For the second straight week, Chad Ford of ESPN has the Bulls selecting 6' 4" Vanderbilt shooting guard John Jenkins with the 29th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. And he's not the only one; NBADraft.net is on a similar page.
There isn't any question that the Bulls are somewhere in the middle of the range at which Jenkins is likely to go and that he was a highly productive shooter in his three-year SEC career. The 21-year-old lights-out shooter isn't really all that good at much else, but I still have yet to talk to anyone who disagrees that he's the player most likely to shoot 42-to-46% on 3-pointers in an NBA rotation next season and beyond.
He may be the best shooter in this draft, whose top skill is one that usually doesn't diminish and is currently only getting better:
"He's probably the best shooter in this draft"
Every single piece of data on his NCAA shooting jumps off the page and leaves no doubt that he will shoot the lights out in the NBA. Add in his heavy usage and it shows he can find shots and make them with a lot of focus coming from opposing defenses.
Jenkins doesn't jump well or run fast; and he's undersized for what the Bulls want from their wing players on defense. He has a very good 6' 8.5" wingspan for his height and the position with great agility. But he lacks the lateral quickness for that to translate to the defensive end and compensate for only being 6' 4"; that agility will likely be best shown in the NBA by creating efficient shots off the ball -- something at which he also excelled, as noted by Joe Treutlin at DraftExpress.com in February:
Looking at Jenkins' shooting game, there is ample reason to be optimistic about how it could translate to the NBA, as he has quite a few things working in his favor. For one, unlike most high-scoring NCAA shooting guards, Jenkins spends a good deal of time operating off the ball and often has short possessions when the ball comes his way. In likely transitioning to a much lower usage rate in the NBA, he already possesses the skills and tendencies fitting for that role.
Further, Jenkins is also at his best when he is operating as a spot-up shooter, coming off screens, or catching and going into a quick one or two-dribble pull-up. He's much more comfortable and efficient in these situations as opposed to operating in pure isolations, which he'll be seeing less of in the NBA.
Despite being a below average athlete and slightly undersized for the two-guard spot, there isn't much reason to believe Jenkins will have trouble getting his perimeter shot off against bigger, more athletic opponents in the NBA, as he's also unlikely to see the frequent double teams and traps he currently does as Vanderbilt's #1 option. He would probably excel most in a ball movement-heavy, up tempo offense that can get him the ball in space and on the move, where he possesses great mechanics and decision-making skills to get off high efficiency shots with ease.
What raises his stock from being a just a great shot who isn't tall enough to play the three is his ability to read defenses off the ball and use his image to get to the free throw line, where he's automatic.
"He can pivot, catch a pass at his knees, square up to the basket, and get his shot off in a fraction of a second, making him a dangerous scorer despite lacking ideal height or athleticism as a shooting guard," Christian D'Andrea of the SB Nation powered Vandy blog, Anchor of Gold, said in an email. "This ability also earned him plenty of trips to the free throw line for three shots."
During ESPN's coverage of the 2012 NBA Draft Combine, Ford noted Jenkins quick release -- furthering the argument that he has the most NBA-ready long range shot in the draft. Watching his Vandy games, it was beautiful basketball to watch him run around off hte ball , set his feet while catching passes, and gun without hestitation over and over again. Watching him shoot at the Combine, it was most impressive to see how he was repeating almost perfect mechanics with such effectiveness that it's clear he 'gets it' and has for quite some time:
The other tools of a basketball player
There really isn't much defense there with Jenkins. He isn't a bad ballhandler, but there's no evidence to show he can pass at an NBA level. When he gets the ball, it's usually going to be passed to him for a shot in his spot or a pull-up jumper; not to make the second pass as a third option.
"He developed from a one-dimensional shooter to become a player who can put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket, but those drives were largely set up by his threatening presence behind the arc," D'Andrea added. "He showed the ability to finish well at the rim despite not being much of a dunker, and his nearly-automatic status at the free throw line made him a dangerous player to foul in the paint."
Jenkins may get an "E" for effort wherever he goes, but there isn't much optimism toward him becoming a good defensive player, D'Andrea noted: "Jenkins is a hard worker on the court who rarely gets caught flat footed or behind a play. However, he may have trouble adjusting to the jump in competition at the NBA level defensively. Despite his improvements and his commitment to rounding out his defense, I'm not sure that he'll ever be more than an average player on that end of the court."
Despite an elite shot, great off-ball movement, and the IQ of when to flare past the arc or curl to the elbow, it's hard to bring myself into Kyle Korver comparisons. Korver is over three inches taller with a slightly longer span, and is a much more skilled passer. Though Jenkins is a much better leaper, Korver is much stronger; so, he just can't play the three in the NBA, and the ways in which the Bulls would have to find strengths to cover up Jenkins' weaknesses on the defensive end would be vastly different.
DX calls Jenkins' best case to be Anthony Morrow, but Jenkins has shown more craftiness to create his shot off the ball and has a better one-dribble pull-up, which can get him to the free throw line more than Morrow's silly pump fakes at times when defenders are so foul aversive.
He has no post game, won't move an offense with his dribble to create efficient passing lanes, doesn't position himself well for long rebounds, and didn't really attack passing lanes in Vandy's underwhelming perimeter zone.
Michael Sciotto at RealGM.com brought up Stephen Curry as a comparable release, but Curry has more versatile hands. The off-ball comparison to J.J. Redick is probably a better overall vision, but Redick is a bit quicker; for which Jenkins' stronger NBA body somewhat compensates the comparison.
It's difficult to pin him too near to an NBA player, but -- at the same time -- it's as if we've seen him before.
He's the guy who jacks up seven 3s on any given night to score the bulk of his 14 or 15 PPG and -- on very good teams -- lights huge sparks off the bench when his team's defense locks down to turn a five-point deficit into a small lead. With a great defense around him and three legitimate scoring options on the floor, he's that guy who hits two or three clutch threes on the weak side toward the end of shot clocks after defenses wear themselves out swarming the ball and strong side passing lanes.
Impulsively, I said while watching him torch Georgia and Florida last February for six threes against each, "This kid is gonna be great Hubert Davis for someone."
There are better options
None of the Bulls' options will be so have so much 'what you see is what you get' than Jenkins. His ceiling is so close to his floor that he's one of the closest things to a sure thing there is in this draft. We're used to "sure thing" being applied to potential superstars and impenetrable basket defenders, so this sounds odd.
But it's true: Jenkins isn't going to disappoint anyone who drafts him; it's just that he can only fill the need for getting more points per possession against any NBA defense, when he can get the ball. The downside really only applies to Jenkins winding up on a bad team, against whom NBA defense can afford to overcommit to denying him the ball.
Any other draft and Jenkins is a top-20 type of pick and the Bulls would be stealing him at the bottom of the first round. Jenkins will be fun to watch in the NBA because he has the shot to change gameflows; and will hit big shots. In this draft, he may be the third player picked from his own team.
But there should be three or four better players with higher ceilings and more versatility than Jenkins at #29. If he were two inches taller, I'd put him along that tough decision line with Orlando Johnson and Will Barton.
Other recent scouting reports at BaB: