Rashad Vaughn’s stock is on the rise and it’s been on the up and up for over the past month. Despite the fact that the 6’5” shooting guard is now a lock to hear his name called in the first round of the draft, his talents are still being under-valued by scouts and front office personnel.
At this point in time, Chad Ford has Vaughn slotted to the Bulls at No. 22 while DraftExpress has Vaughn going 26th to Spurs. It wasn’t that long ago when Vaughn’s name didn’t even appear in the first round on those websites. When Ford released his first version of his Top 100 last summer, Vaughn’s name was nowhere to be found and it took until Mock Draft No. 5 to get his name in the first round. Meanwhile DraftExpress started the season with Vaughn in the 20’s, but they soon dropped him to the second round in February before reinstating him in May.
Before We Begin:
Two years ago in the spring of 2013 Rashad Vaughn and Devin Booker were similar players while participating on undermanned teams in the Nike EYBL AAU circuit. Both players had free reign on the offensive end and dominated the ball trying to create off the dribble or from the pick and roll. Vaughn averaged 19.4 points per game on 43% shooting and shot just 32% from behind the arc. Meanwhile, Booker averaged 16.8 points per game on 43% shooting while going 33.7% from three.
Going back just one year, Rashad Vaughn was a fringe Top 10 player in the high school class of 2014 and also was considered the top ranked shooting guard. Now, it’s the 6’5” Devin Booker who is the consensus top shooting guard in the draft after being ranked below Vaughn just one year ago. After an extremely strong one and done season for the 39-1 Kentucky Wildcats, Booker is a projected top ten pick as both mock draft sites mentioned above have him pegged to the Hornets at pick number nine.
When Vaughn chose to play his college ball at UNLV, it wasn’t hard to predict what type of freshman season he would have.
Prior to the 2014-15 season, my scouting report on Vaughn noted the following:
“Vaughn will have free reign at UNLV, which might not be the best thing for his development. While he will score a lot I feel his game might have progressed better in a more structured setting with more talented teammates. Going into the summer before his senior year, Vaughn was “the man” on an AAU team that was less talented than the majority of opponents. He shot 43% with a high turnover ratio. With his ability to get shots from all over the floor, this often leads to forced shots or less than ideal shots during the course of the game harming his overall percentage. He can get hot in a hurry and hit numerous shots in a row, but he can also force a lot of shots trying to find his rhythm. In my mind, Vaughn will have a very high usage rate at UNLV, but his offensive efficiency might leave something to be desired.”
Sure enough, Vaughn averaged 17.8 points per game. Good for first among players at UNLV and second among all freshmen guards. With that, Vaughn shot just 44% from the field. He ended the season with an extremely high usage rating of 29.0 (No. 70 in the country) and a fairly putrid 101.4 offensive efficiency rating.
Contrast those stats with Booker and you see a tale of two different freshman seasons. While Vaughn took 32.7% of the shots at UNLV, Booker only received 21 minutes of playing time per game. In John Calipari’s platoon system he excelled producing 10 points per game with an offensive efficiency rating of 121.0. Booker also shot 41.1% from behind the three point arc and is now basically considered the top shooter in the draft.
UNLV started the season off 2-0, but their wins over Morehead State and Sam Houston State by a combined three points were also a sign of difficult times ahead. Soon after their home victories, the Rebels traveled to Brooklyn for the Coaches vs. Cancer Clinic. Playing at the Barclay’s Arena in front of a handful of NBA executives did not go exactly as planned for Vaughn. He went just 2-9 in a blowout loss to Stanford and followed that up with a 2-10 performance in a close win over Temple.
Subsequent to the Coaches vs. Cancer Clinic, Vaughn had his high points which included several key baskets in an upset win over Arizona, a 31 point, nine rebound effort against Utah State, and 30 point game against Colorado State where he went 12-21 and 6-10 from three. He also had additional low points including a 6-16 output against Utah, and an early end to his season with a torn meniscus against Fresno State which occurred after just 23 games.
In his heart, Rashad Vaughn is a scorer. Not only is he a scorer, but he has ideal shooting guard size, decent athleticism, and oh yeah, he CAN shoot. In 23 games, Vaughn shot 38.3% from three making 54 out of 141 attempts. Meanwhile, the more highly regarded Booker hit only four more three’s than Vaughn did on the season going 58-141 from behind the arc.
