Phil Pressey and the limits of NBA prospects

Why not draft Phil Pressey?

Every college basketball season showcases elite prospects who are widely considered to be drafted in the lottery and expected to excel upon entry into the league. These players generally exhibit some physical traits that are unmatched (e.g. Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, John Wall, and Anthony Davis) or have potential to develop into a solid professional player even if their college experience wasn’t as heralded as expected (think Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond). If a potential draft pick isn’t physically or athletically imposing, their skill level is either highly superior or effectively versatile, almost like a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none (e.g. Kyrie Irving at the time of the 2011 draft).

But not every prospect is created equal. Every so often, there are players coming out of college who possesses requisite NBA skill but their draft stock is sorely limited by their physical, athletic, or positional limitations. This upcoming draft is filled with a laundry list of point guards who fit into this category, ranging from Peyton Siva in Louisville to Pierre Jackson at Baylor.

None, however, match this scenario more than Missouri’s point guard, Phil Pressey, who has very good lead guard instincts but is restricted in some aspects because of his height and build.

Due to the heightened pace and complexity of the game, it is rare to see a college point guard exhibit Pressey’s elite control over an offense. Many freshman–and even some upperclassmen–aren’t fully able to adjust to the steep jump from high school level competition to that of the college game, where players are bigger, faster, stronger, defenses are smarter and make quicker rotations, and coaches have less patience and are not afraid to yank any player from a game as a teaching moment.

Last year, only Kendall Marshall, Scott Machado, and Jesse Sanders reached the playmaking heights that Pressey was able to grasp. According to’s pure point rating (“a formula used to rate players on their perceived skill at running the point guard position in the traditional manner. The formula values a low number of turnovers, a high number of assists, and little else” PPR Formula: (( AST * 2/3 ) – TOV ) * 100 / Min”) ), Pressey ranked 4th among point guards in the nation. He also ranked 6th in assists per game and 7th in assist to turnover ratio.

As tough as it is for Pressey to be his team’s primary facilitator, it’s even more difficult for him to shoulder the burden of being the best player on a team marked with inexperience. This season, Pressey, a junior, has had to assume a lot more responsibility because there are only four other players on the team that previously played for Frank Haith coupled with the fact that the Tigers lost a bulk of their production as a result of the departures of Marcus Denmon, Matt Pressey, Ricardo Ratliff, and Kim English. Down the stretch of an overtime defeat at the hands of the Shabazz Muhammad-led UCLA Bruins, Pressey struggled to merge the two roles as his late turnovers cost the team a chance to win and marred his 19 point/19 assist effort.

For all his advanced playmaking, Pressey’s shooting ability is not up to par with NBA standards. His true shooting percentage is a poor 47%, well below most of his fellow point guards playing 20 minutes or more. His 2pt shooting percentage of 34.8% also hovers at the bottom of the list of point guards. A silver lining for Pressey is that he shoots well from the free throw line at 81%, but only gets there 3.9 times a game, which is average considering his ability to get into the paint and unmatched quickness. Pressey’s three-point percentage (34.5%) is surprisingly almost equal to his 2pt percentage, which may illustrate that he will probably be a solid mid-range shooter in the NBA. Pressey’s shot is far from broken though, and when he has more time to put in the extra work in the NBA, the results will come.

The main limiting factor with Pressey, though, is his size. Only measuring 5-11 (if that) and weighing 175 lbs.,Pressey may encounter trouble dealing with the increased physicality at the next level. His wingspan isn’t much better either at 6-3, which won’t allow him to corral the bigger NBA guards. But one thing is for sure, Phil Pressey will not be outworked; he’ll dive, claw, and sacrifice his body for possession of the ball at any time. As long as the consistent effort is there, he’ll have no trouble picking up steals and hustle points of off forced turnovers.

Final Verdict: I absolutely feel that a team in the 2013 or 2014 draft will take a chance on Pressey. I think the best fit for him may be with the San Antonio Spurs, who run a lot of pick and rolls with the floor spaced. That offensive scheme is conducive to Pressey’s strengths, which are centered around speed, penetration, and dishing out passes to shooters on the wing. Who better than Tony Parker(who resembles Pressey in stature) to help the Missouri guard adjust to and learn NBA basketball?


Some other great takes on Phil Pressey’s game:

My NBA Draft guesses: Will they get drafted?

  • Aaron Craft: Yes, his defensive prowess and motor will impress many teams and find him a spot in the league. His skill level will gradually develop as he gains more experience.

    The tough, defensive-minded guard confounds offenses with his hounding on ball pressure.
    (Getty Images)

Skill: perimeter defense, true leader, high character, strong

Limitations: athleticism, spotty shooting, average scorer

  • Ryan Harrow: Yes. I actually have a bold statement to make regarding his draft stock in an upcoming article.

    After enduring early struggles, the speedy Harrow has found his niche in John Calipari’s offense.
    (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Skill: Quickness, ball handling, solid athlete

Limitations: Very skinny, poor shooting, will have trouble with physicality


  • Peyton Siva: Tough one–He’s a good enough athlete and playmaker to at least garner serious interest from some teams, but his outside shot is poor and struggles finishing. I think some team will select him, though.

    The senior is looking to lead his Louisville Cardinals to a NCAA Championship.
    (Louisville Athletics)

Skill: Pressure defense, penetration, athleticism, passing

Limitations: finishing, height, turnover-prone

  • Pierre Jackson: I think he’ll get a camp invite, and has a chance to make a roster with his scoring instincts.
  • The leading scorer in the Big 12 is trying to finish his final college basketball season strong.

Skill: scoring instincts, penetration, confidence

Limitations: not a true point, height, turnover-prone, streaky

  • Dexter Strickland: Somewhat of a combo guard. Once he finds a role that he can play, he’ll make a team. I think he is an overseas player or a D-Leaguer at this stage.

    The UNC guard is trying to regain his form after tearing his ACL last season.
    (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Skill: Good defender, good athlete

Limitations: coming of ACL tear, tweener, does nothing well at either guard spot

  • Myck Kabongo: Utah Jazz! Utah Jazz! Utah Jazz!
Myck Kabongo will finally be eligible to play basketball again on Feb. 11 after being suspended by the NCAA for 23 games.
( Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff)

Not only does Rick Barnes run almost the same Flex offense that the Utah Jazz have been mighty familiar with, but this also sums up why the Jazz and Kabongo are a perfect fit, courtesy of AllThatAmar from the Utah Jazz’s SBN page:


  “Yes, that pretty much made my day because I love Myck Kabongo. (Who said anything about PGs being able to improve their three point shot?) The #1 quality that makes me drool about Kabongo is that his head is in the right place. He’s professional and mature – as a former refugee of the DRC / Zaire who with his family fled to Canada he knows how crazy this world can be. He’s not going to take his chance to make it in the NBA for granted. He’s a strong leader who is a throwback PG. If there was ever a spot made for him it would be here, where Jazz management has done a great job of drafting players who need the ball and should be taking the shots. Kabongo really seems like a type of player whose best talents on the court are getting the right guys the ball.”

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