2022 Draft Watch: First Assessment of A.J. Griffin

May 8th, 2021

By Alan Lu

This time around, I decided to take the time to watch Duke’s 6-7 incoming freshman forward, A.J. Griffin play in a high school basketball game for Archbishop Stepinac against Paul VI that was played on December 29th, 2019, with thanks to YouTube via Slam Dunk to the Beach.  It was hard to find full game footage of him playing in a high school basketball game, but this game appeared to be a good one, as it also featured fellow 5-star prospect, Paul VI’s 6-5 guard Trevor Keels, who will also play for Duke next season. 

This game also featured current Duke guard, Jeremy Roach, who played for Paul VI, as well as North Carolina’s guard R.J. Davis, who played for Archbishop Stepinac.  It was a low scoring affair that had a dreadful start to the game, and it appeared as if no one could score consistently in the first half.  From there though, A.J. Griffin took over the match with his strong, two-way play and versatile skill set, and he looked every bit like the lottery prospect he’s projected to be for the 2022 draft, as he led the way to help Archbishop Stepinac get the win.  Here are my thoughts on how Griffin and Keels fared, as well as how they and other various prospects’ games may translate to the NBA.

Duke’s A.J. Griffin is a very athletic, versatile forward that currently projects to go in the lottery of the 2022 NBA Draft.
(Photo:
Lonnie Webb Photography, USA Today High School Sports)

In a game that was mostly devoid of shooting, Duke’s 6-7 incoming freshman forward, A.J. Griffin stood out with his strong all-around play to help lead Archbishop Stepinac to get the win over Paul VI.  Griffin excelled at attacking the hoop to score the basketball, and he also rebounded and defended well, as he grabbed many rebounds, and he blocked a plethora of shots in this game.

Griffin excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  He showed a knack for going coast to coast to score on quick drives in transition.  He was able to score on a switch of hands layup, and he also ran the floor to score on a quick, give and go layup on the break.  He missed on a tip slam after getting an offensive board once, but he did a very good job of scoring on fast break drives.

He also showed a solid ability to score in the post.  Griffin showed a knack for using strong drop step moves to score down low, and he also managed to score on a turnaround, fadeaway jumper.  He also would draw fouls when posting up or driving to the hoop to get to the free throw line.  However, Griffin would tend to miss on wild, rushed layups in traffic. Also, Griffin showed a knack for making smooth, pull-up jumpers from the mid-range, and he also drove off of a screen to make a floater another time.  He also missed on a floater on another play, as he didn’t get enough shooting touch on that shot.

He also didn’t take many threes, but on his lone three-point attempt, he dribbled off of a screen, but he missed from way out, as he short-armed his shot and didn’t follow through. It was disappointing that he didn’t shoot many threes in this game.  Griffin drew plenty of free throws to get to the foul line often, but he did not do a good job of making his free throw.  He seemed to be more comfortable taking mid-range jumpers, but he looked to be very reluctant to take three-point shots against Paul VI.

Also, Griffin displayed solid playmaking skills when he was on the court.  He can pass and handle the basketball, and he will sometimes look to push the ball quickly up the floor.  He can throw solid passes off the dribble, as he can get the ball to his teammates in an assortment of ways, and he also can throw solid interior passes to rack up assists.  He also threw a very long outlet pass to set up a score for a teammate late in this contest.  Sometimes though, he can struggle to handle the ball when pressured.  On one play when he was pressured mid-court while dribbling, he threw a rushed, inaccurate pass that sailed out of bounds. Plus, he did a tremendous job of rebounding the basketball.  Griffin would actively crash the glass to get multiple boards on both ends of the floor, and he especially showed a knack for leaping up to get defensive rebounds, where he would tend to push the ball quickly up the floor afterwards.

