|Isaiah Austin, possibly yawning.|Isaiah Austin
, Baylor, Sophomore, 7'1 225lbs2013/14 stats:
28.0 mpg, 11.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.1 bpg, 1.4 apg, 0.4 spg, 2.4 fpg, 1.8 TOpg, 44.7% FG, 68.3% FT, 27.7% 3PT
Back to back blind players - like Otule above, Isaiah Austin is blind in one eye. It was a brave thing to admit before being drafted into the NBA (as Austin surely will be), yet seemingly he had little choice. And like Otule above, it inevitably impacts upon his game.
You would think, given that humans have two eyes to aid depth perception, that a blind player would not be a shooter. I am reminded of how the late Eddie Griffin completely lost his shot for a year or two, whereafter it was discovered he needed eye surgery. Nevertheless, Austin seems to want to be a shooter. This in spite of not being a very good one. His three point percentage above is down on his freshman season's 32%, and is not on a limited number of attempts by any means. It makes for an inefficient player who can occasionally punish you with an unblockable jumpshot, but whom you are always very willing to let try.
The problem for Austin is that, if his eye prevents him from ever being a good shooter, his frame might prevent him from ever being a good post scorer. Austin is tall with long arms and good athleticism, but he is naturally thin and shies away from post play. He has a hook shot with both hands from down low, and the length to always get them off, but he'd simply rather not, preferring to be a jumpshooter as much as possible. To that end, Austin will all too often take a turnaround jumpshot from the post, rather than try to body his way closer to the rim or use his handle (which isi good for his height) to get to the basket and the line. Austin will occasionally utilise a drive to the righty hook or counter with the left, but there are too many turnaround jumpshots and rare is the day he will pass back out. He clearly wants to be a face-up scorer, and by this age players already know what feels the more natural to them, yet with a slow release, imperfect touch, a lack of strength and his eye problem, the skills do not match his desire.
Where Austin shines more is on the defensive side, particularly as his strength and frame have developed. He is a very impactful defender on the interior, with hugely long arms that just seem to get everywhere. His mobility combines with his terrific instincts and timing to make a monster of an interior defender, and as his strength develops, Austin is not as easy to power through as he once was either. Austin is less effective when defending the perimeter on switches, and switches off worryingly easily on the defensive glass, where he lapses and does not fight as hard as he needs to, yet his interior defense is his mainstay and his calling card.
Austin ought be reminded of this. It is going to be the better virtue for him going forward, moreso than his mismatch potential on offense. He has the potential to be a new-era stretch big, but the eye is going to make that almost impossible. And even if he does become Ryan Anderson or something on offense, he must never lose that defensive focus around the rim.