Malik Fitts, a 6'8" hybrid for the Saint Mary's Gaels, is an intriguing under-the-radar 2020 NBA Draft early entrant candidate who has endured a fairly unconventional trajectory en route to college basketball stardom. The Rancho Cucamonga, California native took his talents to prestigious Brewster Academy as a means to propel his collegiate recruiting at a national prep powerhouse. The 3-star recruit committed to South Florida out of high school, but only spent one season in Tampa. He then transferred to Saint Mary’s and, after sitting out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer rules, he started 33 games for the Gaels as a redshirt sophomore, averaging 15.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Fitts earned 2018-19 All-WCC Second Team honors, and was a rightful contender for WCC Newcomer of the Year.
Saint Mary’s has leaned heavily on Fitts’ experience and leadership this season, and he has certainly been up to the challenge. leading the Gaels to an impressive 23-6 record to-date. He’s currently second on the team in scoring (17.1 PPG) and leading in rebounding (7.6 RPG), while maintaining efficient 48.9/43.5/80.3% shooting splits. Fitts is a powerful athlete and possesses prototypical size for an NBA hybrid forward. While he could certainly stand to tighten up a few things defensively and show some improvement as a playmaker for others, Fitts' scoring ability, talent, and will make him a dark horse to warrant potential second round consideration in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Tale of the Tape
Attacking the Rim
Standing at 6’8" and weighing in at 230 pounds, Fitts is incredibly difficult to stop when he gets downhill. His broad shoulders and powerful lower body allow him to clear space and dislodge opponents on the way to the rim. Offensively, he ranks in the 95th percentile in isolation, averaging 1.153 points-per-possession (PPP). He's also shown capable of countering when opponents give him a step in anticipation of the drive, ranking in the 92nd percentile when he pulls up to shoot off-the-dribble.
His significant improvement as a jump shooter this season, and the gravity related thereto, has opened up even more opportunities for him to knife through the paint and get efficient looks near the basket. Fitts has a really crisp, effective pump fake and excels at making opponents pay by attacking overaggressive closeouts.
Fitts makes functional use of his length and has soft, natural touch when finishing through and around contact in the paint. He also has really nice body control for his size, which helps earn him trips to the stripe (though he could stand to get there a bit more frequently than his current 0.351 FTr. Fitts is converting 80.3% of his attempts from the stripe, so maximizing his strength and attacking mindset will only increase his offensive value.
Another way Fitts creates efficient looks at the rim is by cutting; he has great spacial awareness, sees lanes as they form, and makes quick, opportunistic dives to the basket. Fitts averages a very strong 1.3 PPP on cuts.
In the clip below, we highlight Fitts' ability to attack the rim.
Fitts is up to a blistering 43.5% shooting clip from deep this season, having increased both his volume and efficiency each successive season. The same holds true with his 2P%, 2PA, FT%, and FTA numbers. This growth trajectory should be extremely encouraging to NBA talent evaluators. While Fitts' release isn't the fastest, he has very smooth mechanics and a consistent release point. Fitts is able to combat the lack of a quick trigger by not dipping at all; no matter where he catches it, he can start his shooting motion fluidly.
Finding and filling space seems to be natural for Fitts as he moves well without the ball and finds open space when engaged, setting himself up for clean, open opportunities. His pre-shot footwork is good, not great, but he's done a consistently nice job of receiving a pass while already flowing into his shooting motion. His ability to stretch the floor at his size should be appealing to NBA scouts and, given the strong statistical indicators noted above, it seems more likely than not that his jump shooting will be a reliable weapon at the next level.
In the clip below, we highlight Fitts' catch-and-shoot prowess.
Malik Fitts hasn't received a high volume of NBA Draft buzz to-date, but that very well may change in the coming months. Having spent his three NCAA seasons at multiple Mid-Major programs, he has flown a bit under the radar as a prospect, but this is not at all a reflection of his game.
Fitts is a big, powerful, dynamic multi-level scorer that continues to add to his offensive repertoire. While it remains to be seen if he translates to more of a traditional 3 or 4 in the NBA, the formerly negatively connotated "tweener" is no longer in the more free-flowing, positionless NBA. Hybrid forwards that can stretch the floor are en vogue, and Fitts seems to fit that mold.
Fitts is likely to declare for the 2020 NBA Draft and, while testing the waters and returning to school is a possibility, it seems more likely than not that he'll keep his name in and begin his professional basketball career. While scouts haven't seemed to reach a steady consensus on his likely stock at this point, his most likely outcome seems to be that of a strong X-10 / Two-Way contract candidate. If Fitts is able to carry the momentum of his strong recent performances into the Gonzaga showdown on Saturday and through both the WCC and NCAA Tournaments, Fitts has a chance to pick up some steam as draftable prospect.
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