He also played satisfactory defense in this game.  Griffin did a terrific job of blocking shots, as he can roam in from the blindside, and he also can stay with his opponents on the ball to swat shots ferociously to himself and his teammates due to possessing solid length, footwork, along with very good athleticism and timing.  He also was able to intercept an entry pass that was thrown right to him to get a steal, and he also poked a ball away to nearly get another.  He also managed to contest a three to force a miss.

On the downside, he can tend to be caught ball watching, which would cause him to be late on his rotations.  He often would lose focus and gamble for steals, as he would then lose track of his man on backdoor cuts to allow scores, and he also would allow opponents to score on open jump shots.  There would be times where he would over-pursue the ball and miss on steal attempts, and then he would give up on plays after getting beat on moves to the hoop.  Another time, he committed a foul as he pushed an opponent upon the catch around the midcourt due to over-aggressiveness. As for the game itself, it was pretty much a slop-fest, as it was poorly played, and there were too many missed shots and turnovers, but Archbishop Stepniac’s A.J. Griffin stood out as the definitive best player in this match.

In general, A.J. Griffin played well in his team’s win over Paul VI.  He is a very athletic forward that can make solid hustle plays on both ends of the floor, and he is a rangy defender that can guard multiple positions.  He will need to improve his jump shot and his focus on the defensive end, but it’s clear that he is a prospect that has a great deal of upside.

Recruiting analyst, Josh Gershon of 247Sports compared A.J. Griffin to Golden State Warriors’ forward Kelly Oubre, and that looks to be a spot-on assessment. Griffin is a very athletic forward whose solid all-around skill set is intriguing, but he will need to establish a reliable three-point shot, and improving his defensive focus could make him a complete defender that could intrigue NBA teams with his versatility.   Griffin looks to be a solid bet to go in the lottery in the 2022 draft, and he could end up being a solid player in the NBA. 

Duke’s 6-5 incoming freshman guard, Trevor Keels also played in this game for Paul VI, and he is a highly touted recruit that will play in college basketball next season.  Unfortunately,  he did not shoot the ball particularly well, and while he would sporadically make some solid plays, his play overall was erratic, and he struggled to make shots consistently in his team’s loss to Archbishop Stepinac.

Keels is a strong, athletic combo guard that excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  He showed a knack for scoring on backdoor cuts, and he managed to score on an acrobatic, reverse layup once.  He also would run the floor to score in transition.  He was able to drive up court, as he used a pump fake to score off the glass.  However, after using a hop step move, he had his shot blocked another time.  He also would score on strong put backs, but he also missed on a tip-in attempt once.

He also flashed the ability to knock down three-pointers from beyond the arc.  Keels was able to make a quick, open spot-up three on the break.  On the downside, he struggled to make threes consistently.  He seemed to have a slow release, and when he would speed up his release, he would not shoot the ball cleanly, as it would then miss on one side of the rim.

Also, he really struggled to score off the dribble. On one good play, Keels managed to score on a strong, right-handed drive to the hoop.  On the downside, he would often tend to force the issue too much, which would lead him to get his shots blocked often, as well as to miss layups due to rushing.  Keels isn’t especially quick, and it would be rare when he would be able to get all the way to the rim without meeting a defender around the basket off of a half-court drive to the hoop.

Keels also displayed fairly average at best playmaking skills in this game.  He played with a heavy, score-first mindset, but he can make drive and kick passes to find open shooters, and he also can pass out of the post.  Keels was able to pass out of the post to find a cutter to notch one assist.  On the downside, he would sometimes display some clumsy ball handling, and he struggled to handle the ball when pressured.  When posting up, he used a pump fake, but he still got the ball poked away off of himself before it went out of bounds to commit a turnover.  He also bobbled a ball after initially appearing to get a rebound, as he then lost it to an opponent. Plus, he did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  Keels was able to leap up to get plenty of boards on both ends of the floor, and he also managed to leap up to get an impressive, one-handed board late in this game. 

