Explosivity sells at the NBA level. With franchises spacing the floor out for isolations and open-paint play, uber-athletic ball-handlers cater towards the current trajectory of the league. Purdue guard Jaden Ivey ranks at the top of this year’s draft class as an explosive slasher with on-ball play.
With the modern NBA heavily driven towards combo guards, traditionally 6-foot-5 and up, Ivey is right on the doorstep at 6-foot-4, 195 pounds. However, his natural position leading into the NBA rests at the two spots. Despite most two guards having a couple of inches on him, this height discrepancy should be of little hindrance due to his style of play. To bolster his frame, his 6-foot-10 wingspan gives him the length to play up a couple of sizes, making him a trusty player to place at the two spot. In terms of measurables, Ivey is comparable to Donovan Mitchell, who entered the draft two inches shorter than the Purdue product, carrying an identical wingspan. Victor Oladipo is also similar in stature at 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan.
+ Explosive Athlete / Finishing Ability
There’s a two-man race between Ivey and Shaedon Sharpe as this draft cycle’s most explosive finisher. But, the top nod ultimately goes to Ivey. When Ivey runs with a full head of steam to the basket, it’s wise to either get out of his way or pull out your camera – because it’s bound to cause fireworks. His slashing ability has drawn comparisons to the likes of Ja Morant and Zach Lavine, among others, in this process, and his innate ability to elevate lines up with this steep competition.
Ivey’s acceleration on or off the ball makes him a potent threat when navigating to the basket. He doesn’t sway away from contact when penetrating, and once in air – he’s going for blood. On multiple occasions this season, Ivey darted by the first level of defense and made a straight-line drive right to the second level, resulting in a posterizing dunk.
One element of players that are no fluke in transitioning level-to-level comes in athletic ability. Ivey has shown dominance in creating looks to the basket one-on-one or off-the-ball, and he will never shy away from an opportunity to post a jaw-dropping finish.
Due to Ivey’s consistent attacks at the paint, the whistle has gotten quite a bit of air. This season, he averaged 5.8 foul shots per game, converting at a 74.4-percent clip.
+ Mid-Air Adjustments
Ivey in the open fastbreak is spectacular. His top speed, coupled with his bounce, makes him a social media darling. The thing is, that’s the case with a lot of pros – they have bounce. What differentiates the great athletes from the elite ones is their ability to finish in the halfcourt. Ivey checks those boxes, and he does it through contact as well.
Ivey routinely broke past the first line of defense and charged straight into frontcourt members this season. Instead of looking to evade contact with leaning push-shot attempts, he took straight to the defender, using his chest to create space mid-air for layup tries. This became one of Ivey’s top tendencies this season, as with posterizers often out of the play, he was still able to create high-quality looks in otherwise brutal contests. Overall, he shot 70-of-119 (58.8%) on halfcourt shots in the paint this season.
+ Tight Handle / Elite First Step
Jaden Ivey is a magnet with the basketball in his hands. His acceleration with the basketball allows him to fly right past his defender in man and knife past frontcourt members who are hovering at the perimeter. The quick first step of Ivey opens the door for a bevy of penetrations and isolation attacks that could make him viable in pick-and-roll situations.
In the halfcourt, Ivey makes use of his speed to catch defenders off guard with a cross jab, giving himself a small window to put up a shot around the basket. On these drives, he also has a moving hesitation and pullback that can quickly shift the pace of play. At the top of the key, he uses between the legs moves to station himself for drives, even conducting this move while driving towards the rim.
+ Perimeter Shooting
One common flaw seen with star-level athletes is that their shot, for one reason or another, never reaches an NBA level. Due to this, teams can sag off and turn you from a potential game-changer into an off-ball liability who may struggle to create shots on-ball. That shouldn’t be the case with Ivey, however.
Ivey, who shot 35.6% from distance this season, showed the ability to convert on deep-range attempts on catch-and-shoot tries, and on-ball. His jumpshot could come with a bit of a quicker release. But, quite frankly, his lethal handle and penetration ability make him a player you have to tighten up on with caution. Ivey made use of defenders sagging off, living off of stepbacks to create room and get releases off without overbearing contests.
Ivey saw a 10-percent jump from last year from downtown, going from a near nobody from distance to the best shot creator on the Boilermakers roster from all three levels. If he is able to establish himself as a catch-and-shoot figure, his fit should work in virtually any backcourt.
+ Chasedown Artist
Elite verticality is not a one-sided skill in basketball. Ivey showcases that with his ability to swat shots.
Generally speaking, blocks from Ivey have not always been a given. Across two seasons at Purdue, he clocked 36 blocks across 59 games (0.6). However, it’s still a part of his game that differentiated him from other guard prospects – particularly in transition.
While most guards sit back or attempt a strip steal following a steal in the passing lane, Ivey goes full steam ahead in attempts to block shots. With the Boilermakers, he showed real potential chasing down opponents as his elite level of speed, paired with his leaping ability, resulted in a collection of chasedown rejections, with some coming in halfcourt sets.
+ Transition Play
Ivey spreads his wings while playing in transition, going from exclusively looking to shoot on halfcourt drives to being an all-around nightmare on the break.
Although Ivey’s breakaway speed is the most notable and jaw-dropping facet of his transition play, he does the details well in this regard. When slashing to the basket, he does a great job reading the floor to find any open targets leaking inside. If he realizes the defense carries numbers, he positions himself to find a trailer at the perimeter. If he sees daylight, he’ll bump into turbo mode and find himself on a highlight reel.
+ Isolation Play
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At the collegiate level, Ivey showed major signs of dominating in isolation play. However, Purdue’s situation was not ideal for the guard’s spacing – leaving some extra potential on the plate.
