At Monday’s 76ers @ Cavaliers NBA Preseason Game, Aaron Craft and the Ohio State Men’s Basketball Team were introduced during a timeout break. Aaron Craft was surrounded by NBA players and that got me thinking, what will Craft look like in the NBA, if he can make it there.
Lets first discuss Craft as a player in college. The starting point guard and undisputed leader of an elite team, Craft has shown his value as a college basketball player, but that does not always translate well to the NBA as seen in former UNC star Tyler Hansbrough. Going into his senior season at OSU, Craft has shown that he is clearly not a scorer, and not much of a passer at that too. Last year’s 10 points per game and 4.6 assists per game certainly do not scream NBA stud. He is a decent free throw shooter at 77%, and a career 46% shooter from the field, so those can be seen as positives. Craft has been an above-average 3 point shooter, at 34% in his college career, but not an elite one.
Where Craft really stands out is his defense. The only quantifying stat to prove this are his career 2.2 steals per game average, but you really need to watch him to see how great he is on that side of the ball. He has the size, at 6 foot 2, to guard point guards in the NBA and he has shown a willingness to get extremely feisty and aggressive with on-ball defense. He is also a fantastic defender off-ball where he shows his basketball IQ in his defensive rotations and in jumping passing lanes.
These skills assure that Craft will have a role in the NBA. A new fad in the NBA is the presence of a “3D” wing player, meaning that they can shoot 3’s and can defend their position, hence “3D”. If Craft can improve his shooting beyond the arc so that it is his offensive specialty, he could easily wind up having a long career as a role player in the NBA. He most likely will never be an NBA All-star, he might not even start that often, but every player wants to have a long NBA career and be known as a “veteran” and those are heights that are clearly attainable for Craft in the NBA, starting next year.