Analyzing Kai Sotto, Ariel Hukporti, and Mojave King

February 4th, 2022

By Alan Lu

Recently, Adelaide’s 7-2 center, Kai Sotto from the Philippines has been playing well in limited minutes in Australia’s top league, the NBL.  I set out to watch him play against another big man who’s been playing well in his role this year, Melbourne United’s Ariel Hukporti in a January 30th game, with thanks to YouTube via National Basketball League.  Also, Mojave King played in this game for Adelaide, albeit only briefly.  It was an entertaining contest that went all the way into overtime, and Adelaide was able to pull out a tough win over their opponent.  Sotto was able to hit a key mid-range shot in overtime, and he played fairly well to help them get the victory.  Here are my thoughts on how Sotto, Hukporti, and King fared on that day. Also, for those that are interested in the box score of this game, here is the link.

Adelaide’s 7-2 rookie center, Kai Sotto scored 12 points in his team’s January 30th overtime win over Melbourne.
Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Kai Sotto had a solid showing in Adelaide’s overtime win over Melbourne.  He did a good job of scoring the basketball, and he would often set screens for his team on offense.  On the other hand, he didn’t do a very good job of rebounding the basketball, and he also made his fair share of mistakes defensively in this game.

Sotto showed a knack for scoring on hustle plays.  He excelled at scoring on fast breaks as well as off of tip-ins.  He would run the floor and catch lob passes, and he was able to smoothly score on a reverse, 180 alley-oop dunk.  He also ran in to score on a bank tip-in while getting fouled to get the extra free throw.  He took on the contact on a backdoor cut, but missed as the ball rattled in and out, but he was hit pretty hard that time, and a foul probably would’ve been called on his opponent if he were in a college basketball or in an NBA game.

Also, Sotto showed a solid ability to score off the dribble.  He used a pump fake, and drove hard to the hoop to score on a running, double-pump layup in traffic, and he also shouldered a good amount of contact that suggested that he should’ve drawn an extra free throw on that play.  He also showed off a good mid-range shot.  Late in overtime, he used a quick ball fake and took a couple of dribbles before pulling up to score on a mid-range jumper effortlessly from just outside the right elbow.

He also tried to score in the post once.  He used a quick, up and under move, but he ended up getting off-balanced with his footwork, and he ended missing on a fadeaway, right-handed hook shot while shying away from the contact that time.  On the downside, Sotto was fairly turnover prone on offense.  For the positives, he will make good reads on the floor, and when he is accurate with his passes, he can put his teammates in prime spots on the floor to score.  Sotto threw a sharp, accurate interior pass to a cutter late in this match, as he was able to find him on the move.  He also will set plenty of screens to help his teammates get open jump shots and driving lanes.  Sotto will tend to take chances with his passes, but sometimes he can be off-target though, which can lead him to commit turnovers.  On a couple of instances, he threw high, inaccurate entry passes that ended up sailing out of bounds, as he didn’t get enough touch or accuracy on his passes.  He also was called for setting a moving screen another time.

Also, Sotto was able to do an adequate job of rebounding the basketball.  He is a tall, long center that will use his length and agility to haul in boards on both ends of the floor, and he also would tip balls to his teammates to help his team get other boards.  However, sometimes though, he would not corral balls in, and he also would allow balls to go over his head, as opponents would get rebounds in his area.  Other times, he would get boxed out, and he would not be able to get rebounds other times.  There were times where he did not show great rebounding instincts when he was on the court.

Defensively, he looked to be about average at best.  For the positives, Sotto has good feet to defend out on the perimeter, and he can stay with his opponents and cut off penetration to force misses.  He also was able to poke a ball off of a drive to nearly get a steal, and he was able to stay in front of ball-handling guards.  He also was able to contest a mid-range floater to force a miss another time.  Sometimes though, he would not communicate to his teammates effectively in screen situations.  Other times, he would get outmuscled when defending in one-on-one situations, which would put him in a disadvantageous situation.  He also would struggle to defend opponents off of cuts.   On one play, he rotated to the cutter, but didn’t contest the shot despite being in the area, which led his team to allow the score.  Another time, he over-helped and decided to double an opposing post player, but he lost track of his man and got beat off of a cut to allow a score. 

Overall, Kai Sotto played fairly well, as he excelled as a scorer on offense and he also threw one nifty pass to get an assist, but he didn’t rebound or defend as well as he could have in this game.  He is a tall, athletic center that will still need to add strength to be able to defend stronger opponents, but it’s good to see that he is playing well in his role in the NBL, and has been working on his jump shot.  He could be a solid find in the second round range of the 2022 draft, and in a favorable scenario, he could end up being an effective rotation player in the NBA, similar to Brooklyn Nets’ big man Nic Claxton in the association.

