Height/Weight: 6’9″, 250 lbs.
Simply put, Isaiah Stewart is an absolute beast. The freshman center was one of the lone bright spots during Washington’s disappointing season, averaging 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game while always playing with great energy on both ends of the floor. The combination of Stewart’s strength and off the charts motor made him a nightmare to deal with. On offense, he works hard for post position every play, and does a great job sealing his man and creating a wide base that makes it easier for his teammates to get him the ball.
On defense, Stewart’s energy was huge for the Huskies, as he bailed them out on many occasions as the last line of defense.
Another strength for Stewart is his finishing ability at the rim. Once he gets the ball down low, he has a variety of post moves in his arsenal. He has a killer drop step and baby hook with his right hand, and can also spin to either side when the defender overplays him. Stewart does a great job of always going up strong in the post, so even when he doesn’t make the shot there’s a good chance he draws a foul and turns his shot into a productive play.
While Stewart still has a ways to go with his jump shot, he did go 77% from the line this season with a lot of attempts, which is a positive sign for his development as a shooter going forward.
We didn’t get a chance to see Isaiah Stewart play man to man in college because of the 2-3 zone the Huskies run, but Stewart thrived in his role as the anchor of that zone. He’s so strong and sturdy, allowing him to hold his ground against anybody that got into the middle of the zone and tried to back him down or shoot above him. He also has great awareness and anticipation on defense, helping him to block and alter shots at an impressive clip. As I mentioned before, his insane motor is a huge boost on defense, but his communication with his teammates is an underrated part of his game, and is something that NBA teams love to see and will translate well at the next level.
Stewart’s also demonstrated great rebounding ability this season, an especially impressive accomplishment given the higher degree of difficulty to rebound the ball in a zone. When playing zone, you don’t have a specific box-out assignment, which is something a lot of players struggle with. However, Stewart has tremendous awareness and did a great job of quickly locating the nearest opponent to get his body on and clear space for himself or a teammate to grab the board.
Even with all of the physical tools and skill that Isaiah Stewart possesses, his best strength may simply be intangibles. Stewart has every quality you want in a player – a good teammate, coach-able, doesn’t lose his cool, and never takes a play off. He sets really good screens, a skill that is often overlooked but important, and something that teammates really appreciate. Stewart just has that “it” factor that makes teammates and coaches believe in him and should translate to success at the next level.
There’s two main weaknesses that are likely going to hold Isaiah Stewart out of the lottery. First, he doesn’t have much of an offensive game outside of the paint and he really needs to work on the mechanics of his shot. Second, Stewart’s height isn’t up to par for a typical NBA center.
Diving into Stewart’s outside game and jump shot, the first thing to bring up is his mechanics, which are not pretty. Now it’s possible to still be a good shooter with bad mechanics, and Stewart makes it work from the free throw line, but as he starts to extend his range he’ll likely need to change his mechanics. Stewart currently has a hitch in his shot and a slow release. He’ll have tons of time to work on his shot as a pro and he’ll almost certainly improve, but the extent of his improvement is a big question mark. Some people can work on their shot all they want and never become a consistent shooter, a big part of shooting is natural born talent that you just can’t teach. I think Stewart has what it takes to be able to knock down mid-range shots, but he’s a long shot to be a three point threat at the next level.
At 6’9, Stewart is certainly on the short side for an NBA center. Since he doesn’t have the outside ability that you need today to be a stretch four, Stewart will likely always play the five at the next level. Giving up a few inches may not be a huge problem for him on defense since his strength, timing, and awareness are all excellent and will help him protect the rim efficiently. However, on offense he will have a tough time scoring over taller, more athletic defenders. And as good as he is on defense, there are a few taller players who have the athleticism that may cause problems for him as well.
Isaiah Stewart is one of the tougher players to project a draft position for, as he is all over the place on big boards. I’m sure there are teams out there who love him for his energy, strength, and defensive potential, but I don’t know if anyone in the lottery will like him enough to take a shot at him that early.
Stewart is a very high floor prospect, but he has a lower ceiling than a lot of forwards and centers in the draft. He is probably a safer pick than several other centers in this class, because you know the minimum you will get with Stewart is a guy who will play tough defense, rebound the ball, and bring a lot of energy off the bench. If you can get him to really develop a jumper and become a go to scorer, he could be a star. However, that type of development may be easier with some other prospects who have already displayed some outside scoring ability. While I don’t see Stewart being selected in the lottery, I think his clear role in the league as well as his intangibles will be too good for a veteran playoff team with a late first round pick to pass up.