Ballad of a Fallen WildCat

A lot of indicators pointing towards Will Barton 2.0

BJ Boston was a top 5 high school recruit coming in to this year. But the year was everything but stellar.  Boston struggled with the level of physicality of the game, due to his thin frame. But there is still a lot of potential in terms of ball handling and shot making. He put up a OBPM of 1 and a DBPM of 2.1. It was harder to find comparisons due to his lack of weight, so I gave myself a 15 pound leeway. Here are prospects who have similar measurements, were drafted in the first or second round and put up similar numbers in their freshman seasons.

  1. Will Barton, former 40th pick
  2. Dillon Brooks, former 45th pick,
  3. Wes Iwandu, former 33rd pick

Among those three names, Will Barton jumps out to me as the closest comparison. Barton was also rail thin in his freshman season. If we look at their advanced stats they look pretty similar:

Their FTR and 3PTR are almost identical, the biggest different is conversion. Boston had an almost 6% worse TS% than Barton as a freshman. Barton was also a much better creator at this stage. But BJ rarely turns the ball over,  his 10% TO rate is really impressive for a freshman out of waters at Kentucky.

If we look at their per 100 stats we can see just how similar their productions were. Almost every stat is equal, apart from finishing for 2, which Barton was 14% better, as well as the assists numbers.

Defensive Metrics

Boston posted a DBPM of 2.1 , defensive rebound rate of 11, decent steal rate of 2.5 and rather disappointing block rate of 0.5. Here are prospects who have similar measurements, were drafted in the first or second round and put up similar numbers in their freshman seasons:

  1. Malachi Richardson, former 22nd pick
  2. Josh Hart, former 30th pick
  3. Tim Hardaway Jr. former 24th pick
  4. Gary Trent Jr. former 27t pick

Their metrics are pretty much identical

Most of what people would call 3 and D prospects, even if Hardaway turned himself into quite the scorer in the NBA. Gary Trent Jr is the most interesting name on the list. He, like Boston, was a big time recruit, top 20. His year at Duke didn’t go as well as people hoped, and he slipped to the second round. Didn’t play much his first year in the NBA, but really came on in his second, and especially third year. He embraced this new role and reality for himself. He still struggles in the midrange game, but is decent, while the  3 is hovering around 40%. I think Boston will need to go that route if he wants to succeed in the league. Embrace the 3nD wing role and work on your body. Once he gets stronger, he will have more success blocking and rebounding, but I doubt he will ever reach Hart’s level of rebounding prowess. Based on his frame, you would think that he posed abysmal defensive numbers, but that wasn’t the case.

Will the he be able to space the Floor?

In his only Kentucky season, BJ Boston put up a very good 78% from the FT line, a poor FT rate of 22, usage of 23, 30% from beyond the arc, with 7.5 attempts per 100 possessions. Here are freshman, who were later on drafted, who put on similar numbers in their freshman seasons:

  1. Jabari Bird, former 46th pick, 40% from 3 in his short time in the NBA
  2. Luke Kennard, former 12th pick, career 40% from 3
  3. Buddy Hield former 6th pick, career 40% from 3

Very encouraging. All of them, even Bird who only spent one season with the Boston Celtics, shot over 40%.  Let’s look at their stats together:

What really jumps out is how bad Hield was his freshman year, and how much better he got. His FT rate was even worse than BJs. Among the group, BJ is the worst FT shooter, but only by a few percent. Hield is where you point if you are a BJ Boston hopeful.

Creation for Others

BJ posted an assist to turnover ratio of 1.1, usage of 23% and assist% of 11%. This section really surprised me, there were so many great creators at the next level who posted these numbers as freshmen, but I trimmed it down (sorry Jamal Murray, Oladipo, Beal, Dinwiddie). Here are freshman, who played a similar role and were drafted in the first or second round of the draft:

  1. Devin Booker, former 13th pick, had two seasons with over 6 assists per game
  2. Nickeil Alexander Walker, former 17th pick, 4 assists per 36 in his career so far
  3. Justise Winslow, former 10th pick, 2 seasons with 4 assists or more
  4. Tim Hardaway Jr former 24th pick, over 3 assists per 36 for most of his career
  5. Alec Burks, over 3 assists per game for most of his career
  6. Malcolm Brogdon, former 36th pick, peaked at 7 assists per game.

Very positive news. There have been so many players who are plus creators in the league. BJ, with his handle and lack of turnovers at such a young age, could certainly be one of them. He doesn’t need to develop into a Brogdon or Booker in terms of creation, but in him you could very well have a secondary creator, capable of getting you 4 or more assists if you really need him to.


 All in all, there could be a lot of things BJ Boston is good at in the NBA. The best bet would be his 3pt shot improving in my opinion. If that starts falling, he already has the handle to exploit closeouts and find open teammates. Once his body gets stronger, he could be a decent team defender. In the early years of his NBA career, he should fit into the 3nD mold, with more 3s than D initially. Later on, you could add some weak-side PnR action with him as the initiator. While he is unlikely to reach the heights of Booker or Brogdon, he could end up a Will Barton 2.0 with a slightly lower level of creativity, but close to elite level shot-making. His last resort could be as a 3pt mercenary, like a Buddy Hield.

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