2019 NBA draft hopeful Jarrett Culver came into Texas Tech as fairly lightly recruited prospect out of Lubbock. Playing for the hometown school he started over half of Texas Tech’s games as a freshman last season. He posted modest numbers for a freshman, averaging double-digit points and nearly five rebounds per game. He shot the ball pretty well too despite the hitch in his jumper, something he was mostly able to rid his shot of heading into his sophomore year. Culver is known as an extremely hard worker, one of that cliche lock him out of the gym guys. His reputation proceeds himself at Texas Tech which will benefit his ability to not settle once reaching the next level.
Through sheer hard work in the summer Culver went from a guy on some draft boards to a now consensus top ten draft pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. His sophomore year was one of legend in Lubbock, leading the school to its first ever title game while winning Big 12 Player of the Year. He became an All-American after showing off improved shooting mechanics and playmaking ability. It’s another reason he was able to fly up 2019 NBA Draft boards.
He showed improvement in his shooting percentages in two of three areas, the three-point percentage being one he didn’t. When you consider his uptick in usage and being the main focal point on all scouting reports, it makes what he did last year even more impressive.
Culver first had to remake his jumper where as a freshman he slung it from the left side of his face similar to Lonzo Ball. After a spring and summer of re-working it, it now comes up from the middle of his body. This has allowed him to not just be a catch and shoot shotmaker but someone who can shoot off the dribble. As a freshman in a supporting role, this was never really asked of him but it was a weapon as a sophomore.
Last season, Jarrett Culver took just 33 pull-up jumpers as a role player on Tech. This season, in just 14 games, he’s already taken 46 pull-ups and converted them at 47 eFG%. He’s leading the Big 12 in points off of pull-ups this year. A breakdown: https://t.co/k63lUeh3X8 pic.twitter.com/8BCDvuXVW6
— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) January 8, 2019
Culver did a nice job of adding moves to his game to create space for his jumper which although improved is still a little slow. He has a myriad of stepbacks, side dribbles, and stepbacks to create space. He then is able to use his length to shoot over smaller defenders when creating the necessary space. This is something especially important because he isn’t a great athlete. He lacks top-end explosion so his ability to create space and better but still improving footwork is needed.
He misses the shot but look at the space Jarrett Culver creates with this leg plant before the stepback. Luka-esque pic.twitter.com/CAXdalNPh8
— Jackson Hoy (@jacksonghoy) January 18, 2019
By no means is Culver is a knockdown shotmaker yet, evidenced by the 30% he shot from three in college. He is definitely more comfortable in the mid-range, something disappearing from the NBA game. But with the work ethic he has, scouts should have no doubt improved shooting from three will come. As he continues to clean up his shot that still includes a slight delay and slow release one could expect his shot to steadily improve until he’s a reliable shooter. The improvement alone is what has him in the four to seven range of the 2019 NBA Draft.
Culver doubled his assists per game as a sophomore upping his average from 1.8 to 3.7. He’s not someone you’d like as a primary ball handler but he can definitely relieve pressure from your point guard. He has a good feel in pick and rolls and uses that to find guys whether it be the roll man or shooters. He’s not a guy strictly looking to score out of pick and rolls and that’s what makes him so dangerous.
He plays at such a good pace and showed at Texas Tech that he doesn’t need the ball. He played well within Texas Tech’s motion offense and took advantage of the rare ball screens the team used. He improved his handle as a sophomore which allowed him to operate in more ball screens. That handle was key in him creating space for his jumper as well.
Weakness: Lack of Explosion
Culver is a good athlete, but he does lack a certain level of explosion wanted in most guards. He does a great job of creating separation but it is rare to see him blow by defenders. That is something that is giving some scouts pause in regards to his game. One could argue continuing to develop his jumper could fall into weakness as well and it certainly is. But this one aspect of his game that isn’t completely fixable. You can continue to get a little more explosive but it is hard to improve by leaps and bounds. His lack of quick burst may keep him from reaching true stardom but most think his game overall will allow him to be a very good player at the next level. It is certainly not keeping him from being a possible if not probable top-five pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
2019 NBA Draft Comparison: Khris Middleton
The player Khris Middleton has become is set to maybe receive a max contract this summer. If Culver reaches these heights, whoever drafts him will no doubt be extremely happy. Middleton has turned into one of the best three-and-D wings in the league who has the ability to create his own shot as well. He has shown the ability to post up, spot up, and has a nice pull-up jumper in his game. He’s not an elite defender similar to Culver but both are good defenders capable of sticking with very good offensive players.
A guy like Middleton was tasked with stopping Kawhi Leonard in the Eastern Conference Finals and although he struggled it shows the reputation he has earned to get the assignment. Culver was not a lockdown defender in college in Chris Beard’s elite defense at Texas Tech. But he was a very good defender who used his length and sliding ability to be very solid. He no doubt learned how to play good team defense as well playing for a coach like Beard who has had elite defenses everywhere he’s been.
If Culver turns into Khris Middleton, it will no doubt be a very successful career, one that Culver would surely take.