Gardner has a good combination of strength, speed, and athleticism for a SG. He has a pretty solid build and possesses about average athleticism for a SG in the NBA. He is fast in getting up and down the court and also moves well within the halfcourt, where he can change direction quickly to get himself open on offense.
Gardners greatest skill is his shooting, especially from long range. He has a high and quick release with range out to the NBA three-point line. He shoots with good, consistent mechanics and is especially accurate when spotting up. He can also shoot it off the dribble and usually maintains good balance in doing so. He responds pretty well to hands in his face and doesnt let it alter his motion. The majority of his shooting is done from behind the arc, but he can also step in to hit mid-range shots. He can get himself open without the ball by using his speed to lose his defender.
Passing is another of Gardners strengths, due to his strong court vision. He has good recognition for when his teammates are open and makes strong, crisp passes to get them the ball.
Defensively, Gardner shows good ability as a perimeter defender. He possesses strong lateral quickness and reaction speed, allowing him to stay in front of his man. He is fundamentally sound with his footwork and technique. He keeps his center of gravity low and his arms extended while moving laterally to stay in front of his man.
While Gardner is not flawed in terms of athleticism or strength, he is only 65, which is slightly undersized for a SG in the NBA. This could potentially hinder certain aspects of his game.
The most notable area where Gardners size could hurt him is with his shooting. While he possesses a high release on his shot, his size partially negates that strength against many longer, taller swingmen in the NBA.
Gardners game is full of weaknesses as he does not possess much versatility at this stage of his development. One key problem is his ball-handling, which is certainly not ideal for an NBA shooting guard. He doesnt look very comfortable handling the ball and commits a good deal of turnovers because of it. He also is very weak with his left hand, which would be greatly exploited in the NBA. He basically can only go right when penetrating into the lane. The vast majority of his turnovers come from traveling or dribbling the ball into the hands of his opponent, usually when he is attempting to drive.
Gardners poor ball-handling also negatively affects his passing. Because he cant handle the ball for more than a few dribbles, he doesnt get many opportunities to make use of his good passing abilities.
In terms of getting to the basket, while Gardner can penetrate fairly well by going right, it often doesnt lead to a high-percentage shot. He doesnt have much creativity in the lane and is often left taking a tough shot. His lack of ball-handling certainly does him no help here. He does get to the line at a decent rate, but at the next level, he wont be getting as many opportunities once the scouting report gets out on his left hand. Defenders will force him left, likely leading him to turn the ball over or take a low-percentage shot.
Defensively, while he does show the ability to play good man-to-man defense, his tenacity often wavers through the game. In terms of team defense, he is not especially strong with his awareness in man-to-man sets, often simply sticking to his own man and not making a difference in the passing lanes. He also has some trouble chasing quicker guards around without the ball.
He isnt very active on the boards either. He doesnt make rebounding one of his priorities, which is very concerning considering he really doesnt bring much to the game when his shot isnt falling.
Gardners effort and body language also tend to correlate with how his shot is falling. If he isnt scoring, he doesnt try as hard in the other areas of the game, sometimes exhibiting negative body language after plays dont go his way.
Gardner plays for Missouri in the Big 12 Conference against good overall competition. The level of play is fairly high for Division I, though he isnt on a very good team himself. While the overall competition is high, he doesnt face many NBA-type swingmen in his games, which is something to be concerned about. His game would probably not be as effective against longer, more athletic swingmen who could do better to contain his shooting. Became one of the best scorers in his conference as a junior after two fairly non-descript initial seasons at Mizzou. Many have called him one of the most improved players in the country.
Gardner doesnt look like a great NBA prospect at this stage in his development. He does not possess enough versatility to have more than very limited success in the league. He needs to develop his game to find other ways to contribute for when his shot isnt falling. He most importantly needs to improve his ball-handling so he could better use both his scoring and passing abilities. His improvement from last year to this leaves some optimism about the fact that he still has some room to improve his all-around game. Not looking like a very strong first round prospect in a draft stacked with wing players, he could do well to return for another season, win some more games and become a more versatile player. Although strong rumors suggest that he will test the waters this year and possibly try to attend the Chicago pre-draft camp.