Assessing Simi Shittu, Luguentz Dort, and Zylan Cheatham

December 18, 2018

By Alan Lu

I decided to take the opportunity to watch Simi Shittu and Vanderbilt take on Luguentz Dort and Arizona State in a non-conference, college basketball game.  Though potential lottery pick Darius Garland is out for the year, both Shittu and Dort have received buzz as first round prospects, so I decided to scout them again.  As for the game itself, there were a lot of missed shots and turnovers, but Vanderbilt played very well towards the end as they ran away with the victory.  Here are my thoughts on how Simi Shittu, Luguentz Dort, and Zylan Cheatham fared, as well as how they may rate as prospects for the NBA.

Vanderbilt’s freshman big man, Simi Shittu had an adequate showing in his team’s double-digit win over Arizona State.  He did a very good job of passing and handling the basketball as he showed off solid court vision, and he also was an active help defender, as he would make plays to help protect the paint.  Shittu did a good job of finishing plays around the basket.  He runs the floor well, and he would score on crafty layups after finding himself open at the rim.  He also showed a decent ability to score in the post.  Shittu was able to score on a right handed jump hook as he displayed good scoring touch that time, but missed on a reverse layup after attempting an up and under, step-through move on a separate play.

He also flashed the ability to get scores off the dribble.  On one offensive possession, Shittu managed to drive patiently to the rim, as he used a nifty overhead ball fake to get a score off the glass due to possessing adequate foot speed, ball handling skills, and good body control that time.  However, he missed on a couple of other drives to the hoop as he can tend to go in too out of control, and he also missed a layup off of a drive in transition.  Shittu did look to take some jumpers, but he missed on a pull-up mid-range shot, and he also missed on a spot-up three off of a pick and pop play.

Plus, Shittu displayed solid playmaking skills.  He possesses good court vision and he is a very good passer, especially for a player his size.  Shittu is an unselfish player that throws good interior passes, and he can find teammates on the break as well as kick it out to shooters off the dribble to rack up assists.  He was able to throw a sharp no-look interior pass to find an open teammate underneath the hoop, and he also threw a nifty behind the back pass on a give and go to set up a score in transition, but he did commit a couple of turnovers in this game.  He was called for committing a charging foul off of a drive, and he also threw a weak inbounds pass that was intercepted on a separate occurrence.

Also, Shittu was able to help out on the boards to help get his team some rebounds against Arizona State.  He was able to leap up to get his fair share of defensive boards, and he also can chase balls down.  However, he did end up getting called for an over the back foul another time when pursuing an offensive rebound.  Plus, he also played adequate defense.  Shittu is an active help defender, as he was able to block a shot off of a drive out of bounds, and he also ran in to jump an entry pass to get a steal.  In addition, he managed to successfully draw a charge when defending a drive due to being in good position to do so.

However, he can tend to struggle to defend opponents off the dribble when defending out on the perimeter.  He can tend to be late on his rotations or get beat at times, which can lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.  He also allowed an opponent to get deep position, as he didn’t show much resistance when defending in the post, as he ended up allowing the score.  Also, he over-rotated on a drive and left his own man open inside, as his team gave up a dunk around the basket.

In general, Simi Shittu had a pretty good game, as he was able to help lead his team to a win over Arizona State.  He is an athletic big man that passes and defends well, and he has the potential to develop as a plus-level scorer at the next level.  Right now, he is a skilled playmaking big man that could project to go in the mid to late first round range, as he could end up being a good player in the NBA similar to Toronto Raptors’ big man, Pascal Siakam in the league.

For Arizona State’s freshman guard Luguentz Dort, his performance was a mixed bag in this game.  He did not start off well, and he did not shoot the ball well overall, but he is an athletic, powerful player that was able to show off versatile scoring skills when he would make his shots.  Though Dort was not efficient in making his shots overall, he did do a very good job of knocking down threes to space the floor on offense.  Dort made a deep three from well beyond the arc early on to show his range.  He also used a crossover move to knock down a pull-up three-pointer while drawing an extra free throw on a separate play.  He only missed two threes, but he did throw up one airball after running off of a screen to take one from long distance.

