Neemias Queta, an absolute specimen of a prospect, is on track to become the first Portuguese player ever drafted in the NBA.
Queta brings a gritty edge on the defensive end, but he’s a reflection of basketball’s past. If Queta were born a couple of decades earlier, he would be considered a highly touted prospect. However, with the emergence of shooting and small ball, many scouts worry that Queta will not be able to fit in the modern NBA.
Last season, Queta dominated his opponents, averaging 14.9 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.3 blocks, and 2.0 assists. Queta led Utah State into the NCAA Tournament with at large bid, earned Mountain West conference player of the year honors, and was a finalist for Naismith Defensive Player of the Year. Queta has been a constant contributor over his three-year career at Utah State and has slowly developed his offensive game. If Queta can find a team that can use his strengths properly, he is destined for a long career in the NBA.
Defense and rim protection
Queta was the most valuable forward in the country, according to the advanced analytics from Heat Check’s Gold Star Guide. He led the nation in defensive win shares (2.9) and finished third in blocks per game. Queta is a natural rim protector and shot blocker, who made it a habit to dominate individual matchups in college. Queta already has an NBA-ready frame; his stocky body complements his large 7’4 wingspan, making him a presence in the paint. He has great defensive awareness in help defense and is a natural at blocking shots. He’s great at cutting off angles; unlike most defenders who rely on defending with pure size, Queta anticipation is what makes him unique. Queta has the make-up to be an absolute force on the defensive end.
Motor and free throw improvement
Over the course of three years, Queta has experienced extreme growth in his offensive game. This is visible in his free throw shooting. Queta shot 55% from the free-throw line as a freshman but improved to shoot 70% in his junior year. In addition, Queta developed a mid-range jump shot last year.
That’s not foreshadowing that Queta will be a three-point shooter anytime soon, but it reveals he is not completely limited on offense. Queta is efficient on the low block and excels at catching the ball deep. In addition, he has multiple post moves in the low block that allow him to score. If Queta can continue to improve his offensive game toward the perimeter, he has the chance to emerge as one of the top centers in the league.
Ability to play in space and offensive fit in the modern NBA:
The one unknown about Queta is his ability to guard on the perimeter when smaller guards switch onto him. Queta is a great rim protector and has great awareness in the passing lane, but there isn’t any evidence that he is athletic enough to extend to the perimeter. So this is a huge unknown for him. In Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, we saw the Clippers’ small ball lineup make the league’s defensive player of the year, Rudy Gobert, unplayable. There’s a general fear Queta can be a defensive liability against smaller up-tempo teams. Offensively, Queta is a below-average shooter. He is never going to project as a center that can hit an open three. That is a major turnoff for many teams in the NBA. If Queta does not turn into an efficient scorer or great offensive rebounder, he may turn into a waste of space on the offensive side of the floor.
The one bad, glaring stat on Queta’s resume is his turnover percentage. Queta averaged 2.4 turnovers per game. He rushed and panicked when doubled in the post. He also felt robotic at times. It’s the main part of his game he has to improve.
Queta, particularly, makes me happy to hear. Last time he was at the NBA Draft Combine in 2019, he really struggled with Tacko Fall and ended up having to pull out of the draft. Great to see him come back two years later and do his thing.— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) June 24, 2021
High upside NBA comparison
Queta has a chance to earn himself a vital role as a rim protector in the NBA. His solid rebounding, passing, and free throw shooting are the building blocks to make him an NBA starter. In addition, Queta reflects a lot of Andrew Bogut’s toughness, and that’s important to have on a championship team.
There has been a wide range of mixed reviews on Queta. Matt Norlander has him being selected at the end of the first round. However, other mocks have Queta being selected as the final pick, so it’s really hard to tell. I can see Queta going in the middle of the second round. Overall, he has the skillset and the work ethic to make a GM look like a genius on draft night.