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And the Thunder Select: Kira Lewis

And the Thunder Select: Kira Lewis

With a bounty of draft picks from the 2019 Tradepocalypse summer, the Thunder will be scouting young prospects at the top of recruiting and draft classes once again. Daily Thunder will keep you informed on whether those players look like good targets for Oklahoma City.

Measuring at 6’3, 167 pounds, Kira Lewis, Jr. is a point guard out of the University of Alabama who can do it all on the offensive end.

At only 18 years of age, Lewis is the youngest sophomore in all of D-1 basketball, making what he’s doing all the more impressive. He’s a year younger than notable freshmen and presumed top-three pick Cole Anthony. He won’t be turning 19 until April.

Named to the Preseason All-SEC team entering his sophomore year, Lewis has only upped his draft stock throughout this season as he’s improved in nearly every statistical category since last year, per Basketball Reference:

ESPN currently has Lewis going 40th overall in their latest mock, but I see him maxing out in the lottery and possibly lasting all the way to the end of the first round, therefore making him a possibility for OKC’s own pick or their pick acquired from Denver.

Through eight games this year for the Crimson Tide, Lewis is averaging 18.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game on 58 TS%.

Lewis’s combination of deadly speed, perimeter shot-making, and live dribble passing project well for his NBA future as an offense-centric point guard.

Playmaking promise

Although his overall playmaking ability and decision-making raise questions about the potential of him ever being a primary ball-handler (he needs to take better care of the ball, and is leading the SEC in turnovers at 4.5 per game), Lewis excels with live dribble passing, whether that be in the PnR or the half-court on wraparound or skip passes when driving. Watching a few of Alabama’s games this year, it’s easy to see that their talent on offense (besides John Petty) is hurting Kira’s possible assist numbers as his teammates frequently blow open looks.

I don’t believe Lewis has the consistency in passing/decision making to ever be a primary ball-handler leading an NBA offense, so he would fit in nicely next to a bigger playmaker like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (though SGA’s assist totals are low). For comparison, I believe he has a higher ceiling in terms of playmaking than recent guards to come out of the draft like Collin Sexton and Coby White.

Scoring chops

Kira Lewis is a threat to score from anywhere on the floor. Ranking third in the SEC in points-per-game this season at 18.6, Lewis has a very capable shot from distance as well as a nice stroke from the free throw line, where he is shooting 80% on the year.

Out of Lewis’ 116 shot attempts this season, 101 of them have either come from beyond the arc or at the rim. Alabama’s coach Nate Oats must be a fan of modern basketball, as his team almost completely eliminates mid-range shots from their gameplan.

Lewis has taken 52.3% of his shots at the rim this season and is 36-59 on the year (61%) according to Hoop Math, a number comparable to other top guards that have come out the draft in recent years like Collin Sexton (62.2%), Ja Morant (61%), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (61.1%), and Markelle Fultz (61.6%). He’s only shooting 4-15 on other two-point shots (floaters, jumpers) this year but the sample size is too small to get an accurate representation of his ability.

via UA Athletics

One thing I would like to see is an increase in his free throw rate. It’s dropped significantly from .317 in 2018-2019 to .224 in 2019-2020, a mark that is relatively low for a dynamic scorer like Lewis.

Finishing/Drives: Armed with a quick first step along with excellent burst and acceleration, Lewis is able to blow by defenders in college with relative ease and occasionally shows off his creative finishing ability. As Lewis ages and his frame rounds into peak form (he’s currently only 167 pounds), he should have more success in terms of finishing at the rim and through contact.

Perimeter Shooting: Lewis is shooting 38.1% on 5.3 three-point attempts per game. Most of these shots are spot-ups, as he’s been assisted on 62.5% of his makes from distance. He has also flashed the ability to create his own shot from the perimeter and convert on pull-up threes.

Lewis doesn’t show this often, but this off the dribble pull-up from deep is a skill that would do wonders for his draft stock if he’s able to implement it more consistently.

Will his draft stock improve?

Overall, Lewis’ defense is nothing to get excited about. He currently lacks the upper-body strength to compete with bigger guards and occasionally loses his man while on defense.

However, he plays hard and shows the ability to read and intercept passing lanes, averaging 1.8 steals per game on the year.

Kira Lewis’ skillset is very intriguing for such a young prospect. At 18 years old and already a sophomore in college, he has shown the ability to be a dynamic playmaker whether that’s through his scoring or passing vision. As he fills out naturally and starts participating in NBA training programs, he should gain significant strength in his upper-body that will only allow him to be more effective when driving towards the basket.

No matter where the Thunder end up selecting in the first round, and whether it’s through their own pick or the Nugget’s, Kira Lewis will likely be in range for them to select if they wish.