A four-year contributor to the backcourt at Illinois, senior guard Brandon Paul has drawn a wide spectrum of reviews from scouts over the course of his career. Paul has had monster games against elite competition, including a 43-point effort last year against Ohio State and a 35-point game at Gonzaga this year. There are questions about his consistency on offense, but there is little doubt that his offensive ceiling is still very high. Paul is an extremely athletic 2-guard with outstanding quickness, explosive leaping ability, and a great first step off the dribble. Paul has NBA range on the deep ball, and can get any shot off because of his foot speed, athleticism, and long arms for his size. He is also a very good slasher, displaying great body control and the length to finish around larger players when he gets the ball into the lane. This combination of shooting, slashing, and athleticism allow Paul to take over games on the offensive end. There are performances, even playing against the top teams in the Big Ten, where Paul steals the show against some of the top talent in the country and simply outplays potential first round picks with his diverse scoring ability. He is very efficient in transition because of his athleticism and quickness. Paul gets to the line at a very high rate, and is a solid shooter from the stripe. It is encouraging that Paul has improved his numbers across the board every year, improving some of his turnover and shot selection issues that plagued his game in his first few years at Illinois. Because of his athleticism and aggressive mindset, Paul still has plenty of room to improve on the offensive end, an encouraging sign for a senior that finished 3rd in the Big Ten at 16.6 PPG this past season.
While Paul has put together plenty of games that appear to warrant consideration amongst the top 30 picks, his inconsistency drives scouts wild and significantly hinders his draft stock. While there are stretches, such as in Maui this season, where Paul looks like one of the top scorers in the country, his offensive game is still very much up and down. Paul’s scoring average was nearly three points per game lower in February and March this year than it was in the first few months of the season. Paul is a volume scorer who at times has a very questionable shot selection. He settles for jump shots way too often, although he is a decent but not a great shooter from the outside. Paul is a career 38% shooter from the field, a figure that should be much higher with a player of his physical ability. Paul should be attacking the rim much more often than he does, considering his athleticism and efficiency on the drive. Paul has a tendency to play out of control at times, turning the ball over at a high rate for a player that doesn’t play the point. He is not a very good ball handler and doesn’t do much to create offense for his teammates. Paul may be a bit undersized to play shooting guard in the NBA, and lacks the skill to log minutes as a backup point guard. Paul is brilliant in flashes, but is still a very streaky player without an efficient offensive game or a particularly broad range of refined offensive skills.
Brandon Paul’s physical ability give him the potential to be a plus player on the defensive end. While he is not very big for his position, he has very long arms that allow him to effectively guard shooting guards and take away clean looks from the perimeter. His best defensive trait is his quick hands and ability to force turnovers with steals. Paul has great instincts in guarding against the drive, displaying an ability to generate steals by poking the ball away from penetrating guards or go down low to strip it from a big man posting up. Paul has excellent foot speed, and has stretches where he looks as if he has the ability to guard multiple positions at the next level. Paul shows strong toughness on the defensive end, at times going down into the post and holding his own against players much bigger and stronger than him. When motivated, Paul shows the ability to be a very solid defensive player at the pro level.
The knock on Paul defensively has always been about an overall lack of effort. Scouts will often write that Paul is not a self-starter, and that coaches have to go out of their way to keep him motivated and interested on the defensive end. On tape, Paul does go through stretches where he appears to lose focus and his intensity level is not where it needs to be. The physical ability is there for Brandon Paul, but NBA coaches will not put up with a lack of effort and energy, an area where he must shore up any criticism that he has received.
Early in his career at Illinois, Paul drew lofty NBA comparisons such as Dwyane Wade because of his elite athleticism, efficiency on the drive, and ability to take over a basketball game from the perimeter. Over his four years, there have been plenty of performances where Brandon Paul looks like a cant-miss prospect. He has deep range on his jump shot, a quick first step, and the leaping ability and balance to get into the paint and score against length and size. Paul has an extremely aggressive offensive mindset, and can get hot from distance with a jump shot that has improved in his four years. But what drives scouts insane with Paul is his overall inconsistency and poor decision making that continues to hurt his game. Paul displays a poor overall shot selection, settling for jump shots too often and not taking the ball to the rim enough. Paul turns the ball over at a high rate and does not create enough offense for others, a concern considering he is a bit undersized already to play shooting guard in the NBA. Defensively, Paul at times shows a lack of effort and intensity despite his physical tools that afford him the ability to be a very good on-ball defender. Still, Paul has shown more than enough ability to be a solid scoring guard at the next level, especially since his athleticism affords room for improvement on the offensive end. If Paul can improve his shot selection and consistency on his jump shot, he has the potential to be a steal late in the draft for a team willing to take a bit of a gamble.