Evaluating Yuta Watanabe, Kostas Antetokounmpo, and Darrell Davis

June 20, 2018

by Alan Lu

I decided to watch George Washington’s senior forward, Yuta Watanabe, as he has recently been gaining some traction as a prospect for the 2018 NBA Draft.  He had a solid senior season, and his versatility could potentially enable him to get looks from teams late in the second round.  I took the time to see him play in a March 3rd game against Dayton, with thanks to YouTube via Cole McKeel.  This also presented another opportunity to watch Kostas Antetokounmpo play, as well as to see Darrell Davis in an Atlantic-10 matchup.  Here are my thoughts on how they fared, as well as how their games may project into the NBA level.

Yuta Watanabe is a skilled combo forward that can do plenty of things on the court on offense, and he had a good showing in his team’s loss to Dayton.  Watanabe is an adequate shooter that especially excels at scoring on mid-range jumpers, particularly off the dribble.  He has a good overhead ball fake as well as a crossover move that he can use to create separation between himself and his defender, and he can often knock down pull-up, mid-range jump shots.  Watanabe also used a pump fake and a step back move to make a three early in the second half.  However, he struggled more to make spot-up threes, as he can be inconsistent in knocking down outside shots from beyond the arc.

He also did a very good job of scoring on hustle plays.  He can often get scores in transition, as he was able to chase down an outlet pass to throw down an emphatic two-handed dunk.  On another possession, Watanabe was able to make a fadeaway jumper on a fast break drive while drawing an extra free throw simultaneously.  Plus, he also ran in to score on a tip dunk late in this contest.  However, sometimes he can struggle to score in traffic, as he missed on a contested reverse layup once, and he also missed on a floater another time.

Also, he displayed adequate playmaking skills.  Watanabe is an unselfish player that can consistently find the open man, and he can kick the ball out to shooters to set up scoring chances for them.  He also can handle the basketball, and he can aggressively push the ball up the floor when called upon to do so.  However, sometimes he can hold the ball too long, as after getting a defensive rebound, he ended up having a ball poked away by an opponent to commit a turnover.

He also showed an adequate ability to rebound the basketball.  He is an energetic player that will crash the glass, and he will run down balls, especially on the defensive end to collect boards for his team.  Watanabe also can push the pace after getting rebounds, which can create fast break scoring opportunities for himself and his team.  Plus, he also exhibited decent defensive skills.  Watanabe is an active help defender, as he would jump on loose balls after his teammates would poke balls away from opponents on drives to help his team get steals.  Also, he possesses good length, mobility, and timing, and he can challenge shots off of drives to force misses.  Also, he can get opponents to miss on threes due to use his length and ability to close out on shooters.

However, he also had some trouble defending opponents on drives, as he would get beat off the dribble by smaller, quicker guards, which would lead him to commit fouls as a result.  In addition, he had some trouble defending screens, as he would not always take the right angle or make the proper rotation, and every once in a while, there would be miscommunication between him and his teammates. 

In general, Yuta Watanabe has a variety of skills that could help him latch onto an NBA roster in the future.  He is a good mid-range shooter, he excels at scoring on hustle plays, he handles the ball well especially for his size, and he also will compete on the defensive end.  He will need to be a more consistent outside shooter and he will need to improve his position defense.  Even so, with his skill set, his versatility and ability to play multiple positions could perhaps allow him to excel as a role player in the NBA, as he could develop into a James Ennis type of player in the association.

I also was able to watch Dayton’s 6-10 redshirt freshman forward, Kostas Antetokounmpo play once again, and he played very well to help lead his team to a double-digit victory over George Washington.

Kostas Antetokounmpo is a very athletic big man that has a solid motor, and he made positive contributions as an inside scorer and interior defender in this match.  He excelled as a scorer on hustle plays.  He often would score on rolls to the rim, and he showed both a knack for making touch catches, throwing down dunks, and for scoring in traffic.  Also, he showed off a good ability to score in the post.  Kostas was able to get the ball inside to score on a dunk.  Another time, he received the ball in the high post, and he used a jab step, dribbled left, and then spun right to score off the glass.  In addition, he showed a knack for drawing fouls on his defenders. 

