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2021 NBA Draft Profile: could Jason Preston be a fit in Denver?

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Evaluating another solid point guard in this years class.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Ohio at Virginia Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

The draft profiles roll on here at Denver Stiffs and today we are looking at another point as we evaluate Jason Preston from the University of Ohio. Preston started his last 60 games in a Bobcat uniform as he the declared for the draft following his junior year after leading Ohio to the NCAA Tournament and a surprising first round upset victory over Virginia.

Preston is one of the taller lead guards in this years class at 6-foot-4, 190 pounds and even though he is never going to blow you away with his athleticism, he can still do a ton of solid things on the basketball court. Where Preston gets you is his ability to run an offense with his pace of play and ability to use his high basketball IQ to the best of his ability.

He’s more than likely going to be a mid-to-late second round draft pick, but his ability to be a lead guard at the next level paired with his high IQ should get Preston drafted. It might not be in year one, but Preston has the skill to be a contributor at the next level if he continuities to build on his creativity while also improving a couple aspects of his game.

Jason Preston (Point guard, Ohio)

Vitals

Height: 6’4”

Wingspan: 6’8”

Weight: 190

Age: 21 (August 10, 1999)

Preston’s per game stats from his junior season (2020-21)

Ohio played in just 20 games this past season, Preston started in all of them averaging 15.7 points, 7.3 assists, and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting 39 percent from three on 4.1 attempts per game. Preston shot 57.6 percent from 2-point range and 51.4 percent from the field as he truly can score at all 3-levels on the basketball court. On the defensive end of the floor, Preston used his length and wingspan to average 1.5 steals per game last season.

Strengths

Upside/Shooting

There is a lot to like about Preston and his upside is certainly one of them. Even though he is one of the older prospects in what is a fairly young draft class — 22 once his rookie season begins — Preston still has a ton of upside considering how late he joined the process on embarking to play in the NBA.

A few years ago none of this would have felt possible for Preston as he was unrecruited coming out of high school, which is understandable considering he averaged just two points per game as a senior. Preston then went to UCF just to go to school, until he caught a break courtesy of joining a friends AAU team. That isn't even the beginning of the story, take a minute to watch the video below to learn a little more about Preston’s journey.

Real inspiring stuff that makes it impossible to root against the guy. The beauty of it all is Preston can play and some team in the NBA is going to give him a chance that he truly has earned and deserves. Preston found a way to get better every season and Ohio and if he can do the same at the next level there is no doubt he’ll be able to find a role somewhere.

One of those areas where Preston constantly got better at Ohio was his ability to shoot the ball. Preston shot 39 percent from three last year averaging 4.1 threes per game, which makes for a pretty good percentage with how many shots he was putting up. Just two years ago, Preston shot 40.7 percent from three on 2.8 threes per game so he definitely got more confident with his three-point shot this past season.

Preston attempted 91 threes in the 32 games he played in as a sophomore. As a junior last year — in just 20 games — Preston shot 82 threes and made 32 of them, which is just five less than the 37 he made the year before and it came in 12 less games. The confidence is definitely growing from a shooting perspective for Preston and if he can continue to grow his game in that regard it only helps his upside more.

Ability to run an offense/passing ability

Preston has the frame and size to play either guard spot, but where he really thrives is running an offense. His offensive creativity always puts his team in good sports to have success as Preston does a great job mixing his abilities to score along with getting his teammates involved when the time presents itself.

The pick-n-roll is where Preston will make you pay, mostly with his passing ability. It all comes easy to Preston as he often creates easy passing lanes to distribute the ball on time and in the right spots to give his teammates easy looks. It’s not just in the pick-n-roll though as it feels like Preston has eyes in the back of his head at all times.

As good as Preston is at scoring the ball he truly is at his best when setting up his teammates. It allows the rest of his game to play off that and it often leads to a successful flowing offense. The craftiness in which Preston plays really shows how in control he is with the ball in his hands and that is all you ever want in a lead guard.

Basketball IQ

Another trait you want your starting point guard to have is basketball IQ and Preston certainly has that. As we mentioned above, Preston plays the game at a tremendous pace that always puts him in control. Whether that is in the half court or when he is operating in transition, Preston has a great feel for what is going on around him and his basketball IQ plays a major part in that.

It goes hand in hand with his ability to know when to shoot or when to pass the ball to his teammates. Preston is not the quickest guard which is often why his pace of play is so beneficial for him because he is never going to fast and is always in control, which allows him to have success more often than not.

Preston’s basketball IQ also helps him on the defensive end of the floor, which is a spot where being slow is often not beneficial. Even though he can get blown by at times, Preston uses his high IQ to anticipate plays before they are made and then reacts accordingly.

He is never going to be the best defender on your team, but Preston is certainly no liability and his IQ is a big reason why. It’s crazy considering how late in his basketball career Preston was able to pick all this up, but it shows he is a quick learner and has found a way to adapt his game in order to have the most success he can possibly have.

Weaknesses

Athleticism

The speed and quickness is the real concern with Preston as he is going to get matched up against much tougher competition at the next level. Preston is going to have to find a way to create a little more separation for himself offensively while also not allowing his speed to be a factor on the defensive end of the floor.

There is no question Preston is a crafty player, which is often how he beats you offensively. Preston will have to win at times in the NBA driving in a straight line and it just seems like the burst isn't there for him to do that. With a little time it might be something Preston is able to develop because the height and weight are certainly there.

Turnovers

A stat that usually goes hand in hand when talking about point guards, but when talking about turnovers with Preston it’s a little of a concern. In the past two seasons, Preston has averaged three or more turnovers a game. Preston did improve this past season with three turnovers per game as he was closer to four (3.7) during his sophomore season.

The turnovers Preston does make are sometimes ones you can live with because of how much passing and playmaking he does for the offense. Still, the turnovers that come when Preston waits to long to initiate the offense as the shot clock is winding down are ones you don't want to have. As long as Preston doesn't over dribble and get himself into some of those tough spots it will allow his turnover numbers to go down.

His best game this past season came when Preston had zero turnovers and scored 31 points, dished out eight assists, and hauled in six rebounds in a 2-point loss at Illinois. That was the game where Preston really started to get talent evaluators attention because he was matched up against one of the best players in college basketball in Ayo Dosunmu and held his own. It just goes to show when Preston takes care of the basketball and plays in control he has what it takes to play at the next level.

On-ball defense

This goes back to athleticism as even though Preston has a good frame, his lack of quickness is often where can can get exposed defensively. As great as Preston’s defensive IQ is when he is playing off ball there is really no way he can use that to his advantage when matched up one-on-one. Quicker guards will take advantage of that a lot more at the next level so it will be important for Preston to find a way to improve on that area of his game.


Verdict

Preston is a solid lead guard who I believe has what it takes to contribute at the next level. From a Nuggets perspective, I would not use the 26th pick in the draft on him, but would instead consider trading back into the draft to select Preston and pair him with whoever Denver does end up selecting in the first round.

If Preston starts to fall down the draft board he is certainly a guy I could see the Nuggets having interest in. The Nuggets did workout Preston a few weeks ago so he is certainly a player to keep an eye on if he starts to slip on draft night.