School: North Carolina
Height/Weight: 6’6, 220 lbs
Nassir Little begins his career in Chapel Hill with an NBA-ready build. At 6’6 and 220 lbs, he has the strength and athleticism to play alongside any wing in college basketball. He’s also been gifted with a 7’1″wingspan. That allows him to play aggressive perimeter defense and defend multiple positions.
Little is also an excellent rebounder and shot blocker for a wing. Even though at times he’s shorter than his opponent, his high-energy motor makes up for the height difference. It’s been made clear that he refuses to take any plays off, he’s just that type of player.
What allows Little to have such defensive talent is his quick hands and feet. He’s not hesitant to attack the basketball and positions himself well to prevent his opponent from driving the lane. His frame also allows him to absorb contact and force low-percentage shots. Little’s defensive game will transition well at the next level.
His physical tools also help him offensively. Little’s offensive game relies on attacking the rim and playing in transition. Since he’s currently not a primary scorer, he earns a lot of points through second-chance opportunities. One of Little’s most underrated attributes is his offensive rebounding. He’s an excellent leaper and puts himself in great position below the basket. He’ll be a coach’s worst nightmare if not boxed out.
Little has also shown the ability at times to score off the dribble. His quickness allows him to create space between defenders and isn’t afraid to attack when the defender turns his hips. He’s improved his release and is growing confidence in his mid-range game.
Little is also strong and has no fear when driving to the basket. He plays his best when UNC plays up tempo, so when he’s got a full head of steam driving the lane, no defender wants to get in his way. His physical play leads him to multiple chances at the foul line. It’s another key expansion to his growing offensive game.
In a three-point shooting era, Nassir Little isn’t the best perimeter shooter. Little doesn’t shoot with confidence and doesn’t release the basketball quick enough for catch-and-shoot opportunities. He’s not the Tar Heel Roy Williams wants to go to as the shot clock winds below 10.
Right now, it’s hard to see him as a primary scoring option. He has the strength to score around the rim, but his perimeter inconsistencies make him tough to rely on to score in high-pressure situations. There’s still time to improve his shooting given he’s so young.
Little also isn’t the best in the half-court. Since he’s such an active player, he struggles when the pace slows down. He’s quick enough to find openings in a defense, but his lack of confidence in his shot delays his decision-making with the basketball.
His ball handling is also one major area in need of improvement. In one-on-one situations, he’s not the quickest to create space when stationary. Also with such a long wingspan, Little doesn’t look confident enough to use his length to his advantage offensively. It’s easier for a defender to guard him when he limits his range.
Nassir Little is expected to forego his sophomore season and enter his name into the 2019 NBA Draft. He’s a projected lottery pick, but where he lands in the lottery remains a question. We’ll see if he starts to get more minutes in the rotation as more minutes will lead to a better looking Little come draft time.
Little could hear his name anywhere from picks five to 15. With a need for defense and versatility on the wing for most NBA teams, there will be a lot of interest in Little on draft night. His future success will depend on system fit. A defensive-minded head coach would best fit for Little’s playing style. A team that doesn’t force turnovers and play in transition will make it a lot more difficult for him to produce.
It’s clear Little is still a raw talent with an extremely high ceiling. His defensive game is polished, but he has a lot of work to do to become reliable offensively. NBA scouts will have their eyes on his shot all season. Playing under Coach Williams should only improve his overall game this year.