And The Thunder Select: James Bouknight
Here’s Daily Thunder’s scouting report on James Bouknight ahead of this week’s NBA Draft.
James Bouknight is a 6’5, 190 pound combo guard out of the University of Connecticut. He is coming into the NBA draft at 20 years old, after playing college basketball for 2 seasons.
As a 4 star recruit, he was rated the 53rd best prospect in his recruiting class. While he had plenty of Division 1 offers, none of the perennial powerhouses were calling his name. He ultimately decided to go to UCONN, and quickly made a name for himself.
In his freshman season, he started 16 of 28 games and averaged around 25 minutes per game. With that ample amount of time on the court the started to showcase his flashes of the scoring phenom we see him as today. In a game against Cincinnati he had 4 points at halftime, he then went onto score 19 points in the 2nd half and into overtime (including icing the game at the line with two clutch free throws).
Coming into his sophomore season, the buzz around Bouknight was booming (try saying that five times fast). And for good reason, as he soon showed. He was proving people right, as he dropped 40 points in an overtime loss to then-ranked #11 Creighton. He was well on his way to national recognition and shooting up draft boards before suffering an elbow injury mid-way through the year.
It was early in the game against the Marquette Eagles. He was diving for a loose ball (gotta love that heart) and ended up hyperextending his left elbow. He ended up have surgery to “correct bone chips” and was out indefinitely for 5 weeks.
Once he came back; he did so with a BANG. He returned to action against Providence, and he crashed the boards hard on a teammates missed three point attempt. He corralled the ball with his right hand, and while keeping it fully extended slammed it home with authority, while his head was level with the rim.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up how badly he played in the postseason, but there are speculations that his elbow wasn’t as 100% as people were leading on to.
If you’re looking for a strength when it comes to Bouknight, it has to be his scoring ability. He has freak like athleticism (exhibit A is his aforementioned outback dunk), whether it’s crashing the glass, in transition, off ball cutting, you name it; James Bouknight has above the rim athleticism.
Even coming into the NBA he is (quite literally) in rare air in those regards. While he has a bag of tricks to get by his defenders and create space for an open shot, his first step is upper echelon. The explosiveness, combined with his long steps gives him the advantage out of most triple threats.
Yes, his shooting numbers (29% from 3) were suspect, but as I mentioned above many believe that was a byproduct of not only the lack of talent around him, but that his injury was bothering him more than the organization and Bouk (yes, I call him Bouk) led on.
Why do they think that? James Bouknight has been lighting it up in his team workouts according to the draft heads. His shot never looked broken, but now he is showing the ability to be able to consistently knock down shots.
Given his elite athleticism, his explosive first step and his overall “bag” I would say that he rivals the scoring potential of his peers. Everyone is so quick to say Jalen Green is just like Bradley Beal, or Zach Lavine, but I think that Bouknight actually mirrors Lavine more than Green does.
Another comp I haven’t seen for him is Jamal Murray. While Murray had better numbers across the board he did so in an off ball role, much like he is now in Denver with Jokic. Bouk didn’t have that luxury, he was thrust into a playmaking role. Ideally he will be playing off the ball at the next level though. The shot making, sneaky athleticism, lightning fast first step, and secondary/tertiary playmaking abilities makes me settle on this as an alternative comp.
Now let’s talk about what he needs to work on.
I’m sure you’ve heard he is not a good defender. While I don’t believe that to be inherently true, he does have some things he needs to work on in order to make an impact there. First off, he dies on screens. If you watch a game, Bouk looks engaged on defense when the ball is in front of him. With his length and quickness, he can be a pesky defender. Naturally, the offense will bring a screen to him and rather than going under or over, or even switching he typically stops dead in his tracks. That’s no bueno for the NBA, and something he will for sure have to address.
The second thing he will have to work on can actually help his first issue, he needs to add some strength. I mean don’t we all though? He is thin, and will likely get bullied a bit in the league. So in the scenario that he comes to the Thunder, he will be spending many of hours in the weight room with Poku. This won’t just help him defensively, but it will help him be able to absorb contact as he gets into the lane, much like Shai has already begun making adjustments towards.
Let’s talk about his passing. Before I begin I just want to say, this is a minimal concern of mine personally. Shai will be the lead ball handler in the event that OKC drafts Bouk, so I don’t really care about his assist to turnover ratio. That being said, it was bad (1.8/2.8). As I mentioned before, his teammates weren’t the best in the nation, and while you can’t put the entire blame on them, it does contribute. You can see Bouk making high level reads to the roll man, or dishing it out to the corners after drawing the help. That’s the only playmaking I really need to see from him. The offense was on his shoulders, and the team needed him to take tough shots in order to have a chance to win. I’m not too worried about it, personally.
Overall, I love Bouk as a prospect, and I think that he is someone worth taking a chance on. He plays with heart, he has all the physical tools, and he has recently been linked to OKC by numerous people. If you really are looking to tank another for Chet, Paolo and co., why not take a guy with sky high upside, and all the opportunity to try, fail, and learn. Why not take someone who is gonna be an absolute Bouket.
I meant bucket.
Or did I?