Shooting woes plagued the Raptors over the past few years, and their offensive futility got them to this position where they have an opportunity to address that need via the draft. If Raptors president Masai Ujiri and GM Bobby Webster can just move away from drafting a long power forward that can’t shoot for just once, they should do their due diligence and look into UConn’s Jordan Hawkins.
Sharpshooting Huskies shooting guard Jordan Hawkins had an excellent sophomore season. He went from around 6 points per game during his freshman season to 16.2 points en route to a 1st team All-Big East and the NCAA title.
Hawkins’ perimeter shooting, gravity, and constant motion frustrated opposing teams. He shot 38.5% from behind the arc on 7.6 attempts. Almost two-thirds of Hawkins’ shots came from the perimeter (63.1% of his attempts), and he’s getting them in various ways. When prospects say they model their game after a particular player, it’s either you see glimpses of it or sometimes not at all. Hawkins models his game after Klay Thompson, and his game — the perimeter shooting, constant movement, quick release screams of what Klay Thompson does for the most part.
For the past 2-3 years, we have seen the Raptors players kick out or make the swing pass around the perimeter to a WIDE OPEN player only to brick the shot, over and over again. Jordan Hawkins’ essential skill set should address that issue. The league is in a place right now where shooting is a necessity to win, and you need to have as many shooters as possible on the team.
Watching Hawkins look for his three-point shot as a sophomore at UConn feels like watching the Splash Brothers with their perpetual player movement, and next thing you know, you have Klay or Steph Curry wide open for a split-second shot. Yes, I said split second because Hawkins is good at moving without the ball and getting his shot off real quick. It’s fascinating to watch him run around and see great awareness of where the rim is, where his feet are on the court, and to square himself up and pull the trigger quickly.
Hawkins’ 38.5% three-point shooting feels an understatement, as he attracts much attention. If his shooting pans out, he can be used on many screen/off-ball actions, like JJ Redick, Kyle Korver, etc., to generate advantage or scoring opportunities.
Another reason to look into Hawkins is the Christian Braun success story. One of the Denver Nuggets’ title run storylines was their belief in Braun’s intangibles — his hustle, confidence, and winning mentality. Hawkins won’t lack the confidence, and perhaps the winning mentality is there, but does he have the other intangibles?
Areas of Concern
I previously spoke highly about Hawkins’ shooting prowess and proficiency, mainly because almost everything else in his game is a bit suspect.
Hawkins’ Draft Combine measurements were a bit underwhelming. He clocked in at 6’4.25” without shoes and weighed 186 lbs. The weight is on par with how he’s looked as a sophomore, as opposing players repeatedly went to his chest and found success. Hawkins’ height and an OK wingspan (+2.5”) make him a tad undersized at his position, and combined with his lack of strength, moving up to a small forward role might be a big ask as a rookie.
UConn vs Florida Thread:— Zach Milner (@ZachMilner13) December 9, 2022
Jordan Hawkins got off to a nice start & impacted the game on both ends. Had several possessions showing his understanding of team defense, drew a charge defending the ball, and hit a 3 in transition on the other end. Really nice breakout season for him pic.twitter.com/Ln02pRDWKa
Hawkins has shown flashes of being able to stay in front of his man as an on-ball defender, and it’s kind of disappointing to see him get blown by at times, as he’s got excellent hip mobility as a movement shooter. That part may translate eventually, but not anytime soon, as his decision-making as a defender also needs improvement. A few years down the road, when he gets stronger and learns how to utilize his quickness, hip mobility, and experience as a defender, he can be at least a neutral defender. As it is, there’s a path for him to develop into a decent team defender.
Offensively, Hawkins is subpar once he gets past the midrange. His lack of strength gets in the way, as he’s not strong enough to absorb contact and doesn’t have the touch and concentration to finish around defenders from the floater/rim range. Hawkins does give a good effort when he can stay in front of his man, and he tries to block the shot sometimes to a fault where he ends up fouling the shooter.
Jordan Hawkins is the best movement shooter in this draft. He does a great job of squaring his body up the rim. Has great footwork getting into his jump-shot. He’s does a phenomenal job of always moving without the ball. It feels like he never runs out of stamina. pic.twitter.com/K1M8qgJXru— Global Scouting (@GlobalScouting_) June 8, 2023
Shooting is the new premium skill set in the NBA, which the Raptors lack, as mentioned above. He’s an instant upgrade over anybody that came off the bench for the Raptors in the last two seasons, except for Gary Trent Jr. Speaking of Trent Jr., he could end up as a cheap replacement for the same skill set (for better or worse). Jalen Duren, the 13th pick by the Detroit Pistons last season, got a rookie scale salary starting at $4.1 million. That’s a big difference between what Trent Jr. will look for in the market, who will look for a pay bump from the $18.5m he got this season.
Hawkins’ fit with Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes is undeniably a kick-out outlet, and his shooting should provide the Raptors with enough gravity to create better spacing for those two. The Raptors also just hired a new coach in Darko Rajakovic, who’s expected to inject more motion/read & react to this team’s offense. Among all the players within the 13th pick range, Hawkins is the least affected prospect should Fred VanVleet and Trent Jr. return.