Come NBA Draft day June 23rd 2022, Luke Travers is a name most American basketball fans will be scrambling to find out – who is this kid?
Travers’ early season play has catapulted him from strong whispers from those who know Australian basketball well to the power ballad start to the season that has earned him 88th in ESPN early NBA Draft rankings.
The young, wiry 17-year-old kid from Perth who turned down full offers from Mississippi State and Western Kentucky in the US to sign as a development player for the hometown franchise looks to have made a solid call for his draft stock.
At 6’7 (200 centimetres) and 94 kilograms, Travers’ physical appearance gives off the same appearance as his game – a mature veteran.
It’s been a truly remarkable rise considering Travers averaged 4.3 pts in only 11 minutes last year. He carries himself with a surety that many players at 20 in the NBA do not have. He knows and understands his own game and it’s Perth who is reaping the benefit of Australia’s hottest basketball prospect.
This is the year when the spotlight is on and rightly so.
Looking at Travers’ per 36 minute stats is where a light is definitely shone in terms of improvement. In per 36 minute statistics so far this season Travers is averaging 10.2 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 3.0 steals per game. The most impressive jump is not just the total rebounding numbers (up from 9.3 the year before) but the huge jump in steals per game (up from an already respectable 1.2 per game).
In an early season glimpse, Luke has shown that the intrigue in him rightly extends past the offensive end of the court. Luke Travers might be the best wing defender in the NBL.
Not only does he have the length, agility and athleticism to stay in front of anybody on the switch from the off-ball or pick-and-roll, Travers has shown that he is a more than capable post defender and perhaps more impressively given his age and size, an excellent defensive rebounder.
In the season opener against Cairns he pulled down 13 boards – eight of which were defensive. Travers’ defence also passes the eye test. His ability to switch and stay in front of guards at this level puts him in a category of defenders that we do not have an abundance of in this league.
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Granted, his points per game per 36 minutes has taken a bit of a dip mainly due to a fully healthy Bryce Cotton being back and a firing Vic Law taking over for the squad. There are only so many shots in a functioning Wildcats offence and the majority of those should and are heading the way of Cotton and Law.
There are some areas of the Travers’ game that he will look to build upon heading into the end of this year. Passing is a facet where his lack of stat may be concerning. However, more often than not, whether as the pick-and-roll ball handler or looking to find the guy coming off the screen, Travers has excellent timing and understanding of how to get the ball moving.
Perhaps a more important point is that Luke’s assist per game numbers are more than respectable given that the majority of his touches are going to be on the end of a dish from Bryce Cotton, who should and does have the ball in his hands the majority of the time.
The main question that NBA scouts will be asking at this stage in his development, is can he shoot the ball at a level that is satisfactory in the NBA? This is the biggest question mark on Travers’ game.
His release is a lot like Josh Giddey’s, methodical action, slow set release that looks good for the most part. It certainly – at this point in his young career – does not look broken. In the same breath however it is important to note that Travers shot 30.3 percent from three-point land last year, so far this season he is just 1/9 or 11 per cent.
It is also being looked at by the Perth Wildcats coaching staff with Head Coach Scott Morrison pulling Travers from the game late for a period against the 36ers in favour for veteran shooter Todd Blanchfield to help try and spread the floor.
Much of Luke Travers’ draft stock will come down to how consistently he can make the outside shot even though he sits in a team that does not overly need him to make that shot the majority of the time.
If he can put it together and end the season shooting around 35 per cent from the land of plenty, then it is hard to see Luke Travers slipping past out of the first round of the NBA Draft.
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