Keels also played decent defense in this game.  He has solid recovery skills, as it allowed him to block a shot off of a drive.  He also jumped on a loose ball that was deflected to him to help his team get a steal.  He also contested a floater to force a miss.  He also managed to draw a charge when defending a drive to get another stop for his team.  On the downside, he would tend to miss on steal attempts, which would lead him to get beat off the dribble to allow scores.  He also would sometimes struggle to defend quicker opponents, as he didn’t always move his feet very well on the defensive end.

Overall, Trevor Keels is a strong, athletic combo guard that can play a variety of positions, and he could excel at making plays on both ends of the floor in the NBA someday.  However, he will really need to improve his jump shot, and he will need to improve his handles and ability to score off the dribble.  Right now, he projects to be a second round prospect for the 2022 draft, but he may be far from polished as an NBA draft prospect right now.  If things break his way, he could project to be a secondary playmaker and a plus-level defender at the NBA level, as he could end up being a similar player to Los Angeles Lakers’ second-year swingman, Talen Horton-Tucker in the association.

This also presented an opportunity to watch Duke’s 6-2 freshman point guard, Jeremy Roach play yet again for Paul VI.  Roach didn’t play particularly well, as he struggled to make shots consistently, and he was rather turnover prone, but he is an athletic, high-motor guard that was able to make some solid plays on both ends of the floor, and he also kept competing at the end, as he made two pull-up threes towards the end of this contest.

Roach showed an adequate ability to knock down threes to provide some floor spacing for his team on offense.  He struggled to make threes for most of this game, and he especially struggled to make spot-up threes off the catch.  He did make two impressive pull-up threes effortlessly late in this match, and he showed that he can make tough, long-range jumpers with ease.

He also did an adequate job of scoring in the post.  Roach would score around the basket after being left open near the hoop a couple of times.  He also used a hop step to draw free throws another time.  He also showed a knack for drawing fouls upon his defender after getting the ball on curl cuts.  However, he can tend to struggle to score in traffic.  In this game, he missed on a leaning floater on another possession, and he also got his shot blocked after using a drop step move on a separate play. He also showed an adequate ability to score off the dribble.  He is an agile guard that can finish plays using either hand.  On the downside, he also got his shots blocked a couple of times, and he often struggled to score in traffic, as he especially would miss on drives in transition. 

On the downside, Roach was quite turnover prone on offense.  For the positives, he can make accurate passes off the dribble, and he can find his teammates on the move to set up scoring chances for them.  On the downside, he tended to throw hasty, inaccurate passes that would get deflected and intercepted, and he also threw a pass that sailed out of bounds due to miscommunication.  He also would sometimes play too recklessly when handling the ball, as it also led him to commit a charging foul another time. Also, Roach did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  He showed a knack for getting offensive rebounds in traffic, and he also was able to tip a ball to a teammate to help his team get a defensive board.

Plus, Roach also played adequate defense.  He is an active help defender that would apply ball pressure and can force opponents to commit turnovers.  Roach was able to pounce upon a loose ball that an opponent lost to get a steal, and he would jump on loose balls that his teammates would deflect to help his team get other steals.  He also was able to poke a ball away, and he also applied solid ball pressure in the backcourt to indirectly force a ball-handling turnover.  He also hustled back and contested a shot on a drive in transition to help force a miss.

On the downside, he would struggle to defend opponents off the dribble as he didn’t always move his feet well, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.  He also can tend to be late on his rotations, as he would give up open jump shots.  He also struggled to defend in the post, as he would sometimes play too physically, as it resulted in him committing a foul, and his lack of size would allow opponents to shoot over him to score.

Overall, Jeremy Roach didn’t have his best game, but he showed off solid physical tools, and he was able to make some good plays on both ends of the floor, and he saved his best for last, as he made two pull-up threes towards the game’s end.  He will need to be a more consistent performer in games, and he will likely need to stay in school to hone his skills.  He will need to continue to improve, especially on offense, but if he has a solid sophomore season, he could end up being a second round pick in 2022, as he could project to be an athletic table-setting point guard similar to former Orlando Magic’s point guard, Rafer Alston in the NBA.

