Steven Gray has gotten off to a blazing start in his senior season at Gonzaga with career-high averages in nearly every statistical category. And while it's tough to draw too many conclusions from a small sample size of only six games, Gonzaga has faced quality opponents in three of those outings in San Diego State, Kansas State, and Marquette, giving Gray a few opportunities already to prove that his hot start is no fluke.
In his first few seasons at Gonzaga, Gray was a solid contributor and double digit scorer for the Bulldogs. This season, however, with the departure of Matt Bouldin, Gray seems to have embraced his role as the team's go-to scorer, something that probably suits his game more than it ever did Bouldin's. Gray has always played with a scorer's mentality, and he's seemed more comfortable through his first five games this season knowing that he has the green light from Coach Mark Few.
On the offensive end, Gray's game is built around his perimeter jumper, as 75% of his shot attempts this season have been jumpers. Coach Few runs the 6'5 shooting guard off screens to free him for looks in their halfcourt sets, and Gray does a nice job of squaring himself up on these catch-and-shoot opportunities. He's shooting a solid 46% through six games from the 3-point arc, which is way up from the 33% he shot as a junior. He did shoot 46% from 3 as a freshman, and he has an excellent stroke with deep range, so it wouldn't be a shock to see him maintain his early season percentages from behind the arc, or at least close to it.
An area where Gray has been outstanding so far this season has been his ability to score at the rim. He's converted on most of his attempts in the basket area and is shooting an outstanding 59% overall on 2-pointers. Much of this can be attributed to Gray learning how to use his size at 6'5 against some of the smaller guards he often has defending him at the college level. He's also shown a nice feel for the game and sense of craftiness to score in the lane. While he lacks explosiveness and great elevation, he's been able to make up for that by playing at a nice pace, utilizing head fakes and spin moves, and finishing with either hand at the rim. This isn't necessarily a skill that would translate to the NBA level, however, as he's only about average size for an NBA 2-guard, and the players he'd run into in the lane would be much longer and more athletic than anything he's seen so far this season.
It's also worth noting that Gray shot a total of 24 for 55 from the field (44%) in the 3 games against quality opponents, and most of his stats across the board are probably padded a bit by Gonzaga's first two games, where Gray looked to be far superior than any of the opposing players.
Gray's lack of explosiveness shows up quite a bit on isolation opportunities. He lacks the footspeed and explosive first step to get by his man off the dribble, and he's gotten himself into trouble trying to create shots and make plays in the mid-range area. This has led to some ill-advised, contested shots as well as turnovers. He's averaging 3.4 per game and had 6 in each game against Kansas State and San Diego State.
Defensively, Gray is able to hold his own against the competition at the NCAA level. His size and instincts are good, and he's also used his anticipation skills to average 3 steals per game so far this season. When projecting him against NBA-level competition, though, his mediocre lateral quickness would probably make him a liability on isolation situations.
Gray's early season numbers will likely come down a bit as the season goes on, but he does have the potential to have a great senior season. So far he's been extremely efficient against two weaker teams, and while he still scored against stronger opponents, his limitations athletically and as a playmaker showed up as well. This season in the WCC, his good size for the 2 guard position, combined with his shooting, feel for the game, and overall offensive skill level should put him in conversations for conference player of the year. When evaluating his pro potential, Gray's lack of physical tools could make being drafted an uphill battle, but there is always the chance that some NBA team falls in love with his basketball IQ and perimeter shooting ability in summer league or training camp. If not, there is much to like about his game that could lead to a terrific career playing overseas.