2020 draft age: 22.6
Measurements: 6’6” / 215lb / 6’10” wingspan
Advanced Stats: 20.1 AST% / 7.4 REB% / 1,8 STL% / 2.9 BLK%
113.1 OFF RTG and 103.0 DEF RTG for a +10.1 NET RTG
56.1 TS% on 26.6 USG%
Background: Led ACC in scoring… First Team All ACC at Syracuse… Led the team in total points and minutes… Transferred from East Carolina after Fr. season because he wanted to be closer to home… Cut weight and changed his diet after transferring… Attended 3 different high schools… Struggled to obtain NCAA academic eligibility… Transferred to a boarding school his Sr. year of high school and took summer classes to reach eligibility… Represented by Excel Sports… Has worked with Chris Brickley on skill work this off season…
Personality: Very laid back off the court… Says he takes life “one day at a time”… Spoke in an interview about how he loves the game of basketball and adversity that comes with it… His favorite moment at Syracuse was during his red shirt year cheering for his teammates against Michigan St…“I want to become better at what I’m good at,” Hughes says. “Pin-downs, catching off the pass, bad passes, all of it. I’m a high-character teammate and person. I will always be there for my teammates. I want to bring a smile if they’re down and be someone who is reliable. Someone who is a great teammate who plays good defense and makes shots consistently.”
Injury History: Lingering hand injury suffered during NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament… Tapes up hand every game… Groin injury 2/11/20 vs NC State… Played 39 minutes vs FSU in the following game… Concussion symptoms 3/07/20 vs Miami… Played 38 minutes vs UNC in a conference tournament game 4 days later… Missed 8 games due to a stress fracture in his foot during his Fr. season…
Athleticism: Good size for a wing… Could cut down BF%… Good straight line speed… Average at moving laterally… Below average explosion… Struggles at times to create space on side steps and step backs because of this lack of explosion… Solid quick twitch movements (jab steps and pump fakes)… Hip movement is poor at times, especially in POA defense…
Projected Fit: 3 Point Shooting Wing
Projected Draft Landing: Second Round
High: 3&D Starting Wing
Hughes is an elite shooter who can fill up the box score in low usage situations. He’s much better on offense with a USG% below 20%. He creates most of his offense by running off screens into C&S situations, typically sticking to 3 dribbles or less. He takes over half his shots from behind the arc, but continues to draw fouls at a decent rate. Defensively, he won’t be an All-NBA level defender, but he won’t be a syve. He is much better guarding off the ball in team defense situations. He’s a good vocal leader on the backside of the court, calling out screens and movement.
Medium: 3 Point Shooter Off the Bench
Hughes fits into a Wayne Ellington archetype. It will take some time for him to understand how shooters need to use their pacing and spatial awareness to create open shots. He won’t provide much value as a shot creator due to his lack of athleticism and average passing, but he can do enough to make basic reads and not be a complete liability on the ball. He will make his money in the NBA with his ability to shoot. Little things such as putting his defender in jail and back cutting when a defender goes over a screen will help a ton. Defensively, he isn’t a plus by any means, but the Syracuse zone principles should translate. The infamous zone has matchup principles and doesn’t deserve the hate that it gets.
Low: Career G League Player
Hughes struggles to make an NBA roster from the jump and spends some time in the G League. He struggles to defend and create his own shot at that level. He is a high volume shooter with below average efficiency. It could take him a while to break the 34% mark from deep that he hit during his Jr year with Syracuse. He could struggle again in an environment away from his home in NY.
Shooting: Hughes’ biggest strength is his ability to shoot the ball. He made 78 three pointers this year along with 63 makes from the midrange. He showed average efficiency on these shots with a 51.1 EFG%. Mechanically, Hughes has solid form. The only real issue with his mechanics is his knees. He has an inward rotation. There are benefits to this adjustment, including increased shooting range. NBA players such as Lillard and Korver have made this a staple component of their jumpshot. The drawbacks to this are obvious, which would be potential knee injuries.
