Scouting Report & Film Review: Corey Kispert

Corey Kispert is the best off-ball shooter in this class and has the basketball IQ to impact the game in other ways.

Strengths: Shooting, off-ball movement, basketball IQ, decision making

Weaknesses: Individual shot creation, ball-handling

Consensus Expected Draft Range: Mid first round

Where I'd Draft Him: 16-25

Shades Of: Joe Harris, Desmond Bane, Doug McDermott

Best Team Fits: New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs

After a strong Junior season at Gonzaga, Corey Kispert decided to return for his senior season despite being a fringe first-round pick in 2020. Kispert quickly emerged as one of the country's best shooters and a surefire first-rounder in 2021 as Gonzaga had one of the best college basketball seasons ever. Kispert saw success as a movement shooter and helped space the floor in a fashion unfamiliar to college basketball. His excellent off-ball movement, high basketball IQ, and unselfish play propelled the Gonzaga offense to an all-time great ranking.

Despite an incredible season, Kispert has plenty of skeptics who doubt his athleticism, defense, and actual NBA impact. While there are slivers of validity in all those concerns, there are also logical counters. Kispert isn't the best defender in this class, but when have shooters of his caliber ever been asked to also be lockdown defenders. At 6'7 220 pounds, Kispert's size gives him more room for error. He will struggle at times as an on-ball defender, but he isn't JJ Redick. 

Kispert was a significant beneficiary of Gonzaga's spacing and high-powered offense, but he was also one of the main reasons for that same success. Without Kispert, Gonzaga is still an excellent team, but their leadership, floor spacing, basketball IQ, and team defense would take a massive hit.

Kispert shouldn't be taken in the top ten like many had him earlier this season, myself included. However, the recent heel turn on Kispert has gotten out of control. Kispert won't be an All-Star, and that's ok. He will be a legitimate role player on many good teams because he is a lethal shooter who can do more than he gets credit for. 

Off-Ball Scoring

It turns out that in the modern NBA, where the floor is constantly being expanded, and the three-point rate continues to climb, having good shooters is essential. The most simplistic analysis of Kispert is he is a lights-out shooter. Kispert can shoot on the move, off the catch, off the dribble, and from a standstill. He is a legitimate shooting threat every time he touches the ball. This season, Kispert scored 1.244 points per possession (PPP), which ranked in the 99th percentile, per Synergy.

Kispert will be used almost primarily as an off-ball shooter in the NBA, a role he is incredibly comfortable with. This season, Kispert scored 1.277 PPP while spotting up (95th percentile), 1.044 PPP off screens (69th percentile), and 1.211 PPP when shooting off the catch (81st percentile). He has consistent mechanics, a quick release, superior confidence, and limitless range. Kispert is constantly moving in search of open pockets on the perimeter. He has a brilliant understanding of floor spacing and floor balance and continuously pursues advantages to exploit regardless of the distance.

Besides relocating off a pick-and-roll or isolation, Kispert can also have plays run for him. He runs off screens well by changing pace and countering his defender's pursuit path. Here, Kispert receives a pin-down screen designed for him to run off of more towards the top of the arc. As Kispert hits the screen, he sees his defender try to go on the inside of the screen instead of sticking to Kispert's hip. Instead of continuing on his path, which would allow his defender to recover, Kispert flattens out his angle and exits to the wing. This movement creates significant space for Kispert to knock down the wide-open jumper.

Another unique way that teams can get Kispert open shots is by using him as a screener. This trend is becoming more familiar with NBA teams using their shooters as screeners to create confusion and movement. With Kispert's size and footwork, he can be a threat as a screener. Here, Kispert gets a wide-open three at the top of the arc because of his timing and effectiveness of slipping the screen. Kispert needs to improve the variety of screens he sets, not just slip everything, but with further coaching, it is a dynamic role that shouldn't be too difficult for him to grow into.

Kispert's shooting gravity also creates scoring opportunities in other areas of the floor. Many shooters stay primarily on the perimeter with their off-ball movement, but Kispert's constant movement creates many cutting opportunities. This season, Kispert scored 1.539 PPP on cuts (93rd percentile) and 1.322 PPP around the rim (80th percentile). Kispert is much larger than typical off-ball shooters, and he isn't afraid of using his size and leaping ability to finish at the rim. He sets up his defenders perfectly and can easily finish above the rim.

Kispert's shooting gravity frequently caused panic among defenses to a point where they forget their responsibility. We've seen players like Steph Curry and Kyle Korver have similar effects on defense with their off-ball movement. The constant off-ball activity and the legitimate threat of shooting will create numerous shooting opportunities for Kispert, but it will also generate easy scoring chances for his teammates.

On-Ball Offense

While Kispert will be almost exclusively used in an off-ball role, there is some on-ball effectiveness that is encouraging. Kispert will never be a primary initiator, high-level playmaker, or space creator because he lacks the ball-handling, athleticism, and vision to do so. As we see below, Kispert provides almost no threat to the defense as he attacks without a screen.

However, Kispert is a good ball mover, can attack closeouts, and get to the rim off motion. As an off-ball shooter, these are essential skills because when the defense runs him off the line, he still has ways to attack.

