Another in an impressive line of freshman who are backing up the hype and then some, Jerryd Bayless
has established himself as the go-to guy for Arizona (the team is 11-3 with him, and 1-3 without him), and in the process is likely putting himself in a situation to be drafted in a great position, already this year.
Physically, Bayless is an extremely impressive prospect. He is certainly stuck between the 1 and the 2 positions, but has solid size at 6-3, with outstanding athleticism on top of that. Bayless is an incredibly smooth playerquick, fluid, explosive, with a terrific first step, capable of elevating off his feet with easethe entire package as far as athleticism is concerned. He has a somewhat slight frame, but is regardless a strong player for his age, seeming to have maximized himself from a physical perspective fairly well.
Offensively, Bayless can do it all and has basically everything you look for in a scoring guard. Hes an outstanding shooter first and foremost, showing terrific shooting mechanics, superb elevation creating separation from his defender, and all the confidence in the world to fire away in any situation imaginable. His release is a bit on the deliberate side, but this is a minor flaw that surely can be corrected in time.
Bayless can come off a screen, catch and shoot, or pull-up off the dribble equally well. He has great balance and core strength setting up for his jumper, and thus gets terrific results already this early in his career. He hits tough shots going left or right or fading away, even with a man in his feet, never getting flustered regardless of the situation.
More than just a shooter, though, Bayless is also a terrific shot-creator, with an aggressive slashing mentality and a real killer instinct making his way to the basket. Hes explosive enough with his first step or wicked crossover to just beat players off the dribble going left or right, but also possesses excellent ability to change gears, stop and go, and mix in hesitation moves to keep his defender off balance. He gets to the free throw line at a terrific rate, taking contact at the rim, but possibly lacking just a degree of size and strength to consistently finish those moves at the hoop. He often just prefers to find a glimmer of daylight in which he can get his shot off from mid-range, which is a very high percentage shot for him.
Standing somewhere around 6-3, NBA scouts will want to see some point guard skills out of Bayless, and indeed he sees a good amount of time at this position for Arizona. Bayless is not a selfish player, he can certainly find the open man and is pretty gifted passing while on the move, but its pretty clear at this point that hes much more comfortable as a scorer than he is as a playmaker. He has a tendency to pound the ball in the half-court, over-dribbling excessively and making poor decisions when forced to play at a slower tempo. Arizonas offense seems to lack some fluidity at times when hes running the show, as Bayless has a tendency to create shots first and foremost for himself and then only look to create for others. Hes still a young player and certainly has time to develop, but right now it looks like hed be much more comfortable playing a Monta Ellis
type role in the pros (alongside another strong ball-handler) rather than as a Chauncey Billups
style point guard.
Defensively, Bayless shows a lot of potential, not just with his tools, but with the commitment hes displayed to competing on this end of the floor. He has excellent lateral quickness, clearly having received some solid coaching on this part of his game early on his career. His awareness isnt always the best (looking a bit lost trying to find his man in transition for example), and he lacks some strength to get through screens defending the pick and roll at timestaking too wide an angle to avoid contact, but considering his age and huge offensive role on the team, its hard to nitpick too much here.
There is a caveat, though, as considering his size, hed almost certainly be better off guarding point guards than shooting guards, which again brings up the fact that hell need to be drafted by the right team (with the right guard next to him) to really reach his full potential. He wont be a perfect fit for everyone, but if he finds the right situation, Bayless has 20 point per game plus potential in the NBA if he continues to progress. The early indications were getting from sources close to the situation are that Bayless is leaning towards leaving Arizona at the end of this season. The reason for that being that with the dominant ball-handling Brandon Jennings
coming in next year, he wont have as much of a chance to develop his point guard skills. It seems like he could definitely use another year of experience before hes ready to compete for high level minutes in the NBA, but if hes indeed the lottery pick that most NBA people weve spoken to feel he is, then he probably has no choice but to leave.