After three successful seasons in Waco, Texas, Baylor redshirt junior Johnathan Motley declared for the 2017 NBA draft just weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Posting per 40 minute averages of 22.4 points, 12.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks on a 56.9% true shooting percentage while earning First-Team All-Conference honors in the Big 12 proved to be enough for the 22-year-old to make the NBA leap. Despite not being quite ready to compete in the 5-on-5 portion of the NBA Combine, Motley was measured and is now currently conducting workouts, where he's able to show teams his impressive physical profile.
Although somewhat caught between the four and the five and a shade undersized at 6'9, Motley has a tremendous 7'4 wingspan to go with a 9'0 standing reach (which may be even higher as 9'0 is the lowest of the four measurements we have in our database). Motley certainly has the length and frame to play the ever popular small-ball center position in today's NBA, even his explosiveness and height aren't quite elite for the position. The Houston native does, however. have the defensive agility and budding skill set to play the four in more traditional lineups. His agility and tools are most apparent on the offensive glass, as he averaged an impressive 4.8 offensive boards per 40 minutes during his junior season.
A versatile offensive player, Motley has shown an ability to do impact the game on the offensive end in a number of ways for the Baylor Bears. Thanks to his length and solid touch, Motley was a sound finisher at the NCAA level, shooting 62.1% on all shots around the basket (82nd percentile according to Synergy Sports Technology). He has struggled at times against NBA level length as he needs time and space to finish above the rim, but he found a way to be productive in the Big 12 around the rim.
Motley isn't the most polished offensive player in this years' draft class, but he has shown an ability to make plays from the low block, scoring 0.89 points per possession, which ranks him in the 71st percentile of qualified collegiate players. Motley likes to get to his right hand, but is comfortable making jumpers and fadeaways over either shoulder, using his length to create enough space to get his shot off, despite how unorthodox it may look at times.
With the increased importance in perimeter-oriented skills among modern NBA bigs, Motley becomes an intriguing prospect in that he has shooting potential and the ability to put the ball on the floor in a straight line. He's agile and improved as a passer (career-high 2.9 assists per 40 minutes) but he still doesn't think the game at a super high level as he gets caught trying to do too much at times, forcing the issue or making low IQ passes - as evidenced by his 3.8 turnovers per 40 minutes. Motley has a tendency to get sped up making plays, especially out of pick and roll, where he ranked in the 21st percentile among qualified players. Motley's issues in the pick and roll are two-fold in that he struggles to finish in traffic, he shot only 27.8% on all rolls to the rim, which ranked him in the 2nd percentile, and he is an inconsistent decision maker and jump shooter. As a junior he made only 8 of his 31 attempts from three-point range, forcing attempts as a pick and pop big rather than making the extra pass.
With that said, Motley has made considerable strides as a perimeter shooter during his time in Waco. Despite shooting only 3-of-17 from 3-point range during his first two years, Motley showed that he's at least capable of making shots with time and space, and could certainly develop into an occasional stretch threat down the road, as the ball comes out of his hand nicely with good rotation, something he's increasingly shown during the pre-draft workout process. Although he's still not quite polished enough to be in the skilled big category, there's enough there skill wise to intrigue teams drafting in the late first or early second round.
On the defensive end, Motley is a bit of a mixed bag. He has the physical tools to become an impact defender, but having played quite a few minutes of zone while at Baylor has not helped his development in guarding multiple actions. When Baylor did matchup man-to-man, Motley had some struggles reacting quickly off the ball, often over-engaging on drives and sometimes losing shooters on the weakside. It figures to be a bit of an adjustment for Motley, but he does have the length and agility to be a factor down the road. He's fairly light on his feet and has some switch potential as he becomes more comfortable on the perimeter.
At the rim, Motley has length that suggests he should be a consistent deterrent, but his average timing and understanding of how to challenge shots without putting himself out of the play held him back a bit, as he posted a career-low 1.5 blocks per 40 minutes as a junior. Motley can also add a degree of toughness as a post defender as he doesn't always use his strong frame and long arms like he could. His defensive intensity could certainly use some work, but Motley was able to improve considerably on the defensive glass, an area where he struggled early on in his career. Having averaged only 3.7 and 5.4 defensive rebounds as a freshman and sophomore, respectively, Motley upped his production to 8.0 per 40 minutes, showing improved timing and instincts in that regard. He still has his lapses and his below average standstill leaping limits him at times, but his upped production is certainly a welcomed sign moving forward.
Motley's overall consistency moving forward is an area to monitor, as his intensity wavered during his time at Baylor. With that said, it's hard not to be intrigued by his impressive physical profile, agility, flashes of skill and stretch potential, even if he still has a ways to go with his decision making. He may not have one skill he can consistently hang his hat on the NBA at this stage, but there's enough long-term intrigue as a stretch, switchable big for Motley to garner interest in the 20-40 range.