2022 NBA draft profile: Duke guard Trevor Keels is a unique prospect

A scouting report on NBA draft prospect Trevor Keels:

  • Position: Guard
  • Height: 6-3.25 (without shoes)
  • Weight: 224 pounds
  • Middle School: duke

A 25-point outing against Kentucky and 19-point performance against North Carolina bookended Keels’ lone college season.

Outside of those games, his year was short on standout scoring performances. Of course, it’s notable that Keels shared the floor with four potential first-round picks (Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin, Mark Williams and Wendell Moore).

Keels suffered a right calf injury in January but managed to play in 36 of Duke’s 39 games. He averaged 11.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.2 steals.

Strengths

Before shifting his full focus to basketball, Keels also played football and was a defensive end, he said on the Dawkins on Duke podcast. That absolutely adds up. Keels is as physically strong as any combo guard prospect.

He likes to use his muscular advantage, too. At a fundamental level, Keels excels at both inviting and shrugging off contact. And on top of that, Keels appeared to recognize he could often leverage his strength to create more time and more favorable angles for himself. He was able to make fruitful pick-and-roll passes that looked rather simple because of his strength and patience.

Does Keels project to initially have as much luck getting to his preferred spots as a professional? No. But his adjustment might not be as severe as a 6-foot-6 post-up college center’s or a one-dimensional, 6-foot-11 shooter’s. Keels’ 13.5 body fat percentage was the fourth-highest at the draft combine, so perhaps he’ll enter the NBA a bit lighter. Still, we don’t think it’s outlandish to envision his weight being a significant positive against less hefty NBA guards, provided other aspects of his game pan out.

Keels’ agility is questionable (more on that below), but he posted a decent 2.4 steal percentage and enjoys helping his team win games with effort and defense.

Weaknesses

Keels didn’t fare well on the combine’s athletic testing. His standing vertical leap (24.5 inches) and shuttle run (3.32 seconds) each ranked third-worst among all prospects.

Those numbers reflect his reliance on power. While there’s nothing wrong with a guard having better strength than raw speed, there’s usually a bar players must clear to be capable of holding their own defensively and driving into the paint productively in the NBA.

Keels is very right-hand dominant and sometimes even attempted awkward righty finishes when a lefty layup would’ve done the job. He scored 1.25 points per shot around the rim (69th percentile) last year, per NBA.com, but he’d benefit from improving his left hand given his lack of vertical pop.

Keels flashed catch-and-shoot talent — good shot preparation, lower-body balance and wrist snap. However, his efficiency was unimpressive. An 8-for-38 close to the season put Keels at 31.2 percent from three-point range.

Fit

No. 23 is widely viewed as too high for Keels, but he’s only 18 years old and could be an intriguing option if there’s a way to add him outside of Round 1. The Sixers bought a second-round pick from the Pelicans last year and used it to draft Charles Bassey.

This is not a comparison, to be clear, but James Harden’s understanding of how to use his physical strength has been a huge part of his success. Perhaps Keels could learn a little about that early in his career if he ended up with the Sixers.

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