Throughout NBA history, the overwhelming majority of prospect talent has been fielded from NCAA Division I schools. There has also been a recent influx of international talent over the past 15-20 years. Sub-DI prospects may be few and far between, but there have certainly been some diamonds in the rough that have emerged over the years. The likes of George Gervin, Earl Monroe, Ben Wallace, Charles Oakley, Manute Bol, Darrell Armstrong, Phil Jackson, Rick Mahorn, Dick Barnett, Jerry Sloan, Walt Frazier, Nate Archibald, Willis Reed, Terry Porter, Dennis Rodman, and Scottie Pippen and more spent their college years at small Division II, Division III, or NAIA programs before eventually carving out long, successful NBA careers.
In recent years, there has been a lull in sub-DI alumni evolving into NBA All-Star or starter caliber players like those listed above (partially driven by the increase of sub-DI standouts transferring to the DI level after early success at their initial school, partially driven by historical DII powerhouses transitioning to DI over the years), but NBA front offices have certainly been doing their due diligence on the fringes to identify under the radar DII players with a chance to contribute as back end rotation pieces, two-way contract contributors, and G League developmental swings.
Current DII NBA G League Players
There will certainly be a good handful of current DII players to earn their shots at the G League, but two in particular stand out as the most high-caliber, translatable NBA prospects: Daulton Hommes (Point Loma Nazarene) and Amir Hinton (Shaw). Each have faced unique challenges early in their careers, but are now on the precipice of getting a shot of realizing their NBA dreams.
Tale of the Tape
Shooting Mechanics from NBA Range
Hommes is a prolific three-point shooter. He has converted at a 44+% clip from downtown in each of his three collegiate seasons.
Hommes stands at 6’8’’ and has picturesque shooting form, with a high release point, consistent mechanics, and a smooth follow through. This beautiful, functional shooting stroke helps Hommes to excel as a catch-and-shoot threat, even when closely guarded. Despite the presence of high-hand closeouts, Hommes converts these guarded catch-and-shoot jumpers at a rate of 1.506 PPP, ranking in the 97th percentile.
What makes Hommes particularly enticing as a stretch wing/forward prospect, in conjunction with the mechanics and efficiency outlined above, is his proven ability to stretch it out to NBA range without altering his form. Hommes can stick it from basically anywhere on the floor, and his shot looks the same every time. His mechanics remain fluid and mechanically sound whether he’s pulling up from 15-17 feet or launching it from 28+ feet.
Hommes’ prowess from range comes with a natural gravitational pull on his defender, which even at the next level will force his defensive matchup to stick close to him and sacrifice some team-defensive help-side positioning. This creates spacing to free up his teammates on the offensive end of the floor, a highly valued commodity in the context of the modern NBA.
In the clip below, we highlight Hommes’ ability to shoot from NBA range with minimal variance on his shooting form.
Hommes is decently built for a wing, having focused on adding to his frame throughout his three years of injury recovery, but could stand to add a bit more strength to ensure his ability to play minutes at the four. He is most likely to add value in a stretch forward role as a pro.
Despite having suffered multiple knee injuries in his late teens, Hommes has impressive vertical bounce which, at his size, helps make him a functional paint finisher. He is capable of vertically rising as a driver and as a cutter to finish over his own defender and/or help-side rim protectors.
Despite not being overly quick-twitch or having high-level shake as a handler, Hommes is capable of beating his defender off the bounce on straight line drives and, despite being primarily a two-foot jumper, his one-foot explosiveness serves as a key element in his rim finishing effectiveness. On non-transition, non-post up attempts at the rim this season, Hommes ranks in the 89th percentile by converting at a rate of 1.386 PPP. Hommes’ NBA translatability very much hinges on his ability to continue to make functional use of this vertical bounce when attacking closeouts at the next level.
In the clip below, we highlight Hommes’ vertical bounce and explosiveness around the rim.
Adding a bit more finishing craft and dynamic footwork as a finesse finisher to accompany this vertical athleticism would help round out Hommes’ finishing repertoire.
Tale of the Tape
Hinton is an intriguing athlete in multiple regards, many of which have functional application in a way that could translate to the next level. This athleticism particularly shines on the offensive end as a versatile finisher. Hinton has impressive bounce for a 6’5’’ wing and the combination of lower body strength and quick-twitch change of direction allows him to finish through and around defenders. He gets off the ground quickly and can contort his body in the air as a means to counter initial defensive reaction.
On non-transition, non-post up attempts at the rim this season, Hinton ranks in the 70th percentile by converting at a rate of 1.231 PPP. Though a very solid not an earth-shattering conversion rate at face value, when contextually examined on film, the high volume of attempts in conjunction with the defensive attention Hinton warrants indicates that he is a very dynamic, high-caliber finisher.
Where Hinton shines even brighter as a finisher is in transition. When he gets his momentum going and sees even the slightest crease of opportunity to attack the rim, he is exceptional at utilizing long, powerful strides to maneuver around defenders while absorbing contact and avoiding getting knocked off his spot. In transition, Hinton converts at a rate of 1.38 PPP, ranking in the 93rd percentile.
Below, we will highlight Hinton’s ability to finish at the rim in transition and against half-court set defenses.
Though he will face much tougher defenders at the next level, opposing defensive schemes won’t be as singularly focused on specifically shutting down Hinton. He has a chance to translate as a plus-finisher as a pro.
Runners and Floaters
As we have noted in several previous scouting features, runners and floaters may not be particularly efficient looks relative to other shot selections (at the rim, from three, getting to the free throw line), however, they serve as essential counters to help-side rim protection that stays planted in the middle of the paint. Standing at 6’5’’ (approximately average height for an NBA two-guard), even with his impressive athletic ability, Hinton will need to have a runner/floater game in his arsenal to situationally finish over elite NBA rim protectors.
When Hinton gets past the initial line of the defense, he will often be met by a help-side defender approximately 7-8 feet from the rim. This is where the floater comes into play. Throughout this season, Hinton has shown a knack for converting on floaters with soft touch and unparalleled efficiency, converting at a rate of 1.407 PPP and ranking in the 100th percentile.
In the clip below, we highlight Hinton’s ability to finish over length with runners and floaters.
At the next level, the help-side rim protectors will obviously be more effective paint-finishing deterrents than at the DII level, however, with the defensive three-second violation in place, won’t be able to simply pitch a tent in the paint and focus on preventing all attempts at the rim. Though Hinton’s runner/floater finishing clip may be unsustainable, he has certainly shown it to be a very viable part of his scoring package in a way that has the potential to translate.
Though there haven’t been all that many DII NBA standouts since the likes of Flip Murray and Ben Wallace, the league has shown that it is very receptive to welcoming talent from any pre-draft school, country, or background. Daulton Hommes and Amir Hinton are two of the more promising DII prospects to have surfaced in some time, and each have a very legitimate chance of playing in the NBA one day. More than half the NBA has had scouts in attendance at games and practices to evaluate each of these DII studs. Both Hommes and Hinton should be eligible as graduate transfers next season and would be highly sought after by prominent DI programs, but may be best served to capitalize on their current momentum as intriguing, rising prospects with upside. For each, being drafted isn’t completely outside the realm of possibility if they’re able to impress in front of NBA executives in the pre-draft process, but their more likely routes are that of inking Exhibit-10 deals and proving themselves in Vegas and the G League with the goal of eventually earning fully guaranteed NBA deals down the road.
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