Assessing Isaiah Roby
April 26, 2019
by Alan Lu
I decided to take the time to watch Isaiah Roby and Nebraska play in a January 17th game against Michigan State, as the Cornhuskers have a slew of prospects that could end up being selected in the 2019 NBA Draft. I was able to see this contest with thanks to YouTube via Sports Arena. In this game, I primarily used this opportunity to scout Isaiah Roby, James Palmer Jr., and Isaac Copeland, though for Michigan State, Cassius Winston and Nick Ward also played well on this day. Here are my thoughts on how they fared, as well as how their games may translate to the NBA.
Nebraska’s 6-8 junior forward, Isaiah Roby is an athletic, defensive-minded player that has solid physical tools. He struggled on offense in this game, and Roby tends to be quite passive on offense. Roby showed a good ability to score on hustle plays. He will move off the ball to get open for shots, and he can score off of cuts and rolls to the rim. He also almost scored on a tip-in, but it was waved off due to committing a basket interference that led him to commit a turnover. Plus, he also runs the floor well, as he can get transition scoring opportunities if teammates would look for him on the break. He did miss on a wild tip-in though after leaping up to get an offensive rebound.
He struggled to knock down jumpers consistently in this game. Roby did use a jab step to knock down a mid-range shot from the baseline, but he missed all of his three-point shots from beyond the arc, as he struggled to make jumpers off the catch or dribble. He also missed on a turnaround jumper after looking to post up once.
Also, Roby was quite turnover prone on offense. He is a player that will look to pass the ball quite often, sometimes too much so, as he would pass up open shots. Roby can find the open man to set up scores, and he also will set screens for his teammates. However, he tended to telegraph his passes, which would cause him to get intercepted on several of them, and he also threw an inaccurate bounce pass that skipped out of bounds on another occasion. Roby also did a fairly good job of rebounding the basketball. He was able to leap up to get plenty of boards on both ends of the floor, but sometimes he would commit touch fouls when going for rebounds.
He also played adequate defense. Roby is an active, rangy help defender that can get steals and blocks for his team. He would tip interior passes to help his team get steals, and he also managed to poke a ball off of a post player down low another time. Roby also was able to rotate to ferociously block a shot off of an opponent when defending a drive to get a stop. He also would contest shots to force some misses. However, he had a tendency to commit reach-in fouls, as he can be too aggressive at times, and he also fouled out late when defending on a high post drive. He also over-hedged when defending an opposing ball handler, and he was late to get back to the roll man, as his team then allowed a score around the basket. There was also a play where he gave up deep position when defending in the post, which led his opponent to score on a drop step move in the post.
In general, Isaiah Roby is an athletic combo forward that could project to be a defensive specialist in the NBA. Right now, he may project to go in the second round in the upcoming draft. He will need to improve his jump shot, shot creation skills, and playmaking ability, but his ability to defend gives him a puncher’s chance to succeed at the next level.
Nebraska’s 6-6 senior swingman, James Palmer Jr. played fairly well in his team’s loss to Michigan State. He is a strong, physical specimen that can score the basketball, and he will attack the rim at will to get buckets for his team on offense. He did a good job of scoring on strong drives to the hoop. He can finish plays using either hand, and he also used a spin move to score on a right-handed leaner, and he also scored on a runner another time. He was able to get to the free throw line quite often by going hard to the rim, but sometimes he would miss shots in traffic.
He also ran in to get an offensive rebound, as he was able to score on a strong put back while getting an extra free throw late in this game. Palmer also showed the knack to draw free throws in transition. However, he struggled to knock down jumpers, as he had trouble making threes or mid-range jumpers on a consistent basis. He was able to make a deep pull-up three late in this contest, though.
Also, Palmer displayed adequate playmaking skills. He is a good interior passer that can find teammates on the move to set up scores for his teammates, and he also can pass off the dribble to find open shooters. However, sometimes he can play too recklessly when looking to create off the dribble, which can lead him to commit turnovers. Plus, Palmer did a very good job of rebounding the basketball. He would frequently haul in boards on both ends of the floor, and he would tend to bring the ball up to create transition scoring opportunities and early offense for his team. However, he also once committed an over the back foul on an offensive rebound attempt late in this match.
Defensively, he looked to be perhaps above average. For the positives, Palmer is an active help defender. He was able to run in to intercept a pass to get a steal, and he also jumped on a loose ball to help his team collect another. He also rotated to contest a mid-range shot to force a miss another time. However, he tended to over-help in the paint, which would cause him to sag too far and be late to rotate back, which would lead him to allow three-point scores to his opponents Overall, Palmer is a tough, skilled swingman that can score the basketball. He will need to improve his jump shot, but his ability to get his own shot up could help him at the next level, and in a favorable scenario, he could end up developing into a reliable scorer off the bench in the NBA.
Nebraska’s 6-9 redshirt senior forward, Isaac Copeland had his ups and downs in his team’s loss to Michigan State. He is a versatile scorer that can make shots in a variety of ways, and he also passes the ball fairly well. However, he was inconsistent in knocking down shots in this game, and he also tended to struggle with his position defense as well. Copeland is a mobile player that excelled at scoring on hustle plays. He showed a good ability to score on cuts as well as in transition. He was able to use a pump fake to score on a layup on the break, and he also scored on a reverse layup off the glass off of a backdoor cut.
