Expected draft position: Mid-first round
SB Nation scouting report: Link.
SB Nation big board ranking: No. 30.
Draft Express ranking: No. 19.
BF draft board ranking: N/A.
College career: From day one, Shane Larkin was being counted out due to his size. He was a mid-major recruit being courted by the likes of George Mason, Depaul, Colorado and Boston College. He made his reputation off his fearless leadership qualities, his ability to shoot the ball from anywhere on the court and his uncanny passing ability, but his stature detracted top schools from extending him a scholarship. Months of deliberation may have swindled Larkin out of a scholarship with George Mason, which he became increasingly fond of due to the presence of coach Jim Larranaga, prompting him to sign his letter of intent with DePaul University. But when Larranaga ultimately decided to go south to coach the University of Miami, Larkin requested a transfer in the wee hours leading up to the tip off of his freshman season, invigorating what would be a healthy player-coach relationship that would reap the benefits in the ACC.
Larkin's freshman season was a bit of a mixed bag. He received ample playing time and generally did a good job in his super-sub role off the bench, but never really got into a good rhythm with junior guard Durrand Scott constantly on the ball. But it wouldn't last for long, as Larranaga handed over the keys to the offense to his prized point guard in year two over the senior incumbent. Larkin ran away with the opportunity, averaging over 14 points per game on 48 percent shooting and 40 percent shooting from downtown. He led the ‘Canes to their best season in school history, finishing atop the ACC while earning a No.2 seed in the NCAA tournament. They met their match in the Sweet 16, succumbing to the stifling defense of the streaking Marquette Golden Eagles, but it did very little to scar a breakout season by the Hurricanes.
It was obvious, even as a freshman, that Larkin thrived in the pick and roll setting and with the floor spaced. It wasn't that much of a shock, at least from the coaching staff and the Miami faithful, that he made the leap in his sophomore season. On a team permeated with seniors, it was Larkin who emerged as the leader and the catalyst for the offense. He showed a knack for making the correct reads as he turned the corner on screens, finding shooters camping in the corners or punishing defenses for going under screens. He exploded in the ACC championship game, scoring 28 points and seven assists, and it couldn't be any clearer that he was the reason for the teams' success and why they were so highly regarded by the competition committee.
Shane Larkin Draft Combine Interview (via DraftExpress)
Offense: Larkin is a triple threat out of the pick and roll -- he can hit the three, blow by you or kick it out to spot up shooters. If you slack off and go under a screen, he'll pull up from three and nail it. He maintains excellent balance both from a standstill position and off the dribble and shoots the ball effortlessly and with great touch.
But what's more impressive is his change of pace. He displays a beautiful crossover and his burst as he turns the corner makes him so tough to contain. The way he probes a defense out of the pick and roll reminds me a bit of Stephen Curry, though he's obviously not the once-in-a-generation shooter that Steph is.
He's not someone that will just settle for jumpers, though. He does a lot of his damage when he gets into the lane, which is normally preceded by a quick split of the defenders or as he brushes off the screen. This makes him extremely hard to predict. He's seldom out of control even when he's aggressively attacking the rim, and while his size prevents him from doing much damage in the paint, he'll counter with a crafty floater.
Coaches dissuade players from leaving their feet before making a pass, but Larkin is one of the few exceptions to the rule. His struggles at the rim has aided his development into finding the help defender lurking and swinging the ball to the open man. His drive and kick game is excellent, he rarely misses an open target and does a good job feeding his big man rolling to the rim. His assist totals are low on the season, but that's more of a result of him constantly finding scoring opportunities than anything else. Defenders played him timidly, unable to find a good medium between giving him space and respecting his jumper. In the NBA, it won't be the case, as he'll have to prove to tolerate contact off hedges as well as longer defenders. He won't have free reign over defenses all season long like he had in the ACC.
Defense: This is what will present the biggest obstacles for Larkin at the next level. Miami would successfully hide Larkin's inferior size and strength while giving Scott the tougher assignments, but that will never be the case in the NBA. Playing 36 minutes a game, Larkin was one of the better conditioned athletes in the country, and with his smarts, competiveness, and quick hands, he could evolve into an adequate defender should he keep up his level of intensity for the duration of his playing time.
Shane Larkin 2013 NBA Draft Scouting Report Video (via DraftExpress)
Pro potential/Wizards fit: This past season served as the perfect storm for Larkin. He was relatively unheralded coming into the season, he took a dark-horse in the ACC to the Sweet 16 and with the majority of the team already graduated now, he decided to declare for the draft before anyone could begin to second guess his skill. We'll never know just how much Larkin could help replicate the success of the Hurricanes this past season and how well he would be able to handle that added pressure. Everything happened so quickly for him and scouts all over the country, they weren't afforded sufficient time to pick apart his game because all the cards fell right in Larkin's favor. It's quite possible that Larkin is more of a scorer than true point guard, but the only way we'll know now is through the rigors of an NBA season.
Larkin is an interesting case because the league has shifted toward pick-and-roll-based offenses, which he has mastered at the college level. Whether he has the size and strength to match up to superior defenders remains in question, but he has the makings of an excellent third guard or a possible starter given the right team. He'll succeed in just about any system, he's just as good spotting up as he is off the dribble, which allows him to play off the ball, and his natural scoring instincts should more than compensate for his rudimentary finishing ability.
Whether he is the right pick for the Wizards depends entirely on who's available in the middle of the first round. However, there are very few prospects that can match the type of impact he would provide with the second unit, and the potential pairing of him and John Wall in small lineups would be an excellent change of pace from Wittman's traditional rotations.