Drawing Fouls: Hughes has a great knack for drawing fouls. He had 14 games this year with more than 5 attempts from the free throw line. That compiled with a 0.358 FTr contributed to a lot of makes from the charity stripe. He’s one of 4 players from the 2019-20 season with a FTr above 0.35 and at least 220 attempted 3 pointers. He has a Kyle Lowry like ability to draw contact on his jump shot. He also knows how to sell calls. Against UNC in the ACC tournament, Hughes did a great job of using fakes to draw his defender off balance before using their momentum to create contact.
Statistical Improvements: Hughes boasted a strong statistical profile this year from an analytics point of view. Speaking on his FTr, that jumped 10.5 (0.253 to 0.358) points from his So. to Jr. year while increasing his USG% by 5 points (20.6% to 25.5%). Even though it is just a counting stat, Hughes also increased his FT% by 7 points (74.2% to 81.3%) while nearly doubling his makes from the stripe. From a playmaking standpoint, he made major strides. He doubled his AST% (10.1% to 20.1%) while decreasing his TO% (16.3% to 14.2%). Hughes didn’t have to play many minutes as a primary creator. He stuck to his role and showed promise as a playmaker when given the opportunity.
Playing Up to His Competition: Hughes played up to his competition constantly this season. During 10 games against top 50 qualified opponents, he showed increases in his BPM, specifically on the defensive end of the floor. His STL% ballooned from 1.8% to 2.8%. You could look at this a few ways, either Hughes is someone who will give effort every night in the NBA because of the high level of competition or Hughes is someone who picks his spots. To be fair, most players would pick their spots if they played almost 91.1% of minutes available. This jumped up to 97.5% of minutes available against those Top 50 opponents.
Areas of Improvement:
- Slashing: Hughes lacks the athleticism to get downhill. He has a below average first step, as he just doesn’t create separation with it. He only took 78 shots at the rim this year, about 2.5 per game. This made up 16.8% of his shot attempts. He would much rather take the mid range jumper or the 3. Another statistical indicator that could be a hindrance is how much he relied on his teammates to create those shots at the rim for him. 47% of his makes at the rim were assisted. This shows a lack of self creation, especially for a wing. This is on par with other wings in this class who are notoriously not shot creators such as Josh Green and Cassius Stanley. Both also sit around 50% in this statistic.
- Passing: Hughes showed a lot of improvement as a passer over his junior year at Syracuse, but it was more of improving to the point of being competent and not excelling at the skill. He increased his AST:TO ratio from 0.8:1 to 1.5:1. He doubled his AST% while decreasing his TO%. These are great indicators at face value. When watching him play, he doesn’t offer any creation value outside of basic reads. His reads are all extremely basic, limited to swings, dump downs, and the occasional push in transition. Outside of that, he didn’t try to move the needle. He won’t be a player that will get others open with his passing, but he is competent enough to hit the open man.
- Explosion: Hughes struggles to explode quickly to create space. When running off screens, he understands the timing and angles to take when his defender cheats, but he doesn’t offer the ability to come off a down screen, decelerate, and then back peddle to the corner without his defender catching up. This is also an issue on the ball. Hughes won’t be asked to do as much work in the isolation at the NBA level. Most of his self shot creation will be on C&S situations with a 3 dribble count. Two really valuable moves in those triple threat spots are a step back and a side step. Hughes has both of them in his bag, but there is worry that they won’t translate as well as one would hope. When he launches off his plant foot, he doesn’t create enough space. He still managed to make those shots at the collegiate level, but those will be much tougher shots in the NBA if he can’t create the necessary space. He also had a really strange problem of having a ton of air balls this year on pull up jumpers. Those shots in particular didn’t look terrible to the eye test, so it may be a mechanical issue in his off the dribble jumper that stops him from getting the ball all the way to the rim.
PNR: Hughes goes into hero mode off the PNR. He never really tries to create for others when the ball handler in this action. He often will settle for a poor jumper off of screening actions. He also doesn’t know how to use screens to create numbers advantages. He would find more open lanes if he would put his hip on the screener. He struggles to get downhill because he sort of floats outside of the screen before attacking. He could translate as a PNP screener in situations where you want to get a switch for your point guard.
Team Defense: Hughes is a good team defender. He was solid in his rotations within the Syracuse zone. He is a vocal leader when playing on the backside. Even from viewing film, you can tell he’s calling out plays and screening actions on the defensive end of the floor. He offers good rim protection when rotating to the post as a secondary defender. He does a good job of splitting man and ball when acting as a secondary defender. As mentioned below, he does lose sight of his man at times when on the backside. In general, Hughes will yield the most value when guarding off the ball.
