Scouting Notebook: Draft prospects from the ACC at the 2022 PIT

After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the marquee NBA Draft scouting events is back: the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. Better known as the PIT. The 68th version of the event, which is underway now, will take place April 13-16 in Portsmouth, Virginia.

As usual, a strong roster is assembled for the pre-combine event, including several ACC standouts: Keve Aluma, Paul Atkinson, Kam McGusty, Charlie Moore, Malik Williams, Jericole Hellems, Dallas Walton, Michael Devoe and Jimmy Boeheim. (Note: McGusty was invited to the event, but he’s not on the PIT official rosters.)

Without further adieu, let’s dive in on some individual scouting reports for most of these players, including their strengths, weakness and how their teams liked to feature their skill sets.

Keve Aluma, Virginia Tech, PF/C

Keve Aluma, who transferred to Virginia Tech in 2019 via Wofford, is one of the more impressive player development success stories in the ACC. In his previous basketball life in the Southern Conference, Aluma was predominately a rebounder and a defender. Aluma will still gladly do the dirty work, but his game has grown in leaps and bounds.

Aluma put his redshirt season to good use; when he finally arrived on the floor for the Hokies, the 6-foot-9 center emerged as one of the most versatile big men in the ACC. Aluma is mobile and he has nice shooting touch from multiple levels of the floor.

If opposing centers dropped vs. Aluma’s screens, then he can linger around the arc and snipe pick-and-pop 3-pointers.

After attempting only one 3-pointer in two seasons at Wofford, Aluma is a combined 45-of-132 on 3-point attempts (34.1 3P%) at VT. (Aluma is also a 75.6 percent shooter from the free throw line during his time with the Hokies.)

If the defense looked to Ice Virginia Tech’s pick-and-roll, Aluma can slide to the vacancy in the middle of the floor and look for his shot or attack the rim.

Aluma is more than a stationary shooter, though.

When opponents hedged ball screens, Aluma showed that he could relocate (and cover some ground) on pick-and-pop 3s.

According to Synergy Sports, Aluma shot a combined 12-of-26 (62.1 eFG%) on pick-and-pops or no-dribble jump shots after a slip.

Once a defense is in rotation, Aluma can also put the ball on the deck and attack a closeout.

Moreover, head coach Mike Young could play off Aluma’s shooting abilities by inverting the offense and letting his center work as an above-the-arc passing hub.

This vs. Wake Forest is designed Veer Pindown action from Aluma into an angled ball screen, which he pops and then hits Justyn Mutts on a 45 cut for a layup.

One of the more intriguing aspects of Aluma’s offense is his ability to threaten the defense as a screener: pop, dive, slip and short roll. The full package.

Aluma is a more explosive finisher now, too. He shot 66.1 percent at the basket this season — up from 60.4 percent last season. Aluma also finished the year with 36 dunks, which is more than he had in his first three seasons combined.

This is likely the selling point for Aluma as a prospect: he adds some stretch the the frontcourt room, while helping move the ball in the half court.

Speaking of ball movement, Aluma’s short-roll passing flashes are intriguing.

When teams switch those actions, Aluma can flip to Bully Ball Mode and post-up vs. a smaller opponent, including a good wing defender like Anthony Polite.

Aluma shot 51.3 percent on post-up attempts this season, scoring 1.0 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports. He has one of the best hook shots in college hoops. What stands out the most, though, is his footwork. Aluma is able to quickly carve out space for duck-ins or keep potential shot blockers off balance with his version of low-post ballet.

On this possession: Aluma faces up vs. Jalen Duren, the No. 1 (true) center prospect for the 2022 NBA Draft. Aluma is able to squeeze baseline, create space and finish through contact.

As talented as Aluma is on the low block, where he’s also an accomplished passer, that skill archetype is marginalized — to an extent — in the NBA. Interior passing is a nice tool to have, but it’s a smaller piece of the puzzle. Instead, Aluma must showcase a reliable 3-point jumper, catch-and-go closeout attacks and threaten to score as a screener.

