POSITION: Combo Guard
TEAM: Cairns Taipins (Australia)
Joshua Giddey, Aitor Etxeguren, Stefan Todorovic, Agustin Ubal, Ibou Badji and Nikola Radovanovic were my favorite players at the 2020 Torneo Junior Ciutat de L’Hospitalet held in Barcelona, Spain. I also liked 6-5 shooting guard Mojave King, but he was overshadowed on tournament. However, in my opinion, King is the best ideal players for the NBA from tournament.
Mojave King was born on June 11, 2002, in Dunedin. His father, Leonard King, is one of the legendary players of Dunedin's basketball team, Otago Nuggets. Leonard arrived in New Zealand after playing for Florida at NCAA. Leonard, who later became a coach, was a best player for the Otago Nuggets, leaving as the franchise's all-time leader in points, rebounds and steals.
In fact, Mojave's whole family is about basketball. His mother, Tracey, played in Duquesne. His older sister Tylah played at NCAA for Pacific. His grandfather, John Paul, has been a basketball coach for 55 years in Otago, where he became a myth figure.
The rise of Mojave started at Basketball Australia’s Center of Excellence. In March 2019, he played three games on NBL1 and performed there perfectly. Specially against the Ringwood Hawks, he was very good. Mojave scored 24 points in just 18 minutes.
Just weeks later, King headed home and played for QLD South at the Australia U18 Championship. Versatile scorer averaged 26.5 points, five rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.5 steals while shooting 45% from the field and shooting 28% (23-82) from 3PT.
After spending his high school years in Brisbane, he joined the NBA Global Academy in January 2019. Already all this rise started there. On 12 March 2020 King, who is dual citizen of New Zealand the United States but considers himself Australian, signed with the Cairns Taipans. He turned down offers from NCAA programs, including good schools like Arizona, Baylor and Virginia.
6-5 guard is plays with a high-motor, and possesses a high IQ. But that's it. There is not much for now. King is a team player, but sometimes as if he wasn't on the field. Zaragoza match is one of the best examples about it.
Frame Overview + Athleticism
Remember what was spoken about Stanley Johnson or Ben Simmons coming to the NBA? Frame.
King, who has just turned 18 on June 11, has an excellent frame and muscle mass. Pretty strong for size and has great use of functional strength. In particular, his shoulders and arms are positively interesting. I think his shoulders are almost ideal in straightness and clearance. Muscle mass in MK's arms is elite compared to his class. I think he has the best upper body with Cade Cunnigham and Jalen Green.
6-5 King' lower body should develop. His legs are fast but far from elite. Covers ground well but not very quick laterally or that fast in a straight line. Smooth and explosive hip turns, but loses his balance after first turn and does not do well flipping second or third times.
His athleticism is interesting. Very fast, explosive and dominant in the open court. Although he can finish in traffic, he is not explosive for set games. But he is smooth. He has an interesting first step. It's not too strong or too soft. He takes an early step, balances his shoulders and chest and goes to the basket.
I think it is a bit risky but he has a really good balance and ability to change direction. Shows some vertical pop. I think his footwork like Tobias Harris. Like go, go, back, go. Good at stop-go. But not quick.
Offensive Role: Spacing G, secondary playmaker and leader.
His shooting is my favorite part of King's offensive repertoire. Very good, dynamic and versatile shooter all around ,n my opinion. MK can shoot off the bounce very well. Pure catch&shoot player. Also really good at movement shots I think. His shot form resembles Paul Pierce and Ersan Ilyasova. Especially when he lifted the ball from chest to head and from head to air. Also his timing very similar to Ersan Ilyasova's shooting mechanics. Compact and consistent across all mediums. He has a respectable one-dribble pull-up in his repertoire which can be effective when King gets both feet planted and parallel.
My favorite thing about his shooting is C&S. An excellent C&S player. Deep range on C&S. King's quick and smart set&release, good job relocating to make passes to him cleaner, great footwork, and ability to game reading (screen spot, chin line, etc.) make him a potentially effective off ball player going forward. Of course, he is also effective when it is a full spot up C&S. For example, of course thanks to Josh Giddey' passing skills and court vision, he is one of the best C&S player at Barcelona. Not someone who will force shots he’s not supposed to take.
