Take a look around today’s NBA. What do the top power forwards like Kevin Durant, Paul Millsap, Kevin Love, and Kristaps Porzingis have in common with Tyler Lydon? They can all shoot the three-ball at a high rate and stretch the floor.
My colleagues did an excellent job breaking down Lydon’s fit with the team that drafted him, and I agree that he’d be a good fit if he can crack the rotation as a rookie next to Nikola Jokic in the front court.
But as we all know, a lot of things can and will happen over the summer via trade and free agency, so speculating on Lydon’s place in the rotation is difficult until we see the full construct of Denver’s roster come training camp. More than just fitting in on his team, he’s the perfect fit for the modern day NBA.
I’ve been high on Cuse players before entering the league, but history should warn us against getting our hopes up.
Since 2000 there have been 12 Syracuse players selected in the first round, with Lydon being lucky #13.
Of those 12 that came before him, five had or will have (barring any unforeseen injury) what would be considered successful NBA careers: Etan Thomas, Carmelo Anthony, Hakim Warrick, Wes Johnson, and Dion Waiters.
I consider a successful career to consist of at least 500 games and/or 8 seasons. Tyler Ennis, entering his 4th season, is on the bubble as to whether his career will carry on for at least that long. Surprisingly Michael Carter-Williams, the 2014 Rookie of the Year may not make it either as his playing time and production has dipped every season. Donte Greene, Jonny Flynn, and the late Fab Melo flamed out in short order. Chris McCullough and Malachi Richardson are young, but neither has impressed and my money would be on both being out of the league in a year or two.
A first rounder from Cuse essentially has a 50/50 chance of sustaining a career in the NBA.
So why do I think Tyler Lydon will make it? For a lot of different reasons, but for now, here are the three most pertinent:
He Can Shoot
Despite what some scouts and ex-Indiana coaches have said, Lydon is an excellent shooter. He shot 40% from three during his two years on the hill. The problem was never his shot, but rather his willingness to take it and seize the moment. If he continues that path in the NBA he’ll have a hard time seeing the floor. But, without the pressure of being “the man,” I think we’ll see Tyler become more comfortable and confident in his abilities to fill a role. With the game focused on pace and space, the stretch-4 is in high demand, and will be for the foreseeable future.
He Can Finish
Tyler Lydon is not just a shooter…he’s a finisher too. We saw him throw it down with authority in college, and he even showcased a decent baby-hook when he felt like banging down low. Again, it’s all about being engaged and aggressive, but with a 33.5” vertical and the ability to finish over or around defenders, he’ll keep people honest.
He Will Learn to Play Defense
Defense can be taught. Shooting can’t. There are plenty of players in the NBA, some of the best in fact, who are not very good on the defensive end. It’s not essential to have a career, but if Tyler can improve his man to man defense, it will go a long way in his staying power. He’s already a decent help-defender thanks to his experience in the 2-3 zone, and is an effective weak-side shot blocker. I don’t know if he’ll block many shots at the next level, but if he can simply defend his position at an average rate, he’ll exceed the low expectation many are putting on him heading into his career.
I won’t sit here and pretend that Tyler Lydon is Carmelo Anthony or even Dion Waiters for that matter. It’s not a foregone conclusion that he’s going to succeed at the highest level of basketball. He’s going to have to work hard, and he’ll have to evolve parts of his game, but with his outside touch and underrated athleticism, Tyler Lydon is about to embark on a successful NBA career as the prototypical power forward in today’s NBA.