Jaden Ivey was one of the most fun players to watch in college basketball this past season. His elite athleticism is part of the reason why he’s a menace with the ball when he gains momentum going downhill. After a decent freshman season, he used his sophomore year at Purdue to become one of the top prospects in the 2022 NBA Draft.
This is true of all prospective draft picks, but he’s not a perfect prospect. While he has all the physical tools to succeed, he needs to round out his game in a few key areas.
Ivey is the last of four top-tier prospects in this draft. If the New York Knicks end up drafting Ivey, it’s going to be because of two things: lottery luck or a trade-up from Leon Rose. New York holds the 11th-best lottery odds with a 9.4% chance to jump into the top four.
Strengths: Transition, Downhill Pick-and-Roll
If your idea of fun includes a dunk after a fast break, Ivey is the guy for you. His two biggest strengths go hand in hand, but there’s a bit of nuance to this.
He’s already an elite transition player. He can turn defense into offense and thrives in the open court. His burst allows him to blow by slower defenders and his hops give him the ability to finish in traffic. Even NBA defenders are going to have a tough time slowing him down when he starts attacking in transition.
The pick-and-roll aspect of Ivey’s game is more about his potential. He wasn’t put into a ton of spread pick-and-roll at Purdue, but he could become an elite threat at the next level. Again, it’s his ability to get downhill that has scouts drooling. If he can clean up some of his playmaking and mid-range shooting, he’s going to be tough to guard in the pick-and-roll.
Furthermore, Ivey’s impact will skyrocket if he develops into a primary creator. Right now, he fits somewhere in the category of a combo guard. He’s not the exact archetype of a true point guard, but he has the makings of a lead guard, no doubt. This is all semantics, but it boils down to one thing: Can he run an NBA offense as the primary ballhandler?
If the answer is yes (which I think it is), he’s going to be a star.
Weaknesses: Finding an Offensive Rhythm, Shooting Consistency
Ivey’s upside doesn’t mean that he’s entering the league as a finished product. Is he NBA-ready? Yes. Will he need a couple of years to flesh out his game? Also yes.
Overall, defensive consistency is an area where Ivey needs to improve, but I’m not too concerned with that long-term. He has the length and athleticism to become an adequate defender at the very least. It’s hard to envision him as a complete liability on that end.
The two areas where he needs work go hand in hand — offensive rhythm and shooting consistency. Development in one area will aid development in the other.
Ivey can get lost when he doesn’t have a runway to showcase his elite downhill ability. He can be prone to turnovers when he’s bottled up inside or slowed down in transition. Knowing when to be aggressive and when to defer to others is going to be crucial at the next level. We saw Ivey put up one of his worst performances of the season in Purdue’s loss to Saint Peter’s in the NCAA Tournament. At times, it was easy to forget he was even on the court.
Gaining that rhythm and feel on offense will come with experience and reps. In all likelihood, Ivey will land with a team that can afford to let him work through these things. He should also have a chance to improve his overall shooting consistency. He’s dependable from three, but not perfect.
The bigger concern is whether or not he can add to his mid-range game. He’s so talented as a downhill scorer that he doesn’t have a ton of opportunities in the mid-range. With a better class of athlete at the next level, Ivey needs to expand as a three-level scorer.
Fit With the Knicks
The Knicks have been in search of a point guard for decades. While Ivey isn’t a pure point guard, he could mesh well alongside Immanuel Quickley. RJ Barrett can handle and create for others as well. The experience Quickley and Barrett bring to the table would take pressure off of Ivey early on.
But positional and personal fit aside, the Knicks need more talent. Ivey is one of the best talents in this 2022 class and he deserves to go in the top four of this draft. In a shameless tease, he’s definitely in my top four prospects on my big board. That’s coming out later this week after the lottery shakes out.
Other Knicks Draft Profiles