North Carolina’s 6-0 freshman guard, R.J. Davis also played for Archbishop Stepinac in this game, he is a fleet-footed playmaker that can score and rebound the basketball.  He didn’t show much of a jump shot in this game, but he is an aggressive score-first guard that competed relentlessly, and he was able to make plays on both ends of the floor.

Davis showed a solid ability to score off the dribble.  He is a quick guard that can finish plays using either hand, and he has good balance to score in traffic.  He managed to score on an acrobatic, switch of hands layup, and he also can use overhead ball fakes to score around the basket.  He would sometimes miss wildly on quick, rushed drives to the hoop, and he also had a shot blocked despite using a hop step move to split between two defenders another time.

He also showed a decent ability to score on hustle plays.  He would run the floor to score in transition, and he also managed to score on a double pump layup off of a speedy fast break drive another time.  However, sometimes he would miss on tough shots in traffic, although there was one play where he looked to have been fouled by a defender.  He also was able to draw free throws on a put back after grabbing an offensive rebound.

On the other hand, he struggled to consistently knock down jumpers, especially from further out.  Davis was able to drive off of a screen to make a mid-range, bank floater off the glass.  However, he was unable to consistently score from the mid-range, and he also appeared to miss on all of his three-point shots in this game.

On the downside, he was quite turnover prone in this game.  For the positive, Davis can make quick, drive and kick passes to consistently find the open man, and he also can make drop-off passes off the dribble to set up scoring chances for his teammates.  On the downside, he can tend to throw hasty passes that would go astray, as he threw a couple of passes that were dropped, and he also threw a pass that got intercepted.  He also can play too recklessly on offense, and he was called for committing a charging foul on a drive in transition another time.

Davis did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  He would leap up to get multiple boards on both ends of the court, and he would aggressively leap up to get defensive boards.  Sometimes, he would push the ball quickly up the floor after getting defensive rebounds for his team.

Also, Davis played perhaps adequate defense in this game.  Davis is an active help defender that can make plays on the ball.  He was able to chase down an errant pass to get a steal, and he also blocked a shot off of a drive to a teammate.  He also was able to contest a three to force a miss.  However, he tended to struggle to defend opponents off the dribble.  He would get beat off the dribble, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.  He also would give up jumpers due to his lack of size.  At times, he would be too small to defend taller ball handlers, and opponents would be able to shoot over him to score afterwards.

Overall, R.J. Davis is an athletic, energetic combo guard that can put up a flurry of shots, but he will need to improve his outside shot, and he will need to learn how to play under control to improve his playmaking skills.  He had a lackluster freshman season, and his lack of size or playmaking skills may make it difficult for him to make it to the NBA.  247Sports’ Director of Basketball Scouting, Jerry Meyer compared R.J. Davis to former Dallas Mavericks’ guard, J.J. Barea in his recruiting assessment, which also looks to be another solid comparison that they made, especially if Davis develops into a draft worthy prospect down the road.

Currently though, there are a lot of holes in R.J. Davis’ game, and he may be at least a season or two away from being able to go in that trajectory. He’ll need to be a more consistent player on both ends of the floor, and he will need to turn in a much better season next year at North Carolina. Davis is not likely to be drafted in any given year right now, but if Davis can be a passable outside shooter, playmaker, and defender, he could develop into being a backup point guard in the NBA one day.

Paul VI’s 5-9 high school junior point guard, Dug McDaniel had a fairly good showing for his team in their loss to Archbishop Stepinac.  He is a quick, agile guard that can make hustle plays on both ends of the floor, and while he doesn’t look to dominate the basketball, his ability to defend and make plays on offense could enable him to land on a mid-to-high major college basketball team in the future.

