It’s no secret the Utah Jazz are prioritizing positional size and versatile players in the upcoming draft. After an era that saw the Jazz prioritize specialists, no matter their physical frame, the franchise is looking to avoid perceived weaknesses where they can.
The good news is there’s a handful of players in the upcoming draft that’ll fit the bill and Utah will have multiple bites at the apple. One of those options should be Maxwell Lewis.
Lewis wasn’t a big name coming out of high school. He was evaluated as a 4 star recruit out of Chandler, Arizona and did not appear on ESPN’s Top 100 recruitment board for 2021. He landed with Pepperdine, where his freshman year he was a reserve before starting all 31 games his sophomore season.
Currently Maxwell Lewis has an average ranking across industry big boards of 23. Some like No Ceilings and Global Scouting have him just outside the lottery at 15 while others like Box and One and The Ringer have him end of the first and into the second round.
Let’s dig into Maxwell Lewis and make our own conclusion.
Stats and Measurables
Maxwell Lewis is a 20 year old sophomore. He stands 6’6” tall without shoes and boasts a 7’0” wingspan. His length of +6” is in a competitive range among the class. He weighs 207 lbs, putting his BMI at 23.9, right at average for the class.
Max is best suited as a wing on both ends in the NBA. His frame and length make him well suited to guarding this hybrid position at the next level and he’s got the burst to get around guys and get shots off cleanly.
In 31 games during his sophomore year, Lewis put up a per game stat line of 17.1 pts, 5.7 rbs, 2.8 ast, 0.8 stl, 0.8 blk, and 3.3 tov on 57% true shooting in 31.4 minutes.
While a nice stat line in a vacuum, these numbers don’t tell us a complete story. A) they aren’t volume adjusted, B) they show no comparison to others, and C) they are all results focused. We’ll get into better numbers later.
Max Lewis wasn’t a prodigy and wasn’t on anyone’s radar until his junior year. His final year in high school presented various opportunities, some which turned out like The Adidas Circuit and others which did not like Frank Matrisciano’s Chameleon BX program (a training avenue for direct preparation for the draft). Look at some of his highlights:
Max put on display just how long and fluid he is, with some nice touch and good functional athleticism and instincts. He had some real makings as a prospect.
But, by the time he discovered the best path for him to the NBA was via the NCAA, scholarships and recruitment were in the late stages. He ended up at Pepperdine, missed a handful of games his freshman season at while figuring out eligibility.
This kind of story isn’t uncommon as Lewis is one of many collegiate athletes who’s career was complicated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But word is he was hard at work ahead of his sophomore season, improving his handling, tightening his shot, and improving his body.
Maxwell became the alpha for The Waves, coming in top 5 in shots, minutes, efficiency, and advanced impact metrics.
This situation results in one of the biggest knocks against Lewis. Many point out that Pepperdine’s competition was lacking given they mostly placed West Coast Conference and Big West teams.
And yet, the Pepperdine Waves went just 9-22.
However, in Pepperdine’s toughest games per Strength of Schedule (UCLA, Gonzaga x2, Saint Mary’s, and Nevada), Max put up 14.6 pts, 4.8 rbs, 2.0 ast, 0.6 stl, 0.6 blk, and 3.6 tov on 59% true shooting in 27.4 minutes. That’s not much different from his normal stat line.
Maxwell pops off the screen for his size and the fluidity with which he plays. He just looks very natural, sneaky athletic and quick. Match that with the length and he legitimately looks imposing in both high school and collegiate tape.
Being “the dawg” at Pepperdine afforded him opportunities to create. He made 101 unassisted shots, which was in the 79%tile of forwards across the country. That’s a lot of self-generated shots, a real skill.
His shooting stroke is nice. You can see his stance is far too wide in the Adidas Circuit but he tightened it up nicely by his sophomore season. He took a lot of jump shots, 64% of all his shots, in fact. He scored at 0.93 PPA, in the 68%tile. He was average from the 3P line but shot 79% from the FT line and got there a lot (34% free throw rate).
Additionally, Lewis was active defensively. A lot of blocks (77%tile at his position) and steals (51%tile at his position). His length contributes a ton in this respect.
Max definitely owned the role and made defenses aware of him at all times. He made an impact and bent opposing teams with his burst and length.
Despite looking the part of a good athlete, he didn’t get to the rim as much as we’d like. Just 134 dunks and layups attempts resulted in 24%tile of frequency amongst forwards. He was above average finishing however with 1.27 PPA. He had a respectable 36.5” vertical at the combine and a lackluster 3⁄4 court sprint of 3.43 seconds.
When teams loaded up on Max, he was quick to pass. His assist numbers were in the 64%tile among forwards. But, he turned the ball over...a lot. When factoring that in, he slipped below average in assist to turnover ratio.
Despite all the defensive activity, he fouled a lot too. Take his steals + blocks - fouls, he became only average at his position. Additionally, some of that activity was a function of poor positioning and awareness, requiring desperate action. There’s work to do on the defensive end, though some instincts are there.
From where Max was trending in the latter half of high school and given the whirlwind since, to be routinely mocked in the first round is a true testament to the improvement he’s made as a player. Were things to have progressed more naturally, I imagine he’d have gone to a more prominent school and still done well.
Lewis does a lot right but with almost every strength there’s a component of weakness. There’s no true elite skill like Anthony Black’s passing, Cam Whitmore’s athleticism, GG Jackson’s self-creation, or Jordan Hawkins’ shooting. But there’s no true dud across his resume, either.
The Jazz would certainly benefit from this foundation. Plugging in that size and length with some ability to do just about everything would contribute very positively to the team. You also love to see the improvements in various areas of his game. It demonstrates work ethic and some intelligence.
However, Utah’s first priority is likely finding serious potential. Max’s ceiling is likely more of a tertiary playmaker, someone who will create and finish mostly off others but regularly for himself as well.
Ultimately with every player, it’s not “if” you would or should draft them, but “when”. The idea is to intersect risk and reward to generate the highest value proposition. Given the Jazz have 3 picks and multiple avenues for changing draft position, we can analyze a lot of scenarios.
Utah should not consider Lewis with their #9 pick. The players mocked in that range present better value proposition than Lewis and there’s a lot of evidence he’ll be available later. At #16, Utah should begin consider it. If Utah lands their ideal guard earlier in the draft, Maxwell could be a great option to scale with the young group.
At #28, Lewis would be a steal. His size, length, functional athleticism, and demonstrating skill around the board would make him a can’t miss talent at the end of the draft.
Where would you take Maxwell Lewis in the upcoming 2023 NBA Draft?