Rio Grande Valley Vipers (NBDL) Shooting Guard #24
6'5" 205 Pounds 22 Years Old From: Marietta, GA
13.0 PPG 6.2 RPG 1.9 APG 0.9SPG 49.1 FG% 38.5 3P %
Overview: Rice Jr. is one of the most unconventional players in the NBA Draft. He has big time talent, but has raised plenty of red flags due to the fact that after his junior season at Georgia Tech, he was kicked out of the basketball program. Since then, he has been competing in the NBDL trying to clear his name and improve his game, and he certainly has done both. He hasn't gotten into any real trouble since playing in the D-League and he's definitely improved some of the holes that were in his college game. Rice Jr. is rising up the draft boards very quickly because of his strong play in the NBDL playoffs. During the playoffs, he averaged 25 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2 steals per game. He is gaining momentum up the draft boards and if he can convince a few teams his maturity has truly improved, he could sneak into the late first round.
Rice's real value to NBA teams will come from his offensive strengths. One of the most striking parts of his game is how athletic and explosive he is. He has a few nice go to dribbling moves, like his behind the back move and his crossover that make him extremely dangerous when he's in the open court. All he needs is a slight step on his defender and once he plants to explode towards the rim, he's nearly unstoppable. Due to his frame, he finishes very well through contact. In college, his greatest question mark was whether or not he'd be able to develop a consistent jumpshot. He has made tremendous strides on his jumpshot this season. Despite moving from the college 3-point line to the NBA-range arc, he improved from a 33 to a 39 percent three point shooter. His jumpshot has excellent mechanics; he's always on balance. He has a very quick release and extremely deep range. When he decides to dribble into the lane, his pullup jumpshot is an asset as well, as he does a good job with dribbling seamlessly into his quick shooting motion. Rice also does very good work as a spot up shooter, but can punish opponents by running them ragged around screens when he catches and squares up so quickly that he's very tough to contest.
Due to his aptitude as a shooter, his pump fake is also extremely effective and he can almost always get into the lane because he can get defenders to bite on his up fake. Rice almost always looks to attack left with his dribbles, and he's a good straight line dribbler who needs to improve both his right hand and should look to add another move or two to his repertoire. He cuts well without the ball and is a good, unselfish player who does look to set up his teammates despite his scoring focus. One thing he'll want to work on is his isolation game. In the D-League, Power Forwards were able to push him around a bit and limit his ability to score on them. Bigger wing players in the NBA will be able to do the same if he doesn't improve a bit.
Despite being a very impressive offensive player, he leaves a lot to be desired on the defensive end of the court. His athleticism certainly helps and will give him every opportunity to improve into a decent, maybe even very good, defender. The first thing that needs work is his stance. He has a tendency to stand way too upright, which gives quicker matchups easy access to attack right at him and either blow by him or cause him to lose his balance. His foot speed also needs to improve a little bit in order to help him stay in front of these guys, but the stance change will fix a lot. Off the ball, his intensity and focus are varied. He shows tremendous potential in his ability to get off the ball steals and burst into transition. He did average 2 steals per game in the playoffs. That said, he has a tendency to make the wrong rotations, lose his man, and get burnt backdoor a great deal. When he focuses, he could be a very good defender, but he'll need a coach that consistently pushes him to make adjustments. On the boards, he gets a great amount of rebounds for his size, and that's certainly a plus. That said, he doesn't box out or seek out contact to rebound and the bulk of his boards come from pure leaping ability. Another fundamental change would greatly benefit him.
All in all, he's a very intriguing prospect with a high ceiling. Cynics will point to his stats and diminish them due to D-League competition, but he has been thriving in a style of game that more resembles the NBA game than most NCAA teams play. He has physical gifts, and if he's truly been humbled by his experience in the D-League, he could be a real asset. He's a high ceiling prospect in a draft without very many potential homerun prospects. For that alone, he should be a late first round pick and if he falls into the right situation in the second round, he could be a huge steal.
· His jumpshot is now deadly. He had trouble with it in the NCAA but his shot is a true NBA-ready asset
· He is extremely athletic and once he gets into the lane, he finishes above the rim consistently, even when he's been hit.
· He has all the gifts to be a very good defender.
· In the open court, he is a force
Areas to Improve:
· He needs to focus defensively off the ball and give consistent effort.
· He needs to correct his defensive stance so that he limits the amount of times his matchup can blow by him.
· His isolation offense could use refinement.
· His past may harm his draft stock.