Wings in the NBA are a rare commodity. We’re talking about good wings, versatile ones, ones you can play in the playoffs. Watching the 2019 playoffs, most of the teams only have six through eight guys who they can reliably play and not expect total collapse from. It’s why this year’s NBA Draft should result in a lot of value on that sort of prospect.
More than shooting stationery 3-and-man-to-man-D, NBA teams crave versatile wings. They require ancillary skills to be truly useful, such as team defense, passing or high basketball IQ. These rare complimentary wings often supersede players with more perceived value, with Clint Capela vs PJ Tucker being the poster child for this crusade.
With all of this being said, I can’t figure out why Tulsa senior wing DaQuan Jeffries isn’t garnering more attention ahead of the NBA Draft.
Some smart people have become fans of Jeffries, especially after his performance at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. He’s gone from Summer League tryout to potentially draftable for many, with some firmly slotting him in the second round.
On my most recent top 100, I went as far as slotting Jeffries in the first round, at 28 exactly. Looking deep into his game, I struggle to find any damning holes. A perfect modern playoff wing, he is a player every contender should look to draft late in the first round. More than looking like a wing, shooting spot-up threes and playing defense, Jeffries is good at basketball, something some players projected in the lottery can’t claim. His statistical profile checks all of the boxes:
Jeffries is fairly young for a senior, not turning 22 until August. Measuring in at six-foot-five and a half, 221 pounds with a seven-foot wingspan, Jeffries has an ideal build for an NBA wing/small-ball big, with requisite strength and length. One of the best athletes in this draft class, DaQuan Jeffries has rockets in his shoes:
Champ. 🏆 pic.twitter.com/SnvRs2VgBm
— Tulsa Basketball (@TUMBasketball) April 5, 2019
His athleticism is more than flashy, though, as he hones his vertical explosiveness in a functional way on both ends of the floor. Unlike the glut of average NBA wings, Jeffries has an exceptional feel for the game on both ends of the floor, is a great decision maker and has a high basketball IQ: something teams won’t find from Iman Shumpert or Marcus Morris. I won’t belabor this point any longer without providing visual evidence, but one more time for the folks in the back: DaQuan Jeffries is good at basketball.
The minutiae of basketball often go overlooked by many of the NBA fandoms and even by traditional scouting departments. Too many ignore smart players who do all of the little things, the needle-moving things late in the playoffs. Flash over function is a commonality in the NBA and the reason players like Terry Rozier play far more minutes than they should, despite often damaging their team more than they help.
In the case of DaQuan Jeffries, function comes first. He provides flash from time to time to appease the masses, but Jeffries is a connoisseur of unnoticed winning plays.
This is most easily proved by his decision making on offense. I can’t say always, because no player is perfect, but DaQuan Jeffries is a good decision machine. Jeffries’ passing is not spectacular if we’re going by the dictionary definition of the word. To the casual eye, his passing is not beautiful, nor extravagant, nor eye-catching. To me, though, the way Jeffries thinks the game is absolutely a spectacle. With an assist/turnover ratio greater than one, Jeffries constantly searches for the right play.
Before he receives the initial pass, Jeffries isn’t even thinking about shooting the corner three. Shooting 36.6 percent from range, it’s a makeable shot even if there’s a slight contest. Jeffries spots his teammate with acres of space atop the key and quickly gets him the ball. His unselfishness pays off, as he receives the ball back, hockey-assisting himself:
While it looks simple, Jeffries makes this entry pass to the post with regularity. Despite not making SportsCenter, this toss is worth as many points as a no-look behind the back full-court alley-oop. His reads are always, quick, releasing the pass right when the big seals and leading him to the wide open area:
Again, Jeffries catches the entire zone ball-watching before whizzing this cross-court skip pass on the numbers:
Jeffries’ big man is in some trouble, so he cuts middle to provide an outlet to. This isn’t your every-day cut by an athletic forward, though. Cerebral as he is, Jeffries knows by doubling the big man, Kansas State has left Xavier Sneed to zone the weak side, playing the first pass to Jeffries or Lawson Korita.
