There has been much discussion, particularly among Canes fans, about whether or not Shane Larkin should have entered the NBA draft this season.
Most said he was too small.
Some said he couldn't handle a double team.
Many said he didn't need the money.
All that discussion is over, however, now that Shane has officially entered the draft. Given this news, Juan and I felt it would be appropriate to discuss what to expect from Shane at the next level, and to do this properly, we brought in Jared Dubin, co-Editor in Chief at Hardwood Paroxysm, as well as the founder of HoopChalk of ESPN's True Hoop Network... And perhaps most importantly, University of Miami graduate.
1. Which of Larkin's skills do you think best translates to the league?
Juan: I think Larkin has a lot of good NBA skills, but his best asset to sell to NBA teams, is his ability to run the pick-and-roll. Guys like Jeremy Lin have shown that being able to run the pick-and-roll effectively can get you a long way. I don't know how well Larkin is going to do in the NBA, but with his ability to run the pick-and-roll and the ability to knock down the three-point shot, Shane Larkin should be a solid NBA pro.
Isaac: To me, Larkin's game hinges on his ability to shoot the ball. He was able to run the pick and roll so successfully at Miami because if teams went under the screen, he could easily step in to his shot and knock threes down with consistency, which forced teams to go over the screen, which allowed him to distribute the ball to open teammates. Furthermore, there will ALWAYS be a role on an NBA roster for guys that can shoot the three ball, especially in today's league, when the deep ball is more important than it ever has been. Larkin's shooting should keep him on NBA rosters for a long time, and his ability to do other things, such as run the pick and roll and defend, will keep him in the rotation.
Dubin: With the rule changes that have been put in place over the last half-decade or so, quick guards who excel in pick-and-rolls in college stand a very good chance of doing the same in the NBA. Larkin is just such a player. He's extremely quick with the ball in his hands and has flashed the ability to both get in the lane and make long jumpers on pick-and-roll plays. His active on-ball defense should also translate well at the next level.
2. What do you think he most needs to improve in order to have sustained success at the next level?
Juan: Well, Shane only weighs in at 162 pounds right now, so he definitely needs to get stronger. But what he needs to improve the most is being able to split the double team and attack the paint. From that Clemson game on, teams started blitzing Shane at the top of the key and took away his penetration. If he wants to succeed in the NBA, he's going to have to split the double team and then explode to the basket for easy shots, or kick it out for good looks from the perimeter.
Isaac: It's easy to just say "Larkin needs to get bigger". The inherent problem with that is that it just isn't going to happen. He can put on some weight, but that could impact his quickness, which takes away one of the biggest parts of his game. He should be able to survive offensively even with his height, but he's going to need to work extremely hard on his defense. He's shown the ability to defend at the college level, but shutting down Erick Green and containing Russell Westbrook are extremely different.
Dubin: Decision making. In Miami's last two games of the NCAA Tournament, Larkin was uncharacteristically passive in attacking the lane and made some careless passes. The Hurricanes were dependent on him to create offense to a nearly comical degree, but Larkin's propensity to try to make a play that wasn't there still came back to haunt them at times.
3. Is it just me, or is Larkin going to really help himself when teams see him in a combine setting?
Juan: I think so too. Larkin is a pretty good three-point shooter, he's elusive and has a good handle, which are three of the things most teams look for in a young guard. Another thing Larkin has going for him, is that he's a very likable guy. I think when teams start interviewing him, they'll immediately like what they see, and once he laces up his sneakers and hits the court, they'll fall in love.
Isaac: Seeing as I'm the one who wrote this question, my answer is yes! Larkin showed me three things this past season that stood out to me more than anything else he did this season: He could shoot, he was fast, and he could jump. All of those things will probably be tested at the combine and at individual workouts, and because of that, I think Shane is going to thrive.
Dubin: Again, he's extremely quick, so that will help some. I can't profess to know what his vertical is, but it seemed pretty sizable in the games I watched (all of them). I doubt the combine will hurt him unless he measures even smaller than expected (which I'd say is about 5'11"), but I'm not sure how much it will help either, considering we already know he's very quick and a good athlete.
4. What teams are the best fit for Larkin, and what teams do you see as realistic destinations for him?
Juan: I think the best fit for him would be Utah. The Jazz need a point guard BAD, and with two picks in the draft (likely 14 and 21) they'll look into Larkin hard and he'll have a chance to contribute early in his career. If not the Jazz, I think the Pacers or the Knicks might take a chance and draft Larkin, but I think the best spot for Shane to wind up is Utah.
Isaac: So basically, what we're looking for here is a team that needs a point guard and will be picking anywhere from the end of the lottery to the end of the first round. So who fits? The Jazz could use a point guard and a shooter, and Larkin fits both of those roles. The Lakers would make sense, but they don't have a first round pick, and don't really have any assets to acquire one. With Steve Nash seemingly on the way out and their backup options consisting of Steve Blake and nobody, Larkin would make sense. Dallas could use a point guard, but their pick will probably be too high in the draft. The last team I'll name is the Knicks, because their backup point guards are both at least 36 years old, and Larkin fits in as a shooter in their system. Oh, and sorry, Heat fans, but Larkin isn't coming to Miami. Everything I've seen from them in the past three years indicates that they will keep drafting bigs until the Big 3 era is over.
Dubin: He's probably going to land somewhere in the back half of the first round. Any team that runs a lot of pick-and-roll - especially in a spread system - is a good fit. If he can be a backup point guard to start off and grow into the offense, that's even better. Utah, Indiana, New York (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE) and even San Antonio could be fits late in the first round.
So there you have it. While there is a lot to love about Shane's game, he's still got some work to do, but one thing is for certain: You can expect to hear Shane's name called on June 27th at the Barclays Center.