Aluma’s mobility also opened up some scheme versatility for Virginia Tech’s pick-and-roll defense. The Hokies mostly preferred to bring Aluma to the level of the screen. Aluma can show at the point of attack and hang with opposing ball handlers for a second or two, while his teammates rotate around.

With Aluma and Justyn Mutts, Virginia Tech could also get outside of its base defense and switch 1-5, when needed.

On this possession, UNC’s RJ Davis runs double drag pick-and-roll action with Armando Bacot and Brady Manek. In this early-offense look, Aluma gets smacked by Bacot’s screen, which he switches on Davis; he then quickly navigates the second screen from Manek. Davis turns the corner, but is unable to separate from Aluma, who swats his shot.

If Aluma is to crack an NBA roster, he’ll need to show this type of versatility: play to the level of the screen and switch out.

This is another strong defensive possession for Aluma: he starts by chasing Jericole Hellems off a flare screen in NC State’s Horns set. Aluma goes under the dribble-handoff as Hellems gives to Terquavion Smith. As Ebenezer Dowouna dives to the rim, Aluma tags and switches behind the play — with Mutts hedging the screen. When the ball is swung to Dereon Seabron for second-side pick-and-roll, Aluma lunges and strings out Seabron’s drive, before recovering to help on a Thomas Allen drive and contesting Dowouna’s late-clock miss.

Paul Atkinson, Notre Dame, C

With no Ivy League basketball in the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 pandemic, Paul Atkinson didn’t play in an organized basketball game for over 18 months. However, when the former Yale Bulldog, and 2020 Ivy League Player of the Year, returned to the floor, he was good to go.

As the primary interior piece in Notre Dame’s spread offense, which featured plenty European ball screen action, Atkinson averaged 12.5 points (58.7 FG%), 6.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game.

With multiple ball handlers — Blake Wesley, Prentis Hubb, Cormac Ryan and Trey Wertz — and elite spot-up shooters — Dane Goodwin and Nate Laszewski — Mike Brey dialed up a lot of this side-to-side continuity ball screen action.

On the above the possession, Notre Dame gets exactly what it wants: the ball changes side of the floor twice, turning into an empty-corner pick-and-roll between Hubb and Atkinson.

Context is important: Atkinson was placed in a situation this season that allowed him to maximize his skill set.

According to Synergy Sports, Atkinson shot 73.7 percent on rolls or slips to the basket this season, scoring a combined 1.38 point per possession. That’s one of the best numbers in the country.

Even when the clean catch-and-finish was denied, Atkinson could use these empty-side looks to seal and go to work in the post.

When opposing defenses started to anticipate those empty-corner looks, Notre Dame and Atkinson could counter with backdoor cuts and slips — breaking off the pre-determined action for high-percentage looks in the restricted area.

Atkinson shot 73.8 percent on basket cuts this season, per Synergy.

Over 68 percent on Atkinson’s field goal attempts came at the basket this season, per Bart Torvik’s shot data. Atkinson shot 67.0 percent on these looks, including 25 dunks.

As a downhill driver, Atkinson showed off his ability to handle the ball and attack various ball-screen concepts. Virginia’s defense wants to edge on most ball screens; Atkinson counters that by faking the dribble handoff, while Francisco Caffaro lurches out and Kihei Clark works to get back to Hubb.

That deceptive fake DHO move allows Atkinson to create an advantage and turn the corner.

From the NCAA Tournament: Once again, it’s continuity ball screen offense for Notre Dame. Atkinson fakes the handoff to Ryan. This time, though, Clifford Omoruyi stays home and keeps the ball in front. As the shot clock winds down, Atkinson must go to work in the post.

With his mobility, handle and shooting touch, Atkinson has a solid post game, too: 0.97 points per post-up possession this season (51.5 FG%).

Atkinson isn’t just a play-finisher, though. The assist numbers aren’t gaudy, but they’re nothing to sneeze at, either: 3.7 assists per 100 possessions. When Notre Dame’s guards slipped on the sides of the set, Atkinson could facilitate from the slot.

