Nassir Little's 2019 NBA Draft Scouting Report: Analysis of Trail Blazers Pick

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJune 21, 2019

North Carolina's Nassir Little (5) reacts to a call during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, March 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
Nell Redmond/Associated Press

The Portland Trail Blazers have selected Nassir Little with the No. 25 pick in the 2019 NBA draft.

He became one of the most hyped prospects before last season when he scored 52 points combined in the McDonald's All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic. But Little couldn't find any rhythm at North Carolina, where he came off the bench to play just 18.2 minutes per game. Scouts still detected talent through the inconsistency. And now Little will be out to prove he was underused and that the NBA is a more suitable place for him to develop.

                         

Quick hitters

Size: 6'6"

Weight: 224.2 pounds

Wingspan: 7'1¼"

Reach: 8'8½"

Pro comparison: Thaddeus Young

         

Offensive strengths 

At 224 pounds with a 7'1" wingspan, Little is impressive physically, even if his 6'6" height makes him seem undersized for a forward. He's at his best from the small-ball 4 spot, which allows him to capitalize on his quickness from face-up position. Little was productive during his limited action, having averaged 21.5 points and 10.1 rebounds per 40 minutes. He was effective at running the floor and crashing the offensive glass. Little flashed spot-up jumpers, pull-ups, post-ups and drives sporadically throughout the season. He's a capable scorer from every spot and situation—he just isn't proficient in any of them.

          

Offensive weaknesses

Little only made 26.9 percent of his 52 three-point attempts and 26.8 percent of his pull-ups. He lacks the height and moves to be a featured post scorer, so his shooting development is important. Little isn't a threatening creator or playmaker in the half court, as he finished his freshman season ranking in the 31st percentile out of isolation with just 24 assists through 36 contests. His feel for knowing what play to make with the ball is weak.

         

Defensive outlook

Little has a tremendous defensive physical profile that should buy him time while he learns NBA concepts. He should be able to guard both forward spots with his diesel frame, length and foot speed. However, Little was beaten too easily off the dribble last year. He lacks great instincts, totaling just 19 steals and 19 blocks all year despite having such advantageous tools and athleticism. On a positive note, Little brings toughness, which could hold value even if he struggles to consistently make the right reads.

        

Rookie-year projection

Given his limited impact at North Carolina, the coaching staff will presumably take it slow with Little. He's a good candidate for the G League, which would help him build his reps and confidence. He'll need to become a more consistent shooter to justify a regular rotation role, given that he'll play almost exclusively off the ball. Otherwise, he should be good for second-chance points and easy baskets in transition and on cuts. 

        

Projected role: Versatile role player

Little seems too far behind to possess any realistic star potential. Assuming he makes enough strides with his scoring, shooting and defense, he should be able to mirror Thaddeus Young as a versatile role player and complementary offensive option. 

                  

Stats courtesy of Synergy SportsSports Reference.

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