However, Dort really struggled to consistently when he would look to take the ball to the rim to score off the dribble.  He did have one good score inside the arc early in the second half, as he used a pump fake to drive aggressively to his right, and he managed to score on a thunderous dunk.  He also drew free throws another time on a high post drive.   However, Dort tended to miss on runners and leaners in traffic, and he had a tendency to play too out of control or not show great balance when looking to score on drives to the hoop.  He would tend to play too fast, which would usually cause him to miss shots.  He also took a long two-point shot, but missed on that occasion.

Also, he displayed decent playmaking skills.  Though Dort had the ball in his hands quite a bit, he showed the willingness to find the open man to set up scoring chances when he plays patiently.  He can hit the roll man in stride, and he also can kick the ball out to shooters off the dribble.  Dort actually did not rebound the ball very well.  He did manage to get a defensive board once, but he showed poor instincts to get boards overall against Vanderbilt.  On one play, a ball went off his foot, as he was unable to collect the offensive rebound for his team.  Also, Dort showed off above average defensive skills.  Dort is a quick, agile player that has very good feet to pressure opposing ball handlers.  In addition, he also can roam to pick off passes, as he was able to run in to jump an inbounds pass to get a steal late in the game.  He also was able to fight through a screen to stay with an opposing ball handler, and he will make an effort to challenge jumpers, as he was able to force some misses.  But he also would tend to sag too far off his man, as he would give up too much space and over-help in the paint, which would cause him to allow his man to score on three-point shots. 

In summary, Luguentz Dort did not have his best game, but he is an athletic, powerful combo guard that can knock down threes, finish plays above the rim, and he also can make some solid plays defensively.  He can be too inconsistent at times, and he had a tendency to force the issue too much on offense.  Also, he will need to look to move more off the ball to try score using off-ball movement.  But Dort is an intriguing prospect that may have considerable upside, and he may end up going in the late first to the early second round range as he could project to be an Alec Burks type of guard in the association.

Arizona State’s 6-8 redshirt senior forward, Zylan Cheatham had a decent performance in his team’s loss to Vanderbilt.  Though he did not score on jumpers or record an assist, he excelled as a finisher and rebounder around the basket, and he also showed off some playmaking and defensive skills when he was on the floor.  Cheatham excelled at scoring on hustle plays, as he is a solid athlete that can get numerous scores at the rim.  He was able to score on a quick roll to the rim, and he also scored on a dunk after being left open underneath the basket another time.   Though he didn’t look to score very often, he also can draw plenty of free throws by running the floor to get open on the break, as well as on aggressive drives to the hoop.

However, he struggled more to score on jumpers, as he missed a three, and air-balled a baseline mid-range shot.  In addition, he can struggle to score in traffic when he doesn’t get foul calls, as he also ended up missing on a contested put back when going up for a shot after grabbing an offensive rebound.  He also displayed adequate playmaking skills, and it seems that he passed the basketball better than the box score indicated in this game. 

Cheatham is an unselfish player that can make an assortment of passes to set up scoring chances for his teammates, and he is a good passer that has solid court vision.  He throws solid interior passes, and he can pass off the dribble or from the post, and he also can hit the cutter.  He also handles the ball well as he can push the ball up the floor to create transition scoring opportunities.  However, he had a pass deflected once when throwing a lob pass to almost commit a turnover, and he also was called for a carrying violation when posting up from just inside the arc that caused his team to lose possession of the basketball.  Also, Cheatham did a great job of rebounding the basketball.  He would frequently leap up to get defensive boards, and sometimes he would push the ball up the floor off of them.  He also managed to establish the inside position to draw a foul on an opponent when going for a defensive board another time, and Cheatham showed an astute ability to get rebounds to help his team.

