When I think of Trey Lyles, I become more of a theorist, because apparently I've read too much Free Darko. Lyles played both forward positions in college, projecting to be a power forward in the NBA, which might as well be a center as the NBA becomes a positionless morass with the way Golden State utterly dominated during both the regular season and playoffs. This is about the friendliest era for a tweener to enter the NBA, because teams are more receptive to working with a player's skills and placing him in position to succeed.
The problem with Lyles is that he doesn't have an elite skill yet, and may never have one. Lyles isn't a three point shooter (yet), ace pick-and-roll defender (yet), ace facilitator (yet), uber-athlete (and will probably never be), shot-blocker (ditto), or rebounder (ditto ditto). He's not big enough to be a bruiser, or explosive enough to be a Blake Griffin-esque rim-runner. He did finish exceptionally well around the basket, but the transition from college athlete to NBA athlete makes me queasy about that skill's translation.
Or put more simply: Trey Lyles doesn't have an elite translatable skill AND he's not a floor spacer. Yet.
And that caveat, that Lyles could still develop an elite skill and a shooting stroke with three point range, or at least consistent midrange performance, is what makes him really intriguing to me. Lyles is only 19-years-old, played out of position in college, and still found ways to contribute on a good basketball team. And if he does develop an elite skill, it will only complement his already fine all-around game.
On the other hand, I watched about as much Kentucky basketball as I did all other college teams combined, yet I still felt like I needed to see way more of him to feel comfortable with his play. He generally did the right things but seemed like he didn't do enough on the court simultaneously. And his "applied athleticism" statistics, things like blocks and steals, just aren't good at all.
I'd chalk that up to playing out of position, but apparently that's a trend. From DraftExpress:
The biggest questions about Lyles as a NBA prospect likely revolve around his defense, which was considered a major weakness going into college. This is where playing out of position on the perimeter may have helped him the most, as it forced him to work hard on his ability to stay in front of smaller players, instead of being able to hide at the center position like he almost certainly would have on pretty much any other team.
Lyles did a decent job considering the circumstances, but wasn't immune to getting blown by badly on the perimeter at times, looking very hunched over in his stance. He accumulated a very low amount of blocks and steals—the biggest indicators we have for athleticism—posting under one block and one steal per-40 minutes, which is extremely low for a player with his length. It's easy to write that off due to playing at small forward, but Lyles wasn't very good in those areas in the 1800+ minutes of non-Kentucky action we have logged in other settings (FIBA, EYBL, Adidas Nations), posting one steal and 1.2 blocks per-40 there.
I just don't know. More than any other player, even ones that I've seen zero live game action from, I just don't know how to evaluate Trey Lyles. And while the pickings are slim after about 10th place - everyone's an uncertainty - I don't think I'd take him over players who I, at the very least, can project easier. I know Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will defend, and I know I have to give him shooting magic beans. I know Kevon Looney can rebound, and that he needs to overcome conditioning/asthma issues.
But where do you even start with Lyles? Or maybe that's the magic of it, that you can start anywhere with him. He's just one 6'10" hypothetical.
Anyway - I added Tyus Jones and Delon Wright. Have at it.