In today's NBA draft, assessing talent has become an extremely daunting task. Top end prospects that can be labeled "sure things" have become basketball unicorns, and today's drafts are centered around projecting how long it will take for players to make an impact on the league.
When dealing with second round picks, the difficulty is tenfold. There's also a different stylistic approach between evaluating first round talent versus second round talent. While with first round picks teams look for players with skill sets that are translatable to the NBA, the only real criteria for second round picks are upside and athleticism. Teams hope that in the latter round that they can find a player who can use their crazy measurements and and athletic traits to one day mold into an NBA player, typically to no avail.
Michael Qualls could be the exception to that. Overshadowed by his likely lottery pick teammate Bobby Portis, Qualls was the glue that held that Razorbacks team together, and led them to an NCAA Tournament.
All Of The Dunks
The only prototypical aspect about Michael Qualls is his stature. For a shooting guard, standing six-feet, five inches is pretty standard. It's everything else about him that's not human. His wingspan and standing reach are over two inches longer than the standard two guard. Because the 21-year-old is so big -- and plays like it too -- Arkansas actually used him as a small ball four in some lineups. He's extraordinarily effective in the paint, converting 92 of his 130 shot attempts, according to hoop-math.com. "Effective" is probably an insult considering just how destructive he can be to the hoop as a dunker.
Qualls doesn't just dunk on occasion as a showcase of his athletic prowess . It's a legitimate feature in his offensive arsenal that helps make him such an effective player. He can get out on the break and finish lobs, or attack the rim off the dribble (his handles are fair for someone who plays off ball so much), and throws down each time with such ferocity that he's hard to stop. What might be my favorite part of his game is his ability to follow up and subsequently throw down missed shots, which contributed to his solid rebounding numbers.
You might recall him beating Kentucky on this put back dunk in 2014:
Qualls is also the polar opposite of the type of two guard who stands on the wing and claps in rhythm until someone passes him the ball. He's the kind of player who is constantly in motion, trying to free himself up using pin downs or back screens.
This is one of those under appreciated traits when evaluating draft prospects. A player who looks to create his own offense in a game so reliant on screens is a valuable asset, and should be able to get himself open looks. It's just a matter of whether or not he can knock those shots down.
The one glaring negative to Qualls' game is his poor perimeter shooting. His numbers from beyond the arc aren't promising, and outside of the paint, his shot chart shows he doesn't have a true hot spot. NBA defenders will be smart enough to play close to the basket and essentially dare Qualls to shoot over them.
His shot isn't a lost cause, however. Qualls' free throw percentage increased pretty drastically from his sophomore to junior season, jumping from 68% to 77.5% in 82 more attempts.
The issues with his shooting form also seem easily correctable, which mostly stems from his release. It's simply too long, and essentially all arm. If he can compact his release and use more wrist, he should be fine. Also, we're dealing with second round picks here, where good shooters are already well off the board, especially in this weak class. Hell, shooting is legitimately the only reason Devin Booker is going to be a lottery pick.
Qualls shot isn't broke by any means, and if the Sixers' coaching staff can turn Jerami Grant into a semi-viable three-point option, it's rather likely the former Razorback can find success as well.
Qualls' game (to an extent) actually reminds me of K.J. McDaniels, outside of K.J.'s absurd defensive numbers. Qualls has the upside, insane measurements, and a decent enough offensive foundation to be worthy of a high second round pick. If he can sure up his handles and work on his perimeter shooting, Qualls has the ability to be a solid 3-and-D wing at the next level.
For now, Qualls is just a bundle of athleticism, and that's all you can really ask for in a second rounder.