As a low usage redshirt freshman role player operating under the shadow of Carsen Edwards last season, Aaron Wheeler has flown under the radar of professional scouts thus far in his young career. Expect that to change in 2019-20. Wheeler stealthily made the most of his opportunity off the bench for the Boilermakers last season, showing flashes of upside as a shooter and a long, instinctual defender. If you dig into his advanced statistics, Wheeler shows a fairly unique combination of translatable indicators. Wheeler is the only qualifying freshman in the past ten years to post a 35+ 3P%, 2.5+ STL%, 4.0+BLK%, <15 TOV%, and 15+ DREB%. This statistical profile aligns quite well to what can be taken away from Wheeler’s film and to his projectable role both as a higher usage starter this coming season and an eventual pro.
Tale of the Tape
Wheeler has a very functional, smooth, good-looking jumper. Wheeler’s shot mechanics are very fluid, his touch is soft, and his release leads to good ball rotation.
Wheeler finished the 2018-19 season ranking in the 77th percentile as a jump shooter and 88th percentile in guarded catch-and-shoot opportunities, scoring at clips of 1.06 and 1.2 points-per-possession, respectively.
In the clip below, we highlight the effectiveness of Wheeler’s shooting mechanics.
While the jumper looks great of film and the 36.5% clip from deep is a positive, there is contradictory evidence of shooting projectability in his 61.3 FT%. This should all be considered with the context of the small-sample-size theater at hand, with Wheeler having only taken 85 3PA’s and 31 FTA’s as a redshirt freshman. It remains to be seen how these numbers normalize over a larger sample as a sophomore, but I would bet on the shot being real based on film study, consistent mechanics, and having seen Wheeler’s jumper on a day-to-day basis during my time as a Team Manager at Purdue.
Wheeler has noticeably long arms (with a wingspan of at least 7-feet) and he certainly puts them to good use. He plays with energy, effort, and purpose, using this length to disrupt passing lanes, alter shots, and force turnovers. As an on-ball defender, Wheeler has a great recovery radius if an opponent gains a first-step advantage on him, and he has proven very capable as an off-ball help defender by making instinctual reads and using his length to wreak havoc. His length and lateral quickness also make him a capable switch defender against quick guards in short spurts.
In the clip below, we highlight the functional application of Wheeler’s length.
Wheeler tallied strong statistical indicators and had some eye-opening flashes throughout the season and into the 2019 NCAA tournament. Following the departures of Carsen Edwards, Ryan Cline, and Grady Eifert, there will certainly be opportunity for Wheeler to move into a starting role, increase his usage, and potentially vault himself up draft boards.
While it seems more likely that Wheeler will be a more viable 2021 NBA Draft candidate, with his combination of length, athleticism, and projectable shooting he is a very strong break-out candidate and one of the more intriguing long-term prospects in the Big Ten. If the shooting projectability shows through statistically on high volume and Wheeler shows tangible development in rounding out his game with counters as a driver/handler, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him test the 2020 NBA Draft waters.
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