Utah Jazz NBA Draft Prospects: BYU Forward Yoeli Childs
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Continuing the examination of NBA draft prospects that could help push the Utah Jazz closer to contender status, we examine BYU senior forward Yoeli Childs. The Jazz own the 23rd pick in the draft, though the talented senior is projected to be selected somewhere in the late second round to going undrafted.
The NBA draft is slated for November 18, with the virtual draft combine beginning on September 28. The Jazz first-round pick is their only selection in the draft after trading their second-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Kyle Korver in 2018.
Yoeli Childs: 6’8, 225 lbs Forward – Sr – BYU
22.2 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 57% FG/48% 3p/53% FT
The first thing that jumps out about Yoeli Childs when examing the BYU forward are his impressive statistical achievements during his final three seasons with the Cougars. Childs averaged 20.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists from his sophomore year to his junior year in Provo, making him one of the most productive big men in all of college basketball.
Childs ability to dominate games from a statistical standpoint both as a scorer and a rebounder is due in large part to his superior strength compared to most college players especially those in the WCC which outsize of rival Gonzaga, mostly lacks top tier NBA talent. However, even when matched up against players with pro potential (Zags Killian Tillie or Utah State’s Neemias Queta) Childs was equally productive as he was against lesser competition.
The senior’s chiseled frame worked when teamed with his standout leaping ability and willingness to bang against bigger defenders in the low post. Even against longer players, Childs proved he could be an effective rebounder due to his upper echelon strength.
Offensively, Childs does most of his damage near the hoop either with back to the basket moves, second-chance points on the offensive glass or in the pick and roll. The senior good touch around the basket and can finish through contact due to his build. When given time to gather, Childs can be extremely explosive around the finishing with highlight-reel dunks.
When utilizing his back to the basket game, Childs has proven to be a willing passer with better-than-average vision, finding open shooters and slashers, despite his average assists numbers.
Most tantalizing about Childs game however is his red hot three-point shooting as a senior, in which the forward knocked down nearly 49 percent of his 45 attempts. Though the sample size was small, Childs did it in just 19 games after being forced to sit BYU’s first nine games after incorrectly filling NCAA paperwork in the offseason. Childs then missed nearly three weeks of the Cougars season after injuring his finger in January.
Despite the absence, Childs showed promise as a three-point shooter both above the break on pick and pop opportunities and planted in the corner opening up space for BYU’s attacking guards. Ultimately, further development of his three-point shot will likely dictate Childs pro potential.
Additionally, Childs was invited to the NBA draft combine. While that doesn’t guarantee he hears his name called on November 18, it’s a sign that most teams see his as a potential NBA prospect.
For as productive as Childs career was at BYU, much of what made him successful will struggle to translate at the NBA level. While the senior dominated skinnier opponents in the WCC, his physical strength will be far more run of the mill at the NBA level.
Additionally, his athleticism isn’t as fluid as it may seem from highlight videos alone. Childs regularly needs time and space to gather to show off his impressive vertical leap, otherwise, his movement is far more methodical than his rebounding and scoring numbers would imply. While college opponents afforded him that time and space to use his athleticism to his advantage, it simply won’t be as accessible in the NBA.
When Childs wasn’t using his athleticism to score against college opponents, he relied heavily on his back to the basket game to be effective. Unfortunately, Childs is a slow decision-maker, even by college standards, a privilege afforded to him by his overpowering strength. The senior regularly received the ball in the low post and allowed seconds to tick off the clock as he decided on his next move. It’s just not how basketball is played in the NBA any longer and will have to be largely eradicated from Childs game if he wants to get offensive touches in the post.
Due to his methodical athleticism, Childs isn’t much of a factor on the defensive end either. He doesn’t move his feet quick enough to switch in the pick and roll against quick offensive players and could struggle against bigger defenders who get off the floor more quickly than he does. Furthermore, despite his leaping ability, his sometimes lacking recognition of opposing teams’ sets won’t aid him as a help-side defender. Proving he can end defensive possessions by rebounding will make it easier to play him on that end of the floor.
Since Childs game was so heavily based on his back to the basket abilities, his face-up game is a bit of a mystery. The senior will have to prove he can look at the basket either on pick and pop opportunities or after receiving a post touch, and making a move around a bigger defender to finish at the rim. There were flashes of it at BYU, but it wasn’t necessary with how easily he could back defenders down for a better look.
Along with his faceup game, Childs will have to improve his comfort as a ball-handler to make it in the NBA. As a senior, Childs could easily get his three-point shot off against slower closeouts from smaller defenders. The senior barely jumps on his three-point shot, which could allow him to develop a very effective pump fake, but will have to team the shot fake with an ability to attack the closeout by dribbling into the paint. There, Childs will have to prove his passing instincts continue to exist when facing the basket and in a shorter timeframe to make decisions. However, if Childs can do that, he becomes a far more dangerous weapon in pick and pop and short roll scenarios.
Finally, as promising as Childs three-point shooting percentages are, his horrendous 53 percent free-throw percentage is a sizable red flag. While the senior showed an ability to finish near the rim, sometimes his shots near the hoop clanked off the rim fastballs. Other times, his floaters would miss the rim entirely.
How Childs Fits With The Jazz In The NBA Draft
Owning the 23rd pick, Childs isn’t in consideration for the Jazz in the draft itself. However, with reasonable odds the BYU senior goes undrafted all together, he could be an option to bring aboard for the Jazz as an undrafted free agent.
Considering the Jazz deep and young frontcourt, with players like Juwan Morgan, Tony Bradley, and Jarrell Brantley will ahead of Childs in their development, the BYU product will likely find better opportunities to stick with a roster elsewhere.
However, if Childs is serious about his NBA future rather than playing his professional career overseas, he may want to study the career of Jazz forward Georges Niang. Like Childs, Niang was an incredibly productive, though mostly methodical forward at Iowa State, and had to radically change his playing style to stick in the NBA.
Niang went from being a do it all forward who shot a respectable 37 percent from the three-point line in college to one of the league’s premier shooters, sacrificing his ball-in-hand offensive attack along the way. While Childs is unquestionably a better leaper than Niang, their perimeter athleticism is somewhat similar. Niang has proven he can still be a weapon on the offensive end by honing his three-point shooting, and making simple moves when attacking towards the basket off the dribble.
The former Cyclone was a more proven passer with a better face-up game coming out of college, but never had a season where he knocked down the three-point shot as efficiently as Childs did as a senior.
Asking dominant college players to radically change the makeup of their game, or to eliminate large chunks of what made them successful can be tedious, especially for a player that is older than most entering the draft (Childs will be 23 when the next NBA season starts). That makes Childs pathway to a productive NBA role player a steeper climb than fellow members of the draft class. And, without the benefit of a perceived higher upside due to his age, teams may be less willing to navigate his flaws in hopes that he can develop into a different type of player.
Ultimately, the pathway to the NBA his there, as proven by a player like Niang, however, Childs will have to show he can continue to knock down his three-point shot at an elite rate while adding a few new dynamics to his offensive attack.
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