Chandler Hutchison: Draft Sleeper and Potential Closeout Killer
Every year NBA executives survey the college and international canvas with a fine-tooth comb to pick out what potential 6-foot-6 to 6-foot-8 wing prospects can fill a role at the next level. Wings, especially those of the two-way variety who can switch and be versatile defensive scheme-enablers, are the most in-demand commodity in the league right now as it pertains to role players. Every team covets a connecting piece in the Robert Covington mold as an impact starter, but even spotlighting just rotation depth, capable wings are at a shortage.
This year at the top of the draft, Villanova’s Mikal Bridges takes the cake as the wing with the highest superstar role player potential given his combination of elite instincts, athleticism, length, shooting and newfound shooting confidence. But as you work your way down the draft, finding other candidates is a murkier proposition. Enter Chandler Hutchison, a 6-foot-7, 200 pound senior wing from Boise State with a 7-foot-1 wingspan.
Hutchison fills a swiss-army knife role for the Broncos, tasked with guard-like creation for himself and for others at the wing spot. When you look at his statistical profile, his advanced stats don’t jump off the page:
But when you start to parse through other stats to discern context, the picture becomes clearer and the projection more optimistic. Hutchison is using a high percentage of his team’s possessions, especially for a wing, which you like to see from a mid-major prospect, but that is a driving factor behind his middling efficiency:
He has a higher distribution of self-creation play type possessions than again you often see from a lot of role-playing wing types at the college level:
Senior Self-Creation Play Types
When you start to project Hutchison to the next level and scale back his usage in on-ball areas he probably wont see the same frequency at in the NBA, his translatable qualities and ability to fill a role as a pro begin to stand out.
Hutchison’s clear swing skill, as it is with most off-ball perimeter wings, is shooting, and fixating on his shooting output specifically affords more clarity. Hutchison has historically been a minus pull-up shooter. This season, he is sporting a .36 points-per-possession mark on dribble jump shots in the half court:
All Jump Shots Off the Dribble – Half Court
The shot diversity element is just missing from his game. He’s overqualified to take these pull-ups consistently and effectively, and it’s detracting from his efficiency.
Most players can shoot a spot 3 off the catch easier than a pull-up, and that’s the case with Hutchison. He’s up to 1.235 points-per-possession on catch-and-shoot attempts in the half court this season (including both contested and uncontested attempts), in the 78th percentile, and has historically been respectable in this area:
Catch and Shoot Shot Attempts – Half Court
Projecting Hutchison into the NBA, if he’s optimized and put in a position to succeed, he’s going to shoot a lot more assisted off the catch 3pt attempts and attempts at the rim on cuts than he is self-created pull-ups or slashes in pick-and-roll for example. Basically, more efficient shots.
The film is pretty convincing in terms of Hutchison’s projectable skill-set to the next level in a defined role, and also paints his shooting development again optimistically despite the statistical improvement not jumping off the page. Consider Hutchison’s shot form his freshman year:
And compare that to now:
The amount of work he’s put into speeding up his release, keeping his elbow in, ironing out his hitch and just the overall fluidity improvement is impressive. You’ll even see him hopping into his shot at times in rhythm and on balance this season (he could still do this more):
I’m not a shot doctor or expert by any means, but the current iteration of Hutchison’s jump shot, while by no means a lock to be effective, looks mechanically sound enough to bet on. When you factor in improvement and work ethic (we’ll get to this), I’m tentatively buying.
If Hutchison shoots even league average from 3 in the NBA and teams have to respect his shot, it opens up what I consider to be his special skills and traits as a closeout attacker in NBA space. One of the elements I undervalued with Jayson Tatum last year, as touched on in my draft reflections piece, was his long strides to the rim and dynamic ability to attack closeouts:
That initial shake with the ball Tatum shows with the jab step to keep defenders guessing on what direction he will attack and his aggressiveness attacking on the catch-and-go are also instrumental to Tatum’s success. I’m not making a direct comparison between Hutchison and Tatum. Tatum is far younger and had much more promising indicators as a shooter. But we can learn from specific skill components and movement skills that have translated to the league, and Hutchison has these alluring qualities in spades.
