T.J. Warren is week-to week with plantar fasciitis and the Pacers play their first pre-season game today at 7pm EST. With Warren likely missing some time over the the first few games, as well as a more fluid rotation under a new coaching regime, I thought it’d be a great time to shed some light on second-round pick, Cassius Stanley.
One of the first things I want to note; Stanley is pretty unlikely to ever be a star player, and that is perfectly ok! Setting realistic expectations for a player/prospect and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of their game is key to developing them.
To start, Stanley immediately brings elite athleticism to the table, something the Pacers have lacked in this era. It’s not a stretch to say that Cassius is immediately the most athletic playe ron the team; Stanley recorded the 3rd highest vertical leap since 2000 at this year’s draft combine and is also an exceptionally fast player both North/South and East/West.
While you can clearly see the absurd leaping ability from Cassius in any of his highlight reels, what I think makes him a tantalizing NBA prospect is his lateral athleticism.
Elijah Hughes was one of the very best isolation scorers in college basketball last season and did much of the heavy lifthing of Syracuse’s offense. Cassius Stanley was tasked with defending him for much of the game and routinely forced Hughes to pass out on drives after being unable to gain an advantage in space.
What I find most enamoring about Cassius on the defensive end is that his defensive footwork isn’t very consistent and can be a little choppy, but he was just so quick laterally that opposing players had difficulty punishing him.
Look at those feet, they’re all over the place, but Cassius is pretty aggressive on-ball and probes a bit with his hands and just never stops moving. You can’t coach the ability to keep your man in front of you (after a certain point), but you can coach and instill good footwork.
Here’s another example of the footwork on-ball, but when it bites him.
Cassius takes a misstep here and rushes things, Hughes immediately jumps on the opportunity and while he doesn’t finish, he gets a free lane to the basket.
But, here’s another example where Stanley presses Hughes, stays in stride, missteps, but is still quick enough on his recovery that Hughes can’t gain an advantage.
That’s pretty special.
Cassius isn’t necessarily a defensive playmaker (1.4 stocks in College), but he’ll get the occasional steal when he plays a passing lane and had a few chasedown blocks at Duke. However, that’s not the type of defender he is. Stanley right now to me projects as a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope type trail defender who could grow into a little more as he gets stronger at the point of attack. With his exceptional quickness and speed as well as good size, I think he could certainly become a legitimate lockdown defender on-ball in time.
His off-ball defense is ok for the most part, he keeps aware when he’s on the weakside and was occasionaly used to rotate as the low man.
Cassius is more than quick enough to rotate and the close out on the corner, but he has some work to do on the path he takes to return to the shooter.
The help defense is solid, but he closes out to wide and allows for the easy baseline drive.
I really like what Cassius brings as a defender, the offense is where things are a little murkier with him.
Cassius’ handle is overall pretty poor, coupled with poor playmaking, I’m not sure we’ll ever see him as even a secondary initiator with the Pacers or Mad Ants (maybe they’ll try and run him some actions there, but he’s not ready for it from what I’ve seen). He averaged 1 assist and 1.9 turnovers per game last year, which is a pretty tough A:TO ratio for a wing player.
He has a nice idea here, but poor execution on the pocket pass.
For Cassius to really eveolve into a plus NBA level offensive player, he needs to be able to attack close outs, and right now his handle isn’t up to speed with his athleticism, hindering his ability to routinely punish defenders in close out situations.
This is somewhere in between a close out and just a straight up isolation, but his inability to gain any sort of advantage off the catch on his man is indicative of where his handle is at.
Looking at the positives of his offensive game, he comes in an NBA ready shooter and he’s an active player tracking offensive boards for putbacks.
Stanley finished the season shooting 36% from distance on solid volume, but he’s both a better and worse shooter than that number suggests. That sounds extremely weird right? Well, it depends on how you look at him as a shooter. He shot 43.8% on catch and shoot 3’s last season per Synergy. As a standstill shooter, he’s fantastic. However, he’s not someone you can or should count on right now to be a dynamic shooter; coming off actions, shooting off movement, or hitting contested shots.
I think he’ll end up as at least a league average shooter, but he could definitley beecome more than that as a spacer. Stanley has a pretty fluid shot with a high release and strong base.
Overall, Cassius Stanley strikes me as a player who has the chance to provide 1st round value out of a second round pick. If Cassius was drafted by the organization in 2017 or 2018, I’d be less bullish on his ability to stick with the Pacers. But, as the team shakes things up, gears more towards rotational fluidity, and provides avenues for developing players to get meaningful minutes, Cassius Stanley offers a lot to like, and much to hope for.