Written by Ben Pfeifer
When will we learn to stop doubting Kentucky guards? Devin Booker, Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro, Tyrese Maxey and more outperformed their draft position. In his own way — elite, disruptive defensive impact off of the ball and a growing on-ball playmaking skillset — Kentucky freshman guard Cason Wallace could be the next addition to the Wildcat guard lineage.
Wallace measured 6’2.5 in socks with a staggering 6.8’5 wingspan (+6), allowing him to play above his size, often functioning more as a wing than a guard on defense. Many of Cason’s defensive traits are special, namely his playmaking and rotational instincts. A rare guard rim protector, Wallace flies all over the court, sprinting back in transition and rotating from the weak side to protect the rim. He’s a good vertical athlete, leaving the floor quickly and challenging vertically to disrupt shots with his massive wingspan.
His hands are some of this class’s best, ripping careless on-ball defenders and jumping passing lanes for steals (3.7 steal rate). Wallace will excel in the nail spot, digging on incoming drives to the rim, attaching and chasing defenders around screens both on and off of the ball. Cason’s main defensive weakness comes on the ball, where he can overextend and falter technically defending the ball, allowing quicker guards to drift by him.
Cason’s ultra elite team defensive impact could carry Cason to all-defensive value in an NBA where defensive feel, playmaking and secondary rim protection are critical. New Orleans could reason to take its 6th ranked defense into overdrive, adding another elite defensive talent in Wallace. His defense would slot perfectly next to Dyson Daniels, namely, who’s standout on-ball defense can help cover for Wallace’s deficits there.
Offense is a larger uncertainty for Cason, as his lack of handling and self creation ability for a guard is evident. Cason’s elite finishing tools, mid range scoring and pick and roll play combined with a solid shooting profile make for a potentially enticing complementary offense guard: all that would be needed for a New Orleans team loaded with offensive weapons.
Understanding Wallace’s offensive role and context at Kentucky is key; Wallace operated as a pure on-ball and pick and roll creator without the support of a high octane roll threat or spacers around him. A vast majority of his two-point offense came unassisted. Cason took about 91% of his shots inside the arc unassisted, reaching solid efficiency. In New Orleans, the creation burden on Wallace would drop starkly, reducing the impact of his weak handle and advantage creation.
Despite not getting there often, Cason sank 71.2% of his rim attempts, contorting his body in midair and winning with his craft and length. Wallace excels in the mid range, with the floater/short-pull up game to punish sagging and drop coverage. His pick and roll passing can then shine, as Wallace can drop the ball in space to rolling bigs and kick to shooters. Rarely turning the ball over (2.0 assist to turnover ratio), Cason’s decision making allows for units to trust him running some offense.
Playing off of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, and New Orleans’ other on-ball stars, Cason’s solid shooting profile will aid him as a spacer. Cason’s volume – 7.4 3pas per 100 possessions (34.6%) is solid and he isn’t limited to just catch and shoot jumpers, as Wallace flashes the ability to shoot off of simple movement actions and pull-up when defenders go under. Adding that to the hope he extends his 15-foot pull-up, the shot looks like one that defenses will respect, opening up the rest of his game.
At pick 14, there’s a good chance Cason Wallace could be the best talent on the board by a decent margin. Even on a team with needs as specific as New Orleans, adding a player who could reach all-star level impact late in the lottery is always a good idea. Cason’s elite defensive ceiling from the guard spot and secondary rim protection help fill some of New Orleans’ few defensive gaps with the potential to contribute in a part-time ball handling role. And, once more, Kentucky guards!
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