This season, Kispert scored 1.167 PPP when he shot off the dribble (96th percentile) and 1.357 PPP when he dribbled off the screen in the pick-and-roll (98th percentile). Kispert didn't have a considerable sample size of these situations (28 possessions), but he didn't see a drop-off between his on vs. off-ball shooting efficiency. What is encouraging about Kispert's on-ball game is that he knows exactly who he is as a player. Kispert won't force shots, but he will gladly make them pay if the defense miscommunicates or goes under a screen.

Most of Kispert's on-ball scoring opportunities will derive from his off-ball activity. Kispert is excellent at attacking closeouts out of spot-up situations, as he scored 1.643 PPP when he attacked the rim (99th percentile). Defenders must close out hard to Kispert, and if he can't get a shot off, he has the requisite size and strength to attack the rim.

Kispert doesn't have the ball-handling or athleticism to get downhill or create space on his own. To compensate, Kispert was frequently put in motion and run-off screens or hand-offs to get downhill. From here, Kispert could use his size to get to the rim or his basketball IQ to create for teammates.

Here, Kispert runs off a pin-down screen, which forces his defender to close out more aggressively. Kispert attacks the recovering defender, and even though he doesn't blow by the defender, Kispert has the size and strength to finish through the contact at the rim.

Kispert also saw a lot of success running dribble hand-offs (DHOs) as he scored 1.025 PPP (76th percentile). When his defender went under, Kispert would quickly stop and shoot. When his defender tried to fight over, Kispert attacked downhill and typically made the proper read.

Here, Kispert's defender tries to chase him over the hand-off. Kispert immediately attacks the slow-footed big man, turns the corner, and finishes with an extension at the rim.

Again, Kispert receives the hand-off, and his defender wisely goes over. The screener's defender hedges instead of dropping like the previous video. Kispert sees that his teammate doesn't get tagged on the roll and leads him to the rim for an easy layup.

Kispert will essentially have a non-existent on-ball creator role in the traditional sense. He lacks the ball-handling to create space, the athleticism to attack the rim, and the creativity to be a high-level playmaker. However, Kispert isn't completely inept with the ball in his hands. He rarely makes mistakes with the ball and has the vision and accuracy to find open teammates. When aided by a screen and some motion, Kispert has the size and touch to be an effective interior scorer. Even though Kispert will be used as an off-ball shooter, don't dilute his impact to just that.

Defense

Kispert's defensive impact may be the most divisive aspect of his game. Like nearly every white off-ball shooter, Kispert is often labeled as a disaster defensively. It's the same thing as every European wing getting compared to Danilo Gallinari; it's simplistic and often wrong. Defense is another area of Kispert's game where his size gets significantly underestimated.

Kispert's defense is often described as if he's a shooting guard who will be defending athletic scoring guards. There will be times when Kispert gets matched up on more athletic guards, and they will torch him like they torch everyone else. Kispert doesn't have the athleticism or footspeed to contain those players.

However, I expect Kispert to play more of a SF or PF role. He has the size and strength to match up against the bigger, slower opponents, which will limit his exposure to perimeter guards. Kispert won't be a good on-ball perimeter defender, but he will be a good team defender. Kispert sees the floor well, slides his feet, communicates switches, and makes well-timed rotations. He won't win any defensive accolades, but he has the tools, effort, and intelligence to not be the disaster he so frequently gets pegged as.

Here, Kispert shows the type of defense he will provide. Kispert immediately switches once he sees his teammate get hung up on the screen. This switch allows Kispert to slow down and disrupt the off-ball mover's path while avoiding the second screen. Kispert then drops to the block to help on the drive. If the ball-handler had spun back towards the lane, Kispert would have been in a great position. The counter to this is that an NBA shooter will knock down this three on the kick out. Either argument has its own validity to me so take whichever one you wish. Kispert quickly recovers and has a controlled closeout. Kispert has decent enough footwork to beat his man to the spot and draw the charge.

Kispert won't be a good defender in the NBA because he lacks the physical tools and athleticism. However, Kispert's work rate and basketball IQ will at least make him a passable defender. Additionally, Kispert's size gives him more room for error than traditional off-ball shooters lack. A team won't be counting on Kispert to be a defensive lynchpin, but they won't have to worry about him being a liability.

Outlook

As far as off-ball shooters go, there are few as good as Corey Kispert in the 2021 NBA Draft. Kispert is deadly from any spot on the floor, and his quick release is difficult to defend. Kispert is constantly moving off-ball. Whether he is running off screens, relocating off of opposite side pick-and-rolls, or screening and relocating, Kispert is always a shooting threat. 

Kispert won't be a dynamic advantage creator because he lacks the ball-handling and physical tools. He does, however, have an excellent feel for the game that results in good decision-making, ball movement, and shot selection. Kispert's defense and lack of on-ball creation limit his ceiling and justify not taking him in the lottery. However, teams that are a shooting piece away from contention or need wing depth will struggle to do any better than adding Kispert.

Corey Kispert doesn't have All-Star upside, but he does have high-end role-player upside. We've seen the success that Joe Harris, Doug McDermott, and Desmond Bane have had. There is no reason that Corey Kispert can't be a valuable role player on a contender for a long time.

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