NBA Draft junkies have been talking about the Thompson twins for quite a while. It’s not hard to see why. Both are elite athletes with some tantalizing skill sets. Their decisions to forgo college and play in the Overtime Elite program have made scouting them a bit more challenging, but some things have become more apparent. Not the least of those is that Ausar and Amen are not the same players.
Amen has become almost universally regarded as the better prospect as the draft continues to get closer. It looks very likely that he’ll be drafted in the first four or five picks. Ausar, on the other hand, has more of a wide range of projections. Some have him as high as fifth overall, and some say he may be a late lottery prospect. The reason for such a lack of consensus comes from the combination of incredible tools with significant weaknesses.
- Draft age: 20.39 yrs
- Height: 6’7”
- Wingspan: 7’0”
- Weight: 207 lbs.
- Position: Guard/Wing
- Points: 16.3
- Rebounds: 6.9
- Assists: 6.1
- Steals: 2.7
- Blocks: 1.3
- 48% FG
- 30% 3P
Stats are per game in 16 regular season Overtime Elite games.
Simply put, Ausar Thompson is a 6’7” guard with freakish athleticism, a strong motor, and an impressive feel for the game. That sentence alone basically guarantees any player a lottery selection.
Ausar Thompson has been named MVP of the Overtime Elite regular season, an OTE representative told ESPN. Thompson, the projected No. 5 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, is averaging 15.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.1 blocks per game this season. pic.twitter.com/UIsbZH1l5O— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) February 20, 2023
Thompson’s athleticism often shows itself in transition, where he gets a large amount of his scoring. He soars through the air for controlled layups and powerful dunks alike. He is an excellent cutter who creates offensive movement even without the ball. His cuts have to be respected due to his speed and verticle athleticism. He’s a legitimate lob threat, even as a guard. His foot speed helps him dominate transition on both sides of the ball. In the halfcourt, Ausar sometimes has trouble getting to the rim, but he can breeze past anybody when he has space to use his speed.
Ausar’s potential as a defender may be his greatest strength. While he tends to lose focus or effort occasionally, he also shows incredible defensive tools, and not just the measurements. Thompson can move his feet and stay in front of quick, shifty ball handlers. He can rotate from the weak side to protect the rim. He can read passes and get anticipatory steals. He can smother players and force them into tough shots. Thompson’s all-around defensive toolbox could be the most enticing part of his game.
This is the funniest Ausar Thompson clip for me. Teammate turns it over, effortlessly beats pretty much everyone to the opposite basket after starting in the weakside corner, and just straight up flies for a two-handed block. pic.twitter.com/5zLLOvpUME— Logan Adams (He/Him) (@LoganA_NBA) April 25, 2023
Part of what makes his defense strong is his understanding of the game. Ausar is not just one of these young prodigies who skates by on athleticism and talent. He shows a legitimate feel for the game, both as a help defender and as a connective passer in the offense. Thompson sees the floor and distributes the ball intelligently. He’s a great “make the simple and smart pass” player. He is both unselfish and intelligent. That passing talent is uncommon in young players and helps you see how he can fit on an NBA team.
Thompson’s ball skills and self-created scoring look beautiful on the highlight reels. Those show the potential he could reach as a lead guard in the NBA, but the highlight reels don’t show everything. There are areas of concern here, but the potential is there. If he can figure out that part of his game, Ausar could be a star.
The biggest question about Ausar Thompson lies with his offensive creation. He’s not the same level of shot creator that his brother is. He struggles to score in isolation, has turnover tendencies, and is inconsistent at getting to the rim. While his six assists per game are nice, his 3.4 turnovers per game hurt. Teams looking to draft Ausar will have to wonder if he can be a true ball-handler or if he’ll be relegated to a purely off-ball role.
Along with the creation struggles, Ausar is, at best, an inconsistent shooter. His shot mechanics have visible issues. His body is stiff, and his form is clunky. Most teams sagged off of him and dared him to shoot. This is a real issue when combined with the questions about his shot creation. If he can’t be reliable as an on-ball creator, but he also can’t be reliable as a spot-up shooter, what is his offensive role?
The bright spot for Ausar’s shot is that it showed significant improvement throughout the season. In the playoffs, he went to his three-pointer more often and made a solid 38% of them. If his progress continues, it becomes much easier to project a path forward for him in the NBA.
Through the OTE Playoffs, Ausar Thompson shot 15-39 (38.5%) from 3-point range, including nailing the game-winner to win City Reapers the championship— The Box and One (@TheBoxAndOne_) March 8, 2023
Interesting development as he closes out his season w/ OTE. Great shot in the arm to his draft stock. Question is: is it legit? pic.twitter.com/OU7yhIYbwB
Utah Jazz fit:
If the Jazz were to move up in the lottery, it would be to one of the top four draft positions. If that were to happen, I doubt Ausar would be on the team’s radar. Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson, Brandon Miller, and the other Thompson, Amen, would be the likeliest candidates. And while it’s not impossible that Ausar falls to the ninth pick, it is unlikely. That means it’s unlikely that the Jazz are looking at a chance to draft Ausar Thompson. That said, the NBA Draft is weird. Trades happen, and surprising picks are common, so we shouldn’t rule it out.
If Thompson were to find himself placing a painfully minimalistic highlighter-yellow and black Utah Jazz hat on his head come draft day, he’d find himself in an almost perfect position.
The Jazz are a young team looking to build a new identity. They have an All-Star forward, but not one who dominates the ball. They have a young coach who’s already proving to know how to get the most out of his players. They are looking for the next piece of their young core. Ausar would have an immediate starting spot available, even if Will Hardy might make him earn it. He’d have a team that moves the ball, perfectly fitting his cutting and passing style of play. He’d have the space to make mistakes and be a rookie without haltering a championship run while at the same time playing in real, meaningful games and learning to win.
Ausar Thompson has the tools to reach incredible heights. He could be an all-around star at the NBA level. If he reaches his ceiling, he’s pure chaos on defense and a maestro on offense. His game has worrisome concerns, but he’s proven to be a hard worker and is already showing improvement in some areas.
I find it hard to bet against players with both the physical tools and the feel for the game that Thompson shows. Combine that with his effort and desire to improve, and you have the recipe for success.