NBA Draft Sleeper Profile: Jaylen Nowell

Jaylen Nowell at 12 was one of the most controversial rankings on my board and I’m happy to own it now that I know where he’s headed. 

Jaylen Nowell caught me by surprise. I got around to scouting Washington pretty early in the process but all the hype was around Thybulle. I was barely paying attention to Nowell because he wasn’t on many people’s boards but I couldn’t help to notice his talent. Others started taking notice around that time as well and he continued to get better as the season went on. I did not know where he would land on my board when I sat down to put it together but I only had a slight hesitation about putting him at 12.

Let’s get into his game.


Jaylen Nowell, SO. SG/PG. Washington

Key Measurements: 6’4.25″ 200, 6’7.75″ wingspan

Key stats: 16.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.1 apg

Shooting: 44% from 3, 78% FT

Bib’s Board Rank: 12

Thoughts on the pick

As of today, the only guards currently signed to the Timberwolves are Jeff Teague (31, expiring), and Josh Okogie. That puts draft picks Jarrett Culver and Jaylen Nowell in position for solid minutes from day one. There’s a chance that they look to add another vet or two but both rookies are going to be in position to outplay someone coming in for a mid-level exception. I love the pick not only for the short term but for the long term as well. An Okogie, Culver, Nowell backcourt could be a problem in a few years.

What to expect from him

Offense: This is what got him drafted. Nowell was a scorer from day 1 at Washington but he improved across the board from his freshman to Sophomore year. His FG% went from 45% in year one to 50% in year two. Two point percentage went from 48.4% to 52.5%. His 3 point percentage, what he said he focused on, went from 35% to 44.

This year he spent a lot of time with the ball in his hands initiating the offense. He can get past his man almost at will and can score on a pull-up mid-range jumper (his bread and butter), a floater if he gets deeper, or take it all the way to the basket if the lane is there. He’s strong enough to finish through contact and picks his spots well on which shot to take. He also has a nice step-back jumper once he’s gotten you used to him penetrating so he can kill you in many ways. His shot is compact and he gets it off quickly so there isn’t much opportunity to block it and he won’t have trouble translating it to the league. Besides this, when off the ball he is a great catch and shoot player so having an impact scoring is not something I expect him to struggle with.


Defense: I can’t speak much to his defense because Washington ran a zone almost 100% of the time. What I will say is that he has good awareness and is active on that end of the court.

Other: Nowell, despite his height, does a good job of getting defensive boards to start the break. His head is up when he pushes the ball and he always gets it ahead to the open man. On his drives, he also does a good job of finding guys when he penetrates off the bounce.

Flaws/Areas for Improvement

Though I do give him some credit for his vision as a playmaker, I still think this is an area he could get better. If he’s going to run some point at the NBA level the way he’ll lengthen his career will be in setting up others, though I know he can get buckets if needed. I think he can be a starter in this league some day and that part of his game developing will go a long way toward ensuring that.


I mentioned it above but I do expect Nowell to be in line for minute off the bench right away. Depending on how free agency plays out I could see him getting some spot starts due to injury or having some big nights off the bench. If I have to call his averages. 9-12 ppg, 37% from 3. The Pac-12 Player of the Year will be looking to prove that the West coast is slept on.



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