When Notre Dame’s empty-corner screen-roll action forced help rotations, Atkinson was able to hit on the occasional short-roll pass. This is a nice read from Atkinson. Hellems leaves Ryan in the corner to prevent a rim finish, which leads to a corner skip pass from Atkinson. This pass doesn’t result in an assist, but it keeps the advantage chain going for Notre Dame, forces NC State to rotate (poorly) as Hubb relocates for a spot-up 3.

Beyond the pick-and-roll passing, Atkinson showed some low-post facilitation, too, although that’s a little more insubstantial.

As terrific as Atkinson was this season, he didn’t do much outside of his role on offense: screen, dive and hit the offensive glass (11.3 percent offensive rebound rate). That’s all useful stuff; however, Atkinson played the role of a true screen-roll center on offense this season, which can be a bit limited.

Atkinson is a decent free throw shooter (74.1 FT% this year), which demonstrates some touch, but he attempted only two 3-pointers all season. For his career, he’s only 4-of-16 from beyond the arc.

The archetypal center that sets screens and dives to the rim fits in perfectly in the modern NBA. However, Atkinson lacks the length and vertical pop to play above the rim as a lob threat on offense.

That archetype also relies on a relatively high floor as a defender, which is another concern with Atkinson. He’s a heady player; Atkinson knows where to be on the court. Unfortunately, Atkinson isn’t a switch defender, nor does he have the lateral quickness to really heat things up at the point of attack.

Opposing ball handlers can look to turn the corner or shoot over the top of Atkinson.

By NBA standards, Atkinson also isn’t big enough to reliably wall off the rim as a drop defender. Pick-and-roll combos could test him out, get in the paint and score over the top, like Trevor Keels and Theo John on this possession.

Honestly, Notre Dame’s half-court defense was at its best this season when the Irish went to a 2-3 zone and took aways pick-and-roll actions.

This is a tough spot to be in for Atkinson, as a prospect at least. Up to this point, Atkinson hasn’t shown any stretch on offense and he’s a tweener on defense. He doesn’t protect the rim, nor is he really adept at guarding in space.

Of course, this outlook could change slightly with a leap as a shooter or a defender. Until then, though, Atkinson has a lot of ground to cover.

Kam McGusty, Miami, SG

Kam McGusty, one of the ACC’s elder statesman, is finally headed to the professional ranks. McGusty, 24, exits an excellent 2021-22 season with Miami. His pitch as a prospect is straightforward: he’s a polished scorer who can shoot from all levels of the floor and create his own shot.

McGusty isn’t a super explosive athlete, but he’s a smooth mover, one that can get to his spots and lifts up for jumpers. According to Synergy Sports, McGusty scored 0.85 points per pick-and-roll possession (42.1 eFG%) this season.

Miami’s switch to a 5-out offense this year opened the floor for McGusty. The Hurricanes could call out simple handoff actions with Sam Waardenburg and their collection of guards. The action flowed from there.

In its essence, this is still pick-and-roll action; however, the angles and coverages are slightly different, especially when the handoff player can threaten from beyond the arc as a stretch-5. Pick-and-pop 3s or catch-and-go drives are there all day.

McGusty is wired to score, but he can make these kinds of pitch-and-catch reads all day.

Those handoff exchanges also allowed McGusty to gather some steam before coming off the screen, which can make it slightly easier to turn the corner and get downhill.

McGusty shot a sizzling 53.9 percent on 2-point attempts this season, including just under 42 percent on midrange attempts. According to Bart Torvik’s shot data, 64 percent of McGusty’s midrange 2s were unassisted. Again, he’s a bucket-getter.

The pre-screen movement mattered a great deal for Miami this season. In lieu of running rote, static spread pick-and-roll action, the Hurricanes create a little flow first, then launched into the screen.

Here’s Miami’s “Chop” action, which serves a similar purpose: Isaiah Wong zippers up to receive a pass and flips it to McGusty, who instantly launches into middle pick-and-roll with Walker. Wake Forest center Dallas Walton strings the action out with a hedge, but McGusty keeps his dribble and spots Walker in the paint, in between multiple lines of defense.

