Utah Jazz NBA Draft Prospect: Joel Ayayi
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz will be making the 30th pick in the first round of this week’s NBA Draft. With questions about the future of the team’s backcourt, Gonzaga guard Joel Ayayi could be an attractive option in the draft.
Ayayi is a 6’5 junior who spent four seasons at Gonzaga after redshirting during his freshman season.
The combo guard averaged 12 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists during his final season with the Zags.
Joel Ayayi – Gonzaga: Guard
12.0 Points, 6.9 Rebounds, 2.7 Assists, 57.5/38.9/78.1
Strengths: The first stat that jumps off the page on Ayayi is his incredible efficiency for a guard. The Gonzaga junior shot 57 percent from the floor, nearly 39 percent from three, and had an effective field goal percentage of 64.7.
Those are efficiency numbers usually reserved for big men who play near the hoop, but Ayayi shot that well with a healthy dose of perimeter scoring mixed into his game.
Though his 3.0 three-point attempts per game is far from the highest in the draft, he knocked them down at an efficient 38.9 percent with consistent mechanics out to NBA range.
Ayayi is an excellent floor spacer on the perimeter knowing how to relocate to find room to get his shot off.
Because he’s such a threat to shoot from deep, he was also one of the best cutters in college last season, utilizing back door cuts to get lots of easy shots at the rim, hence his impressive 57 percent field goal percentage.
Ayayi is a no-nonsense finisher at the rim going straight up and finishing with excellent touch over bigger defenders.
Though he didn’t run the show often at Gonzaga as a junior due to playing next to Jalen Suggs who might have been the best point guard in the country, Ayayi proved to be an effective pick and roll ballhandler, both knowing when to look for his own shot out of the action, or find his bigs rolling to the paint.
Ayayi can make most passes in the pick and roll throwing smart bounce passes, nifty wraparound passes, and accurate lobs to more athletic big men.
He’s also one of the best rebounding guards in the class, collecting 6.9 boards per game due to his high basketball IQ and understanding of space on the floor. Ayayi connected on a lot of put-back layups simply by knowing where to be when a teammate’s shot was coming off the rim.
Defensively Ayayi has good height at 6’5 and a wingspan around 6’7 which allows him to defend multiple positions in the backcourt and with added weight could potentially defend smaller forwards as well.
Ayayi averaged 1.2 steals per game during his final two seasons at Gonzaga and has good active hands on the ball and in passing lanes.
Weaknesses: Most of Ayayi’s offense comes from operating off the ball either as a spot-up shooter or on backdoor cuts, which covers up his inability to create good shots on his own.
He’s not a late clock option who can be given the ball and asked to go to work in isolation.
Despite being one of the more experienced prospects projected in the first round at 21 years old, Ayayi still has significant work to do on his body as he weighs just 180 lbs which allows bigger guards to bully him on both ends of the floor.
He can get blown out of plays on screens and doesn’t finish particularly well through contact in either the halfcourt or transition.
His lack of weight, average athleticism, and solid but unspectacular length will limit his defensive upside in the NBA. He didn’t always put in the effort on both ends of the floor in college, but that could also be due to the fact that Gonzaga won most of their games in blowout fashion.
Overall: Ayayi is an incredibly intriguing prospect due to his terrific efficiency, sharpshooting, understanding of spacing as a cutter, and potential for growth at the next level where some of his lesser utilized pick and roll skills could add a new dynamic to his offensive game.
However, if he can’t add weight and his playmaking and defense don’t further develop, he could look like a draft mistake next to younger guards with more potential for growth.
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