With two bigs in 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey and 6-foot-10 Trevion Williams, coaches had a field day being able to tighten the paint against a violent driver such as Ivey. At the NBA level, the spacing of the floor should greatly benefit how he can operate in space. And, if his perimeter success continues into the pros, he’s a tough assignment one-on-one.
- Tunnel Vision
With a player possessing such high skills as a ball-handler and finisher – tunnel vision is bound to be part of the equation. Ivey falls victim to this in some halfcourt instances.
Ivey played on the attack on the majority of high-ball screens. However, with primary center Zach Edey lacking perimeter play, the defense could easily play in drop coverage and recover. Instead of hunting for a much larger Edey, Ivey often settled for short mid-range jumpers off the bounce. These yielded production in some instances, but he did have a clouded judgment on these types of reps. On straight-line drives, he also passed on kick-out opportunities in an effort to make contact around the basket.
Ivey had some on-ball slip-ups this season, averaging 2.6 turnovers. Some of these mishaps can be chalked up to his aforementioned decision-making skills in the mid-range. But, it doesn't tell the full story. Traps in the halfcourt also yielded errant passes – sometimes leading to the ball heading in the opposite direction.
- Screen Defense
In the modern era of play, it’s become more and more prevalent for teams to rely on screens to initiate the offense. With Ivey, he’s able to get skinny on screens in some instances, but a barrage of screens can lead to some hiccups.
Ivey went under top-of-the-key screens a little too often this season, particularly when set off by a pair of screens. For opposing teams who carry sharpshooters in the backcourt, experimenting with Ivey’s coverage ability would be intriguing as though his length allows for recovery – he did get phased out of plays.
Similar to Ivey’s isolation game, Purdue’s rotation involved flat-footed centers that limited coverages the Boilermakers could throw out on screens. With more versatile bigs at the next level, some of these issues could be mitigated to the point it’s not a major concern headed forward.
- Inconsistent Mid-Range / Deceleration
Ivey slashing to the basket is one of the scariest challenges for defenders. When at the basket, he can go for a posterizer, earn shots at the line, or hand mid-air for a shot attempt. But, if you’re able to force him into a mid-range shot – it’s a defensive win based on the numbers.
This season, Ivey shot 8-of-39 (20.5%) on short and mid-range jumpers while recording a 30-of-101 output on shots off the dribble. Amidst drives to the basket, Ivey doesn’t respond well when stopped outside the paint, leading to picking up the ball or a shot of poor quality.
In these moments where Ivey is clogged up, he reaches into his mid-range game, which consists of, in terms of mechanics, an inconsistent, funky push shot and mid-range attempts where his feet are fluttering on the rise. This tendency can be attributed to his high top speed which, with no dribble move, ultimately has a rough go hitting the brakes. He’ll need to improve in terms of deceleration, and the ripple effect would ultimately alleviate some of these inconsistent shot forms.
On the bright side for Ivey, if he established a hallmarked pull-up, he’d be even more difficult to be tasked with. A lot of his mid-range shots created space, but his release ultimately stunted him. Adding this into his bag greatly improves his standing as a three-level threat.
Ceiling: Perennial All-Star
Jaden Ivey fits the mold of a franchise cornerstone. He possesses elite athletic ability, a quick handle, the ability to create his own shot, and shades of being a three-level scorer. If you top this off with him being able to slow down in stop-and-pop situations, better playmaking in the halfcourt, and better defense against screens – he’s the high-output scorer franchises can build around.
In terms of reaching this ceiling, destination will play a pivotal role in his development. When assessing the top of the draft board, Ivey has been placed in Limbo in terms of draft projection. With the top three teams in the Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Houston Rockets seemingly honed in on frontcourt figures – Ivey’s been pegged as the projected fourth player on the board. Barring a trade, his name at Pick No. 4 would send him to the Sacramento Kings – a franchise already situated in the backcourt with De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell.
If Ivey goes to a franchise in need of backcourt minutes, such as the Houston Rockets or Detroit Pistons, reaching his ultimate ceiling would be in the cards. He’ll need reps, particularly in catch-and-shoot and mid-range situations to fully fill out his offensive game. Under the assumption he becomes a reliable scorer at all three ranges, him becoming the primary or secondary scoring option is well within reach.
Floor: Microwave Scorer → Sixth Man
Even if Ivey were to lack any breakthroughs as a mid-range scorer or on-ball playmaker, he’s still positioned to be a top-tier scorer at the NBA level. As a dynamic inside-out threat, Ivey, at his floor, is an elite microwave scorer who can take over the game in spurts with his ability to self-create and manage the game in transition.
Ivey’s sudden emergence as a sharpshooter, on relatively the same number of reps, is a good indicator he’ll be a trusty catch-and-shoot target at the next level. However, if this part of his game goes on the decline, he’d still be a sturdy pick-and-roll threat who could thrive with off-ball movement. Regardless, he’d still be generating points at a solid rate.
Projection: All-Star Scorer with Ability to Take Over Games
Jaden Ivey took major strides this season with the Boilermakers. His ability to take over games with his freakish athleticism, acceleration, ball handling, and shot-creating give him the core pieces to be a successful producer at the next level.
Ivey is a player who should be able to create offense out of thin air when penetrating to the basket, and if a pull-up develops, there’s no good option when defending him in space. Because of the guard’s uncanny speed and athletic ability, he has a clear advantage over some of his peers, making him a franchise’s first or second option as a scorer.
Prospects such as Jaden Ivey do not roll around in every draft class. His wide array of offensive attacks will make him a tough cover moving forward, making him a player who could lead in scoring on any given night.