School: Kentucky (Freshman)
Position: Power Forward
Mock Drafts: Draft Express - No. 17; SB Nation: No. 19; CBS Sports (Sam Vecenie): No. 15; Rotoworld (Ed Isaacson): No. 16
Per Game Stats
Per 100 Possessions Stats
- Height: 6'9" without shoes, 6’10.25" in shoes
- Weight: 241 pounds, 12.1 percent body fat
- Wingspan: 7’1.5"
- Standing Reach: 9’
Did not participate in the athletic testing.
Lyles projects to be an excellent jump-shooter with range that could extend out to the NBA 3-point line in time. He has a quick release, a fluid stroke and a good follow-through. Lyles is also capable of knocking down shots off the dribble. Lyles didn't really even show a 3-point stroke from the college line, converting just 4 of his 29 attempts from beyond the arc. However, he did knock down 28 of his 58 jumpers inside the arc (48.3 percent). Lyles shot a solid 73.5 percent from the free-throw line, and I expect him to improve that to 75-80 percent as he gets more reps as a professional.
Lyles needs to work on consistency and stretching his range out past 17 feet, but that should not be much of a problem for a player of his age who already has solid mechanics.
As I just mentioned, Lyles has strong stretch four potential, but his shooting touch isn't the only reason for that. In fact, after Alex Poythress went down Lyles stepped into the starting small forward role (at 6 feet 10 inches) and spent many of his minutes playing on the perimeter.
Lyles is a strong ball-handler for a man of his size, able to comfortably put the ball on the deck with either hand and get into the paint. He's not overly fast or explosive, but his strong body control and footwork still allow him to beat defenders off the dribble, and that advantage will be even stronger against big men.
Lyles is also a willing passer, who often moved the ball within the halfcourt rather than trying to force things himself, despite not always getting as many touches as he probably should have.
Lyles is exactly the face-up, stretch four that has been in such demand in today's NBA. His ability to shoot jumpers and also put the ball on the deck to attack close-outs could make him a match-up nightmare for opposing power forwards in the NBA.
Because he was forced to play out of position at small forward so much, Lyles did not get many opportunities to show off his post game. However, he took advantage of the touches he did get, shooting 50 percent on his post ups and drawing a foul on 25 percent of them. Lyles has long arms, has good touch with either hand and has excellent foot work.
Lyles doesn't have the arsenal of post moves that Jahlil Okafor does (most current NBA players don't), but he's polished enough to take advantage when he's given a favorable match-up.
Lyles is a solid rebounder, particularly on the offensive end, but he's far from dominant in that part of the game. Lyles' length and IQ serve him well on the offensive glass as he does a good job of crashing the glass, securing position and reading the ball when a shot goes up. He grabbed 3.2 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes, which is even more impressive considering he was crashing from the perimeter most of the time.
However, he needs some work on the other end where he's merely an OK rebounder. His length again helps him, but too often he falls back on that rather than working as hard to secure position as he should. Lyles occasionally gets caught ball-watching or gets pushed out of the play, giving up rebounds on the weak side.
Lyles needs to improve his effort and awareness on the defensive glass, but he should be able to hold his own as he gains strength.
Defense is where Lyles has to make the biggest strides. His long arms help him contest shots, but his lack of explosion limits him as a weakside shotblocker and overall rim protector. His block and steal rates are alarmingly low - a notorious red flag for draft prospects, but his role on Kentucky certainly could have affected him there.
He was forced to defend wings - not an easy task for a man who stands 6 feet 10 inches and 241 pounds. He accepted that challenge with enthusiasm, especially when he was defending the ball as he got down in a stance and tried to pressure his man knowing he had help behind him if he got beat. Defending wings should only help him heading to the NBA with so many stretch fours and tweeners that are so common in the NBA. His lateral quickness improved, and he moves well for his size.
However, playing on the perimeter also hurt him on the interior. Coming into college, toughness was one of the things Lyles had to work on and he didn't get many chances to do that at Kentucky. Too often he was backed down or taken out of a play because of a lack of fight or ability to hold his ground in the post and on the glass.
His fundamentals and awareness need improvement as well. He both gets caught ball-watching and misses help opportunities because he's trying to stick too close to his own man. His consistent effort level needs to improve as well.
Overall, there are reasons to think he can improve on the defensive end. His 12.1 percent body fat is an improvement over where he was in high school, but he still has plenty of room to continue adding muscle, which should help him get better on the interior. His high IQ makes me think all he needs is some good coaching to improve his fundamentals and awareness.
Overall Thoughts and Fit in Phoenix
There is a ton to like about Lyles with his excellent size and high skill level. I'd have loved to see what kind of numbers Lyles could have put up had he been in Bobby Portis' situation.
"I just [want to show] my versatility," after his workout with the Suns on Thursday. "I want to show a lot of stuff I wasn't able to at school last year and just show that I'm an all-around ball player."
Lyles actually reminds me a bit of Markieff Morris minus the felony allegation, a twin, T-Rex arms and a veteran contract. He's much farther along in his development as a freshman than Keef as well, as the Kansas product declared after his junior year of college, then took two more years before becoming a viable NBA player.
I think there is a clear fit in Phoenix for Lyles. He brings a lot of the positives of Markieff Morris, but I think he has more true stretch four potential and is a more willing passer. He's also mobile enough to get out and run in transition with the Suns' guards.
Lyles showed this year that he is willing to fit in to a system and play his role rather than trying to force things for himself, although I'm not sure he should have been asked to do so as much as he was. Lyles said that this is one area where his high IQ shows on the court.
"Just doing the simple stuff, doing what needs to get done," Lyles said. "Doing the least possible to be the most effective. Just taking my time and not forcing the issue."
Playing out of position and in the platoon system makes it difficult to judge just how talented Lyles is or how good he can become. I think he'd probably be more highly regarded had he had the chance to play his true position and be a top option for a team.
I like the fit for Phoenix. It's up to Ryan McDonough to judge whether or not the value is there at 13. If he ends up on the Suns, I certainly won't be disappointed.