Though I’m not a mind reader, I feel confident in saying Jeffries knew his teammate would be open in the corner when he ran into Sneed and he swings the ball back to the corner before the help can reach the shooter:
Given his strength and wingspan, Jeffries projects as a player who could fill minutes as a small-ball big man. One of the most useful skills as a modern big is the ability to create out of the short roll, the facilitator for Draymond Green’s offensive greatness.
Jeffries’ snappy decision making translates to the short roll, where he can carve up the defense playing four on three when the defense sends two at the pick and roll. Jeffries has the composure to take a dribble and find the diving big man, who can’t corral the pass:
At the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Jeffries got the chance to play as a PNR ballhandler more often. Predictably, his passing shined in a different offensive setting.
For someone projecting as a big wing, Jeffries looked comfortable running the offense, feeding the pocket pass to Juwan Morgan:
Though the bulk of his offensive value will come from spot-up shooting, passing and decision making, Jeffries’ athleticism will allow him to dominate in transition. Tulsa didn’t use him as an initiator often, though he has the handle to attack closeouts and push in transition at the NBA level.
His combination of three-point attempt rate (44.7) and free throw rate (40.0) is exceptionally rare; Jeffries attacks the basket, squeaking past Barry Brown and drawing contact:
Despite a rudimentary handle package, his fluidity and explosiveness help him beat slower defenders off of the dribble. Jeffries takes advantage of his excellent length and athleticism driving to the rim and is an excellent finisher because of it, hitting 61.2 percent of his two-point shots and shooting an impressive 69.6 percent of his shots at the rim (per The Stepien’s shot chart).
If NBA teams want to defend him with more traditional bigs or wings, Jeffries can make them pay off of closeouts,:
Initiating as a pick and roll ballhandler:
Or even straight isolations, smoking Dean Wade with the quick between the legs crossover:
At PIT, Jeffries even flashed some pull-up shooting ability, though I don’t expect this to be a significant facet of his game if he makes the NBA. Shot-making is difficult to trust at events such as PIT, but this looked fluid:
Jeffries’ offensive skill set makes him a seamless fit in the modern NBA. As a wing-sized player on offense, he’ll always have a certain luster. With his high-level basketball IQ and pension for the right plays, he’ll be a player who brings excess value to his roster and will be consistently underpaid. For a player who will be a positive on offense through shooting and decision making, Jeffries will be an effective complimentary wing on offense, especially in the playoffs.
On defense, Jeffries’ main weakness is his on-ball defense against quicker players. Despite being an excellent athlete, Jeffries isn’t the quickest laterally and his technique is not great closing out and defending on the ball. Presumably paying most of his minutes at the four in the NBA, Jeffries likely will guard slower-footed players often.
However, he will inevitably switch onto guards and teams could hunt him if he’s poor enough. His length, strength and general athleticism offer hope for his point of attack defense. At the moment, his feet are too sluggish and his closeouts are sloppy against speed:
Against bigger players, Jeffries should be valuable defending on the ball. His feet aren’t awful and should be good enough to slide with many non-guards. Coming back to his frame, the length and strength are his most valuable asset. Despite being a shade under six-foot-six, Jeffries plays much bigger than his height, due to the aforementioned length, athleticism, technique and discipline.
When he’s defending the interior, offensive attackers will seldom find Jeffries overextending for blocks or swaying frenetically. Instilled in his brain is the habit of contesting with his arms vertical, jumping straight up. This rare detail makes Jeffries difficult to score on in the post or driving to the basket:
In team defense, Jeffries’ IQ, awareness, feel for the game and attention to detail is as apparent as it is on offense. Tulsa often played a man-zone hybrid, necessitating strong communication. The quarterback of the Tulsa defense, Jeffries spends his time barking out assignments and making quick rotations. He posted 3.1 stocks per 40 and sky-high block rates in his junior season, a good indicator of his general feel. His 4.3 fouls per 40 is a bit high, though most are from overextending on rotations.