Hutchison might have the best attacking closeout package of any wing in the draft with his combination of long strides, dynamic burst, one-foot explosion as a finisher, quick and deceptive rip-throughs with sound footwork and overall aggressiveness. Watch how quickly he executes his rip-through and note his dynamism as he explodes to the rim in finishing off one foot:
He’s already going when he catches, allowing him to scream down the baseline with plus burst before the defense can set and his one-foot pop without a two-foot gather reduces load-up time. His athleticism overall jumps off the screen.
Hutchison’s smooth and natural long strides allow him to get to the rim from the top of the arc only utilizing a single dribble:
This might not seem like a huge deal, but in the NBA with more athletic and longer bigs able to rotate quicker and more effectively challenge slashes to the rim, reducing time to the rim can be a game-changer.
Hutchison doesn’t just have the long strides and one-foot explosion that expedite the slashing process. He also has rare step around ability in his arsenal:
You see a lot of wings just crash into the big here and pick up the charge. Hutchison has the agility and control to navigate east-west on the move and seek out open areas on the court to finish.
He misses this attempt, but again we see the slight hop around the rotating big on the baseline to open up an avenue to score:
The following show of agility and control with the dynamic jump stop knifing through the crease in the defense to convert the floater is impressive (notice the jab step shake as he begins to attack the closeout as well):
Hutchison just has rare quickness for his size, probably best seen via the following in-and-out dribble against UTEP, which profiles well to beating a single defender in NBA space:
The ability to get to the rim with burst and finish is of course instrumental to projecting the ability to attack closeouts, but passing on the move is also imperative to the all-around package. This is where Hutchison’s role as both a self-creator and a creator for others on high usage in college profiles well to a more refined playmaking role at the next level.
Hutchison has very capable vision on drive-and-kicks, with the craft to fire passes like this out after compromising the defense:
Creative wrap-around awareness and anticipation like this for a wing is a very valuable skill-spike to a modern offense:
As are creative drop-offs like this:
I’ll let the next two passes speak for themselves:
Also working in Hutchison’s favor as a prospect is green flag character/work ethic and having an ascending trajectory in terms of improvement. When you read articles like this about how much of a worker Hutchison has become and see how that has manifested clearly on tape in areas such as his mechanical improvement with his shot, that’s the kind of profile you want to bet on (also getting Damian Lillard’s endorsement doesn’t hurt). Similarly, Hutchison has added skills to his game even since his junior year, improving as a passer, rebounder and with his ability to get to the foul line, all of those attributes buttressed by the stats:
You want to see players add to their games year-to-year, and it’s clear that Hutchison has worked on his.
Overall, Hutchison is exactly the kind of 3&D wing with a projectable skill-set as a closeout attacker with added playmaking that the league covets offensively if he hits. He’s not a surefire bet to do so of course. He lacks ideal volume of 3pt attempts with only 145 total attempts in his college career (35.2 percent) and has very modest career free throw percentage of 66.8 on 413 attempts. He also lacks the shot diversity via a pull-up game and off movement shooting that would aid confidence in projecting his shot. Even in the realm of finishing, he lacks natural touch on non-dunks, evident on tape with his floaters and fortified by his suspect 2pt percentage.
That all being said, his shot looks projectable enough mechanically off the catch, and if he shoots a corner 3 proficiently, which looks entirely within his range of outcomes, he brings a rare blend of ancillary traits via athleticism and skill in that off-ball wing role. He is also athletic enough via one-foot explosion where he can compensate for his lack of touch finishes with finishes above the rim. As you get farther down into the late teens and early 20s, it’s hard to find many prospects who play the league’s most coveted position and who bring Hutchison’s athleticism, talent and projectable role blend to the table. He is deserving of more first round recognition, and in my opinion he warrants top 20 consideration, especially going to a team like Atlanta who has a well regarded shooting coach. If you haven’t seen Hutchison yet, get acquainted (he plays San Diego State on Saturday January 13th on ESPN2 at 10 EST).