Auburn’s men’s basketball team has played five games as of the writing of this article. Bruce Pearl is playing the babies, starting multiple freshman and giving huge minutes to underclassmen...because he doesn’t really have any upperclassmen. It is hard to make a judgement on how good this team is, much less start making comparisons to established players or teams. You definitely shouldn’t take a five game sample size and put outsized expectations on a freshman guard.
BUT I WILL
Justin Powell has shot the seams off of the ball in his first five games. Everyone knew he could shoot it, so that hasn’t been super surprising. What has been surprising is how he does every single other basketball thing so well. JP is rebounding at an outstanding rate for a guard, he is playing out of position and is running the point well. His defense has been above average and he’s made the right decision running fast breaks more often than not. He is a 6’6 shooting guard with a shooting hand kissed by the Lord and the basketball IQ to be in the right place almost every time. You know who that sounds like to me?
Klay Thompson. That’s right, I am about to compare the first five games of Justin Powell’s college career to one of the best shooters to ever walk the planet. Klay Thompson is open and ready to shoot the minute he walks in the gym. Before the game starts, he probably already has hit two threes on your team. There are shooters who get hot, and then there is Klay Thompson. He warms up immediately and can grow hotter than a dying star. He once scored 37 points in a quarter. He once scored 60 points in an NBA game in 3 quarters while dribbling only 11 times.
Watch this madness:
Klay Thompson is decidedly not a freshman making his first five appearances in major college basketball. In 2008 though, he was.
Five games against varying levels of competition, young Klay Thompson was already showing his potential. Look at that double double against Mississippi State. It is important to remember that in 2008 the three-point revolution hadn’t quite begun. Partially, that’s because Klay hadn’t teamed up with the greatest shooter to ever live in Golden State and started the three point revolution yet. Case in point: in 2008, Jason Richardson led the NBA in three pointers made with 243. In the 2018-19 season, seven players (including both Curry and Thompson) made 240 threes or more and James Harden made 378 of them. It’s important to know that the game looks different now, but it is also important to know that Justin Powell’s stats look like this:
Oh wait, you mean Justin Powell is starting his career better than Klay started his? Yes. Let’s get nuts.
Justin Powell is a 6’6” shooting guard being forced to play out of position at point guard. He is able to do this because he is also a gifted ball handler and does the fundamental things well. Powell turns the ball over at a higher rate than I’d like, but his usage percentage is also much higher than it should be. Right now, Justin Powell or JT Thor initiate the offense for Auburn almost every possession. In a perfect world, there’d be a third player who was specifically recruited to initiate the offense and unlock the off-ball potential of both Powell and Thor. Unfortunately that player isn’t on the Auburn roster, or really he is but the NCAA hasn’t decided if he is allowed to play basketball for free while they sell his games.
With a true point guard on the floor, Powell would be able to come off of screens, sink to the corner, and make dastardly back-door cuts.
Poor communication on a back end switch by Memphis leads to a wide open Justin Powell in the corner.— Drew (@orangeanddrew) December 14, 2020
(Look kinda familiar? Simple young mistake that happens to us at times too)
1) Never give Jaylin Williams that easy of a read.
2) Never give Justin Powell that open of a look. pic.twitter.com/cTjd5F8c85
Gorgeous bounce pass whipped by Jaylin Williams to a cutting Powell who finishes the and-1 coming down the off ball screen from Stretch.— Drew (@orangeanddrew) December 14, 2020
Really liked this action. Pulled Cisse away from the rim, allowed JW's playmaking to take over, and forced the D to react quickly. Love it. pic.twitter.com/56VNPfc5SW
H/T Orangeanddrew for the tweets.
Powell off the ball is a nightmare. He has a high basketball IQ and finds open space. As mentioned previously, his shot is purer than mountain snow.
Just like Klay.
There’s a lot for Powell to work on. He hasn’t shown an ability to shoot jumpers off the dribble yet this season, and Auburn is going to need him to be a threat when he crosses half court if Cooper remains in NCAA purgatory. He has to get some help from his teammates as far as carrying the scoring load too, and part of that is on him setting those teammates up to score. That said, if he can stay healthy (sorry Klay), Justin Powell is a superstar.