Even though his play couldnt help Gonzaga survive their Sweet 16 matchup with North Carolina, Micah Downs
has strung together an impressive streak of games over the last month. The former McDonalds All-American, who spent half a season at Kansas before deciding he wanted to transfer closer to home, closed the season playing the best basketball of his career. Possessing an intriguing blend of size, athleticism, and shooting ability, Downs certainly peaked at the right time, playing a key role in Gonzagas West Coast Championship run (he was named tournament MVP) and their three NCAA tournament contests. Though he is a borderline case to be drafted this summer, hes improved his stock and warrants mention here.
Standing 6-7 with a big wingspan, Downs possesses ideal size for a player that play multiple positions. He couples that size with very good speed in the open floor, nice leaping ability, and quick hands. Though he could definitely stand to add plenty of weight to his skinny frame, Downss physical profile is definitely a plus considering his position. Those tools, along with his ability to hit shots from the perimeter, have allowed him to be a solid role-player in Spokane from day one.
The best feature of Downss offensive repertoire has always been his pure three-point shooting stroke. He possesses great form and a quick release that allows him to be a highly effective catch and shoot player. Though hes able to hit shots at a very respectable rate with his feet set, Downs looks just as good when he elevates for shots coming off of screens moving full speed a testament to his tremendous perimeter footwork. While his ability to knock down shots from beyond the arc has become his calling-card (hes shot 11-27 from distance in March), his perimeter scoring ability has some notable flaws.
Downs struggles when hes effectively closed out, as he doesnt tend to jump straight up when hes shooting with a hand in his face a habit that hurts his efficiency considerably. According to Synergy Sports Technologys Quantified Player Report, his PPP drops from 1.41 when hes left wide open to catch and shoot to a meager .73 when hes defended.
The difficulties Downs has when hes well defended have been especially troubling this season. While he shows a nice first step and the ability to consistently create space to get his shot off, he doesnt prove to be a consistent shooter when he puts the ball on the floor, frequently shortening his release unnecessarily. Downss struggles from 2-point range this season stem from the fact that he gets in a rush when theres a hand in his face, which really hurts his ability to score as efficiently as his shooting form would allow.
Considering his solid first step, Downs seldom attacks the rim off the dribble preferring to go to his jumper once he finds daylight. His poor ball-handling skills and general one-dimensional nature is a major draw-back, but to his credit, he doesnt force the issue and sports an incredibly low turnover rate. An effective foul shooter, Downs doesnt get to the line at a very impressive rate. His frame does hold him back when he ventures inside, especially when he cant blow past his defender, but he proves more than capable of finding looks around the rim in other ways.
Since he isnt the focal point of Gonzagas offense, Downs finds other ways to help his team. His speed helps him make an impact in transition, and he crashes the glass well for a wing. A sound decision-maker, Downs moves the ball well on the perimeter and does a great job not making mistakes, but he isnt going to make his teammates better either, as his passing skills are just average. His basketball IQ does not appear to be off the charts..
Downss length and quickness give him some defensive upside and allow him to tip some passes and even block an occasional shot, but he shows questionable fundamentals when defending the perimeter. His tendency to lose sight of his man when helping over and the way he consistently lunges at shooters significantly diminishes his ability to use his tools when his man doesnt have the ball. Downs looks a bit better when hes forced to defend his man one-on-one, showing decent lateral quickness and staying active, managing to keep his man out of the lane with some consistency. Downss lack of physical strength is apparent when hes defending the ball, as he has a hard time preventing stockier guards from getting into the lane once they clear his shoulder. It remains to be seen whether he can effectively guard his position in the NBA, which is a major sticking point.
Given the fact that Downs hasnt been incredibly productive on the college level as a designated role-player, he needs to have a strong showing at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament to improve his stock. Hes certainly a talented player, but his lack of bulk, lock down defensive ability, and the fact that he his clearest weaknesses coincide with his biggest strengths present concerns. His solid three-point shooting and athleticism will make him a player to keep an eye on, but considering his limitations, Downs has a lot of work to do still moving forward.