Shane Larkin really came out of nowhere in terms of finding NBA radars. His individual jump ultimately led to team success, as Miami earned itself a No. 2 seed in this year's NCAA tournament.
He averaged 14.5 points on 47.9 percent shooting and 40.6 percent from downtown to with 4.6 assists as a sophomore, all major improvements from a season ago.
With the majority of his teammates graduating, Larkin chose to leave on his own terms. He decided to forgo his junior year and enter an NBA draft that offers a very crackable first round.
Larkin has generated some serious buzz over the past few months despite an under-six-foot label you'd initially think would weigh heavily on his stock.
Let's address that stock and analyze what's driving it forward and what's holding it back.
Larkin tested as the best athlete of any prospect at the combine. He ran the fastest sprint while recording the second-highest max vertical leap (44'') in the history of the event. There's no hiding the fact that Larkin is undersized in every way. He measured in at 5'11'' and 171 pounds with a limited 5'11'' wingspan. Though many refer to Michigan star Trey Burke as undersized, he's got two inches on Larkin vertically, an extra 17 pounds of muscle and six more inches of length (6'5'').
However, speed, quickness and balance are what drive Larkin's production. He's tough to stay in front of thanks to a first step that allows him to hit gaps and break down defenses.
High Ball Screens
The high ball screen is used a lot at the NBA level. And for a guard like Larkin, it can open up three scoring opportunities for either himself or a teammate.
Larkin's tight handle, combined with his quickness, becomes a dangerous offensive weapon off ball screens.
Larkin is a willing and timely passer out of the pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop. He knows when to make the pass and how to free up the screener.
Watch how Larkin manipulates both his defender and the screener's defender, baiting them into challenging him 23 feet from the rim, leaving the screener open under the hoop for an easy bucket.
2. Pull-up over the Screen
The initial screen is meant to create space for the ball-handler. And point guards like Larkin who can shoot off the dribble are lethal with space in front of them.
Watch teammate Julian Gamble set the pick, then Larkin pull-up between both defenders and stick the three-pointer.
Larkin's ability to stop and pop from anywhere out to 26 feet away is what should carry him throughout his NBA career.
3. Hesitation-Dribble Attack
Off the ball screen, Larkin has the stop-start quickness that can cause motion sickness. Both defenders have to instantaneously decide whether they want to fight through the pick, go under it or switch—and it's that instant where Larkin takes advantage.
With the hesitation dribble, he's got the ability to put his defender on his heels and then explode to the basket.
Larkin is a triple threat coming off ball screens, which is what will appeal to teams looking for a half-court spark in the backcourt.
Larkin saw his shooting accuracy improve dramatically over the past season, and it's helped erase some of his physical deficiencies.
A jump shot is essentially a counter to rim protection. If everyone could, they'd attack the basket and throw down a dunk or drop in a layup. But it's a lot easier for a guard like Larkin to score on a balanced jumper than it is for him to take an off-balanced shot on the move over seven-footers at the rim.
This past season, he increased his three-point percentage from 32.3 percent to 40.6 percent. It's made him more of a threat with the ball in his hands, not just off ball screens, but one-on-one with space to operate.
Watch Larkin use his crafty handle and quick feet help create separation before rising and firing with balance.
Finishing at the rim will not be an easy task for Larkin at the next level. He's not an explosive leaper, and with short arms, easy buckets will be hard to come by.
As a point guard, Larkin registered a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio, but he still has work to do (as does every young point guard) running a half-court set.
And though he averaged two steals per game, he doesn't project as a defensive asset at the NBA level. He's just too small and too undersized for many of today's starters.
Draft Stock and NBA Outlook
Outside of Trey Burke and Michael Carter-Williams, there isn't an obvious answer for who the No. 3-ranked point guard is.
There's no doubt Larkin is going to impress during workouts and interviews. He's fundamentally equipped to excel at every drill thrown his way. Teams will also give Larkin points for his genes, considering his father is a Hall of Fame baseball player.
To start his career, Larkin's ability to generate offense could be used as a spark off a bench. Considering his size, Larkin's upside is fairly limited, but his ability to run pick-and-rolls and convert on the perimeter could be appealing to a team without a threatening lead guard.
If you're Larkin, it's hard to ignore the Utah Jazz and Milwaukee Bucks at No. 14 and No. 15 in this draft. Both teams should be in the market for a point guard, and assuming Burke and Carter-Williams are off the board, Larkin should get heavy consideration.
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