Potential Sixers Draft Target – Cassius Stanley

This high-riser out of Durham marks today’s Sixers draft targets. Known for his unworldly dunks, Cassius Stanley made his name at Duke as one of college’s most explosive athletes. Now, with one foot in the NBA, the expectation is that Stanley will round out his game at the professional level, delivering on a potentially very productive career. 

OVERVIEW

Put on the highlight of any Duke game and you will quickly find yourself asking ‘who is that guy?’. That guy, my friends, is Cassius Stanley. In today’s high-flying game, Stanley is the cream of the crop. The 6’6″ guard finished the season with a whopping 33 dunks, headlining a list of only six players (6’6″ or shorter) to achieve the 30 dunk mark on the season. But Stanley is not just a staple at ESPN’s top-10 list. There are nuances and hidden treasures to his game that point to a long career in the NBA. Perhaps most interesting are his lofty ambitions–he aspires to one day become the league’s commissioner. Just listen to the 21-year-old talk about where he sees his future beyond basketball:

Yes, Adam Silver, watch out! But it is within the four lines where Stanley will first have to display his savviness. Even with the blessing of a 40+ inch vertical, Stanley has some severe limitations to his game. Developing this future slam dunk champion into a well-rounded player will not be an overnight task. Understanding Stanley’s pros and cons goes a long way into framing this high-upside player. 

STRENGTHS

  • Elite in transition. Quick to fill running lanes. Devours space fast and puts tremendous pressure on defenders to keep pace.
  • High level catch-and-shoot scorer. Smooth and balanced shooting form. Does not hesitate, especially in critical moments of the game.
  • Thrives in motion. Understands when to flash towards the rim. Alleviates significant pressure as a cutter.
  • Leaping ability stands out on the glass. Provides value as a rebounding guard.
  • Flashes potential as a secondary ball-handler. Quick first step. Quickness to exploit switches.

WEAKNESSES 

  • Not a dynamic play-maker. Rarely used in pick-and-roll situations as the lead guard. Does not impact the game as a passer.
  • A rare contributor off screens and in isolation. Scoring portfolio is limited primarily in transition and off-the-catch situations. 
  • Mostly a straight-line ball-handler. Drives to shoot. Settles for contested and acrobatic shots near the rim.
  • Limited wingspan hinders ability to impact shots defensively.  
  • Raw positional defender. Will get caught ball-watching, leaving cutting lanes available.

SUPREME ATHLETICISM AND MOVEMENT 

Cassius Stanley’s limitations as a shot-creator forced Coach K to pair him with a more traditional point guard. Stanley is a raw ball-handler. One that struggles to create off the dribble. At Duke, he was involved in a mere 16 pick-and-roll possessions (per Synergy). As a result, his offensive contributions relied primarily on chaos and movement. Built on Duke’s ability to find him in transition and key areas of the court, Stanley’s athleticism is a vital attribute to his game. Pay attention here how these elements play out.

The first look is a prime example of his ability to shed defenders and provide a quick passing outlet in the half-court. Stanley is a high movement player who thrives off cuts and backdoor screens. While not a long athlete, he makes up for his sub-optimal wingspan by sheer explosion to the rim. Often beating his defender vertically to the hoop. Whether it translates to the next level remains to be seen. But this display of basketball IQ is tremendously encouraging. 

The second clip is the trademark of Cassius Stanley’s game. A supreme fastbreak player, he often thrives in a world of chaos. It is very easy to see why, as he is often blowing by defenders in the open court. Paired with a talented passer in Tre Jones, Stanley feasted on those opportunities, finishing the season in the 99th percentile for transition points. 

AN ELITE CORNER THREAT 

But it is not just within the framework of movement where Stanley thrives. As a spot-up shooter this season, he was absolutely lethal, ranking in the 93rd percentile on catch-and-shoot jumpers (per Synergy). Aware of this trait, Coack K deployed him primarily in the corners, where he attempted almost 50% of his three pointers. Here is a breakdown of Stanley’s three-point shot distribution this season

Much of Stanley’s impact is observed along the corners. But that does not limit his shooting impact. Aware of his lack of pull-up scoring, Stanley is constantly flashing to open areas of the court. Providing a viable shooting outlet from multiple spots on the court. Expanding his handle and dribble significantly changes the conversation. Whereas today Stanley is seen as a floor-spacing wing, a renowned dribble-drive game can turn Stanley into a match-up nightmare. A potential 6’6″ combo guard capable of scoring from all three levels. 

POTENTIAL FIT

The fit in Philadelphia relies upon the team surrounding Stanley with ball-handlers. An immediate alternative would be to deploy him in a defense-oriented lineup that can generate the chaos Stanley thrives in. One clear option is a group led by Simmons and Thybulle. Last season, the duo combined for 7.5 steals per 36 minutes (9th among all duos with over 700 minutes). This type of combustible energy would fit Stanley perfectly, especially if paired with another possible disruptor in Zhaire Smith. A core lineup of Simmons-Thybulle-Stanley-Smith could be a nightmare for teams–a group capable of blitzing offenses and generating immediate offense at the other end. 

Stanley also provides alternatives within the scope of a more conventional NBA lineup. His movement skills would enable Embiid as a passer off the block. And his ability to hit from the corner is an ideal outlet for a driving Simmons. Last season, only 18% of Philadelphia’s threes came from the corner (24th among all NBA teams). The Sixers could follow the offensive footprint of teams like the Lakers and Rockets. The two organizations utilize the corner three by leveraging the supreme ball-handing skills of LeBron James and James Harden. Last season, both Houston and Los Angeles attempted over 23% of their threes from the corner–a significant shift from how the Sixers operate offensively. With Stanley in the fold, Philadelphia has the option to utilize one of the most valuable areas of the court. 

STAT NUGGETS 

  • Shot 43.8% on all catch and shoot three point attempts (93rd percentile)
  • 32% three point shooter during conference play (36% on the season)
  • 0.55 assist to turnover ratio
  • 54 offensive rebounds on the season (2nd on the team)
  • 1 of 4 Power Five guards to record 30+ threes, 50+ offensive rebounds and 75+ free throws last season

SUMMARY

Cassius Stanley enters the draft process as a classic boom-or-bust prospect. The risk-reward benefit is immense. But, it will likely scare teams from taking the leap. Contending teams rarely take a gamble on these type of players, unless they are the Toronto Raptors–who have proven time and again that the gamble is sometimes well worth it. For a team like Philadelphia, Stanley provides great value at the top of the second round. A player with glaring developmental work ahead, he has the potential to develop into a lethal combo guard. Patience may just be on the side of the Sixers, who may be looking to re-shape the roster around younger players that are better fits for its all-star core. If that is the case, Cassius Stanley should be very high on the team’s priority list, adding much-needed talent to its pipeline. 

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