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NBA Draft Scouting: James Bouknight

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Bouknight is a slippery, dynamic scoring option who could receive consideration from the Thunder

Maryland v UConn Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Physicals:

Height - 6’5

Weight - 190 lb

Wingspan - 6’8

James Bouknight is an athletic, scoring combo guard who has been linked to the Thunder a fair bit and it is not difficult to see why. Bouknight’s scoring would provide Coach Mark with another consistent option next to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The Thunder’s offense was poor last season and having a scoring guard like James would address that issue.

The fit with Shai would be something similar to what the Blazers currently have with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. There are limitations to this approach, the lack of playmaking outside of Shai is a concern. Bouknight does not project to be a shot creator which would mean that Shai would be the sole playmaker on the floor.

As we have seen in the past, lineups with one playmaker are volatile. Once the lead guy is fatigued, the effectiveness of the offense falls off a cliff. The Thunder’s coaching staff will have to get incredibly creative to try and address that issue.

Bouknight is in a tier below the likes of Barnes and Suggs; he is simply less well-rounded when compared to his counterparts. Scottie Barnes has one glaring weakness in his shooting but the rest of his game is rather promising. The same cannot be said for Bouknight.

Bouknight has the tendency to force the offense and does not seem to have the feel needed to pass teammates into good looks. He can pass the ball but it is not one of his strengths by any means.

Bouknight’s other weakness relates to his shooting. James shot just 29.3% on 3PA last season and was really streaky from beyond the arc. While I believe that he will improve as a shooter, it is hard to project where he may eventually lie.

I have seen Bouknight frequently compared to Donovan Mitchell and I do not believe that comparison makes much sense. Mitchell’s greatest strength is his different tools; Donovan can break down a defense from all three levels or with sharp, precise passes. Mitchell presents so many different challenges for a playoff defense.

Bouknight is a great inside scorer but he lacks a reliable outside shot and is not a playmaker. I do wonder what he can do in the playoffs if the defense sags off and forces him to shoot. I think he can improve as a player but these are valid concerns to have.

Bouknight played the best game of his career against Creighton in late December. He lit up the Big East stalwarts and was assured in his play every single time he ducked past the defense for an easy score at the rim.

From the film available, it is clear that James Bouknight’s greatest skill is his handle. Bouknight’s dribble is precise and incredibly smooth. He makes advanced dribble moves such as crossovers and yo-yo dribbles look effortless. The flash in his game moves the defense and creates seams to the rim that Bouknight likes to attack.

Bouknight is a slippery and explosive guard. His first step was pretty impressive in college but the thing that struck me about Bouknight was his agility and stopping power. He was able to stop on a dime and quickly change direction before the defense could even react.

When Bouknight gets to the rim, he is a talented finisher inside. Bouknight is an acrobat around the rim and has excellent body control. His ability to somehow kiss the ball into the basket from seemingly impossible angles caught me by surprise.

Bouknight has a lot of tools in his bag to go with his excellent body control. Bouknight has hops and can finish above the rim. His athleticism means that the big cannot simply sit back and guard against the layup; the rim protector has to be aware of Bouknight dunking the ball powerfully.

His deceleration is the other tool that Bouknight uses to get great looks at the rim. Bouknight is very good at slowing down quickly and shaking off his defender as he gathers the ball for the layup. His final short, sharp step catches the defense by surprise and Bouknight is able to find the window needed to get an easy layup.

James Bouknight has everything that a combo guard needs to succeed in the NBA except for a reliable outside shot. He is a crafty, instinctual scorer who can break down defenses with his handle and finishing the package.

Bouknight’s feel for the game carries over into his movement off the ball. Whenever another player is running the offense, Bouknight is moving around and forcing the opposing defense to constantly adjust. He would be very valuable to the Thunder as a cutter.

Bouknight’s defense is a mixed bag. Bouknight competes hard on defense and is decent at containing his assignment in a man to man coverage. His posture and navigation around screens could be improved but that is a common issue that nearly all rookies struggle with. It is very rare to see a rookie be a great defender from Day One.

My only concern with Bouknight’s defense would be his help defense. Bouknight can occasionally be slow to recognise the correct rotation which can lead to defensive breakdowns.

Bouknight’s fit next to Shai may be snug but there are undeniable benefits to the Thunder taking Bouknight. James Bouknight can get buckets and should be able to shoulder some of the offensive load that Shai currently carries. Bouknight and Gilgeous-Alexander could be a very dynamic backcourt that would present a lot of challenges for the opposing team.