Everything You Need To Know About Kira Lewis

Kira Lewis has elite speed. This makes him a nuisance on defense and creates easy scoring opportunities on offense.

Few players in the 2020 NBA Draft were better fits for their college system than Kira Lewis Jr was at Alabama. In many cases, pairings like this end up glorifying a prospect and creating unrealistic expectations. However, I don’t think that is the case with Lewis. Alabama’s pace-and-space style didn’t create a false illusion of Lewis but instead highlighted his strengths.

From tip-off, it is impossible not to notice Lewis’s blinding speed that would make Barry Allen blush. Lewis is a blur in the open court, has lightning-quick first step in the half-court, and his footspeed makes him a menace on defense.

This season for Alabama, Lewis took full advantage of their mentality of scoring early and often. He had the green light to push the ball in transition, and their great spacing in the half-court created driving lanes and playmaking opportunities galore.

Lewis’s most immediate impact in the NBA will be his transition offense. This season, Lewis scored 1.189 points per possession (PPP) ranking in the 79th percentile, per Synergy. His end to end footspeed is unmatched, and he is excellent at navigating through crowds.

The below clip exhibits Lewis’ burst and effectiveness in transition. As Lewis receives the outlet pass and crosses half-court, he notices the defense is slow to get back and defend the rim. He immediately turns on the jets to blow past his initial defender. Once the weakside defender rotates, Lewis expertly decelerates and sidesteps the defender to finish at the rim.

Lewis is also a capable playmaker in transition. When you include his assists with his transition offense, he scored 1.488 PPP, which ranked in the 87th percentile. Lewis’s speed and ability to get to the rim is magnetizing and forces defenses to collapse on him. This pull, in turn, creates open shots on the perimeter for his teammates.

Here, Lewis gets the outlet and immediately looks to take advantage of the three-on-two opportunity. As he approaches the lane, his threat of scoring and his cutting teammate draw the defenders away from the corner shooter. Lewis executes a live dribble pass right to his teammate’s shooting pocket for the open three.

Lewis’ speed and burst are incredibly useful in the half-court offense as well. With his assists factored in, Lewis scored 1.231 PPP (88th percentile) in the half-court. Here, Lewis shows his quick-strike ability. As Lewis approaches his defender, he drops his shoulder and effortlessly beats him with his speed. Lewis then shows off his excellent body control by slamming on the breaks and hanging in the air to finish with the reverse layup.

Unfortunately, Lewis struggles to finish at the rim consistently. On shot attempts around the basket, Lewis scored just 1.021 PPP (34th percentile) and 0.714 PPP (47th percentile) on runners.

In the below clips, we see Lewis put himself in a great position to score but lack the touch to finish the play. All these scenarios should result in a bucket, and Lewis must improve this aspect of his game if he wants to carve out a role.

Similarly, Lewis’ lack of size can get him in trouble on drives. When he doesn’t initially get the edge on his defender, or the defense rotates correctly like below, Lewis is too eager to pick up his dribble or unnecessarily leave the ground.

Besides improving his at-rim finishing, the next significant jump Lewis needs to make in his offensive game is his shooting consistency. Lewis’s overall shooting numbers this year were solid, with 46/36/80 shooting splits. He also scored 1 PPP on all jump shots (73rd percentile), 1.238 PPP when shooting off the catch (89th percentile), and 0.926 PPP on shots off the dribble (79th percentile).

The only concern with Lewis’s shooting was his streakiness and the system inflating his shooting numbers. Despite this, I still expect Lewis to make an impact with his shot. He improved as the year progressed, and his reliable free throw numbers are a good indicator of future success. If he can improve his shooting consistency, Lewis will be a legitimate scoring threat as he can use his speed to attack closeouts and always keep defenses on their heels.

Offensively, Lewis will fit the mold of a score-first point guard. He isn’t a bad passer by any means, but he lacks the elite vision of the top tier guards in this draft like LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton, and Killian Hayes. Despite this, Lewis has still been a capable playmaker by making a simple read instead of forcing the highlight play, as we can see below.

While Lewis won’t routinely pass his teammates open, he can use his threat of scoring to create for others. This playmaking limitation is why Lewis needs to improve his shooting and at-rim finishing consistency. The more that defenses have to respect his scoring, the more passing lanes open up.

The below clip is an excellent example of this. Lewis’s deft crossover towards the middle of the floor is incredibly important. As Lewis dribbles toward the screen, he realizes the screener’s man is committing to the hedge too early, leaving the lane wide open. After Lewis crosses over, the screener promptly flips the screen. This move dispatches two defenders at once and creates a runway to the rim. Now, the help defender must rotate to stop the drive. Instead of attempting a runner that he struggles at, Lewis shovels it to his cutting teammate.

Again, Lewis does an excellent job of engaging both initial defenders in the pick-and-roll to create for a teammate. After dribbling off the screen, the defense goes for a full double. Then as the screener rolls, the defender who is only one pass away switches down to the roller instead of allowing the corner defender to slide into the lane. Lewis continues his dribble just long enough to make sure the rotating defender stays with the roll man and finds his teammate for a wide-open three.

Neither of those plays are exceptionally advanced reads, but they show that Lewis has a decent playmaking upside. It will be surprising if he ever leads the league in assists, but if opponents view him as a scoring threat, he will be able to set up teammates with quality reads.

At 6’3 165 pounds, Lewis’s lack of size limits his at-rim scoring, but he makes up for this with his willingness to draw contact. Unfortunately, this is much more difficult to overcome defensively.

In the NBA, Lewis will be limited as a one-position defender. Switching won’t be an option for him, and if forced onto a bigger opponent, he will be taken advantage of.

The upside, though, is that Lewis’s quickness can be incredibly disruptive. His footwork and ability to read the play allow him to stay in front of defenders and disrupt passing lanes. He needs to improve the consistency of his defensive stance and overall fundamentals, but he has the foundation to build upon.

As an on-ball defender, Lewis can cause problems when he gets into his opponent, as we see below. Lewis’s man is looking to run a dribble handoff, but Lewis stays tight on him the entire time. As the handoff is exchanged, due to Lewis’s positioning, he uses his quick hands to poke the ball loose and spark the transition dunk.

Lewis’ foot and hand speed make him a threat as an off-ball defender as well. As we can see below, Lewis can bait opponents into making lazy passes that he is more than happy to intercept. As Lewis’s man rotates to the top of the arc, there is a decent amount of space between them. The ball-handler, thinking it is safe, throws a lazy pass that Lewis pounces on and takes the other way.

The speed at which Lewis closes gaps defensively is highly impressive. It helps him defend off screens, force turnovers, and recover on plays he is beaten initially on. It is a shame that Lewis isn’t a little bigger, both in height and weight, as he would be one of the best defenders in this class. Regardless, Lewis’s lack of size limits how much of a defensive impact he will make in the NBA.

Going forward, Lewis will be a quality backup point guard with the upside to eventually take over a rotation. His speed will be a welcomed spark off the bench, which will create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.

If Lewis can improve his at-rim finishing, he could carve out a career like Dennis Schroeder and Devin Harris. His size limits his defensive upside, but his quickness and competitiveness will allow him to compete at a high level. I wouldn’t be shocked if Lewis goes in the lottery, but the middle of the first round seems like a more likely landing spot. At the minimum, Lewis will provide speed and scoring to whatever team he lands on.

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