The 2020 NBA Draft will be unlike any other. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the sports world screeching to a halt and the college basketball season being cut short, scouting won’t be nearly the same. No March Madness, no in-person meetings. Players have lost the chance to finish their seasons as intended, and showcase what they can do on the biggest stage. Meanwhile, it’s more difficult than ever for NBA teams to complete their assessments of prospects.
For Desmond Bane, a 6’6” 21-year-old guard from TCU, the approach to the draft is changing as little as possible.
Completing his college career was always important for Bane. “It was great,” Bane said in an interview this week when discussing his time at TCU. “I learned a lot in my four years. I played a lot of minutes, I played under a lot of good seniors and older players, so I got to learn a lot from them. And it means a lot that I’ll be able to walk away as one of the most established players at TCU and walk away with a degree.”
Now, Bane is in as good a position as he can be. He has four years and a total of 141 games under his belt to illustrate what he can do, including his terrific 2019-20 season. He made the All-Big 12 First Team after averaging 16.6 points (shooting 45.2 percent from the floor and 44.2 percent from three), 6.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists (to 2.3 turnovers), and 1.5 steals per game.
Bane agrees that the current situation may help the draft stock of prospects who spent longer in college. “It’s going to be weird to see how everything works out, but I think as of right now it’s leaning towards that way. You know, just because we’ve got a lot more body of work. I mean, I hope it works out that way for me,” he said with a laugh.
Bane’s three-point shooting is at the forefront of what he has to offer in the NBA. There’s a big sample of him shooting at an elite level, as he shot 43.3 percent on 575 total attempts through his college career. Over the last three seasons, as he became a full-time starter and upped his volume to 4.9 three-point attempts per game, he made 44.2 percent of his threes. He excels spotting up and has range that extends well beyond the arc. But he also thrives running off screens, relocating into space off the ball, shooting off movement, and shooting off the dribble.
As comfortable as Bane is shooting in any manner from deep, he particularly enjoys shooting from the corners and running out to the wing. “We [at TCU] ran a baseline action where I got a couple of screens, so I ended up liking that shot over on the right wing — just coming off a baseline screen, I ended up liking that shot a lot.”
You can see how effortlessly Bane executes this kind of action with plays like the following. He darts along the baseline and comes off the stagger screen, and as his defender takes a wider angle up the lane to get around the screens, Bane cuts back slightly into the corner to maximize his space to shoot:
“I work with Ryan Miller [TCU’s assistant head coach] a lot over the summer and his brother, Mike Miller, who played in the NBA for a long long time,” Bane said when explaining the work he’s put in to improve his shooting. “So really just working hand to hand with him and doing some similar things he’d do with Mike. Shooting off the move, shooting off the bounce — a lot of different actions, just getting comfortable with it, and it showed [last season].”
Bane’s refined three-point shot off the bounce is part of his improvement as a pick-and-roll ballhandler, which was a key development for him last season. Increased opportunity helped him advance, as he continued to sharpen his high IQ. He has high-level vision and awareness of the floor, and plays with poise to make quick, smart passing reads at the right time, whether he’s hitting a roll man down the lane or driving and kicking to a shooter.
Bane credits his work studying film for his growth in this area. “It was really a lot of film. I mean, a lot, a lot of film, so then you know how the defense is rotating and moving going into the pick-and-roll before you even get there. And obviously I played for TCU and played under Jamie Dixon’s offense for four years, so I knew where all of my guys were going to be on the court. It was just about reading the defense and taking what they were giving me, so by the end of the year I was really comfortable with it.”
Some of Bane’s most advanced, eye-catching plays are when he uses a ball screen, waits until the right moment for the defense to collapse and the weak-side corner defender to help, and fires accurate skip passes across the court to open shooters. This is one of the best weapons in his playmaking arsenal.
And when Bane is able to get to the rim, he has good touch to utilize on drives or attacks past closeouts, with the ability to finish with either hand and drop in soft runners and floaters. Not to mention the strength he has to finish through contact.
Bane acknowledges that while he can handle pick-and-rolls, he can still make a difference with his passing in a smaller role when he enters the NBA. “I think that definitely even if I’m not a playmaker — just being a 3-and-D guy — if guys try to run me off the line, I can find the open man and facilitate, as well as score for myself.”
“I think as people get to know me more and watch more and more of my tape and my game, they’ll find [my playmaking] intriguing.”
As he moves forward, Bane is eager to continue his development. The key areas of his game he wants to keep working on are his pick-and-roll play, tightening his handle, and, of course, his shooting.
Bane studies NBA players he knows he can emulate, examining those who have made a career using some of the main elements of his own skillset. “I like watching Danny Green, I like watching Eric Gordon, Malcolm Brogdon. Like, similar guys to my size.”
“I take a little bit from each one of them. Danny, you know, he guards a lot, multiple [positions], really good shooter. Eric Gordon’s a little more ball in the hand, score in transition, score it off the bounce a little bit. And then Brogdon is just really smart, never gets sped up, always makes the right plays.”
The work Bane puts into preparation and film study translates to his defense, too. He understandably believes that his IQ is one of his best qualities at this end of the floor.
“Just reading and reacting, knowing, obviously, the other team’s sets and their personnel and what they like to do. I take a lot of pride in that.”
His high activity and IQ to rotate on time, help, anticipate opponents’ attacks, and read the floor stands out in plays like those in the video below:
Bane also possesses quality defensive fundamentals. Besides his intelligence, his high motor and work rate is at the center of everything he does. He uses a good stance and anticipation to cut off drives from opponents, and he has quick hands. His strong 215-pound frame helps, too. He can get into the body of his assignments to provide physical on-ball defense, and has the strength to hold up in switches and post-up situations against bigger players.
“As far as getting on the floor, I feel like in the NBA early on it’s all about who you can guard. So, if I can guard multiple positions, I think I’ll be able to get on the floor early in my career.”
Primarily, the critique on scouting reports and mock drafts that describes Bane as a second-round talent come back to limited burst, ball handling, and his 6’5” wingspan. However, Bane’s strengths — from his fairly advanced playmaking, to his high IQ that shines at both ends of the floor — help address those areas, and complete the balanced skillset of someone who looks far more suited to the first round.
Now, like all of us trying to keep in touch with family and friends, a lot of communication between draft prospects and NBA teams has shifted to Zoom. Bane has already completed a handful of Zoom calls with teams, and has more lined up.
Bane’s hard work has paid off in his development as a player and impact on the court, and it’s not letting up now. He’s still been able to access a gym, where he’s currently training six days a week.
He emphasizes the importance of doing everything at game speed — for instance, when he’s working on shooting off the move — in his training at the moment. “It’s all really about pace. If you work out and train at game speed, then it’ll translate seamlessly, even if there is a guy out there or isn’t a guy out there. I try to do everything with a lot of pace.”
When looking ahead to the draft and his entry into the NBA, Bane knows exactly what role he’s capable of and hopes to play as a rookie.
“I hope to be a 3-and-D guy. I can make open shots and, like I said, defend multiple positions. I want teams to know they can count on me for my energy and effort consistently. That’s kind of the role I want to play early on. And as it grows, hopefully they give me a little more leeway and maybe put me in some ball screen actions or some other actions like that where I can make plays for my teammates or for myself.”
“[I’ll] just keep working and just keep getting better.”