Luka Garza may be the greatest player in Iowa basketball history, but many fans and analysts have questioned whether his game fits into the modern NBA. Garza ranks anywhere from 50e to 67e on the big NBA Draft tables, and his skeptics and believers will get a first glimpse of Garza’s professional future in this Thursday’s draft. Will Garza’s historic college production lead to his name being called, or will his professional career begin as an undrafted free agent or as an overseas prospect?
Any conversation about Luka Garza’s player profile should start with his low scoring skills. Garza is an elite scorer who has dominated his opponents on the low block throughout his college career. Garza is a true student of the game who has mastered a dizzying array of post moves, including his baby hook, up-and-down move, and Jack Sikma-style reverse pivot jump in the midrange. Garza can finish on contact, face doubles and create second chance opportunities on the offensive glass. His soft hands make him an excellent pick-and-roll partner, and his tightly controlled footwork allows him to maneuver well in traffic despite his size. Garza’s playmaking skills improved as a senior as well, as he became increasingly adept at passing the ball out of doubles teams and creating open shot opportunities for his teammates on the perimeter.
However, with modern NBA play moving away from back-to-basket crosses, Garza’s perimeter scoring game will be even more appealing to NBA teams than his skills on the inside. Garza was a credible three-point shooter in his first three college seasons, but became a true ranged weapon in 2020-21 while shooting 44% of three out of 3.2 attempts per game and draining nearly 80%. of his three in two NCAA tournament games. Luka thrived as a pick-and-pop three-point shooter and showed an increasing aptitude for making three-way transitions as his career progressed. Garza could excel as a big man in ground spacing in the NBA, and his ability to keep rim protectors away from the paint and punish teams that send out smaller defenders to challenge his shots on the perimeter could l ‘help carve out an important role in an NBA offense.
Garza’s intangibles should also be a big hit with NBA teams considering writing him up. Despite being one of the biggest stars in college basketball last season, Garza has remained a team-focused and selfless player who has shown the same willingness to dive for loose balls and beat his man. on the pitch in transition, which helped him endear Hawkeye fans as an underclassman. He’s also an aggressive rebounder who boxes with every play and constantly fights for inside position.
Garza has also worked hard to make up for some of his defensive shortcomings by being a smart and willing defender to help out and a window cleaner on defensive rebound opportunities, two attributes that should be of interest to GMs who rate him. Opposing teams frequently attacked Garza on defense in an attempt to get him in trouble and get him to play on the ground, but Garza was consistently successful in defending flawlessly, averaging just 2.4 fouls per game for his career. Plus, while concerns about Garza’s lateral quickness are certainly valid (we’ll talk about that later), his slimmer frame (Garza lost 30 pounds after the season ended in preparation for the combine) and performance. Surprisingly strong in pro agility exercise (11.9 seconds) may encourage some teams to believe he’s less of a lost cause defensively than his college record might show.
Garza’s biggest struggles at the NBA level will come on the defensive side. Garza’s lack of lateral quickness and inability to change direction make him difficult to defend in space and will allow faster NBA defenders to consistently beat him out of dribbling. Garza often struggled as a pick-and-roll defenseman in college, and the high speed of NBA players combined with the heavy pick-and-roll attacks that ended up dominating the league could allow opposing teams to chase. Garza on switches and regularly target him when he’s down. As skilled as Garza can be on offense, he can have a hard time staying on the ground if teams are able to consistently score against him at the other end of the pitch.
Garza’s inability to protect the rim is also a big blow against him. While most NBA greats struggle to defend perimeter guards, many centers can make up for that due to their ability to block and challenge shots from the edge. Garza released the worst publicly traded numbers of any 2021 combine prospect in both the standing vertical jump (24 inches) and maximum vertical jump (29.5 inches), and none of his college ribbons suggest a ability to defend themselves at or above the edge. Garza was a decent shot blocker in Iowa, but will struggle to replicate his college numbers (1.6 blocks per game last season) when regularly defending opponents that match or exceed his size. His lack of rim protection, combined with his weakness as a pick-and-roll defender, are major issues that could actually cap Garza’s NBA potential if he fails to improve them.
Luka Garza was born in the wrong decade. In years past, Luka’s prowess, tenacity, and remarkable college output would have made him a high-profile prospect, a clear lottery pick, and the type of player any GM could reasonably expect to have. decade-long career in the NBA. However, the marginalization of post-up play, the explosion in outside shooting efficiency, and the emphasis on the ability to change and defend multiple positions all conspired to downplay the importance of Garza’s main strength in as a perspective while magnifying the importance of its areas of weakness.
Still, Garza has enough tools to carve out a niche in the NBA and should hear his name called out in Thursday’s NBA Draft. Garza’s ability to space out the floor on offense and put buckets in the paint when called up could make him a valuable scorer on the bench, while coaches and general managers can have enough faith in his work ethic. to convince himself that he can improve as a defender or, at the very least, that his basketball IQ will allow him to hide his defensive weaknesses as much as possible. Garza’s tenacity and willingness to put in effort on both sides of the pitch are the kind of attributes that will endear him to his coaches, and his selflessness will allow him to devote himself fully to any role a team asks him to play. . He may be an imperfect prospect, but in a league where imperfect but skilled great men like Jonas Valanciunas, Enes Kanter, Nikola Vucevic, Hassan Whiteside and Jahlil Okafor have always been able to carve out niches for themselves, one can easily imagine that Garza is. able to do the same.
Garza’s best fit would be in a team that can pair him with a versatile defender and all-four rim protector to help erase some of Garza’s mistakes in defense. Brandon Clarke of the Memphis Grizzlies would be an interesting partner next to Garza, and Luka could give Memphis point guard Ja Morant another intriguing drive-and-kick option on the perimeter. The Grizzlies have the 51st pick in the draft, but also have a blockage in their frontcourt and may not be looking to add more depth to it. The Celtics could be an intriguing opportunity at pick # 45 due to their urgent need to bench mark, just like Philadelphia at # 50. New Orleans desperately need a better three-point shot this season and it also happens to have four picks in the second round, making it a potential landing point for Luka, out of the 35- picks. 53. Finally, Knicks chief Tom Thibodeau has a long history of tenacity for lust and reward in his basketball teams, and it’s easy to imagine him falling in love with Garza and believing he can pull off skills. The talented tall man’s dormant defenses, making New York a potential option for Garza at # 32 or # 58.
Preliminary screening: Mid-end 2sd tower.