Nate Darling Scouting Report
By: Alex Brown @AhbAnalytics
With Insight Via InStat
Age: 22 Years – August 30th 1998.
Agent: Nate Daniels – One Legacy Sports Management
Measurements: 6’5, 200 lbs., 6’5 Wingspan.
Background: Nate Darling hails from Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is the son of Jason Darling and Julie Metlege, and has four brothers. He helped lead Team Canada to a silver medal finish in the FIBA Americas U18’s. He also was the catalyst for Nova Scotia’s U17 team, leading them to a Canadian National Basketball Championship (50pts in final game & MVP). He began his collegiate career at UAB, before transferring (and sitting out) his junior year to Delaware. The transfer paid off, as Nate doubled his scoring output and showed that he had what it takes to be a pro.
Injury Report: No significant injury information publicly available.
Personality: Nate strikes me as rather introverted, and is generally quite kind and optimistic. I’ve heard he is a real nice guy and people enjoy playing with him. He also shows up to get his work in and definitely enjoys the game. Essentially, he won’t cause any locker room issues. Furthermore, he does not have that irrational confidence or arrogance fueling his shooting or general play. He has stated that he prefers to play in a perimeter oriented, multi-guard, high pace system with lots of ball movement and transition opportunities. I find this interesting as it speaks to his preference to work off breakdowns that he does not necessarily create. He needs a system that creates a lot of breakdowns for him to find his spots.
Athleticism: Darling is a below average athlete for NBA standards that will not be creating much advantages with his burst, speed, or strength. He dunked the ball only once this season, and I would not expect him to play above the rim moving forward. Consequently, Darling often relies on team-generated breakdowns & floaters to find any slashing advantages. I do not expect him to add much weight moving forward either. If I were to compare him athletically to any current NBA player, Ty Jerome would come to mind.
Projected Role: 3pt Specialist Off-Guard
Swing Factors: Every Controllable Aspect of Defense, Movement (& Off-Balanced) Shooting, Initiation Skills, and Slashing Craft.
Projected Draft Landing: Undrafted – Potential G-League Stint
Overall 38.2% (141/369) away from the rim – 33.7% on 17.6% AST% from 2pt – 39.9% on 70.1% AST% from 3pt. Only shot 78/121 (64.5%) shots at the rim, 20.5% assisted. (Per Barto)
High: Mid Tier European Team & G-League | 3pt Specialist – Mid Rotation
I could see Darling landing a perimeter specialist role in a decent European program if his movement shooting takes a jump after a G-League stint. He may initiate every once in a while, but I would imagine him playing off-ball on both ends (off the bench) to maximize his winning impact. Defensively he will probably continue to struggle due to the lacking tools, but perhaps his IQ really sharpens off-ball and he becomes a neutral.
Medium: Low/Mid Tier European Team | 3pt Specialist – Mid Rotation
I think the most realistic outcome for Darling would result in him landing in the aforementioned potential situations as a specialist shooter. The lacking defensive value is a major part of this, as not being able to add value on that end without being elite offensively will keep you out of the highest levels of competition.
Low: Low Tier European Team (High Rotation) or Lower Tier International League (Starter) | 3pt Specialist & Mid Usage Initiator
Darling could find himself starting in a lower tier international league due to his shooting value and potential to initiate against lower competition. The lacking defensive value is a major part of him not being graded higher, as not being able to add value on that end without significant offensive value will keep you out of the highest levels of competition.
- Outside Shooting: Nate has a nice looking (though volatile) stroke from deep, and I would be willing to call him a near pure shooter in spot up scenarios. His release is a bit lower than ideal, but it is hard to argue with the execution. Burying 3.3 triples per game on just over 8 attempts, Darling can torch defenses with his outside scoring package. He can shoot it well off the dribble and on spot-ups, making him a very deadly sniper. He buried 186 of his 456 triples during his collegiate career, good for 40.8%.
- Shooting Off Spot-Ups: Darling is at his best in catch and shoot scenarios. When his feet are set, he is lethal in a myriad of actions. This is undoubtedly his most valuable offensive tool, and it will be what coaches put him in the game to do at the very least. I would like to see relocation skills improve. Too stagnant for a shooter of his caliber.