On the downside, he didn’t really look to take jumpers from outside the paint area, but he didn’t have to because he was really efficient at making field goals in this game.  However, he will still need to improve his playmaking skills.  For the positives, on one play off of a cut, he received the basketball, dribbled in, and then made a patient pass to find an open shooter to notch an assist.  He still can be turnover prone though, as he may struggle to protect the basketball off of drives, and he also threw a long outlet pass that sailed past a teammate that ended up being intercepted.

He also displayed a decent ability to rebound the basketball.  While he didn’t grab many of them while he was on the floor, he was able to collect boards on both ends of the floor.  Also, one exciting play was that he leapt up to get an offensive rebound as he spun in mid-air to come down with it, and he managed to throw down a strong put back dunk to get the bucket for his team.

He also is a good defensive player.  He did a very good job of defending in the post, and he can use his long arms to intercept passes and poke balls away from them to get steals for his team.  Kostas can front his man and use his length to make it difficult for his opponents to throw entry passes, and he also has a long reach that can enable him to get his hands on balls.  He also will aggressively look to contest shots around the basket, and he did a good job of altering shots off of drives to force misses.  But sometimes, he can be a bit too aggressive, which can lead him to commit some fouls.

In summary, Kostas Antetokounmpo is an intriguing prospect, as he may be one of the most athletic big men in this draft, but he may still have ways to go as an overall player.  As he is the younger brother of Milwaukee Bucks’ superstar forward, Giannis Antetokounmpo, he definitely has very good bloodlines.  He will need to expand upon his skill set offensively, and he will have to work on his jump shot and playmaking skills.  Regardless, if he is able to go to an NBA team that can properly develop his skills, Kostas Antetkounmpo could end up being a solid role player akin to a Richaun Holmes type in this league.

Dayton’s senior guard, Darrell Davis had a strong showing in his team’s win over George Washington.  He is a tall, skilled playmaker that can shoot and pass the basketball, and he played a good all-around game to help get Dayton the victory.  Davis did a very good job of making jumpers to effectively space the floor for his team.  He was able to make numerous spot-up threes off the catch, as he especially excelled at making them from the corner, and he also was able to make threes off the dribble as well as dribbling and running off of screens.   Also, he was able to make a pull-up mid-range jumper.

He also did a good job of scoring off the dribble.  Though he is not overly explosive, Davis is a fairly quick player that can get scores using either hand, and he also can draw fouls upon opposing defenders.  Plus, he also excelled as a playmaker in this game.  He threw solid interior passes as he can find teammates on the move to set up scores for them, and he showed a knack for throwing accurate passes to roll men.  But sometimes he can be a bit of a ball stopper, as he may dribble around for too long, which can halt the flow of the offense.  Also, he may throw passes that may get deflected every once in a while, but generally Davis did a good job of passing and handling the basketball as he made sound decisions when he was on the floor.

Though he did not grab many rebounds in this game, Davis was able to get one defensive board, as he then brought the ball up the court afterwards that time.  He also defended well in this contest.  He was able to intercept a wayward crosscourt pass to help his team get a steal, and he also managed to poke a ball away shortly after an opponent grabbed a defensive rebound to force another turnover.  Davis would actively contest jumpers to force misses.  But sometimes he would be too aggressive defensively, as he once bit on an overhead ball fake off the dribble, and he also committed a foul on a fadeaway jumper when defending a fast break drive, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores on occasion.

In summary, this was probably one of his best performances of this season, and when he is playing well, Davis can show teams that he is a skilled offensive player that can play a smart brand of basketball.  However, he can at times be too inconsistent, and he will also need to prove that his solid play this year was not a fluke, as he had three nondescript seasons before nearly tripling his points per game average.  Right now, he may be a long shot to be drafted, but his offensive skills combined with his ability to play both backcourt positions combined with his potential to run the point could enable him to make an NBA team’s summer league roster.