Mojave shot IQ is really good in my opinion. The "minus" aspects I will say about his shots are different. His percentage may seem low but consistent, that's not the problem I think. But sometimes he is very timid when using a shot. He is not a quick decision maker, sometimes he cannot decide what to do. Happened several times in the youth games (ex: Ibou Badji's block). , For NBA standards, this problem can turn into a big minus. He has to be self-confident.
Solid finisher overall, but needs some improvement here, I think. King can finish with both hands with soft touch. MK is a good finisher in traffic. Nice job using the threat of his C&S 3 to open up rip through attacks. Shortly, he's not a bad finisher but King should be better with his frame. As I said, he is good at finishing in traffic. But sometimes he forgets his size pluses against classic G and plays very softly. When he does this several times, he loses his rhythm in the match. His lack of pop (Don't get me wrong, yeah, he is a good dunker but not use it always) hurts him in the restricted area and lack of explosive athleticism, ideal acceleration makes it difficult to rise in the paint area against defense line. However, sometimes he gets and advantage thanks to his interesting steps and footwork.
An example; After taking the ball, he dribbles shortly, he enters the line and goes out again, if there is a shot angle BOM, if not, he goes back inside and takes his step early and puts his body forward and uses the hard curved form of the floater. But again, not explosive, smooth. If I am going to talk about explosives, I can give examples of classical transition finishes. In fact, it looks like Juhann Begarin's open court attack. He can steal the ball with his fast hands and dunk in three or four or five seconds. So yes, he's a real dunker. But not technically yet.
I buy his handle but can improve of course. He has dome shiftiness and craft to his handle skills. Mojave does not have many loose handle turnovers. MK has a good arsenal in terms of moves he can pull off and piece a few together. It’s tough to improve to being an elite ballhandler, in my opinion. But if SG, who already has a good spacing threat, is the average handler, I think it will not be a big problem. At least a reliable handler. So I buy his handle.
The same goes for passing. Not a creative passer like Giddey, Alocen or LaMelo. But he's not passer under the average like Scottie Barnes or Henri Drell. Thanks to his fighting in the rebounds, he can pick up the ball and give passes that start transition quickly. However, he should be better. For example, he should be better at PnR/P games. He can read screen games well but not a good handle passer. However small improvements in tightening up his dribble could help, in my opinion.
King is a versatile defender. He can defend guards, small forwards and stretch power forwards. I'm not fan of his perimeter defense. MK shows flashes but not great on the perimeter. He has quick feet but gives up ease dribble to the basket sometimes. 6-5 guard not a predator perimeter defender. I like his off-ball defense. When his man is running through the base, King does a great job keeping his hands in the passing lane. He does a pretty nice job at digging also he knows the fundamentals of team defense. He does a good job of dropping down or helping on roll man to try take away passes to big.
His defensive motor is always active. But sometimes it causes trouble because he seems to be trying to catch up everywhere. He must be patient, but we must not forget he is just 18 years old. I also like his ISO defense. King is in his stance moves well: quick hips and quick feet. He has great body coordination on ISO defense. The only thing I can't be sure of in ISO defense is his reaction to stop-go. King lagged behind in such positions. Although he tried to cover the area with his wingspan (6-7), he was lagged behind because he gave an early reaction.
I think, he must be tougher and aggressive against elite guards in the NBA. I'm not fan of his closeouts defense. He is prone to biting on pump fakes and giving up arc to drive/closing too hot. He need work here. He is average PnR defender. I mean, inconsistent technique, but decent flashes. He does a good job at playing on man and trying to block PnR. When he does go under, he has great recoverability and does a pretty nice things getting back to the shooter to contest the shot thanks to his footwork and size. But he has difficulty controlling against fast and handler guards.
In my opinion, Mojavi King is now the most ready for the NBA with Carlos Alocen in the 2021 international pool. He has a dazzling size. His shot repertoire is large and good. He can do basic things well in defense. This season, he must develop on shooting decision-mechanism. Also should be more patient in defense.