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2020 NBA Draft Profiles: Kaleb Wesson

A sketch of a bruising stretch

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Kaleb Wesson: Center, Ohio State UniversityKaleb Wesson, Center, Ohio State University

•6’9 (7’2 wingspan) (9-1 12 standing reach) 270lbs, 20 years old from Westerville Ohio

•RSCI Top 100: 83 (2017)

•2019-2020 season 31 games played 29.5 minutes per game, 14.0 points 9.3 rebounds 1.9 assists 1.0 block, 44.4% Field Goal percentage (42.5% from three), 73% Free Throw percentage

•ACCOLADES: 2019-2020 All Big Ten

•ADVANCED STAT STRENGTHS

(per Tankathon) PER 23.3 Projected NBA 3-Point Percentage 35.5%, Usage Rate: 26.1, 11.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, Assists/Turnover ratio 0.78, Offensives Box Plus Minus 5.4, Defensive Rating 89.8

ADVANCED STAT AREAS TO GROW

True Shooting Percentage 56.8%, Effective Field Goal Percentage 51.8% Turnovers 3.0, Blocks Per 36min: 1.2, Offensive Rating: 111.2, Defensive Box Plus Minus 3.6

CURRENT BIG BOARD RANKINGS

58th ( Tankathon), 96th (nbadraft.net), 73rd (CBS Sports), 54th (ESPN)

As GBB Site Manager Joe Mullinax has said before, The Memphis Grizzlies are currently set in the front court. However, this would be a move to stack the cupboard & look for prospects to develop & potentially replace elder statesmen bigs on the roster.

Jonas Valanciunas is currently playing more like the player he was expected to be when Toronto drafted him 5th overall. Adding that with Brandon Clarke displaying lengthy flashes of future NBA All-Star Brilliance as a rookie, & Gorgui Dieng still on the roster & being quite the productive player, showing signs of why Minnesota gave him such a hefty contract. Lastly, Jaren Jackson Jr. improving in his sophomore campaign to young star already on the cusp of All-Star caliber, Let’s just say the Grizzlies have depth on deck. That’s not even to mention Kyle Anderson whom can not only play the four spot almost as seamless as his signature position as a defensive point-forward.

Some may even dare to ask why bother focusing on positions the team is stocked up on? Especially when the starting shooting guard spot is still up for debate to many?

Well this draft is more so heavy on the smaller guard side of things as well as “Big Men.” It’s a weaker draft when it comes to talent on the wing, specifically those with high volume potential at Shooting Guard. So to focus on drafting what some may consider Memphis’ biggest need (SG/SF) would not be the most productive way to use the only pick Memphis currently has, which isn’t until the 40th pick.

I happen to also be a huge Jontay Porter fan going back to his last year of high school as well as his older brother Michael Porter Jr. So naturally I’m biased when I say if Porter proves to be as healthy as he was before tearing both of his knees, then he is clearly the favorite to potentially become the future 3rd big man of the Jaren & Brandon lead trio for the core rotation. However, hoping Porter is fully healthy is not the most responsible approach considering the injury history of his brother Michael, & both of his older sisters.

So with all that said, here we are at the 40th pick looking to make a steak out of bologna meat, a theme forever common to a blue collar city like Memphis.

WHAT HE DOES WELL

Ohio State v Houston Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

We’ll start with his ability to stretch the court, & how he does so on a consistent basis. The former Buckeye shot 42.5% with the burner from long range. What’s also impressive is his rather high volume of three-point attempts per game for a bruising big man at 3.4 attempts per game.

With that his projected NBA 3-point Percentage is expected to be somewhere around 35.5% according to Tankathon, which makes him a decent long range guy & a big one has to respect when outside the burner line. When you combine that with another thing Wesson does well which is passing to the tune of two assists per game, then it gives you further insight on his star level usage rate. With Kaleb being a player one must honor when standing outside he creates spacing in the paint for attacking the rim.

His passing allows for many of the team’s plays to run through him as he sits outside with the ball & easily creates efficient shots for others around him, making him somewhat of a reliable playmaking big man (hence his 26.6% usage rate). I wouldn’t call his number for ISO plays off the dribble, but he is definitely one who can free up the guards to get open off ball & hit them for easier, more clean, & thus higher percentage attempts at the basket.

This also gives a team five out potential, even though Wesson is far from the most speedy fast break threat. What it does mean is he becomes a threat the moment he crosses the halfcourt line with his court awareness, willingness to pass & his long range shooting touch. When Kaleb Wesson touches the ball anywhere on the court, you gotta respect his game.

Wesson is also solid in rebounding as he averaged 9.3 per game his junior season. His ability to clean the glass & give his teams more opportunity while taking away the same chances for the opposition makes this stretch even more intriguing. It’s not easy to average nearly double digit rebounding when you’re only 6’9” in shoes & posted up far away from usual rebounding vicinity most of his time on the court. The fact he has proven he is capable of either the pull up from three, or creating a shot for someone else & then secure the rebound if said shot doesn’t fall, makes this bruising big an offensive triple threat of sorts & again alludes to why he boasts a 26.6% usage rate as a big man, despite only averaging 14 points per game.