He also showed a decent ability to score off of drives and in the post. Copeland was able to drive the baseline to score on a dunk, though he dribbled awkwardly to miss on a dunk another time. He also was able to use a spin move to score off the glass on a post up, though he missed on a turnaround jumper another time. Though he struggled to consistently score on threes and mid-range jumpers, Copeland was able to use a jab step to knock down a corner three early on in this contest.
Copeland also generally passed the ball well in this game. He does a good job of finding cutters, as he can get them the basketball on the move, and Copeland also was able to set an on-ball screen to help set up a score for a teammate on a drive late in this match. He also was able to get his fair share of boards, as he would leap up to get defensive rebounds to help his team on the glass. Defensively, Copeland may need to improve on this end of the floor. For the positives, he was able to chase down a loose ball that his teammate deflected to help his team get a steal. On another play, he rotated to contest a drive in transition to force a miss early on.
On the downside, he tended to over-help, as he would often leave his own man to double an opposing ball handler, but he would often be late to rotate back, which would cause him to allow scores on off-ball motion plays. He also had some trouble defending drives, as he would commit fouls and allow scores. He also tended to sag too far off his man, which would cause him to allow three-point baskets to the opposition.
In summary, Isaac Copeland is a mobile combo forward that showed some potential to develop into a 3 and D type of player at the next level, but he will need to make more shots consistently, and improve his rebounding and position defense. He may to spend at least a year in the G-League or overseas, but if he can continue to improve as an overall player, he could perhaps one day find a way to make a team’s roster in the NBA.
Michigan State’s 6-8 junior big man, Nick Ward played well in his team’s win over Nebraska. He shot the ball well, as he was able to make an open three-point shot off of a pick and pop play, and he also used a jab step to knock down a mid-range jumper from the baseline. He also flashed the ability to score in the post as well as off of a high post drive, and he did a good job of scoring on jump hooks, though sometimes Ward would struggle to finish plays in traffic.
He also threw solid passes from the post, and he also threw a nice touch pass to a teammate on a give and go on the break to set up scoring chances for his teammates, as he generally passed the ball well. Ward also rebounded the ball well, and he was active defensively. Defensively, he looked to be above average. He was able to deflect a pass, and he rotated on a drive to successfully challenge the shot on a separate play. However, he had trouble defending opponents out in space, especially when he would guard them out on the perimeter.
In this game, Nick Ward had a good showing, as he showed off versatile scoring skills, as well as a very good ability to rebound the basketball. He even showed a nice jump shot that could help him at the next level, as that could help him space the floor there. Right now, he may be a borderline second round candidate. Ward has been a solid role player for Michigan State, as he’s excelled as an inside scorer and rebounder for them, but he is an undersized big man that possesses less than ideal physical tools, and it is uncertain if he will be able to capably guard opponents at higher levels. If he can shoot as well as he did in this game, that could perhaps allow Ward to be a useful role player in the NBA, as he is a high-motor player that showed off the ability to knock down jumpers in this game.
Michigan State’s 6-7 senior forward, Kenny Goins generally struggled to score the basketball, and he also tended to throw loopy passes that would get intercepted. He did do a very good job of rebounding the basketball, and he also played solid defense. He has good timing to block shots, and he also will play passes to get steals and deflections. He also will contest a variety of shots to force misses. Sometimes, he can struggle to defend quicker opponents, which can cause him to commit fouls. Overall, Goins is a high motor combo forward that could project to be an above average rebounder and defender at the next level. He will need to improve offensively, but if he can, he could end up making a team’s roster in the NBA.
Michigan State’s junior point guard, Cassius Winston played very well in this game, as he excelled as a shooter and scorer for Michigan State. He shot the ball well from beyond the arc, and he would score on crafty layups off the dribble. Though he can throw interior passes to find teammates on the move, Winston was turnover prone on offense. He tended to throw weak, careless passes that would be intercepted, and a few times he had trouble trying to create plays off the dribble.
Also, he rebounded the ball well, and he played fairly good defense. Winston was able to jump on a loose ball to help his team get a steal, and he would actively contest jumpers to force misses. But sometimes he would have trouble guarding opponents off the dribble, as he would occasionally commit a foul or allow a score every once in a while. Overall, Cassius Winston is a smart, skilled playmaker that showed a solid ability to score the basketball, and while he may not be the most athletic or the flashiest player, he is a shot maker that can run the team at the point, and he could end up being a likely second round pick in 2020.
Michigan State’s sophomore big man, Xavier Tillman had his moments at times in his team’s victory over Nebraska. He did not seem to have a noticeable impact on offense, as he did not look to score often. He did show a good ability to slip screens to score on rolls to the rim, and he also ran the floor to draw free throws in transition. He did miss on a jump hook in the post, and he also missed an open three another time. Tillman did a good job of passing from the post to get assists.
He also can rebound and block shots, but on plays where he appeared to cleanly swat shots from his opponents, the officials ruled them as fouls instead, though. He also made a nice steal by leaping up to intercept an interior pass intended for a cutter once. Defensively, he looked to be above average. Tillman is a good athlete that can make big plays, but he also would get beat on moves to allow scores around the basket.
Overall, Tillman is an athletic big man that could project to be an energetic role player at the next level. He will need to continue to expand upon his skill set offensively, but if he has a good junior season next year, he could swiftly move up draft boards. Right now, he may be a second round prospect for the 2020 draft.