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2020 Hornets prospect scouting report: Isaiah Joe

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The second-year wing out of Arkansas has a strong argument for the title of “best shooter in the draft”

Tennessee v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

After two seasons of prolific shooting for the Arkansas Razorbacks, wing Isaiah Joe decided to re-enter his name into the 2020 NBA Draft despite withdrawing at the Aug. 1 deadline. Joe is one of the best, if not the best shooter in this class; his 3-point attempt rate is sky high, his range extends well beyond the NBA 3-point line, and his form is already perfect. Considering how the Hornets would ideally like to play offense — shooting a lot of threes — Joe is worth a serious look if he were to be available with the 32nd pick.

Measurements:

Height: 6’ 5”

Wingspan: 6’ 10” (estimated)

Weight: 180 pounds

Strengths: pull-up/catch-and-shoot range, 3-point shot creation, off-ball/team defense

Joe tied the SEC record for threes made in a season by a freshman (113) in 2018-2019 while leading the conference in percentage (41.4 percent), and he was well on his way to surpassing his freshman 3-point makes total as a sophomore before a minor knee surgery sidelined him for five games in February (also, sports were cancelled in the entire world in March). Still, he made 94 threes in 26 games in his second season in Little Rock while shooting 34.2 percent on 11.7 3-point attempts per-40 minutes. If he’d played the same amount of games (34) as a sophomore, he would’ve made about 122 threes.

Joe’s detractors point to his percentage dropping from 41.4 percent to 34.2 over his two seasons, but his volume increased, and a lot of his shots are from extremely long-range or off-the-dribble. His form is flawless, his range is absurd, he has supreme confidence, and he’s a career 82.7 percent free-throw shooter (173 total free throw attempts). A slightly-below average 3-point percentage on 11.7 attempts per-40 with nearly 100 total makes and a career-56.9 true shooting percentage isn’t a red flag.

Liberty Ballers’ Jackson Frank has a much more detailed, informative, and interesting profile of Isaiah Joe already available at this link — I highly recommend reading it. He’s also posted this video on Twitter featuring various clips of Joe’s elite pull-up shooting:

When Joe gets a step on his defender going right and does that between-the-legs/crossover step-back to his left, the scorer’s table might as well have just put three points on the board for the Razorbacks before the shot even got off. He creates ample space, quickly transitions from dribbling to shooting, stays on balance, always gets good lift, and lets it fly no matter how hard the contest. Check out the range on some of those shots, too. Joe won’t struggle adjusting to the NBA line. Adjusting to close-outs is an important skill for NBA shooters to have, and Joe has the footwork and handle for it down pat.

Joe’s off-ball defense and overall defensive playmaking are a bit overshadowed by his lights-out shooting. He averaged 1.8 steals per-40 minutes and had a steal percentage of 2.5 in his college career. His wingspan is said to be around 6’ 10”, which gives him a huge advantage defending on the perimeter since his anticipatory skills are already solid. He’s not the quickest guy in the world, but speed and athleticism aren’t weaknesses, either, and he’s a very intelligent and aware team defender.

The above clip is an example of his defensive playmaking and IQ. That’s a well-timed stunt that looked like a really quick read to have to make after Joe’s man sets a ghost screen and pops out, and then he cleanly pokes the ball away and finishes through contact in transition. Joe’s shooting is always going to be his calling card, but there’s a path to him also becoming a high-level playmaker in passing lanes and as a stunt/help defender.

Question marks: on-ball defense, strength, scoring at the rim, playmaking

Most of the question marks in Joe’s game play into one another. The biggest one; his strength. His arms got bigger between his freshman and sophomore seasons, but his body is slender — and because he doesn’t have the power to throw defenders off-balance when attacking the rim, he doesn’t venture into the paint and seek contact/try to generate free throws often (.253 free throw attempt rate). If Joe gained about 15-20 pounds, mostly in his core and legs, he’d be able to withstand contact to a higher degree and would get to the line more often, where he’s a good shooter.

Per Hoop-Math, only 6.1 percent of Joe’s field goal attempts were at the rim and he shot 68.2 percent on those attempts. The only Arkansas guard/wing with more than 75 field goal attempts to shoot a better percentage than him at the rim was Mason Jones (75.6 percent), who is also going to be selected in the 2020 Draft. Joe being so averse to shooting at the rim is partly due to his lack of strength and explosiveness, and partly due to him being an excellent 3-point shooter. As mentioned above, adding strength would probably alleviate this issue. His current frame could also limit his ability to fight for open shots off-ball and shake defenders on-ball, too, so it’s paramount that he adds at least some weight.

Joe does not lack in court vision or passing skill, but he just isn’t someone that’s consistently looking to make plays for teammates with the ball in his hands yet. He averaged 2.1 assists per-40 and his assist percentage was 10.6 for his career, neither of which are stellar for a guard/wing. Again, the reasons as to why he doesn’t pass are a.) he’s an elite shooter and b.) he doesn’t collapse defenses and get into the paint where he can make plays very often. As evidenced by the clip below, Joe can facilitate; he just needs to do it a bit more often at the next level.

On-ball defense is another area where Joe’s skinniness can be a glaring weakness. He can get pushed off of his spots by stronger ball-handlers, and he has no chance at becoming a switchable defender that can guard NBA wings or forwards — which he could potentially do given his size and IQ — unless he gets bigger. He puts in effort on defense and has a good feel for rotations, switches, pick-and-roll reads, etc. Betting on him becoming stronger is going to reap serious benefits if it hits.

Overview

No matter which direction the Hornets go with the third pick — guard, wing, or big — Isaiah Joe would be an excellent selection at 32. Teams can never have enough shooting, and at the very least, Joe will provide value as a spot-up shooter that can also create his own shot from beyond the arc. If he adds some muscle and becomes more of a threat to attack closeouts (which should come with added muscle), he could end up having a long NBA career as a borderline starter/role-player. Joe has an absolute flamethrower from long-range, tight handles and natural defensive instincts; it’s not difficult to imagine a player with that combination of skills developing into a valuable rotation piece when paired an NBA strength and conditioning staff. There’s a decent chance Joe is still available when Charlotte is on the clock with the 32nd pick, and I think he could really prove his worth a year or two down the line.

P.S. shout out to Jackson Frank, as well as any other person whose tweets I’ve used to help support my points in these scouting reports. Any ATHer who has a Twitter account should follow anyone they see linked in an article on this site. They’re all good people with good basketball brains.