Kansas State's Jacob Pullen is coming off of a breakout junior season in 2009-2010 where he increased his scoring average to 19.3 ppg, up from 13.9 ppg as a sophomore, and helped lead the Wildcats to a 29 win season and an Elite Eight appearance. He'll be back as a senior to build on that success and make the most of his final chance to impress NBA scouts.
Standing at 6'0 with just an average build and subpar athleticism by NBA standards, Pullen lacks the physical tools of a prototypical NBA point guard. When you add in the fact that he played primarily as a shooting guard last season (averaging a negative PPR and an unimpressive 1.34/1 assist to turnover ratio), Pullen has even more to overcome to establish himself as a legitimate NBA Draft prospect.
With the departure of point guard Denis Clemente, Pullen should have his chance to play some point this season, but he is far from a traditional pass-first point guard. His game is built on his perimeter shot (76% of his shot attempts last season were jump shots), which he shoots with deep range, a quick trigger, and plenty of confidence. He is proficient at shooting off the catch and either direction off the dribble, and his biggest asset is the fearlessness he displays as a shooter. Though this occasionally leads to some poor shot selection, Pullen relishes the opportunity to take and make clutch shots in key situations, and he came up big on multiple occasions for Kansas State last season.
As a creator off the dribble, Pullen struggles to make plays for himself and his teammates in isolation situations, as he doesn't possess the explosiveness or advanced ball-handling skills to get by his man or create space for his jumper. As the ball-handler in pick-and-rolls, Pullen lacks the speed and playmaking instincts to be a well-rounded threat, but he does a nice job of reading the screen and defenders to free himself enough to get off his jumper. When attacking the basket, Pullen's lack of size and elevation limits him as a finisher, as evidenced by the poor 31.9% he shot last season on shot attempts around the basket, and the 45% he shot from 2-point range. He did get to the free throw line at an excellent rate, but it's questionable how well this part of his game will translate to the NBA level.
On the defensive end, Pullen's biggest strength is his quick hands, which he utilized to average 1.8 steals per game last season, often stripping his man off the dribble. The downside to this is that he tends to reach on occasion, which he can't afford to do, as he doesn't have the length or lateral quickness to stay in front of the more explosive point guards. Pullen plays with good energy and toughness defensively, but there will definitely be questions marks about his ability to defend at the NBA level, due to his limited physical tools.
This season will be Pullen's final shot to make an impression on NBA scouts and plant his name firmly in draft discussions. While we have seen there is a place in the NBA for undersized combo guards with deep range and good scoring instincts, the niche is a very small one. Pullen's competitiveness and production at the college level should definitely earn him some looks, but his lack of physical attributes will make it an uphill battle.