His 26.6% usage rate as well as his higher volume of three point attempts per game (3.4) also shows Wesson is a reliable offensive asset, who the coaches truly trust to be a or perhaps the focal point of the team offense & a likely a plus offensive box Plus Minus.

His defensive rating of 89.8 displays that at worst case Wesson is more than capable of holding his own quiet well executing the team’s defensive schemes as well. He may not be much of a rim protector, but he more than capable of showing hedges, closing out on attacks, helping his teammates when they get beat or screened & at least intimidate a few shots if nothing else.

WHERE HE CAN IMPROVE

Ohio State v Iowa State Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Kaleb definitely isn’t much of a paint scorer, which is evident in his True Shooting Percentage of only 56.8% - slightly below average for a big man. But it could also be the fact he was mainly asked to create scoring from outside either as a shooter or passer for open feeds his teammates get as a result of his frequent long range shooting, forcing spacing on the court. His overall field goal percentage was only 44% his junior year so he is definitely limited shooting as opposed to being able to get baskets in the traditional way of big man scoring. However, in today’s NBA that style of offense is more so obsolete so one can argue it’s not important enough to improve right away. It’s definitely part of why he averaged only 14 points per game despite his usage rate.

It’s also consistent with his lack of field goal efficiency. Wesson also averaged a whopping three turnovers a game! He has to be more mindful when handling the ball & even improve his dribble to be able to move around when pressed by the defense & create better situations for him to effectively move the ball without turning it over. He isn’t gonna blow past anyone at the next level. Also, NBA defenses are even longer & smarter than those he struggled with in college, so if he wants to be anywhere near the reliable high usage player he was for Ohio State in the minutes he gets in the NBA, he has to improve his ball handling to create more & be more so skilled enough avoid turnover prone situations.

Defensively Kaleb lacks some agility & he even skimmed down from his previous weight of 289lbs to a more agile-friendly 255lbs his last season at Ohio State. So the will to improve is clearly there, however it can only do so much when you aren’t the most fleet footed big man which is why he has struggled versus the smaller quicker man due to his lack of agility, quickness & recovery ability. These same deficiencies also lead to him often being in foul trouble & thus limiting his time on the court, taking away such a reliable option for his team. Not to mention it forces him to play less aggressive to avoid fouling out.

His lack of athleticism also leads to a lack of activity as a defensive playmaker. So his ability to react to passes & generate steals without getting beat is currently a struggle for Kaleb. It also means he doesn’t leave his feet often to make defensive plays such as blocking shots. It’s all consistent with his low shot blocking production & altogether a rather low defensive Box Plus Minus. He has to learn to being even smarter defensively, even though he shows solid enough awareness to make defensive stances & help within the team scheme. He just needs to continue to improve his conditioning for longer when & better reaction time. Agility & vertical drills wouldn’t hurt him either.

THE FIT

Ohio State v Gonzaga Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Wesson certainly has the potential to live up to the billing of a 40th selection plus a lot more. He isn’t quite Xavier Tillman, but he offers much of what’s demanded from the modern day big man. If the Grizzlies draft him at 40, he’ll almost certainly spend much of his rookie season right off of Goodman Road with the Memphis Hustle. However, he does seem to be NBA ready for the most part & guys like Gorgui Dieng, & Kyle Anderson could become expendable due to the large salaries they receive in comparison to their roles as essentially reserve players. This a role a young draft pick like Wesson can potentially fill & do so at probably less than a tenth of the salaries of Gorgui & even Kyle Anderson. Gorgui is also getting up there in age for a big man at age 30 now, so one has to wonder how long he can remain the caliber player he was for the Memphis Grizzlies. Gorgui is also an expiring contract & as a defensive stretch big with solid passing, Gorgui may become a decent commodity around the trade deadline next season.

Wesson shares a lot of similarities with Gorgui Dieng as both share the same strengths & weaknesses tho the older Dieng may have more potential due to having more athleticism & length than the younger Kaleb along with Gorgui currently being a slightly more skilled version of the two.

THE VERDICT

Kaleb Wesson certainly isn’t my ideal candidate to be drafted at 40th, but he wouldn’t be the worst option either. This draft doesn’t have a definitive star like the 2019 NBA draft, but what both drafts do share is the parity in talent from late first round to the middle of the 2nd round range. The guy picked 25th won’t be too much better than the guy selected 40th, which means Memphis has a chance to get a really good prospect despite having a really low first pick. If Xavier Tillman, Killian Tillie, Vernon Carey Jr., or Isaiah Stewart are available when the Grizzlies select at 40, then obviously you take them over Wesson. God forbid Jaden McDaniels falls to where Memphis picks, then you rush the McDaniels pick in, & ask them to speed up the draft so people don’t realize the potential ultimate steal that just fell in the Grizzlies lap.

All of that said, Kaleb’s resume of reliability, modern strengths in an old school body, along with his potential should make for a very serviceable big man in the mode of Sam Perkins

Modern NBA Comp: Older Boris Diaw/ Omari Spellman

Throwback NBA Comp: Sam Perkins