Julian Strawther: 2023 NBA Draft Scouting Report
Shooting wings always derive value. Can Strawther find other ways to make a positive impact and stay on an NBA floor?
In almost every place you look, Julian Strawther’s offensive output metrics are incredibly positive. A 60.2% true shooting percentage for a bonafide shooting specialist is pretty damn enticing, and the evidence of touch in the mid-range area is spectacular. Strawther is efficient in so many shot areas and places on the floor.
But Strawther is also a subpar defender. At 6’7”, he lacks the quickness to guard down the lineup and hasn’t yet put together the strength to guard up the lineup. At Gonzaga and in the WCC, where there are not many wings with an athletic translation to the NBA, Strawther was able to avoid those poor matchups, and thus was not exposed in a negative way.
Coming into the season, Strawther had garnered a reputation as a guy who struggled against high-major opponents as a result. Perhaps it was him failing to find a place to adequately defend, or maybe it was poor shooting as a result from better athletes defending him. But the reputation definitely existed, and was backed up by some numbers:
11/13/21 vs. Texas: 5 PTS in 25 MIN
12/18/21 vs. Texas Tech: 9 PTS, 5 REB in 25 MIN
3/19/22 vs. Memphis: 6 PTS (0-6 3FG) in 33 MIN
Of course, that ended during the Zags run this season. Strawther had some really good games, both early in the year against high-major foes:
11/20/22 vs. Kentucky: 20 PTS (3-4 3FG), 14 REB
11/27/22 vs. Xavier: 23 PTS (5-8 3FG), 9 REB, 3 AST
12/9/22 vs. Washington: 18 PTS (2-7 3FG), 12 REB
3/23/23 vs. UCLA: 16 PTS (3-8 3FG), 10 REB
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses for Strawther in many of those matchups, but he is very clearly a guy whose impact is tethered to how he shoots the ball. Luckily, he has a lightning-quick release and real range. The more I watch Strawther, the more I think he’s a specialist and purely a catch-and-shoot guy.
It’s also worth noting that Gonzaga did a great job of using him while also blanketing him on the other end. Everything off the bounce came going to his right hand. He was utilized off some screens but not enough to expose some footwork deficiencies. Strawther got open looks in the motion off the attention provided to Drew Timme, and was covered on defense by Anton Watson taking the top matchups and sparing Strawther from the toughest ones.
That context is important to me, and is one of the reasons why I’m trending a little downward with Strawther’s pro upside after doing a recent dive. The metrics are great and he’s a reliable shooter. I’m not sure if that’s enough in a system or context that isn’t constructed to protect him.