While Booker might have the purest shooting stroke out of the two and was significantly better from the free throw line there is basically no difference when it comes to comparing three point percentage. Well, there is one. Booker was the beneficiary of playing on the most talented team in the country. A majority of his shots came with his feet set and open looks at the basket. A lot of Vaughn’s looks came off the dribble or with a defender in his face. Given the high usage rate, a 38.3% three point percentage is pretty damn good.
After a strong draft combine, Vaughn put on a sizzling performance in Santa Monica. From Chad Ford’s recap he noted “Vaughn had the best workout I've seen the past few weeks on the road. Crammed into the Boys & Girls Club in Santa Monica along with 150 scouts lining the walls, he put on a shooting show, effortlessly knocking down shots from everywhere on the floor, outshooting two of the better shooters in the draft -- Notre Dame's and Stanford's .”
While Vaughn had a fairly inefficient freshman season, he also was able to learn more about his game given the increased opportunities provided to him. Often times Vaughn was asked to make decisions off of the pick and roll where he was able to explore his mid-range game in addition to a variety of floaters and soft shots in the paint. As an offensive player, Vaughn’s game is advanced and he has an ability to get shots in a plethora of ways which can also lend to taking difficult, low percentage shots while forcing the issue at times.
A perfect example came during Vaughn’s junior season in Minneapolis when he was going up against Tyus Jones in the Target Center. Vaughn hit a tough one-footed fade away jumper that led to Fred Hoiberg and Roy Williams shaking their head in disbelief. While he made this acrobatic shot, it then led to two even more difficult shots, both of which were missed. With talented teammates in the fold, the degree of difficulty in Vaughn’s shot attempts will decrease and his offensive efficiency will subsequently increase.
In addition, Vaughn is extremely young for his age. Right now he is still only 18 and won’t turn 19 until August making him one of the youngest players in the draft.
As far as concerns go, well those definitely exist. Along with his offensive shot selection, Vaughn gives the air of an alpha dog player. DraftExpress eloquently notes:
“Vaughn's skill-set dictates he would be best suited operating as a role-player at the NBA level, but his mentality and body language often looks like that of a star. While he's clearly very talented, and many laud his work ethic, there are quite a few question marks about his lack of discipline and whether he's unselfish enough to thrive in a competitive team setting, particularly when playing time needs to be earned.”
Could Vaughn cause chemistry issues on an already established playoff team? In an interview after his Wizards draft workout, Vaughn noted that the Wizards needed a guy to come off the bench behind Bradley Beal and John Wall to score the ball and he alluded to his ability to do that. Whether that positive attitude can continue remains to be seen.
Thoughts From A Former Coach:
As a senior in high school, Vaughn left the friendly confines of Minnesota to enhance his game at Findlay Prep. While there Vaughn played with another potential lottery pick in Kelly Oubre. While honing his game in Henderson, NV, current Findlay Prep head coach Andy Johnson said “He learned how to play with other good players and they pushed each other.”
Coach Johnson also had high praise for Vaughn’s future noting “I think he’s going to have a real good career. The sky is the limit and he’s so young for his age. He’s such a hard worker and a gym rat and that really translates at every level. He’s a kid that will put the work in and he’ll keep pushing himself to be great. His ability to shoot is what really, really stands out. Shooting is at a premium now with how the game is being played at every level, especially the NBA. With his great personality that he’s got, very outgoing, great teammate, and like I said earlier, his ability to work, you put that all together and I think he’s going to have a great NBA career.
He’s got a chance to be a really, really good player just due to the fact that he’s more than just a shooter. For the first time in a long time he’s 100 percent healthy right now. He’s been able to put in a lot of work without being hurt finally and all of the aspects of his game are starting to come together.”
Rashad Vaughn did not have an ideal freshman year at UNLV and there are definitely question marks surrounding him. As expected, his usage rate was high and his effectiveness was low and it all ended after just 23 games.
That being said, Vaughn will be ready to put up points from the time he enters the league. With textbook form, Vaughn’s shot will be effortless from three and he will be able to score in a variety of ways while spacing the floor which is crucial in today’s rapidly evolving NBA game. Right now, it appears that teams with draft picks in the 20’s are looking at Vaughn, but it will soon be apparent that teams with earlier picks will regret passing on one of the more underrated players in the draft.