- Off-Dribble Shooting: Nate has the ability to score from deep off the dribble, which is really key to his potential. He can create space while on balance, and has a quick enough trigger to where he can get his shot off despite the lacking size. He can hit step backs, side steps, and hit that key 1 dribble pull-up off his pump fake. When his base is consistent & balanced, he looks great off the dribble. This is really promising regarding the potential to put the ball in his hands in P&R moving forward as a deep shot creator, especially considering he is not a plus slasher.
- Operating Off Hand-Offs: While he does not really employ movement DHO’s, Darling is quite comfortable getting himself set and firing over his teammate as soon as he gets the ball in hand offs. He seems to get in rhythm here, and understands how to create advantages for himself here. It only accounted for 7.6% of his actions, and I would certainly consider raising this and practicing movement shooting off DHOs.
- Cutting: Darling is a quick, decisive cutter that effectively utilizes his shooting gravity and instincts to make plays. Defenders cannot fall asleep when defending Nate off the ball, as he can make you pay one way or another. While he didn’t employ cuts extremely often, he has the right instincts here to build upon for an off-ball threat.
- Floater Game: Unfortunate as it is that Nate has to rely on this part of his game to score inside the arc; at least it is rather good. It NEEDS to be though, as he will have to rely on it heavily moving forward until he finds a way to create some advantage as a slasher (added weight, mastering pace control, etc.). The floater itself has solid touch and rhythm, making it clear how comfortable Nate is with employing it.
- Overall Finishing: I do not expect Darling to provide much value as a finisher at the pro level. He does not have the skillset or tools needed to become an efficient finisher at volume, and that shows with his reliance on his floater.
- Creating the Advantage: Nate does not really possess the skills or tools to (semi) consistently create advantages when slashing. He does not have a strong enough handle, nor the frame or craft to create separation off of drives. While he can (sort of) attack closeouts due to his shooting threat, that is about as far as his advantage creation goes for now (and that only is for the first slashing level, on level 2 & 3 there isn’t much).
- Finishing Preferences: Nate has shown the propensity to try and back down opposing guards (after the initial move) instead of slashing hard. His lacking physical & athletic tools are definitely a part of this, and the fact that he struggles to create finishing advantages at the college level does not make his finishing projection any more promising either. He will not be able to do this at the pro level efficiently unless he adds weight and/or notable craft (higher efficiency on floaters, change of pace, etc).
- Finishing at Speed: He does not have the level of touch necessary to finish effectively at full speed. Some guards like Tyrese Maxey or Mason Jones do this almost effortlessly, as it requires just another level of touch that is always admirable to observe. Darling simply does not have anything close to this, as his touch is a few levels behind. This causes him to rely heavily on his floater game.
- Touch – Contact: As mentioned, Darling does not have the most natural finishing touch. To expand on this issue, once the ball is gathered, Darling becomes rather contact averse yet struggles to maintain proper touch when avoiding said contact. That is rather worrying for a player who cannot create the separation necessary to avoid these instances. When contact is created, his touch and execution notably deteriorate.
- Left Hand: Darling does not have much of a left hand when finishing, only converting 31% on lower volume in InStat’s sample. He is clearly more comfortable with the ball in his right hand on film too.
- Off-Balance Shooting: While I like the tools Darling has as a shooter to deliver off of screen actions where he can set his feet (including elevator, flare, (certain) staggered, and hammer screens), his execution is rather lacking when forced to shoot off-balanced or when running off (very common) down screen actions. Essentially, actions set up to create a shot where Darling can set his feet and stay on balance are the only ones I would run for him. He is not a player that will be a guy you can expect to hit quick pull-ups off of off-movement DHO’s or off-movement pin downs efficiently as of now. He doesn’t always find his balance in these settings. Of course, the base is there to work with should you wish to develop him here, but I would initially only run him off screen actions where he can more effectively get set.
This is really nitpicking – but it is important to note that Darling is not at that level of movement shooting where you can use him in a situation proof way as a perimeter weapon. He won’t be able to operate nearly as effectively with limited space off movement like some of the great movement shooters of today. He is not a guy where you just can’t give him an inch, basically.
- Footwork Off-Movement: Darling’s lower body has quite a lot of inconsistencies off movement. It is not hard to see that balance & execution are correlated, especially with Darling. His base can be all over the place, which obviously can create inconsistencies that should be fixed. This naturally makes Darling quite streaky.