Playmaking: Hughes is a solid playmaker on the defensive end of the floor. He contributes in the passing lanes and as a rim protector. He excels as a shot blocker for a wing. He actually blocked a lot of jump shots this year. The issues I could see popping up with that are that he’s jumping to block those shots, so a simple pump fake can get him off his feet, and that NBA players will simply have quicker jumpers on higher releases that won’t be affected by a contest. Most of his blocked shots around the rim were as a secondary defender, helping onto a post touch from behind. As a rim protector, he obviously won’t be a major deterrent as a shot blocker, but he will offer an ability to defend the rim with his positioning. He’s solid at taking charges. Against UNC, he took one along with being in position for two others that were questionably called blocks. Taking charges can be his calling card. When it comes to steals, I’m not sure if you can put a ton of emphasis on his college statistics. He can gamble more because of the Boeheim zone defense, allowing for him to reach in passing lanes. He at least shows activity in passing lanes which is a good start.
Areas of Improvement:
Motor: This may be due to Syracuse’s zone defense, but Hughes was caught sitting a lot. He gets caught up in ball watching and not finding a match up within his designated zone. This contributed to him giving up 1.06 PPP on cuts to the basket. His movements are very lethargic at times as well, but as soon as his team gets the rebound, he’s sprinting in transition to get to his spot. Obviously, the minutes load could lead to picking his spots, but this is still a problem. At the professional level, he won’t get minutes unless he puts defense first. This lack of a motor also translated to the glass. His REB% was extremely poor for a wing of his size. Payton Pritchard was better on the offensive glass than Hughes. Part of his struggle, at least on the defense glass, is that he never boxes out. The only defensive boards he gets are uncontested. If he gets matched up with a slashing wing who attacks the offensive glass, he is in serious trouble.
Point of Attack: A lot of wings in this draft class have the same issue. They struggle to open up their hips as POA defenders. Hughes is one of the wings in this group who struggle. He gets beat off the dribble and just really struggles to recover. He gets beat off his higher hip and can’t open quickly enough to recover. Even if he does open enough to recover, he doesn’t accelerate enough to get back in position. An NBA strength program can definitely help him here with functional movements. An NBA team also will have better help defenders, so it won’t be much of an issue if he gets beat downhill once in a while. His lack of POA defense isn’t necessarily a negative because of this. It’s mainly a skill that would help him earn playing time, not something that will take playing time away from him.
Best Team Fits:
Golden State: Outside of the big 2 (or 3 if you consider Wiggins to be a shooter), the Warriors lack shooting. They only made 10 3’s per game on 33% shooting. They need role players who can shoot the ball at a low cost. They’re going to struggle to stay under the luxury tax these next few years and Hughes should be ready to step in and take up some low cost minutes.
Orlando: Orlando needs consistent shooting from the wing if they expect the majority of their offense to continue to come from slashers and post players. Ross and Fournier provided some decent shooting, but it was far from consistent. Hughes only had two games this past season in which he didn’t make a 3 point shot and he only played 3 minutes due to injury in one of those games.
New York: Coach Thibodeau relied on three point shooter off the bench dating back to his days in Chicago. Barrett would also benefit from some youthful shooting next to him that can bring up the ball of off defensive boards. Hughes also does not limit the salary that the Knicks could throw at a premiere free agent in the 2021 class.
Overall Outlook: Hughes is a translatable volume shooter. He will struggle to create space in isolations or in C&S situations off a dribble or two. He is an average finisher around the rim who doesn’t get downhill very often. He is good at drawing fouls in the lane and as a jump shooter. He knows how to draw defenders into the air and create solid contact. He is a below average passer, only making basic reads. Although, he did a good job of limiting his turnovers. His handle isn’t anything out of the ordinary. On the defensive end, he could see some struggles early in his career, especially on the ball. He is a marginal on the ball defender due to his lack of athleticism and lateral speed. He is above average off the ball as a team defender. He is a decent playmaker who reads passing lanes well and can block shots as a help side defender.