McGusty has never been a high-turnover player. This season, however, his turnover rate dropped even further — down to 12.3 percent — despite a sizable jump in usage (25.9 percent). McGusty was one of only 16 high-major players this season with 25 percent usage and sub-13 percent turnover rate — along with lottery prospects Johnny Davis and Keegan Murray.

The passing isn’t overly-manipulative from McGusty, but he’s tall enough to scan defenses and make reads. When he collapses defenses into the paint, McGusty can play slash-and-kick basketball.

This comes from Miami’s Horns Twist action. McGusty gets Hellems on the switch and touches the paint with a drive to his left; on the spin back to his right, though, Terquavion Smith helps off Wong, which opens up the kick-out pass.

For McGusty, it’s important that he showed growth as a spot-up shooter. McGusty scored 1.15 points per spot-up possession this season — on good volume. This includes encouraging effective shooting percentages on catch-and-shoot jumpers (57.5 eFG%) and off-dribble jumpers (54.7 eFG%).

Movement shooting isn’t a large component of his game, although Miami’s offense, which doesn’t feature much in the way of off-ball/motion actions, could be responsible for that aspect. When called upon, though, McGusty showed he could score coming off wide pindowns and staggered screens.

More importantly, that spot-up ability helps McGusty from a scalability standpoint. By helping as a floor-spacer, McGusty can play off the basketball, without cramping the offense. He can still get to his on-ball creation, but it’s in a more limited sample. (“Hey, the action is tied down, we’re running up against the clock, we need you to go Make A Play.”)

Obviously, the biggest knock against McGusty is his age. McGusty will be 25 by the start of the next basketball season; that’s on the older side for a rookie, which matters in terms of development.

If you put McGusty on an NBA team now, he’d be older than some of the guys on their second contracts. This could be a deal-breaker of sorts for McGusty in the NBA; however, his offensive skill is so smooth and he can shoot. If he gets into a camp and shoots the hell out of the ball, perhaps he cracks a G-League roster and serves a ready-made offensive player.

Jordan Usher, Georgia Tech, F

Jordan Usher will be one of the better athletes in action at the PIT. Over the last few seasons, Usher established himself as a strong, explosive and attack-minded athlete in the ACC. Usher, who recently turned 23, is a 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward with impressive leaping ability and a ubiquitous game, one that could stick out to scouts.

During the 2021-22 season, Usher put his frame and vertical pop to use; he shot 73.5 percent at the rim, per Bart Torvik’s shot data. This marked the second straight season that Usher shot above 70 percent around the basket.

Usher threw down a team-best 25 dunks this season, too, including this early-season transition spike, which he stuck over LSU’s Eric Gaines.

To be clear, Gaines is a nuclear athlete at the guard position. He also put up one of the highlights of the 2022 NCAA Tournament — a chasedown block on Iowa State’s Izaiah Brockington. At the least, it’s notable that Usher was able to finish his dunk opportunity with Gaines in pursuit.

Context is necessary with regards to Usher — both in terms of scheme in and role.

Georgia Tech’s offense will flatten things out and run its fair share of spread pick-and-roll action. However, the Yellow Jackets initiate a lot of their sets from the high-post: Princeton Point Series and Chin. These actions require at least one frontcourt player to be able to handle and facilitate from the elbows.

Ben Lammers and James Banks played this role in years prior; however, in the 2020-21 season, Moses Wright came alive as a frontcourt creator, which allowed Usher to groove as an off-ball mover and cutter.

The Yellow Jackets ran designed after-timeout actions from their Chin offense to create lob looks for Usher at the rim.

From Cameron Indoor Stadium: Usher swings the ball to Jose Alvarado, then cuts to the hoop off the Chin back screen from Wright, which freezes DJ Steward and Wendell Moore Jr.

According to Synergy Sports, Usher shot 70.3 percent on cut field goal attempts over the last two seasons, scoring 1.25 points per possession.

Here’s that same set at Virginia: this time, though, Usher must climb the ladder for the finish over the 6-foot-8 Sam Hauser.

With his size and vertical bounce, Usher displays good mid-air body control and hand-eye coordination.

Beyond his above-the-rim component, Usher also received reps as the offense’s high-post facilitator.

