Although he’s the 7th-youngest prospect in the draft class (he turned 19 on May 31), Rayan Rupert has already played pro ball for five years. He grew up in a basketball family - his sister Iliana plays for the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA, and his father Thierry played in the Euroleague and was a captain for the French national team.
Although he’s a raw prospect that still needs quite a bit of polish, his solid basketball foundation and elite physical tools make him a tantalizing high-upside project.
Rupert’s size and absurd wingspan allow him to switch 1-3 on defense and cause disruption on that end of the floor. He fights through screens, has good recovery speed when he gets beat, and always plays with high effort. He is capable of completely smothering opposing ball handlers in isolation and pick and roll action. Rupert uses his quick hands and fast reaction time to disrupt passing lanes or poke the ball loose when defending on-ball, forcing frequent turnovers. He has good feet and hips to stay glued to his assignment defensively.
Rupert has the 2nd-longest wingspan in the draft class among non-centers, trailing only Jarace Walker and tied with Leonard Miller. As his body matures and he fills out his frame, he should be capable of defending 1-4 at the NBA level with his length and feel. His build and frame are similar to players like Mikal Bridges, Otto Porter, Robert Covington, and Nic Batum.
In addition to defensive versatility, Rupert has a few ancillary skills on offense that should eventually allow him to shine as a role player. He has a good feel for when to cut backdoor in the halfcourt or leak out in transition for easy buckets. He looks fluid and comfortable with the ball in his hands, and should eventually blossom into a solid secondary or tertiary playmaker and ball handler. If Rupert can refine his 3-point shot, he’ll have a long career in the NBA.
Rupert’s 3-point shooting must improve if he’s going to stick in the NBA. It’s simply nowhere near good enough and his lackluster outside shot will cripple an offense. Right now, opposing defenses dare him to shoot. It is important to note that Rupert suffered an injury to his shooting hand in November of last year, sidelining him for two months and impacting his ability to shoot from deep. His free throw percentage the past two seasons (75% on roughly 140 attempts) does indicate some promising outcomes in this area, but there is definite room for improvement.
Although Rupert is a decent playmaker and passer for his size and position, he has a high turnover rate and needs to take better care of the ball. He has some bad tendencies and frequently gets tunnel vision on his drives into traffic, forcing up awkward shots with a low chance of success. He kills his own dribble far too often and gets stuck with nowhere to go. Many of Rupert’s passes are telegraphed and easy for defenses to read and disrupt.
Finishing & Strength
Because of his youth, Rupert has yet to grow into his frame and body. Although he has good length, his wiry frame makes it difficult for him to absorb contact and finish at the rim in traffic. He shies away from most contact, and is usually bumped off his spots easily by minimal contact down low. He’ll need to add quite a bit of strength and muscle in order to be an effective finisher at the next level.
Rayan Rupert is currently projected as a mid- to late-first round pick. At 16 he would be a decent high-upside pick. At 28, he would be a spectacular pick with low risk and extreme upside. He’ll likely need a year or two either overseas or in the G League before he’s ready for NBA action.