In a game where consistency is one of the most valued traits by any team, projected top-10 pick Ausar Thompson is one of the most polarizing players that you can find. The 20-year-old prospect has shown dominant traits that would peak the interest of any GM but also has glaring gaps which can leave huge question marks about potential fit and development within today’s game. All the while playing for Overtime Elite, which raises question marks about the level of competition that he is facing during his season.
Most mock drafts have Thompson going inside the top-10, with some noise as the week progresses that he may be the choice for the Detroit Pistons at No. 5. If you were able to watch Ausar play for OTE, his mixtape is jaw dropping. The athleticism is off the charts and his quickness and vertical make you excited about his potential as a wing in the modern NBA. The biggest question that will be a thread throughout this assessment however is the competition level of his opponents.
Background on Overtime Elite
In order to understand Thompson as a prospect and how his game would potentially fit in the NBA, I think we need to understand the background of the route that he has taken to get to this point - and, more importantly, the lack of quality competition. OTE is based in Atlanta and operated by the sports media company Overtime. As of right now, they have just started the ability to livestream some of these games in an attempt to gain more of a following. Before they would just post highlights on their social media platforms. Along with this, the Thompson twins are the only two major NBA prospects that have been playing in the league (so far) because of how new it is on the basketball scene. Not to mention there’s no proof of concept yet.
This could cause some hesitancy with the potential that Ausar is showing within this league. Because they have just began with the live streaming of games within this league there is not much film to go off of. The film that is available is usually showcasing their phenomenal athletic ability or the best parts of their game and does not paint the whole picture when it comes to their game as a whole. Overtime also is a league for players between the ages of 16-20 years old. This can be used as a knock against them as well because they are at the top end of that age bracket. It is worth noting that while they did post phenomenal numbers and their highlights are flashy the talent level of the players is not as high as if they had taken other routes. Are the positives blown out of proportion because of this reason? Are the negatives not as glaring as a result? Both valid questions when it comes to the context of Ausar Thompson as an NBA player.
*As much as I love to do legit film review on prospects and think it is important in finding their strengths and weaknesses, I feel as though the film available for Thompson would not be helpful in analyzing him as a player on account of it being majorly highlight clips (although those are fun in their own right).
I truly believe that if you read any scouting report on Thompson and this is not the number one thing on the list, then throw the report in the trash. The younger twin reportedly has a 38-inch vertical but on the court it looks to be even greater than that. The guy floats. The part that makes his athleticism scary for opposing teams however, is that he uses it in all facets of his game. He is really good as a on-ball defender who can use that quick first step and big body to cut off drivers. He also has good length to contest shots on the perimeter and chase down shooters. Along with this, he has the ability to use that length and jumping ability to alter shots at the rim as well. He averaged 1.3 blocks and 2.7 steals per game during his time playing in Overtime Elite.
The defensive ability and effort is there, but he also uses that athleticism on the offensive end. He has quickness and strength to not only beat defenders but keep them sealed off driving to the rim. He has the ability to finish through contact and over defenders. Another big plus in his game is his ability to rebound the basketball (averaged 6.9 rebounds per game - the YouTube video is incorrect in his stats). Using this athleticism in all aspects is important as it is his best attribute as a prospect.
Playmaking Ability (on and off the ball)
Amen Thompson is more of the point guard of the twins but Ausar can still take on and perform some of the playmaking duties. While they are both listed as shooting guards, Amen’s secondary position is point guard while Ausar’s is small forward. Even with that distinction, Ausar excels when he has the ball in his hands and is a good (if ambitious) passer. He averaged 6.1 assists per game and while that is a good stat line he also had an issue with turnovers. Where I believe he excels more than his brother is his off-ball movement. He is a slightly better shooter than Amen but also uses his quickness to get open on back cuts and off ball action.
While Ausar is a good playmaker on offense, he does have major struggles with turning the ball over. During his season, he averaged 3.4 turnovers per game. This again comes back to the level of competition as well. If he is averaging this many turnovers per game against low level talent, what happens when he is guarded by NBA-caliber players? If you have read my previous pieces on guys who are young playmakers, you know that I being an ambitious passer is not always a bad thing... in moderation. Attempting to make those passes that are too ambitious at the NBA level will lead to live ball turnovers and send you straight to the bench, which is a fear when talking about Thompson.
While most people would just put shooting for this category, I wanted to add a different layer to this that I noticed when watching highlights (and yes I know I said I wouldn't do video review but here we are). The Oakland product is a 30.0% 3-point shooter and while it is at a higher clip then his brother, that is not jumping off the page. He also for the most part has to be a catch-and-shoot three point shooter as he is not good off the dribble. This will need to improve for him to develop into a great player. The other thing that I noticed is that he relies on his athleticism to drive to the basket. What I mean by this is that he uses the quick first step to get by slower defenders. He will not always be able to solely rely on his speed and athleticism in the NBA when the players are more similar to his quickness. He will need to develop a more nuanced bag for him to become a consistent driving threat in the league.
While it is hard to judge his game completely because of his lack of film and good competition, his athleticism cannot be denied. Anyone watching his highlights is in for a treat when witnessing his soaring ability. He also has a lot to like about his energy and his work ethic going into the league. There are some things that should give organizations reservations about him but overall his sky is the limit when it comes to his ceiling. One thing is for sure, fans who watch are going to have a blast watching him fly for flashy dunks that go viral on a weekly basis.