2021 Draft Watch: First Look at Matthew Strazel

September 13th, 2020

By Alan Lu

After having extensively scouted the top projected prospects for the 2021 NBA Draft, I decided to see if there were other unheralded players that had not gotten as much buzz that may be flying under the radar.  Through extensive research, I discovered 6-0 French point guard, Matthew Strazel, who is a prodigal playmaker who has received playing time in high-level European leagues such as the French Jeep Elite and in EuroLeague.  Strangely though, he had not been mentioned on as many draft boards, despite having experience in playing in some of the best leagues from around the world. 

I decided to watch him play in two basketball games for ASVEL, one against Baskonia that took place on October 29th, 2019, as I saw that with thanks to YouTube via Pigono Basketball.  The other game, he was in a game that featured other high-end prospects such as Theo Maledon, Usman Garuba, and Mario Nakic.  ASVEL had played against Real Madrid on March 5th, as I saw that one with thanks to YouTube via AB – Basket.  Here are my thoughts on how Strazel fared in both of those contests combined, as well as how his game may translate to the NBA.

ASVEL’s 6-0 point guard, Matthew Strazel is an underrated prospect that can shoot and pass the basketball, and he is a solid playmaker that could be a good find for an NBA team in the 2021 draft.
Joël Philippon/Le Progrès)

Matthew Strazel showed a solid ability to knock down jumpers.  He moves well off the ball on offense, and he can run off ball screens to knock down quick, spot-up threes off the catch.  He is a good spot-up shooter that can effectively make three-point shots, especially when he’s given the space to get his shot off.  However though, sometimes he can be prone to rushing his shots, and there are times where he may take rushed, off-balanced shots that may lead to misses.

He also is a crafty scorer off the dribble.  He can use either hand to finish plays around the basket, and he will drive hard to the rim to score on layups and crafty runners.  Strazel also would take advantage of scoring opportunities when he would get past the first man off the dribble, and especially when no help would arrive to try to contest shots in the paint.  He also can draw fouls upon his defenders, and though he doesn’t seem to possess overwhelming foot-speed, Strazel showed a solid ability to score the basketball.

He displayed decent playmaking skills.  Strazel is a very unselfish player that will make the extra pass to move the basketball, and he will dribble off of screens to find open teammates to set up scores for them.  He can get shooters the ball, and he can also find teammates in stride.  He also managed to throw a quick, no-look bounce pass when doubled to find the open man on the break.  He can throw timely passes, and he can also throw sharp, long passes to create additional scoring chances for his teammates.  However, he also was fairly turnover prone.  He can struggle to handle the ball under pressure, as he was called for an offensive foul due to having tried to clear out with his arm, and he also would play too fast and out of control at times, which would occasionally lead him to lose the basketball.  He also can be prone to throwing up for grabs passes, as he had one that was picked off.

Though he didn’t tend to get many rebounds when he was on the floor, Strazel would sometimes chase down balls to get boards for his team.  However, his lack of size or ideal physical tools would make it tough for him to get rebounds amidst crowds, and he was not able to come away with boards in either of the two games.

Plus, he also showed off adequate defensive skills when he was on the court.  Strazel is a feisty, high-motor player that defends hard, and he is a tenacious defender that will fight relentlessly through screens to stay with the opposing ball handlers.  He also would hustle to get back on defense to cut off penetration to prevent opponents from getting easy scores on the break, as he was able to help force some passing turnovers.  Also, Strazel will play passing lanes to get steals and deflections, and he also will jump on loose balls to help his team force additional turnovers.  However, he tended to get caught on screens, as he would struggle to get past taller, stronger big men that would set those picks, and he would end up trailing the pick and roll ball handler, as the play would result in his team to commit fouls and allow scores.  Other times, he would be too aggressive in defending his man, as he would pick up touch fouls, and he also can sometimes overplay his man or the passing lane, which can lead him to get beat off the dribble.

In general, Matthew Strazel is an agile, skilled playmaker that can score the basketball in a variety of ways, and he can effectively run the team at the point with the ball in his hands.  Though he may not be an elite athlete, he is a a high IQ basketball player that can find ways to make solid plays in games.  He will need to cut down on the number of turnovers committed and continue to improve defensively.  Right now, he could be a solid value pick for a team in the second round range in 2021, and he could end up being a reliable role player similar to former Los Angeles Lakers’ point guard, Jordan Farmar in the NBA.

ASVEL’s point guard, Theo Maledon is a smart, skilled playmaker that is currently a first-round prospect for the 2020 NBA Draft.
(Photo: Frank Halimi/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images, via Piston Powered)

Theo Maledon had some good moments for ASVEL in his team’s loss to Real Madrid in Euroleague play.  He showed off solid scoring and playmaking skills, and he excelled at taking the ball to the basket to help generate offense for his team.

Maledon showed a solid ability to score on aggressive drives to the hoop.  He showed a knack for scoring on crafty floaters and layups in the paint, and he showed a good scoring touch in this game.  However, he would sometimes miss on tough, contested layups, and he also had a shot blocked another time. He also was able to dribble off of a screen to calmly make a pull-up jumper from just inside the arc.  However, he really struggled to make shots from beyond the arc, as he ended up missing all of his three-point attempts in this game.

