Last week, the Wizards signed Jarrod Uthoff, a 27-year old stretch-four who’d spent the 2019-20 season tearing up the G-League for the Memphis Hustle. It’s the kind of move that’s entirely routine in the NBA. Washington was down a few players and needed a body. Uthoff played well this season...bring him in.
I took a quick look at the numbers and concluded it was a solid pick-up. Maybe he’d contribute something in The Bubble and stick around for a year or two to fill out the end of the bench.
And then, I heard from a league friend who’d seen my analysis and was familiar with Uthoff since he transferred from Wisconsin.
“Your numbers are right on target,” he told me. “He’s the best player in the G-League. He can be a starter in the NBA. All he needs is a chance.”
For the record, my metric (PPA) had Uthoff top 20 in the G-League this season, not number one.
I was intrigued by the possibility that the Wizards hadn’t just signed “a guy” but maybe someone who could have a spot in the rotation next season. Intrigued enough to ping some other league contacts, who had much the same story. One guy told me he’s the Wizards’ best player in The Bubble. To which, I replied, “Low bar.”
(No, I don’t think he’s their best player in The Bubble. I also don’t think he’s close to their worst.)
So, with endorsements ranging from unequivocally good to good with caveats, I went looking for video of him playing.
What I saw:
- Good size. He’s 6-9 with a 7-1 wingspan. He played PF and C in the G-League and could do the same in the NBA.
- He can shoot. His G-League three-point percentage was a standard-issue .367 this season. But there was an issue with his eye, which shows up in two ways — first, he wore goggles in some games and not in others, and second, he shot a lot worse when he wore goggles. Watch him in games and he has a quick and high release with a smooth and easy stroke from distance. With Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans out, Uthoff may be the team’s best shooter in Orlando.
- Smart. He’s a crafty scorer with creativity and good touch around the basket. His post-up game is solid and he has an effective Dirk Nowitzki-style fadeaway.
- Good hands. He catches well in traffic and he’s good at poking the ball loose without fouling. More than adequate handle and he doesn’t turn it over much.
- Skilled. One scout told me Uthoff could play three, four or five in the NBA. He has legit SF skills, but I didn’t see the lateral quickness to play three. That’s not to say Uthoff is deficient athletically. He just seemed more like a 4/5 in the footage I watched. I don’t dismiss the idea entirely — I saw a limited sample and he was typically playing a big man’s role.
- Sneaky athletic. This isn’t code for “white guy.” What I mean is that he has a long, loping running style that doesn’t look like he’s going hard...except he’s passing guys and beating them down the floor. He’d lay the ball in while under the basket just enough to make me think he wasn’t explosive, and then rise up and throw down a dunk on someone. He blocks his share of shots.
- Good passer. He gets assists and he’ll make the extra pass to turn a decent shot for himself into an excellent shot for a teammate. The high assist numbers in a big man role bode well for his defense, which leads me to...
- Good defender. He has good instincts and technique with a knack for being in the right place at the right time. From what I saw, he was effective on ball and in help situations. I saw him mostly in drop coverage on pick and roll — the Wizards like bigs to hedge — but I don’t see any reason he can’t pick up what they’re trying to do. He’s strong enough and shows an understanding of leverage that he won’t get picked on in the post by anyone except guys like Joel Embiid, who pick on nearly everyone.
Overall, what I see on film and in the numbers is a guy who can play. He might not be able to translate what he does into being a valuable NBA contributor, but he’s not some scrub who’s going to be hopelessly overmatched either.
He has legitimate NBA skills, size and athleticism. Whether he gets the chance to show that in The Bubble is anyone’s guess. Given the status of the Wizards roster and their need for cheap talent over the next few seasons they should get him as many minutes as they can spare over the next few weeks.
I’m not saying Uthoff will be a star or even that he’s going to be a rotation quality NBA player. It’s a big step up in competition level and not everyone can make the leap. But, my analysis of the numbers suggests he’s someone who can be average to better than average at the NBA level, and nothing I saw on film told me anything different.