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Getting to know NBA Draft Prospect Paul Reed Jr.: Could he be the rim-protector the Wizards need?

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Reed Jr. averaged 10.7 rebounds and 2.6 blocks as a junior at DePaul this year.

NCAA Basketball: Butler at DePaul
Paul Reed running down the court against Butler
Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Reed Jr., a 21 year old junior out of DePaul, averaged 15 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2.6 blocks this past college season. He’s a 6’9, pogo-stick-athlete with long arms (7’2 wingspan) and great mobility. If you watched a five minute highlight video you might think you’re watching the next Dennis Rodman. Watching entire games paints a different picture and explains why he is mostly projected as a second round pick. That’s not to say he doesn’t do a lot well and I think those positives are the exact things the Wizards would benefit from.

Offense

Reed has a quick first step that allows him to drive by slower defenders and he finishes pretty well around the basket. When driving, you’ll see him pull out the occasional well-timed euro-step, absorb some contact, and hit a tough runner off the glass. Although, to be fair, in other instances he will try to go back his back at full speed, lose control, and either commit an offensive foul or turn the ball over. He’s still a work in progress offensively but the flashes are certainly enticing.

That applies to Reed’s jump-shot as well. On the negative side, he only made 31-percent of his threes on two attempts per game this year. On the plus side, he made 74-percent of his free throws, which as you hear repeatedly, is a good indicator of long-term shooting success.

Unfortunately, the shot just looks wonky at this point. He’s got this weird thing going on with his off-hand being on top of the ball, starts his shot really low which leads to a slow release, shoots on the way down, has a hitch sometimes but not others, and sort of frog-kicks his left leg backwards which leaves him off-balance at times.

NCAA Basketball: St. John at DePaul
Paul Reed displays his less-than-ideal shooting form against St. John’s
Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Every so often you’ll see Reed, running at full speed, stop on a dime to hit this beautiful tear-drop floater that shows he has pretty good touch. When a player displays touch like that, even around the basket, it gives me hope that with cleaned-up mechanics they can develop into at least a serviceable shooter.

Reed would be an intriguing lob threat to pair with John Wall. He funs the floor well and would be a dangerous finisher in transition. Tommy Sheppard has talked about adding an athletic big man in the draft and Reed certainly fits that bill. As a small-ball center, he would be nightmare for more traditional centers to have to chase around.

Lob threat seems like the main offensive role Reed is suited for at this point. He posted up a good amount at DePaul but I don’t see him being strong enough or skilled enough to merit those types of touches in the NBA. Given how little post offense actually exists today, you have to be really good at it for teams to consider running those types of plays for you. Luckily, he has a nose for the ball and doesn’t need a lot of plays run for him to contribute.

He struggled to get leverage against stronger collegiate players and that would likely be the case in the pros. He also isn’t much of a passer at this point so I doubt that would be an efficient offensive option for NBA teams.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Tournament-Xavier vs DePaul
Reed throws down a big dunk against Xavier
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Defense

This is what they call “burying the lede” in journalism. Reed’s major value comes on the defensive end. He is a big-time shot-blocker, and despite being on the thin side, I think he will continue to be at the NBA level. The Wizards need athleticism, rebounding, and defensive-minded players. That’s exactly what is listed on Reed’s resume.

He looks excited when guys try to get to the rim when he’s anywhere in the vicinity. He actually hunts blocks to his detriment at times because he ends up out of position and can’t recover. The same goes for selling out when getting into passing lanes. Both things also get him into foul trouble at times so being more disciplined will go a long way for him. But like the late John Thompson Jr. once said, “You can calm down a fool before you can resurrect a corpse.”

In a recent interview with HoopsHype, Reed spoke about his defensive mentality and I think it’s exactly the kind of thing the Wizards’ front office and fanbase should want to hear from a potential draft pick.

“It’s just instincts, playing with a motor,” said Reed. “I’m always trying to stay active. For my team, I’m always the last line of defense. That is my mindset. It’s up to me to not let the other team score. Defensive rebounds are also extremely important because if I don’t get the rebound, most likely the other team will. Then they will get another chance to score. We need defensive rebounds. It’s super important. I’m that guy that’s going to get them.”

