Want more NBA Draft profiles? Find them all here.
Guards seem to be high on Cleveland Cavalier fans' wishlists for the upcoming NBA Draft, and for good reason. The Cavs lacked scoring and ball-handling from their bench in the latter part of the season and the playoffs, and their two top shooting guards, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith, are both planning to head to free agency. In the back part of the 1st round, guard prospects are scarce, and many have settled on Delon Wright, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, or R.J. Hunter as their favorite prospect for the Cavs to draft. But one guard in that range has gotten very little conversation when it comes to the Cavs, and he might be just as good of a fit: UNLV guard Rashad Vaughn.
Who is Rashad Vaughn?
Vaughn's another UNLV prospect, a teammate of forward Christian Wood, who we profiled Thursday. You'll never believe this, but Vaughn is a UNLV prospect with potential to be a solid offensive player, but developed some bad habits as a result of UNLV playing like an And-1 mixtape team. He projects as a player who will be able to create offensively in the NBA, and his size lends to the idea he could become solid defensively, too. But because of what he showed in his one college year, and because he's the second-youngest player in the draft, plenty of reservations exist with Vaughn.
Vaughn's physical profile isn't anything special, although he doesn't really have any major drawbacks, either. He's 6'5" with a 6'7" wingspan, which is pretty average for a shooting guard, but he uses his length well offensively to finish in traffic and get jumpers off over a contest. He's not a great leaper - his max vert is 34 inches- and that hurts, but he's very quick in the open court, testing well in straight-line speed drills at the combine. Vaughn's biggest strength athletically is that he has a very well-developed upper body, and can use that strength to push his way to the basket and body up opponents in the post. It's also worth mentioning that he's still 18, and his development is far from done. Give him three years, and Vaughn could turn out to be one of the stronger guards in the league, which would really help his offensive game.
Vaughn was the bread winner for UNLV offensively. He averaged 17.8 points per game last season, had a usage of 30.8 percent, and took 14.3 shots per game. Vaughn has some skills as a shot creator, and he's definitely got a scorer's mentality. Vaughn gets to the basket well with a quick first step and can hit a wide range of floaters and off-balance shots when he's denied a clean look. He's also developing his game as a pick-and-roll scorer and isolation ball-handler, and he can get shots up with just a small amount of space in either situation. He's still kind of raw in his scoring, though, and part of that is a function of the simplistic offense UNLV ran; Vaughn's shot selection wasn't great, as he tried too often to go one-on-five against a defense rather than making the smart play. There's no reason a guard who has the ball as much as Vaughn did last year should average a paltry 1.6 assists per game. He's definitely got a bit of a gunner mentality, and while he was overall fairly efficient last season (52.1 percent eFG%), he's going to have to get better at finishing and get more creative with the ball, both in terms of passing and generating looks off the dribble. Vaughn's ball-handling needs improvement, because he can be very predictable. His dribbling game basically boils down to a righty crossover and a spin move, and he's going to have to do more than that to beat NBA defenders.
That said though, Vaughn does project well as an off-ball scorer. He's got decent mechanics with the catch-and-shoot, and he hit a healthy 38.3 percent from three last year. He should be able to develop into a good spot-up weapon, because not only is he a strong shooter, he can attack close-outs and drive well off these looks, too. With that said, his shot release could stand to become a little more fluid. Vaughn shot just 69.4 percent from the line last year, and he's got a little bit of a fade to his jumper, something that should probably be corrected to improve his consistency.
Still, though, Vaughn posted a 54.7 True Shooting percentage while A) shooting sub-70 percent from the line and B) chucking shots up in high volume. That shows real promise, even though he has some development to do here.
Vaughn's not a good defender at this stage, but that should surprise no one. He doesn't have ridiculous lateral quickness or wingspan, he's young, and he played mostly zone at UNLV. Anyone with that combination's going to be a minus defensively. Vaughn can stay in front of guys, and his strength makes him a plus as a rebounding guard, but his fundamentals are lacking, and he's not always locked in on this end. However, he's got a lot of room to be able to mature on this end, so he may be an acceptable defender in a few years. He's basically a blank slate at this time, though, making him very hard to evaluate.
We've mentioned it a couple of times, but it bears repeating that Vaughn could go in a number of directions because of his age. He's got good scoring instincts and is very used to having the ball in his hands on offense, but he's got skills that make him a good potential fit as an off-ball threat in the NBA. Defensively, he will be a black hole initially, but could develop into at least an average defender. Really, though, it's his offensive development that will determine where he goes in the NBA. If he can develop into a better passer and be smarter about his shooting, he could be a very good rotation player and probably start somewhere in this league. If he takes the gunner approach, though, it's hard to see him sticking, because his scoring game isn't varied to the point where he's truly unpredictable.
I could see Vaughn's ideal role being as a Ben Gordon type. Gordon was a great all-around scorer off the bench for the Bulls, and never really was much of a passer or defender. But he had good 3-point range, and developed into a decent finisher, and put up numbers similar to what we saw from Vaughn last season at UNLV. I think that's an ideal role for Vaughn; something where he can be your number one scorer for stretches off the bench, then work as a safety valve when thrown in with a starting unit. That relies on him getting more consistent with his passing and out of the pick-and-roll, but I think that's a good role for Vaughn to fill in the NBA.
How Does He Fit on the Cavaliers?
Vaughn could be a nice fit in Cleveland as a potential replacement if J.R. Smith is not brought back. He probably wouldn't be of much use next year, but the idea would be that you let him play in Canton next year, bank on playing with LeBron James to help him develop a role player mentality, and groom him to be a sixth man who can be a spot-up threat when playing with multiple starters, and command the ball as a secondary scorer in lineups without Kyrie Irving on the floor. With Vaughn, you're banking on him becoming an impact player in 2018-2019, and playing the long game with him could pay off in a really valuable accessory scorer down the road.