Paul Reed Jr. is the classic story of the guy who wasn’t meant to be here. The son of former European pro Paul Reed, the younger Paul was barely a three star recruit, a 6’5” wing ranked No. 271 in the nation. As a freshman at DePaul, he played fewer than 10 minutes per game, averaging just 3.6 points and 3.1 rebounds with 57.9% free throw shooting.
However, he had a breakout sophomore year, coinciding with a late growth spurt to 6’9”. He took home the Big East’s Most Improved Player Award while improving all of his per-game stats (12.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 1.1 steals, 77.0 ft%, 40.5 3pt% (1 attempt/game) in 27 minutes).
Further growth occurred in his junior year as his role expanded both offensively and defensively, though his three point shooting fell significantly. But for a guy who’s still young and growing into his body, Reed reeks with offensive potential while already projecting to contribute immediately on the defensive end.
Per game: 15.1 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.9 steals, 2.6 blocks, 2.3 turnovers, 51.6/30.8/73.8 shooting splits
Advanced: 56.1% True Shooting, 9.2 box plus-minus (4.9 offensive, 4.2 defensive), .196 win shares per 40
Physical: 21 years old (turns 22 next June), 6’9” with a 7’2” wingspan, 216 pounds
Reed’s immediate strengths are that of a plus defender on day one. Per Zach Cohen of Forbes, Reed’s junior year defensive box plus/minus of 8.2 combined with a 9.7 block rate and 3.3 steal rate have only been reached by Nerlens Noel since 2009-10, who was ranked as a potential number one pick back in 2013.
Reed reminds me a bit of Matisse Thybulle, whose immense defensive ability (3.5 spg / 2.3 bpg in his senior year) immediately translated to impact playing time for the 76ers.
What Reed brings to the table as a forward/small-ball center is his immense rebounding prowess, where he snagged 10.7 rebounds per game, good enough for 14th in the nation, right behind projected lottery pick Precious Achiuwa and ahead of Jalen Smith, who’s projected to go mid-first round.
Reed is also an underrated presence offensively. In his senior year, 3.3 of his rebounds were offensive, where he shot 66% on chances created off offensive rebounds. In general, Reed was dominant close to the basket, converting 74.1 percent of his attempts at the rim, per Hoop-Math.com. What’s interesting watching the tape is that his finishes are not based on use of brute power or being set up by lobs, though he was a great lob finisher. Rather, perhaps because of his guard/wing background, many of his finishes are crafty wrap-arounds or repositions, using his motor and drive to find openings, indicating an advanced level of spatial awareness and finishing ability.
Also notable is his shooting ability - while his form is not very squared, he scored 0.92 PPP (74th percentile) on jump shots within 17 feet, and has shot in the mid 70s from the free throw line ever since receiving consistent minutes. He also shows potential in attacking closeouts. Though it’s easy to get tantalized by potential, the improvement that Reed has had since high school has really shown through. If he keeps up this drive, he can potentially develop into more than a rim runner and defensive specialist.
The biggest concern for Paul Reed to me is his decision making. On the defensive end, there are times where he has tried to hunt for the steal or the block instead of just contesting shots and getting the right positioning or rotation. On the offensive end, this leads him to trying to be too fancy or not making the simple, correct read. Good coaching and role definition will definitely help him with this, but he will need to recognize that it may be a while until he can pull off some of the fancier stepbacks and long-range shooting that he got away with in college.
His weight and strength is also an issue, coming in at just 220 pounds, which will likely not be enough as a big in the NBA expected to cover power forwards and rangy centers. Along those lines, I don’t find Paul to be particularly explosive. This is evident in his “second jump” on putbacks. Though he was fantastic at gathering OREBs and finishing them through crafty layups and pivots, he seemed a bit ground bound. Perhaps this is due to his history as a guard/wing, but coaching him to use his athleticism will further unlock his offensive capability.
Paul Reed really reminds me of a more polished Jeremy Evans, with slightly less athleticism. He plays in the mold of modern “tweener” forwards like Jerami Grant, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and Christian Wood, with more of a defensive focus a la Nerlens Noel and Jonathan Isaac. He could definitely provide an amazing defensive spark while fulfilling the screen-setting, rim-runner role that the Jazz offense is so dependent on.
The other thing that is worth noting is that very reputable draft projections (The Ringer, SI, ESPN, CBS Sports) all project him as a early/mid second round pick. Bleacher Report left him off their top 50 altogether. While I’ve seen him ranked as a high as 17 in other reports, so many experts seem to be low on him right now. Perhaps they see something I don’t, but keep in mind that DePaul hasn’t had anyone drafted into the NBA since Wilson Chandler and Sammy Mejia in 2007, and haven’t even played in March Madness since 2004, so his program may cause scouts to underrate him. While Reed may currently be a stretch for the Jazz to pick at 23, if they can buy or trade back into the early second round, Reed will almost certainly be a steal.