McDaniel did a decent job of scoring off the dribble.  He can finish plays using either hand, and he also can take on the contact to get to the free throw line.  He also excelled as a scorer on quick drives in transition.  On the downside, he also got his shot blocked once despite using a stutter step, hesitation move on a drive to the basket once. He also was able to score on a quick, mid-range floater off the glass, and McDaniel showed that he can ably knock down mid-range jump shots.  He also hoisted up a quick, spot-up three from well beyond the arc, but he ended up missing on his lone three-point attempt that time.

He also displayed decent playmaking skills.  McDaniel can throw solid interior passes to find teammates on the move, and he also is a fleet-footed guard that passes well off the dribble.  However, balls would sometimes slip out of hands when driving to the rim, which would cause him to commit turnovers.  He also threw a long outlet pass that was dropped on the break that led to another team turnover. He also was able to leap up to get his fair share of defensive rebounds, and McDaniel was able to push the ball quickly up the floor after getting a defensive board once.

Plus, McDaniel also played solid defense.  He would jump passes to help his team plenty of steals and deflections.  He also would poke balls away to nearly get other steals.  He also would contest jumpers to force misses, and he also was able to get into his opponent’s body to force his man to miss on a put back attempt.  On the downside, he would sometimes play too aggressively, which would lead him to double opponents unnecessarily or go for wild steal attempts, but that can lead him to commit fouls and in can put his team in scramble situations.  He also would struggle to defend on the ball, as he would sometimes give up too much space to shooters, and he would get beat off the dribble other times when he would try to aggressively close down the space.

Overall, Dug McDaniel is a skilled, agile playmaker that can reliably run the team at the point, and he also defends fairly well.  He will need to improve his jump shot and also show that he can guard taller players.  Even still, he has the skills to end up being a productive player at the collegiate level, and if so, he could project to be a borderline second round candidate in a future NBA draft.

Boston University’s 6-7 incoming freshman forward, Malcolm Chimezie had his ups and downs for Archbishop Stepinac in his team’s win over Paul VI.  He is an athletic, physical forward that can make plays around the basket, but he will also need to improve his perimeter skills in the future. Chimezie showed a solid ability to score in the post.  He was able to score after being left open around the basket, and he also scored after using a drop step move.  He also used a spin move to score on a turnaround jumper due to possessing solid footwork and shooting touch that time.  He fumbled the ball before handling it in the post another time, but he ended up missing despite using a drop step move on that occasion.

He also did a decent job of scoring in transition.  Chimezie ran the floor to catch a very long pass, as he then scored on an emphatic dunk on the break.  He also got fouled in transition to draw free throws another time, and he made one of two free throws when he was at the foul line.  He also was able to get another opportunity to score on the break, but he then missed as he waited too long to go up with the shot. 

He also tried to score on a couple of put backs, but he had his shot blocked once, and he missed on a tough, off-balanced shot another time, and he can struggle to score in traffic, especially when he doesn’t draw foul calls. Also, Chimezie showed that he can pass out of the post to find open shooters.  However, he had a weird tendency to drop passes, as it led to a couple of turnovers for his team.

Also, Chimezie did a decent job of rebounding the basketball.  He was particularly active at crashing the glass to help his team get offensive rebounds, and he was able to leap up to get an offensive board in traffic once.  He also managed to tip a ball to a teammate to help his team get a defensive rebound.  However, he also dropped a couple of balls that led him to miss out on other rebounds, and he also was called for fouling an opponent on a put back.  In watching this game, Chimezie will need to improve his hands to be able to make more plays on offense and to be able to grab more rebounds in games.

Plus, Chimezie also played solid defense in this game.  He would often rotate to block shots on drives, as he would direct balls to himself and his teammates due to possessing fairly solid length and timing.  He also would deflect passes to nearly get steals, although he did drop a catchable pass that was thrown right to him by an opponent.  He also would rotate to contest shots off the dribble to force plenty of misses.  On the downside, he would often struggle to defend quicker opponents off the dribble, which would usually lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.  Another time, he didn’t pick up a man on one play, as his team allowed an opponent to score on a three-point shot.

