is a consistent producer with a good amount of upside as a backcourt defender. At 6'3'' with a 6'9'' wingspan, his size and high motor project as a plus defender guarding 1s and 2s in the NBA. With a defensive rating of 94.6 (9.46 PPP), Washington absolutely kills the defensive advanced metrics. Both his defensive win shares/40 minutes (.078) and Defensive box plus/minus (3.8) rank among one of the best in this draft class.
Here's a clip showing of TyTy's effort and feel on this end:
While he's more than proficient on the ball, the strongest aspect of Washington's defensive ability, in my opinion, is his off-ball attention to detail; engaged and active on this end, he's a superb team defender. His team-first style translates to this end, where he employs his high IQ. While on-ball defenders all initially struggle to adjust to the NBA style of play, TyTy is no different. However, his consistent effort on the ball, adeptness as an engaged team defender, and comfort with the game's nuances are all promising signs moving forward.
It is important to note: he turns 21 shortly after draft day. It is no secret his older age for a freshman lends him to be more pro-ready. Though, (I would say) Washington's basketball intuitiveness is mature beyond his years.
A lack of athletic "pop" leads to some concern, as Washington's ability to create separation and finish at the rim remains inconsistent. Flashes of inconsistent shiftiness in the half-court leave some questions to be answered. Without elite speed or vertical ability, there's usually concern about a guard's destiny at the next level.
And that is okay.
Washington conducts himself at a cool, unrushed pace…he’s extremely methodical in everything he does. Excelling in the PNR, the nature in which Washington attacks screen can be just as effective with NBA spacing on a larger court. I believe we often underestimate the difference in the college and pro games in terms of offensive spacing.
While his shooting at the rim is good in percentage, the attempts are really low. A lack of ability or willingness to get to the rim is the main point of concern I have with Washington. At times, a hesitancy to enter that last level is apparent...Washington often settles for a floater above a rotating big. Only averaging around 2 FTA/game, it's clear that the lack of elite speed of verticality hinders his ability and confidence to finish above shot blockers. His floater, like the Knicks' own ex-Wildcat, Immanuel Quickley, is extremely effective but relied on way too much. ["Effective" is giving a major under undersell...he's nearly 20% above what Quickley shot on floaters in college]
The connections undoubtedly are there.
While it's important to note a lack of initial playing time if Thibs remains coach, so is recognizing this draft's weakness outside the top few picks. The Knicks' connection with Kentucky is no secret, as is also the case for our desperate pursuit of a franchise point guard. Washington has doesn't have the highest ceiling, but I think he equally has as high of a floor. Taking Kentucky guards has really gifted some franchises over the past few years. With how the season is progressing, we very well could have a top 10 pick in this upcoming draft; this is right around where Washington currently projects in most mocks.
Unfortunately, we can't travel into the future with our own Delorean to see how these prospects turn out. With TyTy Washington, he may not sport the same potential as some of the top few picks, but he has so many qualities that you can feel good investing in. A player as smart and team-oriented as Washington is not only a great bet moving forward, but an ideal fit in the NYK family.