When Wright had to miss the 2021 NCAA Tournament due to COVID-19, Usher was pushed even further into that role. Here’s literally the first play of the game against Loyola Chicago.

This type of activity may not matter much from a developmental standpoint, but it’s worthwhile that Usher received these types of reps: short-space playmaking. It’s another way of reading that game that isn’t straight spread pick-and-roll.

That said, Usher can play with the basketball, too. He likes to operate with his dribble in the middle of the floor. With Alvarado and Wright in the professional ranks this season, Tech leaned more heavily on his creation efforts.

Here’s Georgia Tech’s Chin pick-and-roll, with Usher as the ball handler. As LSU switches the action, Usher uses his height to find a passing window and hits Rodney Howard on the roll. This is a nice read from Usher, but Alex Fudge flies and erases Howard’s dunk attempt.

Here’s more of Usher in the pick-and-roll. Usher starts in the far corner as Georgia Tech runs Elbow. Michael Devoe sets the baseline flex screen; Usher cuts across and up a pindown at the opposite elbow, which flows into DHO pick-and-roll with Howard. Once again, Usher — with Ebenezer Dowouna at the level of the screen — passes over the top and Howard finishes, with Smith late to tag from the weak-side corner.

During the 2021-22 season, Usher posted a career-best assist rate of 20.8 percent. He showed passing flashes from both the elbow and in the pick-and-roll.

The pick-and-roll reads are fairly basic: look for the roll guy; if he isn’t there, try to drive the ball or keep it moving and pass out.

Usher, however, has some craftiness to his game. He likes to showcase that creativity as an open-floor isolation scorer.

Georgia Tech feeds Usher at the elbow, then runs split action with Devoe and Deebo Coleman. When that action doesn’t hit, though, Usher goes to work in the middle of the floor vs. Brady Manek. This is a really nice downhill spin to his left hand for the bucket.

Now, it’s Armando Bacot’s turn defend Usher 1-on-1 in space. On this possession, we get to see Usher’s skill and shooting touch.

Usher isn’t an isolation player on the next level, nor does he project as someone that will run a lot of pick-and-rolls. However, it’s a little intriguing that he can augment his athleticism and off-ball movements with bits of skill.

For this to work, though, Usher must prove he can shoot. Usher finished his five-year college career as a 31.8 percent 3-point shooter (71.9 FT%). That’s not exactly what you want to see. If he shoots, Usher can then unlock the other aspects of his skill set.

It’s worth noting that Usher applies his size and athleticism well on defense, too. He averaged 2.9 steals and 0.8 blocks per 100 possessions over the last two seasons.

Georgia Tech switches defenses as much as any team in the country; Usher has reps in man-to-man and a variety of zone concepts. Josh Pastner used Usher several areas in his 1-3-1 zone: at the point of attack and on the back-side wing.

Malik Williams, Louisville, PF/C

I wrote a long piece on Williams back in late December, before the wheels fell off the wagon for Louisville this season. So, check that out here.

What I will say about Williams, though, is that once upon a time I felt strongly about him as an NBA prospect. Before the injuries and program fallout derailed things, Williams was an incredibly mobile defender; he could slide and move around in space, disrupting pick-and-roll actions 20+ feet from the rim. It was really something to watch Williams hedge against ACC point guards, then recover back to his man, while the opposing offense continued to work against the clock.

Closer to the basket, Williams offered some rim protection, while emerging as one of the top two-way rebounders in the country. Over the course of his sophomore and junior seasons, Williams posted an offensive rebound rate of 13.1 percent and a defensive rebound rate of 23.9 percent, both of which were elite numbers.

The on/off numbers suggested that the presence of Williams made a big difference, too: defensive impact and scheme versatility.

On offense, Williams was more limited, but he offered a certain set of skills — screen, dive, get on the class — with the hint of a pick-and-pop game. Package this with the defense and the 6-foot-11 Williams seemed like a guy that could claim a frontcourt rotation spot in the NBA.

Williams doesn’t move quite as well as he used to, but he can still get the job done with some of those screen-roll coverages.

