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NBA Draft Profile: Malachi Flynn

The San Diego State superstar looks like a solid late first round pick

NCAA Basketball: Colorado State at San Diego State Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Malachi Flynn has been raged about in NBA draft circles. Flynn’s arrival at SDSU this past season changed the landscape of the Mountain West Conference. Flynn helped bring the Southern California program back to national prominence, leading the Aztecs to a school record breaking 30-2 record, a Mountain West regular season championship, and a top four AP Poll ranking during the season. Without the Covid-19 pandemic’s cancellation of the NCAA Tournament, Flynn had an opportunity to lead the Aztecs on a magical March run. Flynn was the Mountain West Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and earned 2nd Team All American honors for averaging 17.6 points per game and 5.1 assists per gamewhile shooting 44 percent from the field. Projected to be a late second round pick upon declaring for the draft, Flynn’s stock has risen immensely and he is now in the conversation for being a late first round pick. Let’s breakdown where his stock stands right now.

Measurables

Height: 6’1

Weight: 185 pounds

Wingspan: 6’3

Age: 22

Projected Role: Primary scorer and stopper off the bench

Strengths

Shooting and Offensive Playmaking

After two years of obscurity playing at Washington State, Flynn exploded onto the college basketball scene during his one year at San Diego State. Flynn was the generator for one of the most efficient offenses in college basketball last year. With a usage rate eclipsing 30 percent, Flynn averaged 17 points on just 13 shot attempts per game. Flynn was an offensive spark plug who excelled at pull-up shooting and getting to the rim off of ball screens. The Aztecs built their offense on Flynn’s ability to excel at those things.

One of the most underrated facets of Flynn’s game is ability to create plays for others. Flynn was able to get to his spots and create for others while taking care of the ball, evident from his 2.84 assist to turnover ratio. He excelled in the pick and roll game with big man Yanni Wetzel. Flynn is also a B+ shooter from beyond the arc and he has shown the ability to shoot off the dribble. These combination of these skills makes him a valuable asset on any NBA roster.

Defense and Motor

At SDSU Flynn revealed he was a one of a kind two-way player. As mentioned before, he won the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year award. San Diego state ranked 10th in overall defensive efficiency in the country according to KenPom last year thanks to their star player’s commitment on that side of the floor. Flynn plays with the perfect combination of intensity and instinct. Flynn flashes quick hands and can pick the pocket of ball handlers to create turnovers in the open court. Despite his aggressiveness on the ball, Flynn showed the ability to avoid ticky-tack fouls. and to keep himself defensively disciplined. Flynn is a cerebral defender and does a good job of successfully handling pick and roll defense. He also has a knack for always being in the right spot. Flynn fits himself perfectly in the passing lanes and his instincts allows him to rebound well for a small guard.

Another strength Flynn has is his intelligence and self awareness. He knows his strengths and weakness and knows what he needs to do to be successful at the next level. When asked about where he is sees his game at the next level, Flynn told ESPN’s Mike Schmitz,

“I am 6-1, and I don’t get off the ground as much as NBA guys do,” he added. “I need to have all those floaters and pull-ups or I won’t have a chance. I have to be super skilled to go up against guys that are freaky athletic. I can get faster and stronger, but I won’t ever be super athletic. I needed to learn to find other ways to score, be pesky defensively and do the little things. That’s why I study a lot of film on guys like Chris Paul and Fred Van Vleet to see how they are able to carve out a niche in the NBA.”

Weaknesses

Size & Athleticism/Finishing Ability

The one knock on Flynn is his current body stature and athleticism. Flynn has all the skills, instincts, and drive to be an NBA player, but his one weakness is simply out of his control. Flynn’s size and body do not do him any favors when competing with the best athletes in the world. Standing at just 6’1, Flynn is undersized for a prototypical pro point guard. His lack of length limits his defensive versatility to playing mostly on the perimeter, with an inability to effectively switch onto longer wings or big men.

It will be interesting to see how Flynn does guarding and scoring against bigger and more athletic guards at the next level. While Flynn has shown he is able to hold up physically on the defensive end, the same can’t be said on the offensive side of the ball. The main weakness in Flynn’s offensive game is inability to draw fouls and his success of finishing through contact at the rim. Flynn was able to beat on-ball defenders and get to paint anytime he wanted in the Mountain West, but more often than not Flynn would settle for floaters or immediately look to kicking it out to a shooter rather than going for a lay-up at the rim.

Upside Player Comp: Fred Van Vleet

It was tough to pick a current player to compare Flynn too. Flynn is a unique talent and there is not a player that immediately jumps to mind as fitting his mold. However, we can compare him to another undersized mid-major guard who has carved out a pretty good career so far at the next level. In the interview above, Flynn admits one of the models for his game is Fred Van Vleet. Flynn’s upside in the NBA is being a high energy complementary lead guard that scores as part of a second unit. Flynn’s game reminds me of Fred Van Vleet in college. Both of them have a dynamic offensive repertoire with an excellent outside shot, good handle, a sneaky pull up game, and both create opportunities for their teammates. Flynn is not close to being the finisher Van Vleet is. However, I feel like he will be a better defender long term. Flynn is a solid two-way player that has a floor of being a consistent role player for a long time.

Prediction: Pick 28 to the Los Angeles Lakers

There is a possibility Flynn may not last until this spot, but I feel this would be the perfect landing spot for him. It looks like Rajon Rondo may move on for more financially greener pastures, so the Lakers will need to fill the need for a back up point guard. Flynn’s game is similar to Rondo, but you get a guard who is a threat to shoot the basketball (editor’s note: outside of noted juggernaut Playoff Rondo). Flynn’s tenacity on the defensive end fits perfectly in the defense-first culture Frank Vogel has instilled in the Lakers organization. It is always beneficial to surround LeBron with another complimentary shooter on the outside. I really think Flynn would gel with the Lakers veterans and he would be able to help the Lakers win another NBA title.

Editor’s Note: Since the writing of this article, the Lakers have traded the 28th pick to the Thunder for Dennis Schroeder. In the spirit of making a prediction that is feasible, other possible landing spots could include the Milwaukee Bucks (24th pick), who need outside shooting and playmaking to put around Giannis, or the Thunder, who could use this acquired pick to take Flynn and have him be a dynamite back-up to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and solidify their young rotation for the future.