Washington’s Isaiah Stewart is an intriguing prospect who flashed some big-time skills in his lone collegiate season. He could be picked about the time the Milwaukee Bucks are projected to be on the clock around the 19th selection in the 2020 NBA Draft. Here’s everything you need to know about Stewart’s game.
Weight: 245 pounds
Per Game Stats:
Isaiah Stewart is a bully who can’t be, won’t be stopped by most college-level players. He’s strong as hell and knows it, as he puts his shoulder down and moves most defenders under the basket. From there, he lacks polish to be a legit scoring threat in the NBA (at this point), but does have an improving baby hook with his right hand. He’s also a demon on the boards, using that same strength to box opponents out and snag tough, contested rebounds. Unfortunately, that crosses all of the NBA-ready traits off his list. He’s a throwback big given his size (6’9”) and lack of proven outside shooting ability. Although he has the form to produce results from behind the arc, he’ll find it harder to develop skills such as lateral quickness to become someone who can defend on the perimeter. He has a lot of potential to become a serviceable 7th or 8th man, but could just as easily turn out to be unworthy of regular minutes.
Physicality: Stewart is a mean, nasty bully on the basketball court and doesn’t take any prisoners. He loves to operate on the block where he can use his broad shoulders and wide frame to keep his defender at bay. There’s an old basketball saying that applies to defensive players in the post, “do your work early.” Unfortunately for defenders, Stewart is the one who does his work early, as he is a brute when it comes to establishing position where he wants and when he wants. Once he catches the ball, he loves to back you down with a low, legal shoulder before rising up for a baby hook over his left shoulder. It won’t translate as well to the NBA, but he’ll still have his way on the block.
Length: His wingspan is a terrific tool in his arsenal; he’s listed at 7’4” despite standing just 6’9” tall. It doesn’t hide either, his length immediately jumps out on film. Stewart understands its lethality—using it frequently to block unwise shot attempts or when corralling rebounds in traffic. However, he has not yet mastered the craft, often getting caught with his hands down on both ends of the court. He’ll need to maximize his length to make up for his lack of size as a projected big in the NBA.
Rebounding: Stewart feels every rebound is his, and for good reason. He doesn’t have elite leaping ability, instead relying on his size to create space on the floor, giving him the advantage when it comes to rising up. He’s also a monster on the offensive end, snagging nearly 11% of his team’s misses when he was on the court according to sports-reference.com. Even on offense, he sets the tone by getting his body into defenders and creating space on the glass by boxing them out.
Shooting: Stewart has promising form and has produced very few positive results with his jumper. Those statements are not mutually exclusive. His release is high, allowing him to get it off against bigger defenders he’ll assuredly be matched up against in the NBA. He also snaps his wrist well and leaves his hand in the cookie jar after the release. It’s also promising he shot 77.4 percent from the free throw line (more on that in “other notes.”) It’s not out of the realm of possibilities that he becomes a good shooter, but’s such a liability at this point. He only took 20 threes last season, making five of them. He also took a number of face-up jumpers; often showing different mechanics on each attempt. He has a lot of work to do when it comes to his shooting; something that his NBA career will likely depend on.
Fit In The NBA: A big man who can’t shoot has a tough time surviving at the next level and that’s exactly what Stewart is at this point in his career. He’s too undersized to play center and doesn’t have the skills someone like Bam Adebayo has to make up for that lack of vertical size. He’s also too slow on the perimeter, lacking in lateral quickness to play forward full-time. Whatever team drafts him will have to get creative about how to use him until he either develops a more consistent jumper or improves his side-to-side sliding ability.
- He’s not an above or below the rim type of player, he’s an at the rim type of player. Something that’s problematic for an undersized big.
- Struggles when jumping off two feet—he’s definitely better off one.
- Left hand looks awkward and he needs to work on it.
- If he gets the ball on the block, it’s not coming back out.
- Runs the floor well and gets good positioning early.
- Has a pronounced hitch in his free throw shot that isn’t there in his normal jumper.
- Flashed craftiness around the basket—will need a lot more to survive against bigger defenders.
DeJuan Blair. Zach Randolph when he first entered the NBA.
To be clear, Stewart is not the type of player the Bucks would target in the draft. They prefer their bigs to shoot the ball from downtown, something Stewart needs a lot of improvement in. He would much rather play with his back to the basket despite the lack of polish in his upper body fundamentals on his post moves. (He favors the baby hook with his right hand, but doesn’t always finish over defenders.)
Back to his jumper, his mechanics look clean and he has a nice, high release paired with a tight snapping of the wrist. It’s confidence he lacks. He appears extremely hesitant to pull the trigger, instead preferring to bulldoze his way to the rim. It’s hard to blame him—he had success close to the hoop. Despite his youth, he possesses grown man strength that will only improve with his continued work in the weight room.
Stewart future in the NBA likely depends on his ability to develop a jumper and his willingness to play hard every possession. He lacks both at this point in his development. Although he’s more talented than a lot of players in the draft, his talent is in all the places teams no longer value; making him an awkward, at best, fit on most NBA rosters.