However, he displayed just average at best playmaking skills in this game.  Despite showing a pass-first mentality and a willingness to set the table, Maledon didn’t rack up many assists in this game, and he also committed a couple of careless turnovers on offense.  For the positives, he has solid court vision, and he can throw accurate passes off the dribble to find open teammates to set up scores for them.  He handles the ball well, and he plays well when he operates under control.  However, sometimes he can tend to throw hasty, inaccurate passes, and he threw an ill-advised jump pass that got intercepted.  He also was called for an offensive foul after having pushed off to try to get the ball in the backcourt, which led him to commit both a foul and a turnover that time.

Maledon was able to leap up to haul in a pair of defensive boards, and he would bring the ball up the floor afterwards to create early offense for his team.  He also looked to be fairly average defensively.  Maledon showed solid length, quickness, and instincts to close out three-point shooters to force misses, and he also ran in to deflect a pass another time.  However, he tended to pick up quick fouls on the defensive end.  He was prone to committing reach-in fouls on opposing ball handlers, and sometimes he would struggle to stay in front of his man, which would lead him to get beat off the dribble and then commit touch fouls as a result.

In summary, Theo Maledon is an athletic, crafty playmaker that can find ways to score the basketball, and he can effectively run the team at the point, but he will sometimes struggle with his jump shot or on the defensive end on occasion.  He is a talented player that can do a little bit of everything, but his lack of elite athleticism combined with a strong pass-first mentality could limit his ceiling as a prospect for the NBA.  Still, he could project to be a solid role player in the league, and he could be a good value pick for an NBA team in the mid to late first round range of the 2020 draft.

Real Madrid’s 6-8 forward, Usman Garuba (on the far right, pictured wearing the number 16) is a very athletic big man that could be a potential lottery pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
EFE/El Confidencial)

Real Madrid’s 6-8, 2002-born forward, Usman Garuba had a solid showing in his team’s win over ASVEL in the Euroleague.  He is a very athletic combo forward that can score the basketball in a variety of ways, and he is a rangy defender that can play shutdown defense.

Garuba showed off a fairly solid face-up game on offense.  Though he missed on a powerful dunk early on after driving hard to the basket, Garuba was able to make a corner three off the catch, as he moved off the ball to get open that time.  He did miss on a couple of open jumpers other times, but it’s encouraging that he can effectively knock down spot-up jumpers, especially from beyond the arc.

He also has a solid low post game.  Garuba was able to get the ball deep on the block, and he used a pump fake and a drop step move to score while getting an extra free throw.  He also managed to draw free throws another time after being fouled on the catch, but he will still need to improve his ability to make free throws when he is at the foul line.

Plus, he also excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  Garuba made a quick baseline cut to the hoop, and he was able to score on a powerful, two-handed jam afterwards.  He also drew free throws off of a defensive rebound, and he would run the floor hard to get open for scoring opportunities off of cuts, rolls, and on fast breaks.

Also, Garuba displayed solid playmaking skills.  He is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man, and he is a good passer out of the post.  He had the good presence of mind to find the cutter from the post to notch an assist early on, and he also can throw quick outlet passes to get the ball to his teammates out on the break.  However, sometimes he can be inaccurate with his passes, and he also stepped out of bounds once after handling the ball on one play early on.

Garuba is also a terrific rebounder.  He would leap up to collect numerous boards on both ends of the floor, and he would leap up to aggressively get his team rebounds.  He also managed to push the ball up the floor off of a defensive rebound late in this game.

He also played very good defense in this game.  Garuba is a long and athletic defender that will use his length and anticipation skills to intercept passes to get steals, and he also ran in from behind to quickly take a ball away from an opponent in the backcourt to get another.  He also will close out hard on shooters to force misses, and he will actively contest shots to get stops for his team.  Plus, he is a high-motor player that will chase down loose balls to get them, and he also showed good agility and footwork when defending out on the perimeter.  Sometimes though, he can be too aggressive in defending his man, which can lead him to commit fouls.  Another time, he was caught ball watching as he lost track of his man on a cut, which led him to allow the score.  Another time, he gave up too much space to his man, which led him to allow him to score on a mid-range basket.

Overall, Usman Garuba played very well in his team’s win over ASVEL, and he could potentially end up being a top 5 pick in the 2021 draft.  He is a very athletic, high-motor combo forward that may have a great deal of upside.  In a favorable scenario, he could project to be a versatile, high-end role player that could help teams make deep playoff runs in the NBA.

Real Madrid’s 6-6, Serbian swingman Mario Nakic started the game, and he was able to make some solid plays for his team in the first quarter.  Unfortunately, he didn’t play long enough to really make a lasting impression, but he showed that he is a second round prospect that could be worth considering in 2021.

Nakic ran the floor to score early on in this game.  He also ran off the ball to draw free throws after receiving the basketball on a dribble handoff, but he ended up missing both of them when he was at the foul line. He also displayed average playmaking skills.  Nakic was able to throw a successful entry pass to a teammate once, but he also was called for traveling when handling the ball to commit a turnover early on.

Defensively, he looked to be fairly average.  Nakic was able to poke a ball away from an opposing ball handler to nearly get a steal.  He also was able to contest a shot in the post to force a miss very early in this game.  However, his lack of size made it tough for him to defend taller players, and he would give up too much space to them, which would cause him to allow them to score on jump shots.

Overall, Mario Nakic is a skilled swingman that can make some hustle plays on both ends of the floor.  He will need consistent playing time to show NBA scouts and teams what he can do at higher levels.  It will be interesting to see if he can take his game to the next level, next season.  If so, he could rapidly move up draft boards next year.

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