Ariel Hukporti didn’t score much in this game, but he thrived as a rebounder and shot blocker when he was on the floor.
Kelly Barnes/Getty Images)

Ariel Hukporti had his ups and downs in his team’s overtime loss to Adelaide.  On one hand, he rarely looked to score, and he didn’t seem to show a whole lot of offensive skills, aside from setting solid screens, and from one possession where he showed some surprising ball-handling skills before throwing a no-look dime to notch an assist.  He did score on a tip-in, but he was clearly inside the cylinder, which though is allowed in the FIBA game, would be disallowed in the NBA.  On the other hand, Hukporti seems to do well in the team-related areas of the game, as he’ll set solid screens, is a good rebounder and shot blocker, and he tended to make sound plays defensively.

Hukporti was able to run in to score on a tip-in, and he is an athletic big man that can finish plays around the basket.  He struggled to consistently score in the post though.  He was able to use an overhead ball fake to draw free throws on a strong move down low once.  However, he tended to struggle to score in traffic, and he generally had trouble finding his shooting touch on post plays.

On the downside, Hukporti was quite turnover prone on offense.  On one especially good offensive possession, he drove up the court and used a nice, behind-the-back dribble move while dribbling to the post, and he then used a series of moves before throwing a jaw-dropping, no-look pass to a teammate on a backdoor cut to notch an assist.  He had not handled the ball very well at all prior to that moment, but he showed off surprising handles and passing skills that time, and he may be an underrated passer that showed off good court vision on that play.  He also tended to set solid on-ball screens, which would help his teammates get open jump shots and driving lanes.  On the downside, he would tend to struggle to handle the ball in tight spaces, as he was called for a couple of traveling violations, and he also had a ball poked away when posting up another time.  He also threw a quick, hasty pass from the post that was intercepted by a defender once.

He also did a great job of rebounding the basketball.  Hukporti would leap up to haul in numerous boards, especially on the defensive end.  He is a strong, physical center that can box out his opponents to get boards, and he also leapt up and tipped a ball to himself to get another and then pushed it up the court that time.  He also is a high-motor big man that was able to save a ball to help his team get another defensive rebound once.  On one play though, he didn’t box out his man, and he was called for an over the back foul while allowing a tip-in score simultaneously.

Also, Hukporti played satisfactory defense in this game.  He is an athletic big man that has solid length, recovery speed, and timing, and he showed that he can rotate to block shots to help his team protect the paint.  He also was able to defend an opposing ball handler quickly and then get his hands on a pass to get a steal.  He also was also able to deflect passes.  He also would actively look to contest shots off of drives and in the paint to force misses.  Sometimes though, he can be a bit undisciplined defensively.  On one play, he bit wildly on a pump fake and then got beat off the dribble to allow a score.  He can struggle to stay in front of his man when defending them at times.  He also had his hands down when defending a passer out on the perimeter, and he didn’t put any pressure on the pass, which led to an easy entry pass being made prior to his teammate fouling the opponent.  Though he also tended to sag off of jump shooters, that didn’t really matter that much in this game, because his opponents would then miss their outside shots.

Overall, Ariel Hukporti didn’t seem to make many big plays from a visual standpoint, as he didn’t shoot very well nor score often, but he made a lot of team plays when he was on the court.  He is a strong, athletic big man that will set screens, rebound, and defend in games, but he will need to continue to build upon his game on offense.  He’ll need to continue to improve his jump shot and be more assertive on offense, but he could be an intriguing pick for an NBA team in the mid to late second round range of the draft, as he could project to be a similar player to former NBA center, Kyle O’Quinn in the association.

Mojave King also played in this game, albeit briefly.  He didn’t shoot nearly as much as anticipated, as a matter of fact, he didn’t shoot the ball at all nor take a single shot in this contest, which was surprising.  He did pass the ball well and showed some playmaking skills, although he didn’t really do much nor stand out overall.

On offense, Mojave King was able to run the floor and get to the corner to prepare to get an open three there, but no one got him the basketball that time.  He also was able to cut to the hoop, but no one got him the ball on that occasion, either.

He also showed off good playmaking skills.  King would throw sharp, timely interior passes to find teammates on the move to set up scoring chances for them.  He also showed that he can bring the ball up quickly and get balls to shooters, and he showed a willingness to move off the ball.  King also set a solid, off-ball screen to help his teammate score on an open jump shot.

Also, King was able to chase down a ball to help his team get a defensive rebound, and he then pushed the ball quickly up the floor.  Defensively, he showed decent feet to be able to defend out on the perimeter.  He’ll need to add more strength when defending bigger opponents in the post, though his teammates were able to help him out in the occasion where he had to do so once. Overall, Mojave King was able to make some good plays in very sparse playing time, though he didn’t really stand out overall in his team’s tough, overtime loss to Adelaide.  He had played fairly well in the NBL Blitz this year, but he hasn’t been able to get nearly as much playing time in the NBL regular season as hoped.  He has shown some shooting and scoring skills in the NBL Blitz, but he didn’t look to take any shots in this particular game.  King will need to get more playing time, but in a favorable scenario, he could end up being a second round pick whenever he declares to enter the NBA draft, as he could project to be a shooter and a secondary ball-mover for an NBA team off the bench in the future.

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