- Playmaking Value: By the numbers, Nate is not anything special as a playmaker. He has a career 15.2% AST percentage to 16.1% TO percentage, along with a 1:1 Assist to Turnover ratio during this year. However, there is something to work with. Nate has a solid feel for that pocket pass in P&R and can move the ball effectively in general. He doesn’t really make any advanced reads, but he has shown that he can make the right ones at a lower, less decisive speed. He is also rather good when he can actually get downhill, as he has a solid eye for finding his cutters. It is important to note that his lacking ability to create much of a consistent threat downhill limits him as a volume playmaker. Other than attacking closeouts, he just does not create a lot downhill.
- Handle: I do not see Darling as a player that will be able to create an advantage with his handle outside of attacking closeouts. His handle is rather generic, a tad loose, and he struggles to maintain control when hedged or aggressively closed on. Defenders seemed to hunt for strips on Darling, which is rather discouraging regarding his potential as an initiator moving forward.
- Engagement: Darling does his best to stay engaged & communicate defensively. His faults are seldom due to lacking engagement, but rather due to his lacking tools & instinctual flaws. Regardless, he makes the effort to close on shooters and deter as much as he can. I would not say he is a gritty defender; just that he is mentally present.
- Lateral Quickness: Darling actually moves rather well laterally, and combined with his 6’5 size he can deter slashing guards in isolation rather effectively compared to the rest of his defensive game.
- POA Defense: Darling doesn’t offer much value defensively on the ball. He tries & does not look lost, but the tools just aren’t there. His IQ doesn’t do enough to mitigate this either, and he can get exposed rather frequently. His footwork is rather ‘jumpy’ and will be exposed by proper handlers. In P&R, he gets caught overthinking quite often & struggles to switch or get over screens. I don’t expect him to be a plus on-ball defender, and a liability against space & shot creators.
- Minimal Trailer Impact: Due to lacking vertical play and burst, when Nate gets beaten off the dribble or ends up trailing in P&R, he is basically taken out of the play. He does not have the tools, hands, or timing needed to recover or make an impact when trailing the slasher.
- Paint Defense: As one could expect, Darling does not offer much value as a paint defender due to the lacking physical and athletic tools. He can leverage his height vs some shorter, less skilled slashing guards as a deterrent, but not much else here.
- Statistical Impact: Darling was only a slight defensive positive (range of +2 to +0.5 DBPM) in 6 games. The rest of the games he played had him hurting his team on that end. I struggle to see how he adds value on the defensive end, which is his biggest hindrance. He seems just ‘there’ defensively, not really providing an advantage in any area.
NBA Teams: As far as the NBA teams go, I would not advise picking up Darling as I do not think he will be able to hold his own defensively in the league & provide enough mitigating offensive value. Specialist shooters with some initiator upside (like Kyle Guy, arguably better in every facet) have been unable to stick yet, and I don’t think Darling gives you anything more than someone like that on the court. To keep with the Virginia theme, Ty Jerome had far more grit, initiator skills, and defensive value. Yet, he too has struggled to carve out an impact role so far. It is worrying to me that Darling does not have the initiator upside, handle, grit, movement shooting, defensive value, or irrational confidence held by the more successful players in his archetype as of late (such as Tyler Herro). Sure he has the shot and a likable personality, but I am doubtful that the NBA is where he makes his impact.
International Teams: if you want a versatile shooter that you think you can mask defensively (it is possible off ball), Darling could certainly do. He is a shooter you can run a lot of sets for by using him as a volume deep threat & decoy. If you really work on getting his base more consistent, you could potentially derive some real movement shooting value. I think it is also reasonable to let him create for himself from deep off 3 dribbles or less (along with attacking closeouts), but I would hesitate to run him in a true high option initiator role. If he is to maximize his value, put him in a high pace system & pair him with an initiator with strong vision that can generate breakdowns at a high rate. Furthermore, find creative ways to spot him up on balance & use his shooting gravity to create spacing for potential breakdowns (also those derived from cutting, etc). Defensively, he will stay engaged and communicate, but I would certainly try to limit him being involved in POA situations if you want him to have a neutral or winning impact. He is just ‘there’ defensively, as in he doesn’t provide much of an advantage in any area.