Derrick Alston Jr. is a wiry, slashing wing prospect with NBA bloodlines and an enticing plethora of skills. He’s improved tremendously year-to-year during his time at Boise State and his stock as an NBA prospect is rising, accordingly. Though not necessarily near the top of this draft class at one particular specialized skill, he's shown proven quite good at a wide array of skills, particularly offensively, that could translate to the next level. Alston can score from all three levels, create for his teammates, and has the tools to be a versatile defender one day. If his trajectory of consistent growth and improvement continues through the latter half of the 2019-20 season, the talented former walk-on could establish himself as one of the more intriguing offensive prospects outside of the first round.
Tale of the Tape
Though they're different players in many regards, Alston's frame and some aspects of his offensive style of play are reminiscent of Brandon Ingram's. Alston is most comfortable when he gets downhill attacking the basket, possessing a deceptively quick first step and fairly solid feel/dexterity for a player his size. He could stand to improve his ball handling in tight quarters, as he's been a bit turnover prone when bumped off his spot or when help defense cuts off his driving lane. He’s shown capable of finishing around the rim with both hands and does a nice job of leveraging his plus-length to create finishing windows. While he lacks ideal core and upper body strength for an NBA wing, he's a slippery driver with good acceleration that covers significant ground with each stride.
In the clip below, we highlight Alston's slashing ability.
At 6’9” and only 188 pounds, Alston's ability to create space and finish through contact as a driver could certainly benefit from adding some strength to his frame. He's already a solid finisher (~1.2 PPP on non post-up attempts around the basket) and does well at making functional use of his frame for length extension finishes, but an NBA strength program could do wonders in rounding out his finishing repertoire and make him more capable of finishing through bigger, stronger athletes than he's currently seeing in the Mountain West.
Versatile Offensive Potential
As a complement to his ability as a slasher, Alston has been a streaky, but viable threat from beyond the arc throughout his collegiate career. He's a near 37% career shooter from deep and has converted at ~81% from the free throw line. Alston has displayed an encouraging level of confidence in three-point range, more than willing to pull the trigger from 2-4 feet beyond the college line. While his ability to knife through the paint is his bread and butter, Alston's willingness to stretch the floor with his shooting gravity is promising for his projectability as an NBA prospect.
While this is all encouraging, it is important to note that his release is slow and methodical with lack of mechanical fluidity as a movement shooter, which has limited the versatility of his jumper. Alston has found far more success as a set, stand-still shooter due to his wide base. More than four out of every five of Alston's makes from deep this season have been assisted, which further evidences that his professional role more likely entails spot-up shooting than self-created jumpers. This is not to say that Alston will never develop off-movement shooting acumen, but it will likely take a high volume of reps and development focus to make tangible leaps in this area.
While Alston may not yet excel at creating his own pull-up jumper, he's shown promising improvement as a playmaker this season, which has been beneficial to rounding out his offensive projectability as a potential 2020 or 2021 draftee.
In the clip below, we highlight Alston Jr’s offensive versatility.
Alston is a really talented prospect with prominent offensive strengths, great length, and a positive development curve throughout his time at Boise State. The questions, however, come on the defensive end.
Alston has the tools that would lead one to believe he has potential to disrupt passing lanes, provide some weak side rim protection, and guard multiple positions, but this has yet to actualize. As an on-ball defender, Alston can struggle defending larger front-court players due to his lack of physical strength, and he sometimes has a tough time mirroring twitchy opposing guards off the bounce. Improved lateral quickness and flexibility would help him defend back-court players with more success, and added physical strength could help him muscle up to front-court players on the interior. It can be tough to transform your body in a way that improves both of these weaknesses, as one is often the opportunity cost of the other. Alston's length has bailed him out on many occasions and allows him to contest shots or take away passing angles, but this has not translated into blocked shots or steals. In 64 career games at Boise State, Alston has only accumulated 41 stocks (24 steals, 17 blocks), raising concern for his activity level and instincts on the defensive side of the ball. He can be caught ball-watching, late to help side rotations, or struggling to fight through screens. Alston has the tools to improve on this end of the floor, but it remains to be seen if said tools actualize enough to keep him on the floor at the next level.
While Alston has a way to go defensively, he has the talent, offensive potential, and upside to warrant early entrant consideration in the 2020 NBA Draft. Spending a year in the G League while adding strength to his frame and sharpening his defensive chops would help his professional outlook tremendously. If he stays in the 2020 NBA Draft pool, expect a team to look his way in the latter half of the 2nd Round or, if he slips, as an intriguing Two-Way/UDFA target.
Statistics courtesy of Synergy Sports Technology and Sports Reference
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