Overall, Malcolm Chimezie is a fairly athletic interior player that can score and defend around the basket, but he will need to improve his hands, and also extend his shooting range in the future. He still has a long way to go from an offensive standpoint, as he didn’t show much of a jump shot away from the paint, and he doesn’t really handle the ball very much.  Most likely, he will need to spend quite some time in college basketball, and if he plays well there, he could carve out a career in professional basketball, even if he doesn’t end up playing in the NBA someday.

Towson’s incoming freshman forward, Tyler Coleman generally played well for Paul VI in his team’s loss to Archbishop Stepinac.  He primarily excelled as a scorer around the basket, and he also was active as a screen setter, rebounder, and defender in this game. Coleman was able to score on a roll and cut to the basket, and he also used a drop step move to score in the post.  He also managed to score on a tip-in after grabbing an offensive rebound.  He also passed up an open three-point shot and dribbled in to take a pull-up, mid-range shot, but missed that time.

He also displayed fairly average playmaking skills.  Coleman can pass out of the post, and he passed out of a double team to find a cutter to notch an assist.  He also will set solid screens to help his teammates get open driving lanes.  However, he dropped an outlet pass on the break out of bounds, and he also threw a hasty outlet pass that got intercepted another time. He also did a solid job of rebounding the basketball.  Coleman would leap up to get multiple boards on both ends of the floor, and he also would tip balls to help his teammates get offensive rebounds.  On the other hand, he also was called for fouling an opponent on a put back.

Also, Coleman played satisfactory defense.  He showed the ability to contest jumpers to force misses, as well as to contest shots in the paint to get stops for his team.  He also deflected a pass out of bounds to nearly get a steal.  However, he would struggle to defend opponents in one-on-one situations, as he would get beat on moves to the hoop to allow scores.  He also sagged a bit too far off his man, which led him to allow his man to score on a mid-range shot.

Overall, Tyler Coleman is a tough, physical forward that can score, rebound, and defend in the paint, but he will need to improve his outside shot and perimeter skills in the meantime.  He will likely need to spend a lot of time in college basketball, but if he plays well there, he could carve out a career in professional basketball, even if he doesn’t end up playing in the NBA someday.

Archbishop Stepinac’s 6-1 high school junior guard, Samuel Gibbs also played fairly well in his team’s win over Paul VI.  He didn’t take many shots, but he excelled as a shooter and rebounder in this game. Gibbs shot the ball well, as he made an open corner three, and he also made a pull-up jumper from the mid-range.  He also managed to score on an acrobatic, switch of hands layup on a quick drive in transition while getting an extra free throw afterwards. He also displayed fairly average playmaking skills.  Gibbs can throw solid passes off the dribble to net some assists.  However, he also tended to throw hasty passes that would get intercepted, and he also had a ball knocked away when pressured to commit another turnover. Also, Gibbs did a good job of rebounding the basketball, and he would leap up to get plenty of defensive boards.

He also played adequate defense in this game.  Gibbs is an active help defender that can apply solid ball pressure on the defensive end.  He was able to poke a ball away in the post off of an opponent to get a steal.  He also ran in to intercept a pass to get another steal for his team.  Plus, he would stay in front of opposing ball handlers to make it difficult for them to handle the ball or to get their shots up.  However, he would struggle to defend quicker opponents, which would cause him to commit fouls and allow scores.  He also didn’t jump up to contest a tip-in, as he also allowed a score to a taller player late in this match.

Overall, Samuel Gibbs is a skilled shooter that can knock down shots in a variety of ways to help his team on offense.  He will need to improve his playmaking skills and his on-ball defense, but his jump shot could enable him to play in Division 1 NCAA college basketball.  Right now, he may still have a long way to go as an overall player, but his jump shot could potentially enable him to carve out a career in professional basketball, even if he doesn’t end up making it to the NBA one day.

Thank you for reading, and enjoy your weekend.

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