In many ways, the 2023 draft is truly unique. There is a 7-foot-5 Frenchman who looks like he belongs on the “The Monstars,” an NBA ready true point guard, and a deep shooting wing who dominated one of college basketball’s best conferences. The top end of the draft is loaded with talent. The two players that may climb draft boards in the next two months are the twins from the Overtime Elite: Amen and Ausar Thompson.
These twins are no Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito... but their brother to brother connection led the City Reapers to the OTE Championship. While it was Ausar who walked away with the league’s MVP honors, Amen may be the one who hears his name called first on draft night. Th 20-year-old has impressed with jaw dropping dimes and thunderous dunks. While a lot of attention has been given to Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller, Amen has gone a bit under the radar leading up to the lottery.
That will likely change as teams begin narrowing in on the top prospects at their draft positions post-lottery. Let’s take a look at why Amen Thompson should be high on San Antonio’s board.
Watching Amen, the first thing that will obviously jump out is the athleticism. Thompson is a freak athlete, standing at 6-foot-7. He can fly from end to end, rise for athletic dunks and finishes around interior defenders. On one play during the OTE finals, the wing got from end to end in three dribbles. A play like that takes elite jets.
His athleticism allows him to not only be a threat in transition, but the half court on both offense and defense. He’s got a lightning quick first step that gets him around defenders. He’s a walking paint touch, which opened up a lot of great looks for his teammates both inside and out. On the defensive end, Thompson is able to cover ground quickly, so even when he does get beat off of the bounce, he can recover and contest the shot. He mostly played point guard for the Reapers and was able to swallow up some of the smaller guards he faced off against.
The defensive metrics looked really good for Thompson in the OTE. Granted, the quality of competition is not as high as other prospects, but he took care of what he needed to do at that level. He held opponents to 29% shooting from the field, and .609 points per possession, extremely good defensive stats. He’s not perfect on that end, but given his athletic tools, he has the upside of a high end point of attack defender in the NBA.
While the physical prowess immediately jumps off the page, his ability to run an NBA offense may be his best skill. Thompson’s passing is at a level you just don’t see in a draft prospect. This may sounds silly, but I get Nikola Jokic vibes watching him zip the ball all over the court. He can hit shooters off the bounce, hit lob targets in transition and get the ball through tight windows in the paint. His patience and ability to read the pick-and-roll is an elite level skill and should translate well to an NBA offense. In end of the shot clock situations, he is particularly skilled at creating angles to get someone else the ball in a position to score with time ticking away.
Coaches would feel comfortable putting the ball in his hands and running an NBA offense, not for his scoring ability, but for getting the rest of their offensive weapons great looks.
Amen Thompson's passing is simply absurd. He's the best passer in the draft, and it helps that he is so explosive and skilled at getting to the rim and being a great decision maker out of the P&R— Mavs/Magic Draft (@MavsDraft) April 27, 2023
Notice the velocity, patience, and accuracy in these assists with some on the move pic.twitter.com/FOQylbkbbG
Thompson’s numbers for Overtime Elite show a player who can stuff the stat sheet, but he has some flaws in his offensive game. The wing averaged 16 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 turnovers. A near 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio is pretty good, but 3 turnovers per game is a tad much for a player who will most likely be operating the show on the offensive end.
Amen has to be a more consistent player to be a star at the next level. There are going to be growing pains with him after playing against fairly unorganized, low level competition. On defense, he can have a tendency to be out of position off of the ball and has a really bad habit of ball watching and losing track of his man. He gets blown by too much for someone with his speed, most of the time because he’s not down in a defensive stance. Luckily, he has the speed to get back into the play, but the point-of-attack defender needs to provide more resistance on drives.
His gifted passing can be a blessing and a curse, as he sometimes tries to force passes into a tight opening that rapidly disappears. His turnovers are especially troublesome on his drives. Thompson is a bull in a china shop when he gets down hill, sometimes driving straight into a double team and coughing up the rock. The Reapers’ spacing was not great, as they shot 26% from three as a team. If he can tighten up the handle on drives, and play in a good NBA system, there should be less turnovers.
That part of his game needs to come around because there are legitimate concerns about his shooting. Thompson shot 57% from the floor but 23% from three and 65% from the free throw line. He shot 74% at the rim, which is incredibly good, but only 29% on jump shots. If he can’t get to the basket, he has a really hard time creating his own shot. There is no mid-range game right now, without a reliable pull up jumper or runner/floater in his arsenal.
Then there is the three-point shooting, which will need to be addressed. He has stiff mechanics and doesn’t look comfortable shooting the ball. Players are already sagging off of him in the OTE, and when he catches the ball on the perimeter, there is some hesitancy to pull the trigger. This isn’t Ben Simmons levels of gun shyness — he shot 75 threes this season and hit some big threes down the stretch for the Reapers — and his brother cleaned up his mechanics a lot and shot a respectable percentage in the OTE playoffs, so there is hope that Amen could also improve as a shooter and take his game to the next level.
Thinking a lineup of:— Jacob Douglas (@JacobmDouglas) April 28, 2023
Could be quite fun.
Amen would be a really great fit with this current roster. His passing could open up opportunities for some of the instinctual cutters on the roster like Keldon Johnson and Malaki Branham. He’s an explosive cutter himself, making the fit with Zach Collins seamless. A Thompson/Collins pick-and-pop could be a lethal play for San Antonio.
His speed is going to add to a team that already likes to get out and run (the Spurs were 2nd in the NBA in pace behind the Golden State Warriors). With Thompson running the break, they would have a strong creator and finisher on fast break possessions. Adding that speed to the half court would help a team that has lacked a player who can provide consistent rim pressure.
The big concerns for San Antonio here are the shooting and defensive consistency. Last year, they struggled mightily in both areas, and Thompson will not fix those issues. However, despite how much some fans don’t like hearing this, Rome was not built in one day. Starting Thompson, Jeremy Sochan and Johnson next to each other might be hell on spacing, but it would create a more talented lineup than they ran out last season. Right now, it’s all about adding players who will contribute when it’s finally time to contend. Thompson has star potential with his physical gifts, playmaking chops and defensive upside. Under a great development system in San Antonio, he could become a franchise cornerstone.