Williams can still move and slide laterally, even against explosive guards like Alondes Williams.

It’s a smaller aspect of his game, but Williams continues to be an absolute pest while defending post-entry passes. He does this stuff all of the time. With his length, Williams is still quick enough to play behind or to the side of a post-up target and poach the entry pass.

This is one of UNC’s go-to hi-lo sets for Manek and Bacot; however, before the ball touches Bacot’s hands, Williams interjects with a steal.

Unfortunately, Williams’ ability to stretch the floor proved to be more theoretical. Williams finished his college career going 84-of-270 (31.1 3P%) from beyond the arc. Williams isn’t a bad free throw shooter, but his career mark of 66.4 percent from the line isn’t exactly a positive indicator, either.

Of note: opponents never worried about Williams as a shooter. They were more than happy to see him pick-and-pop into space and miss 70 percent of his attempts. Williams held very little gravity as a shooter. If the shot were to somehow stabilize, well, there’s still something here, assuming his body holds up.

Charlie Moore, Miami, PG

During his college career, Charlie Moore traveled all around the country, but in his final year of eligibility the 5-foot-11 point guard found at home. Before the season started, I was skeptical of Miami’s three-headed backcourt: Wong, McGusty and Moore. All three are talented players, but would Jim Larranaga be able to blend their skills, without the offense turning into “Your turn, My turn” pick-and-roll.

I was proven wrong. Cleary, Miami (No. 21 in offensive efficiency) hit on something and used those three guys to play off one another, while dotting the arc with multiple playmakers.

Similar to Wong and McGusty, Moore benefitted from the added space and freedom of Miami’s 5-out approach. Moore posted career-best numbers in terms of 3-point percentage (36.4 3P%) and 2-point percentage (50.7 2P%).

By getting off the ball this season, Moore was able hunt spot-up opportunities. According to Synergy Sports, Moore posted an effective shooting rate of 54 percent on catch-and-shoot attempts. However, Moore also showed that he’s still unafraid to let it fly off the dribble, too, with range.

Moore led the Hurricanes with an assist rate of 26.3 percent, while his turnover rate dropped to 16.7 percent, a career-low. Miami’s 5-out handoff looks opened the floor for Moore, who showed improvement as an on-ball decision-maker.

Moore’s second-side playmaking was a big boon for Miami as well. The Hurricane could flow from one side to the other, then snap into another ball screen action and let Moore attack against a rotating defense.

On the defensive side of the floor, Moore posted a career-best steal rate of 3.7 percent, a Top 70 number nationally, according to KenPom.

Moore showed some aggressive ball-hawking skills, but his steal rate may also me juiced by Miami’s approach on defense.

With a smaller lineup, Miami didn’t project as a team that could closedown the rim or the defensive glass. Instead, the Hurricanes dialed up the pressure and focused on trapping ball screens. There’s a tradeoff to this approach; Miami’s defense was exposed at times. Larranaga’s bet worked well enough, though, as Miami turned finished the year No. 10 nationally in steal rate: 13.0 percent.

The added pressure on the ball was amplified by a collection of help defenders that played aggressively in the passing lanes. Four of Miami’s rotation players posted steal rates above 3.0 percent.

As team, Miami’s defense posted a turnover rate of 20.4 percent, the highest of any Larranaga-coached team at the program.

Moore was given carte blanche to fly around and seize any steal opportunity.

Now, Moore has the quickness to force turnovers; however, this helter-skelter approach is less common in the professional ranks. Moore, who is at a size disadvantage, must show he’s able to guard at the point of attack in a more conventional pick-and-roll approach.

Jimmy Boeheim, Syracuse, F

Jimmy Boeheim put together a solid season playing for his father at Syracuse. He shot a career-best 37.9 percent from beyond the arc. Boeheim also has a creative mid-post game that allows him to score against a couple different player types.

Quick Stats

  • 10.8 percent turnover rate
  • 53.0 percent true shooting rate
  • 44.0 FG% on post-ups

Read More on Keve Aluma and ACC Basketball

Beyond The Number: More on the all-around game of Virginia Tech’s Justyn Mutts