NCAA Basketball: DePaul at Butler
Paul Reed swats a shot against Butler
Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

He should be able to guard in space as well as almost any big in this draft. Reed didn’t get switched out onto perimeter players a ton based on his defensive scheme in college but when he did the guards were more likely to give the ball up than try to attack him. A couple times this year he actually blocked step-back three-point attempts and managed to avoid fouling.

It’s partly because of that lateral movement that Reed believes he will even be able to play some small forward in the NBA. “I don’t have a preference between the four and the five but at the next level, I’ll also be able to play the three. I didn’t get to showcase it but my ability to handle the ball and shoot the ball and guard one through five will make me able to play at the three, too,” said Reed.

Reed was a really good rebounder at the college level and I think he should be above average in the NBA too. His effort and activity on the glass gives me confidence that he will put his length and athleticism to good use. He’s just good enough as a ball-handler that he could provide some value by getting a defensive rebound and starting the fast-break.

“In high school, I used to bring the ball up a lot,” said Reed. “I got the rebound and then brought it up myself. I’m not where I want to be at yet. Last season, I would lose the ball sometimes after I would get a steal or a block. That’s what I’ve been working on this offseason, my handles. I want to make sure they are nice and tight so I don’t make those same errors again. But that is part of my game. I’m an all-around player. I feel like I can do it all. If I get a steal, I can go coast-to-coast and make something happen.”

The draft range for Reed is pretty difficult to nail down. The Ringer Draft Guide has Reed at 33. Matt Babcock, a former NBA agent and expert for Babcock Hoops, has him at 46. Recent guest of the Bleav in Wizards podcast, The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie, has Reed 49th on his big board. ESPN has him the lowest at 51.

The NBA comparisons are all over the place too. I’ve seen different draft sites compare him to: Taj Gibson, Paul Millsap, Jerami Grant, and Nerlens Noel. He reminds me of Hassan Whiteside coming out of Marshall. Yes, I know Whiteside is about three inches taller (although they were probably about the same weight coming out of college) but a lot of the positives and question marks about them as prospects are similar.

Both are lob threats, clean the defensive glass, discourage opponents from attacking the rim, hunt weakside blocks even if that’s not what the team wants, seem to daydream on the court at times, and have a bit of a mean streak to them. Reed has the lateral quickness to guard in space that Whiteside doesn’t and seems to have the right mindset to grow out of the bad habits that Whiteside hasn’t.

I know a lot of people are down on Whiteside given that inconsistent motor and lack of offensive polish but he still provides value. The biggest issue is: does he provide enough value to justify his $25 million per year price tag? I would say that’s an emphatic “no.” However, I wouldn’t mind having a similar skill-set from a second round pick on a much more reasonable contract.

To me, coming up with a potential NBA comparison is less important than how he compares to other prospects in this draft. I know a lot of members of the Wizards’ fan base seem to really like Precious Achiuwa and I see why. However, I think Reed can give you almost all of the same things a lot lower in the draft.

On first glance, you might say, “But Achiuwa is a freshman and Reed is a junior!” Reed is actually only three months older than Achiuwa. Their base statistics this season were pretty similar with Achiuwa having a slight edge in terms of points and rebounds. When you start to look at the advanced statistics (if you believe in such things), Reed really starts to push ahead.

http://www.tankathon.com/players/compare?players=precious-achiuwa—paul-reed
Tankathon.com

I’m not making a bold proclamation here that Reed will have a much better career than Achiuwa. I’m simply pointing out that they may end up having a fairly similar impact, except one might go around the lottery and the other could potentially be had in the middle of the second round. In terms of value, that’s the type of thing I hope our front office keeps in mind.

If the Wizards opt to take a wing with their first round pick and Reed is still on the board at 37, I would like for them to strongly consider him. If they decide to go a different direction at 37 and he’s still available late in the second round, he’s the type of guy they should consider making a trade for.