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Devonte’ Graham – 6’2’’ Point Guard, University of Kansas, 23 Years Old
23-year-old Devonte’ Graham is one of many young hopefuls waiting to hear their name called in next month’s NBA Draft. The 6’2” floor general out of the University of Kansas has four years of experience at the college level that may help him show NBA teams that he is worthy of a spot on their rosters. He started his college career playing only 17.8 minutes per game as a freshman. Beginning his sophomore year, however, he saw his minutes jump to over 30 per game, and by the time he finished the 2017-18 season, he was playing 37.8 minutes per night.
In his final season with the Jayhawks, Graham averaged 17.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 7.2 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. He proved that he is capable of contributing in more than one aspect of the game. Throughout college, his three-point shooting hovered around the 40 percent mark, similar to his overall shooting percentage. He does not stand out in this regard but is definitely above average.
His performance in Kansas netted him several awards. In 2016, Graham was named to the Big 12 All-Defensive team and was the Big 12 Tournament Most Valuable Player. As a junior in 2017, he was chosen as one of the All-Big 12 Second Team. Graham’s senior year brought him the most honors, as he was the Big 12’s Player of the Year and was named to the All-Big 12 First Team. He was also a First Team All-American last season. NBA executives will most likely take all these into account when considering Graham for their pick.
One of Devonte’ Graham’s main strengths is that he is a solid shooter overall, evident in his shooting percentages throughout college. He is also a fairly good scorer off the dribble and can create his own shot off the dribble. He shot 82.7 percent from the foul line, a solid clip. As a point guard, he is capable of making plays for his teammates, as he ran a solid offense for Kansas.
Despite standing at just 6’2”, Graham is a solid athlete and an able defender. He can challenge opposing guards that are assigned to guard him. Defensively, he doesn’t allow anyone an easy path to the basket. Four years of experience at the college level have also turned Graham into a good rebounder for a guard, as he averaged 4.0 rebounds per game in his final year.
While his shooting percentage is fairly consistent, Graham is still streaky. There may be stretches in games where he is hot, and others where he is cold. Several scouts have also mused that he doesn’t have a great first step off the dribble. This prevents him from gaining an edge against opposing defenders when driving to the rim or attacking inside.
Other key flaws to his game include that he is prone to turning over the basketball. As Graham’s playing time increased in college, so did the rate at which he turned the ball over. In his senior year, Graham averaged 2.8 turnovers per game, an increase of one from the 1.8 he was averaging one year prior, despite only two more minutes of playing time.
Finally, Graham’s physical strength can also be an issue. While he was a capable defender at the college level, this will not automatically translate to the next level, where players are much tougher and stronger. If he wants to survive in the modern NBA and carve out a spot in a team’s rotation, Graham has to put on some more muscle to make up for his relatively small stature.
With four years of solid experience under his belt, Devonte’ Graham has a good chance of hearing his name called late in the first round or early in the second round of this year’s draft. NBADraft.net has him picked at 41, while Sports Illustrated places him 10 spots earlier at 31. In this part of the draft, it is hard to predict where exactly a player will be picked, as the difference in talent decreases. Teams picking in this range are looking for potential solid role players who can contribute to their team immediately, as opposed to the upside that many teams picking in the lottery are focused on.
Graham is older than many players in this draft class, so the extra years of playing he has compared to others may be beneficial for his cause. He projects to be an NBA-ready player, and while he will not be a starter, he can still contribute as a reliable point guard off the bench. Given his experience and age at 23, expectations are also slightly higher for Graham. He’ll be expected to adapt and improve himself on the fly as his NBA career begins.
NBA Player Comparison
As a draft entrant who went through all four years of college, Graham can be likened to a rookie from the Los Angeles Lakers, Josh Hart. Like Graham, Hart entered the draft with a solid college career behind him, but not that much upside left. The team that picked Hart banked on expectations that he would immediately be NBA-ready. In his rookie season, Hart indeed fulfilled those expectations.
Hart and Graham, while both guards, grab a healthy amount of rebounds while on the floor. Both are capable of shooting when needed and have a serviceable clip from behind the arc. Hart spent some time with the Lakers’ G-League affiliate in South Bay early on in the season. This proved to be instrumental to his success in the latter part of the year. If Graham ends up getting drafted, some time in the G-League is a possibility. It may also be beneficial for Graham to get a feel for the NBA game for a short period of time before becoming part of the team’s main rotation, as seen with Hart.
For someone like Devonte’ Graham, the future seems far from bleak. This is just a transition to the next chapter in a basketball career full of possibilities if Graham does his part.
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