Here we are with another big man that could very well be available for the Pacers: Trey Lyles. Lyles seems to be favorite amongst the community and several draft boards. He is a young talent who played on the big stage at Kentucky, but like everyone else has some strengths and weaknesses:
- Finishing Ability- While Lyles was utilized mostly by Calipari as a SF for Kentucky, Lyles got around the rim quite a bit for the Wildcats. Initially this shows his decent quickness for a guy who is 6'10 and when he got to the rim he usually finished. At the rim Lyles finished 59.5% of looks. He showcased excellent touch when getting to the rim to further push his driving and posting abilities. In the post Lyles finished about 50% of his attempts, an outstanding number, giving credit to his post skills and footwork. This is a huge key for the Pacers as any guy who can come in and give good post presence provides quite a lift from Hibbert and adds to the quality of West in the post. Added to that, when Lyles managed to get to the rim and post he was fouled on about 25% of the plays also a pretty high number that bodes well as he shot a fantastic 73.5% from the line throughout the season.
- Length- Lyles is long and that's probably an understatement. Lyles wingspan comes in at a ridiculous 7'4, but how does that translate on the basketball floor? Well for starters it offers Lyles a serious advantage on defense (we will talk about that more later) allowing him to bother shots on the offensive end. It gives Lyles an advantage on loose balls, rebounds, and hustle plays that could be crucial during a game. Having the ability to outreach a guy for a rebound and put it back offers a huge lift. As can be seen with his 3.2 offensive rebounds per 40, while not being a low post player at Kentucky. The wingspan helps Lyles defend jump shots and the low block by bothering the bigger defender and even getting a hand on those hard to reach shots. Lastly, the wingspan can help make some great passes around lanky defenders for easy buckets, which gives Lyles another advantage on the offensive end. Wingspan is one of the unteachable traits of a good player, who can usually hold their own in the NBA and often most scouts/GM's look for
- Overall Offensive Skills- Lyles possess a lot of skills on the offensive end that make him a dynamic option. While his shooting is still up in the air, it is obvious that he can make jumpers from the 3-point line (as seen in FIBA U-19 World Championship and Kentucky) and the mid to long range jumpers. His ability to step out, even if he shoots an average percentage, offers a lift against bigger defenders who might not be as good defending those mid to long range jumpers. With his shooting ability, Lyles has a high release point making his shot nearly not block able for even the tallest of defenders in the NBA. As already mentioned he finishes at the rim and on the low block at a high percentage (59.5% low block and 50% going to the rim). His ability to get to the rim and shoot the jumper makes him a tough ask for nearly any C/PF in the NBA. Lyles showcased solid passing abilities, averaging 1.1 assist per game, which seems low, but at the SF positon is not too shabby. Lyles was pretty solid at running the floor, has great handles, can pass on the move and create for himself on the fast break. Lyles has solid post moves and is much more comfortable in the 4/5 position than being a 3, offering a good fit for the needs of the Pacers. Lyles was solid on the pick and roll offensively and has the ability to finish and make free throws. Lyles offers pretty good strength at 250 and will continue to fill out, offering further ability to get low post position and finish around the rim. All-in-all, Lyles is outstanding offensively and provides a pretty dynamic low post threat that makes him a tough ask for nearly
- Upside- I want to touch on the upside of Lyles, who possess a lot of fantastic skills early, but certainly is not perfect. Although (as seen below) Lyles has his fair share of issues, with a little hard work and coaching he could be a fantastic NBA player. I personally do not see him as a franchise individual, but he offers a lot of opportunity as he gets bigger, becomes a more consistent jump shooter, and gets re-accustomed to the 4/5 role. As he gets bigger it allows him to defend the low block more consistently, use his wingspan, and finish even more consistently around the basket. As he becomes a better jump shooter, it gives him an edge of being able to knock down deep jumpers that most big men cannot defend making him dynamic. Adding to his strength as he spends more time on the block his rim protecting abilities, low block defense, post moves, and post scoring, will continue to improve. He possess several other huge skills for a big man with passing, dribbling, wingspan, and a high basketball IQ. All of which combined with his sure to improve skills, give him a high upside. While I do not see him as a franchise big man, I could see him being a very skilled big man who poses questions for defenders and gets the job done in a pretty impactful way for the Pacers. The Pacers current system seems to condone more to his more "traditional" big man status, but the speeding up of the game could hurt him. Lastly, Lyles is only 19 and a little unproven as he played on a once in a lifetime Kentucky squad, which didn't enable any one player to shine. Meaning some of his numbers may be a little low leaving some questions for him to answer, but time is on his side.
- Defense- This may be Lyles worst trait as a basketball player, as he struggled to defend a lot of people in college. While it is key to again state that Lyles was playing SF, and not PF/C, his perimeter defense was pretty poor. Lyles lacked the lateral quickness to defend against the more agile, smaller, offensive he players he often faced, even with his long wingspan. His average overall athleticism leaves him vulnerable to smaller, quicker, big men in the NBA that are decisive and quick on the low block. The stats usually used to judge the athleticism of a player are-blocks and steals-both of which were horrendous for a player with the wingspan and size of Lyles. Lyles only averaged .8 blocks and .9 steals per 40 while at Kentucky. Now before everyone says that is 100% due to being out of position, his stats from his AAU/FIBA, where he played his more accustomed 4/5 role, were equally as bad with 1 block and 1.2 steals per 40. Within the 1 block per game is his lacking rim protection. As Pacers fans there is a sense of pride that the team takes defensively and Hibbert is a pretty solid rim protector, Lyles would need to prove himself here. If Lyles is not going to be a rim protector, it is key that he shows the ability to defend the low block, which was also shaky at times for Lyles. He showed some average toughness and was seen giving up deep post position, which leads to easy buckets. Lyles needs work/improvement defensively to be a factor for the Pacers and in the NBA.
- Shooting Ability- While Lyle took on the SF role at Kentucky he was asked to knock down a lot of perimeter jumpers and the results were very mixed. At times Lyles seemed to be an excellent outside shooter who was more than capable of knocking down open jump shots, while at others he really struggled. Per 40 Lyles had a 3 point percentage of only 13.8 on 1.2 attempts and a 2 point percentage of 53.5% on 10.3 attempts. The Synergy Sports stats further support his pretty average shooting abilities: 4 of his 29 3-point attempts (14%) and 32/87 jumpers (37%). Now while Lyles does have some really good offensive skills, his shooting ability is of key importance. Lyles is not a dominant offensive player quite yet and does not have the one killer move to score anytime he wishes, meaning he needs to be skilled all around. In the new system that Vogel wants to introduce, in a faster game, Lyles will need to be able to stretch the floor and knock down the jumper more consistently to have an instant impact early in his career.
- Explosiveness/Athleticism- Lyles is what many would dub as a "traditional" big man, in the sense that he is not over athletic or explosive like many of the modern PF/C across the basketball landscape. This could be seen as a strength in the current Pacers system (as seen above), but overall does not bode well for him. As mentioned in defense, Lyles is not very laterally quick was seen getting blown by on the perimeter quite often. His lack of explosiveness and athleticism leaves him vulnerable to the smaller big man, pick and roll defense (knowing how to react, quickly), and on the offensive end with getting by smaller defenders. A big 6'10 guy who is looking to incorporate himself into the new Pacers system may struggle with the faster pace of the game. He ran the floor, pretty well, but probably not at the level Vogel wants. It is the overarching defensive, and potentially, offensive vulnerability that leaves a question to his overall effectiveness in the league. This is unfortunately an unteachable skill meaning he has some questions to answer about his ability to make the key, dynamic, plays in the NBA.