SKYLAR MAYS, GUARD, LSU
- 2019-2020 Season: 31 Games Played, 16.7 PPG, 5 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.8 SPG, 49.1 FG%, 39.4 3PFG%, 62.2 TS%
- Career: 130 GP, 12.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.6 SPG, 44.5 FG%, 34.5 3PFG%
- CAREER ACCOLADES: 2018-2019 Second Team ALL SEC. 2019-2020 First Team All SEC, 9th All Time for Career Minutes Played in SEC, 17th All-Time For Career Steals in Sec
- Advanced Statistical Strengths: TS% (62.2%), Steals (1.8), FTA (.439)
- Advanced Statistical Weaknesses: BLK (0.2), DEF RTG (102.6), USG (22.0%)
- Big Board Placements: Tankathon (56), CBS Sports (54), ESPN (48), The Athletic (51)
Without a doubt, many positive things - both expected and unexpected - have stood out about the Memphis Grizzlies this season. While it is hard to pinpoint the most impressive development, one clear aspect that has surprised many is how well Taylor Jenkins and his staff have been developing the entire roster. Though names such as Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke have exceeded expectations, others such as De’Anthony Melton and Tyus Jones have also excelled. It seems no matter what role a player has assumed in Memphis, he has had far more success than failures.
The significance of seeing development throughout the entire roster offers plenty of encouragement for the future, as it shows Jenkins and his staff can maximize the talent levels of players they target. One trending type of target for the Grizzlies is experienced guards who showed significant offensive improvement during their college careers. Names such as Grayson Allen, Dillon Brooks, and John Konchar fit this mold. Though it seems the Grizzlies are set with their backcourt depth now and into the foreseeable future, it appears they value this type of player.
If Memphis feels perimeter depth is a focus in the 2020 draft, one clear choice who fits their perceived preferences is Skylar Mays.
Mays is not the type of player who has a physical attribute or skill set that just jumps off the page and is immediately considered elite. Instead, the best attribute that Mays offers is a hard-working, ever improving player who has a very good sense of what he can do and how to maximize his strengths. While saying one of the best assets of a soon to be 23 year old prospect is his ability to “play within himself” may throw up a red flag for some, it also can have significant value. Mays is an efficient, high effort player with projectable two-way potential at the NBA level.
In the case of Mays, efficiency is not a word that is applied out of laziness. It is a clear staple of his game. In one aspect, his clear improvement as his college career progressed is impressive. As a freshman, Mays’ shooting measurements were 41.1 FG%, 32.8 3PFG%, and 52.8 TS%. As a senior, Mays numbers were 49.1 FG%, 39.4 3PFG%, and 62.2 TS% while taking nearly twice as minutes shots per game. In fact, Mays is one of only eight SEC players with 1168 or more FG attempts in their career to register a 58 TS% or higher. There is a reason Mays is in the top ten of minutes played in a career in the SEC, and it is because of his high basketball IQ and ability to make positive plays.
Mays’ resourcefulness as a scorer is also a strength of his game. He is not an elite shooter or finisher, but his impressive improvement and respectable ability to score at all three levels is definitely an asset. Last season, Mays was the only player in the NCAA to attempt at least 340 field goals and shoot at least 49% from the field, 39% from beyond the arc, and 85% from the free throw line. Furthermore, as Tankathon.com notes, Mays’s ability to draw fouls is impressive for a guard his size. Though limitations elsewhere may cap May’s NBA ceiling to being a perimeter reserve, any team would be lucky to feature a potential 45%/35%/80% for 15-18 minutes a game.
Sweet 30-second sequence from Skylar Mays. Drains the deep, contested 3 then plays stout on-ball defense before forcing the steal and getting an easy dunk pic.twitter.com/nDfZBEkwh1— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) January 13, 2020
On defense, Mays offers some intriguing playmaking upside, especially in the form of deflections and steals. Mays finished in the top 5 in steals in the SEC in each of the past three years at LSU, and is 17th all-time in conference history. As seen above, Mays can use his intelligence to effectively anticipate the offense’s ball movement and create turnovers. Once he is on the fast break, Mays can utilize his efficiency to quickly create sequences where those turnovers can lead to points. In an NBA game where second units are operating at a faster pace, the ability to create the sequences above are very valuable, as they can shift the momentum of a game quickly.
When evaluating Mays, recognizing how well he can operate with what he can control is certainly important. However, a few things he can not control can not be ignored. At 6’4” and 205 pounds, Mays is a perimeter tweener. He does not have elite athletic or play making ability to consistently run the show as a point guard, and is a bit small compared to most shooting guards and wings in the NBA.
On offense, though he is a resourceful scorer and respectable shooter, Mays does not offer much else in the form of playmaking. While he does take care of the ball, he never was a huge source of assists. Furthermore, he never got above 23.2 USG% during his career. This indicates that was never considered an essential creator or scorer that had to be involved at all times. While Mays certainly has shown the ability to offer more positive than negative value offensively, he seems to fit the role as a secondary source of a production than a player who can carry the load for an extended time.
Defensively, Mays’ size could be a legitimate limitation. He will likely struggle to stay with most NBA points guards, and will also have difficulty disrupting the games of taller and stronger guards and wings. Though Mays knows how to use his body, he could become a liability if he stays on the floor for extended stretches. As a result, Mays likely is best utilized as a combo guard off the bench so that he can offer good value by being placed in specific situations where his intelligence and offense can shine.
Finally, another factor regarding Mays that does not work in his favor is his age. At nearly 23, Mays likely has significantly less projections than most other draft prospects. As the result of being more of a high floor than high ceiling player, Mays will likely fall into the middle to late second round on draft night.
WHERE HE FITS
As the NBA continues to become more perimeter oriented, highly intelligent and efficient guards are valuable assets to find. Despite his age and size limitations, Mays offers good offensive upside with the ability to to be average defensively in spurts. Mays is the type of player who can fit on any team, especially with a winning franchise who has a knack for developing talent.
Though Mays may not be a clear fit for Memphis, the Grizzlies have shown they can be the type of franchise that make a player like Mays into an asset. If decisions are made and the franchise parts ways with Allen, Melton, Konchar, or others, Mays is the type of talent that can produce in a defined role. Though he may never be a star, Skylar Mays has the potential to turn into a valuable role player and reserve for many years in the NBA.