Like many of the NBA’s elite team defenders, the Lonzo Balls and Draymond Greens of the world, Jeffries is almost always early in help, so early he sometimes forgets about his man entirely. Right as Kamau Stokes initiates his journey to the bucket, Jeffries slides over to where he will end up. He’s in perfect help position before Stokes clears the free throw line and contests this floater into a miss:
Stationed on the block of the matchup zone, Jeffries is defending between two players. When Xavier Sneed attacks the middle, Jeffries has to be cognizant of the pass to the block and the pass to the corner. The pterodactyl wings on his torso give Jeffries leeway in his positioning and he reacts at lightning speed to steal this errant pass:
Jeffries begins this play near half court, on the wing of a 1-3-1 press. Oklahoma State does well to crack the defense, passing through the zone and having their big man dive middle. Against most teams, this is an easy dunk. Not the Golden Hurricane, though, and their special help defender in the eye of the storm.
Again, Jeffries is early helping on the baseline drive and forces the pass. Because of his length, Jeffries can defend both man and ball, deflecting this pass and ending a great scoring opportunity:
Unlike the majority of long-limbed prospects, Jeffries is an expert at commanding his length for defensive results. Jeffries clouds up passing lanes, denying would-be assists:
Jeffries’ length makes him difficult to shoot over and he regularly collects blocks on the perimeter when small players foolishly try to go over him. When Barry Brown enters the no-fly zone, this normally safe fadeaway can’t find the rim:
Jeffries’ length and vertical explosion help him protect the rim at a solid rate for a wing. He loves swooping in for weak-side blocks when drivers become unaware. Thinking he has a good position, Dean Wade puts up the layup, only to be denied from behind by the soaring Jeffries:
In defending the post, Jeffries has a penchant for stealing post-entry passes. His length and superb timing make routine entry passes dangerous to attempt. Like a pass rusher, Jeffries swim moves past the post player and knocks the entry pass out of the air:
If his athleticism, tools and IQ weren’t enough, Jeffries’ motor never stops running. Like what people with hybrids make others think, he never runs out of fuel; when I initially watched this tape, it was easy to predict this transition block before the ball even crossed half court:
With a high motor, excellent vertical pop, strength and length, Jeffries is a fantastic rebounder on both ends of the floor. He boxes out with regularity, a scarce trait among basketball players today.
In his junior season, Jeffries averaged 9.0 rebounds per 40. Jeffries skies for rebounds you’d never expect him to even try for, snatching this board and pushing in transition:
I value team defense more than individual defense. Despite his on-ball struggles against guards, Jeffries is a fantastic team defender, with tools and IQ. He is the true useful 3-D wing: more than being able to defend on the ball, Jeffries lurks on the weakside, always ready to help and rotate.
More than hitting spot-up threes and driving, he is a rare decision maker and capable passer. In many ways, Jeffries is the anti-Jaylen Brown, a shooting, scoring 3-D wing who plays without awareness or decision making. Jeffries should even be able to play some small-ball five on defense, given his length and athleticism. The defensive projection for Jeffries, like the offense, is positive.
I’m still confused by the lack of attention for DaQuan Jeffries — and I hope you are too at this point. Well, I shouldn’t say I’m confused, given the NBA is the league who drafted DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley before Luka Doncic. Jeffries is a senior, plays for a mid-major school and non-tourney participant. I shouldn’t say I’m confused, as I’m more disappointed. Jeffries stood out in a big way at Portsmouth and he’s going to have a chance to do it again at the G-League camp. I hope he can climb higher on NBA radars there.
We often underrate players who do the little things well. Conversely, we overrated immensely talented players who neglect the fine print of the game of basketball. We cheer for the aesthetically pleasing volume scorer and jeer for the role player who plays defense and makes smart plays on offense. This dichotomy can be the difference in a playoff series, though. While DeMar DeRozan is more ‘talented’ than PJ Tucker, there’s no question to who is more valuable in a playoff setting.
While Jeffries is not PJ Tucker (he is far from PJ Tucker, as most prospects in his mold are, I am not making this comparison), he is in the same category of underappreciated player. He’s a likely candidate to be massively underpaid relative to his true value, a massive asset to savvy teams.
There’s no guarantee DaQuan Jeffries will get a chance to play in the NBA, to play in the G-League, let alone playing in the playoffs. Hopefully, some smart team will notice all of the things Jeffries does right, compared to how few things he does wrong. DaQuan Jeffries would be a worthwhile addition to any good team at the back end of the first round and will be a monumental steal as an undrafted free agent if he gets a chance.
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