Freshman forward Austin Daye
isnt getting nearly as much hype as some of the more highly touted freshman in his class, and hes not getting as many minutes either, but he still has shown some outstanding potential in the early going this season, and is definitely a player to keep an eye on in the years to come. Standing 610 with outstanding length while being a very smooth athlete, Daye is very intriguing as a prospect. At first look, the 190-pounder with the baggy t-shirt may look very raw, but as you spend more time watching him, you start to notice the various offensive skills hes already developing in his arsenal.
When analyzing Dayes game, one of the first things to stand out has to be his jump shot. With his length and elevation, Daye has an extremely high release point on his shot, and it doesnt hurt that he completely maximizes that release point with the upward trajectory of his shooting motion. Strong, complimentary adjectives get thrown out a lot when assessing prospects, but in this case, there are only a handful of three-point shooters in the NBA today that have a higher release point on their shot than Daye (Dirk Nowitzki
, Rasheed Wallace
, Mehmet Okur
, Andrea Bargnani
, James Jones
), and were talking about a player that projects primarily as a small forward. It doesnt hurt that hes also been very effective from deep in the early going, hitting 43% of his shots on 30 attempts. When he gets his feet set and has time to be deliberate with his motion, Dayes shot looks as smooth as it gets. That shooting ability has also translated to the free-throw line, where hes shooting a very strong 91% in the early going, on a noteworthy 67 attempts.
Dayes shooting is not without flaws, but his effectiveness in the early going has been pretty strong and his overall potential in this area is immense. To reach that potential, one thing Daye will need to work on is better consistency with his release, specifically when pulling up or being rushed by a contesting defender. In these situations, he often doesnt hold his follow through and doesnt always have a picture perfect release, and his accuracy suffers because of it. It should be noted, though, that with his upward motion and high release, Daye doesnt need much space to get off his shot, and shows some nice flashes of putting up shots when closely guarded, having good, but very inconsistent success with it.
Looking further at his pull-up shooting, Daye definitely has some problems with decision-making at this stage in terms of shot selection. He can be prone to taking unwise shots, such as spotting up from NBA three-point range in transition with no one on his team under the basket or forcing up a 15-foot jumper off the dribble when guarded by two or three defenders. To his credit, hell occasionally swish some of these shots and make them look easy, but more often than not at this stage, it winds up in a bad miss, especially against top conference competition. Daye in general has shown less success thus far with his dribble-drive and pull-up game against stronger competition, looking much better against weaker competition. Its no coincidence that four of his five single-digit scoring games on the season came against Washington State, Texas Tech, UConn, and Oklahoma.
Moving on to the rest of Dayes dribble-drive game, he shows very nice potential here, and shows flashes of nice ball-handling skills for a 610 freshman. He looks fairly comfortable in space with both his left and right hands, can mix in some crossovers and hesitation dribbles, and can take the ball to the basket or pull up from mid-range off the dribble. This aspect of his game is not without problems, though, as his dribble isnt especially low to the ground, he has trouble adjusting directions at times, which has been exploited against tougher competition with him committing charges, and he can struggle a bit with his timing when going into his first dribble, often faking and then moving his foot before putting the ball on the ground, or carrying on his first dribble, resulting in traveling violations. All in all, he shows some very nice flashes in space, and definitely shows nice potential here, but really needs to work on refining his dribble to consistently use this facet of his game against strong competition.
Daye gets to the basket a decent amount, usually on his dribble-drive or in transition, and he shows very good touch at the rim along with the ability to score with his left and right hand at times. He makes good use of his athleticism and length here, and will take advantage of using the glass when necessary. He also shows a very nice right-handed floater in the lane, which is of great use to him with his body not being up for much physical contact just yet. One especially impressive play against Pepperdine that illustrated his potential around the rim was a pushed ball situation where Daye waiting on the right block for the ball; he caught a pass and on one small step without much momentum, and easily jumped from outside the painted area on the right block, only to reverse it off the glass on the other side of the rim by using his hangtime and length.
As for the rest of his offensive game, Daye shows a strong desire to get the ball whenever hes on the court, moving fairly well without the ball and constantly calling for the ball. Hes shown some bad tendencies in seemingly making his decision to shoot before he puts the ball on the floor, but has done a much better job in his past two games of using his pretty good court vision by making some quick passes to open teammates for assists.
On the defensive end, Daye has shown quite a few disturbing tendencies early in the season, in terms of both fundamentals and effort level. With fundamentals on the perimeter, while he occasionally shows an aggressive defensive stance, hes not consistent in shuffling his feet to move laterally, makes some unnecessary swipes at the ball leading to blow-bys, doesnt consistently keep his center of gravity low, and doesnt seem to have the best reflexes yet. In the post, Daye does a better job maximizing his effectiveness, being active with his quickness and length in switching from fronting to straight defense, while also using his length to deflect entry passes when hes behind his man. He might be able to get away with some gimmick defense like this for a little while at the next level if forced to defend post players, but if he wants to play the power forward position, hes going to need to improve considerably in standard post defense. When he does get caught in the backdown situation on the block, he shows no concept of leverage or fundamentals, and with his very small build and lack of strength, he is backed down with virtually no effort whatsoever. To Dayes credit, his defensive effort seems improved as the season has gone on, and hes showing a better effort moving his feet on the perimeter and making better use of basic fundamentals. Daye also has some nice potential in terms of blocking shots and making deflections with his length, athleticism, and pretty good sense of timing on shot blocks, showing some proficiency already in this facet of his game.
All in all, Daye shows some outstanding potential, though he definitely has some notable concerns with his game right now, primarily in his decision-making and his slight build. Part of the decision-making can be attributed to normal freshman mistakes, and its something he can improve on as the season goes on, but he is very lacking in strength and size, and he definitely has a lot more room to put on weight, which is why he should probably stay at least another year in school, where he could also do a good job further refining the fundamentals of his game. He also hasnt been given a huge role yet with Gonzaga, as coach Mark Few appears to be taking his time rather than just handing him the starting job, though Daye has averaged 19.6 minutes per game and played in all of Gonzagas games thus far coming off the bench. Daye could always make a bold decision and come out after this season, where itd be tough to see him falling out of the lottery with his tools and physical attributes, though he has a chance of being a top-5 pick next year if he makes some nice strides with his game, and that would probably be best for his long-term development, as its tough to see him competing in the NBA so soon with his very lacking strength and size.