With a bit less than two months until the 2018 NBA Draft, there are still a lot of questions surrounding the stock of Tyus Battle. As far as we’ve seen there are only two mock drafts projecting him to be picked and that’s Yahoo Sports who has him going in the second round to the Utah Jazz at #50 and SI.com who projects him as the 47th overall selection to the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, there is still a good amount of time for Battle to improve his stock and he received an outstanding opportunity to do that over the weekend when he was invited to the NBA Draft Combine coming up in mid-May. Over the years guys like Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma and Trail Blazers guard/forward Pat Connaughton have used the combine to showcase their skills and vastly improve their draft stock. Now that Battle has the invitation in hand, it’s time for him to take advantage of the opportunity and realize his dreams of playing in the NBA. With that being said, we’ve got three things Tyus Battle MUST prove at the combine to hear his named called in June.
He can shoot the three-ball and improve his efficiency
From what we’ve seen over the past two seasons, there’s no doubt that Battle is an elite scorer. He finished last season averaging nearly 20 points per game and finished third in the ACC in scoring. However, those high marks mask the fact that he is not a great three-point shooter. He shot the three-ball at a 32.2% clip in the 2017-2018 season. That number simply has to be higher for him to contribute at the next level. With so much of the game of basketball moving out to the perimeter and beyond the three-point line, NBA teams are going to expect their shooting guards to, you know, shoot the ball well and consistently. All of that is not to mention the fact that, in general, Battle is not an efficient scorer. His overall shooting percentage was under 40% last year and he had 15 games where he missed at least ten shots. One NBA scout told The Athletic, “He needs to prove he can be more consistent. He has good measurements but wasn’t elite from a production standpoint.” For a little comparison, if Battle had shot that poorly in the NBA this season, he would have ranked 127th in the league in field goal percentage behind the likes of Kelly Oubre and Allen Crabbe and Battle was doing it against college defenses, not NBA superstars. If he wants to see his stock rise come June, Battle has to prove that he can hit the three-ball more consistently and become a more efficient scorer at the combine.
He can use his off-hand
Another one of the big knocks against Battle heading into draft season is that he is one-dimensional off the dribble. He is an elite-level attacker and scorer when he uses his right hand but becomes much less dominant when opponents force him to his left side. When he uses his right, he is explosive and can create his own shot with ease. Again, when he is forced to the left, that ability falls to the wayside. You won’t find that in impact players at the next level. Guys like Shaun Livingston, Jamal Crawford and Tyreke Evans, all of whom aren’t stars, but are very solid off-the-bench options, are skilled with both hands and cannot be taken out of a game by forcing them to their perceived off-hand. If Tyus wants to be looked at as someone that can blossom into a skilled combo guard that can come off the bench and contribute, then he has to show that he can be a better ball-handler who diversifies himself with a strong handle on both sides.
He can play man defense against elite competition
This isn’t a Tyus Battle-specific problem, this is an every Syracuse player problem. Zone defenses, specifically the 2-3, are nearly impossible to run in the NBA because of the defensive three-second violation. This means that to be a solid NBA player, you have to play man-to-man defense well against some of the best competition in the world. There should be no doubt that Battle can do that considering his length, speed and athleticism on the perimeter and what he was able to contribute defensively to SU this season, it’s just that now he needs to prove it. Other guard invitees to the combine include the likes of Kansas’s Devonte Graham and Malik Newman as well as former Louisville commit Brian Bowen who was a five-star recruit before the recruiting scandal went down. With that kind of talent staring you in the face with the ball in your hands, the combine is going to be the time for Battle to put up or shut up and see if he can play man at an elite level. He hasn’t gotten the chance to prove it yet, but that opportunity is now certainly on the horizon.