Plus, he showed off adequate defensive skills.  Cheatham is an active help defender that has good range to make plays on this end of the floor.  He was able to rotate to block a shot off of a drive, and he also managed to jump a pass to get a steal.  Also, he was able to poke a ball away to nearly force another turnover.  He also showed the ability to contest shots from all over the floor to force misses, as he can defend out on the perimeter, as well as inside the paint.  However, Cheatham had a tendency to over-help in the paint and sag too far off his man, which would cause him to allow three-point baskets to his opponents.  He also tried to make some chase down blocks, but ended up being called for fouls when defending opponents in transition.

In general, Zylan Cheatham is an athletic, energetic combo forward that can also pass and handle the basketball.  He is a very good athlete that could project to be a defensive specialist at the next level.  However, he will need to improve his jump shot and extend his range, and be a more consistently productive position defender in games.  Right now, Cheatham has been having a good season this year, and he could be a second round pick in the upcoming draft, as he could end up being an effective role player in the NBA.

Other Notes:

Arizona State’s 6-4 junior combo guard Rob Edwards played very well against Vanderbilt, as he provided a scoring boost off the bench to help his team stay in this contest.  He excelled as a shooter and scorer, as he did a good job of knocking down threes, and he has a lot of range on his shot.  He also showed a good ability to score off the dribble, and he is a patient player that has good body control to score in traffic.  But he also lacks an elite first step, which can lead him to get his shot blocked on occasion. 

Also, he did a good job of passing the basketball, as he excelled at throwing passes off the dribble to set up scores for his teammates.  Defensively, he looked to be fairly average.  Edwards managed to jump a pass to get a steal, but he also had a tendency to commit fouls on drives, as he had trouble guarding Saben Lee in this game.  Overall, Rob Edwards had a solid showing, and he is a crafty player that can get buckets quickly to help his team.  He has not played much this year, but he is an intriguing prospect that could potentially end up being a second round pick, as he could end up being a microwave type of scorer at the next level.

Vanderbilt’s 6-7 senior swingman, Joe Toye did a very good job of shooting and scoring the basketball to help his team get the win over Arizona State.  He excelled at knocking down open, spot-up threes off the catch to space the floor for his team, and he also showed a decent ability to score off the dribble by managing to score on an aggressive baseline drive another time.  He also played adequate defense, as he can poke balls away to get steals.  He will also contest shots, but sometimes he can be too aggressive in looking to do so, which can cause him to commit fouls.  Overall, Joe Toye has been having a good senior season, and he’s an athletic basketball player that shoots the ball well.  With his skill set, he could end up making an NBA team’s summer league roster due to his ability to knock down jumpers on offense.

Vanderbilt’s 6-6 freshman swingman, Aaron Nesmith did a very good job of shooting and scoring the basketball to help his team on offense.   He excelled at scoring on spot-up threes to space the floor, and he also caught a lob pass to score on an emphatic, alley-oop dunk in transition.  Plus, he also managed to score on a put back off of an offensive rebound.  He also drew free throws on an aggressive drive to the rim once, but he tended to struggle more to score off the dribble.  Overall, Aaron Nesmith is a versatile scorer that possesses solid athletic gifts, and he is an intriguing prospect that could be a good find for an NBA team in the draft one day.

Vanderbilt’s 6-2 sophomore guard, Saben Lee did a very good job of getting scores and free throws off of speedy drives to the basket, and he also made a corner three.  Plus, he also threw a lob pass to set up a score for a teammate in transition.  Overall, Lee played well in his team’s win over Arizona State, and he could be a player to watch this season or down the road.

Vanderbilt’s 6-2 sophomore guard, Maxwell Evans played very well for his team in this game, as he excelled as a shooter, scorer, and facilitator when he was on the floor.  Evans was able to make threes off the catch and dribble, and he also used a quick crossover to score on a strong drive another time.  He also threw good passes, as he can get the ball to his teammates in a variety of ways to set up scores for them.  In summary, Evans is a smart, skilled basketball player that had a solid showing in his team’s victory against Arizona State, and he could be a player to watch in the future.