The NBA has seen twins enter the league at the same time dating back to the 1960’s with the Van Arsdales. Usually one of the twins has a better career than the other. Brook Lopez has enjoyed more success than his brother Robin, and Marcus Morris is still a coveted player, while his brother Markieff has struggled to find a role later in his career.
In the 2023 draft, the NBA will see another set of twins enter the league by the way of the Overtime Elite (OTE). Amen and Ausar Thompson are projected lottery picks. If they are selected in the top 14, they would be the first prospects from the OTE to do so. While Amen has gotten most of the hype in the draft cycle thus far, Ausar has been somewhat overlooked. Not many have Ausar in their top five, like his brother, but he brings a lot of skills to the table that could make him a long time NBA starting caliber player.
This piece will analyze why Ausar would still be a solid pickup for an NBA team, and could end up having a good career alongside his twin brother.
Ausar’s greatest strength is his versatility. He is going to be a strong connective piece on an NBA roster. It’s hard to project him being THE guy on a contender, but he could turn into a super role player who starts on a playoff team. Sam Vecenie of The Athletic and Adam Spinella of The Box and One have compared him to Andre Iguodala, which feels apt.
Thompson is a strong decision maker and playmaker in the half court. Point guard and distributing responsibilities were mostly left to his brother, but Ausar thrived as a secondary creator for the City Reapers. He finished the season with a stat stuffing line of 16.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.3 blocks, 2.7 steals and 3.4 turnovers. His assist to turnover ratio was similar to his brother’s, just a touch under 2:1. The Reapers played an up-tempo, sloppy brand of basketball, turning the ball over on 16.5% of their possessions, which in turn contributed to Ausar’s turnovers. His ability to process the game should translate to success in a more structured system. All reports seem to indicate he and his brother are high character guys with great work ethics, which bodes well for someone who might be relegated to a secondary or tertiary role at the next level.
He forces the issue less than his brother and has a deeper bag of moves to get to his spots. His finishing package is impressive for a player at his level, with turnarounds and pull ups in the paint. He shot 77% at the rim, and 49% on pull up jumpers this season. He’s not quite the freak athlete as Amen but still has above average speed getting end to end. His vertical athleticism is strong as well.
What separates Ausar as a prospect is his defense. Opponents shot 32% from the field against him in the OTE. He’s a strong on ball defender, with good foot speed and length to disrupt drivers and contest jump shots. However, it’s his off-ball defense that is most impressive. He’s a strong shot blocker for a 6-foot-7 wing from the weak side. He has a strong grasp on where to help and how to contest shots. His length and athleticism allows him to get his hands on passes, leading to his high steal numbers.
It’s hard to project Ausar being a go-to guy at the next level. While his shot creation ability is better than his brother’s, it’s not as strong as some of the other players in this draft. He’s not someone teams would ask to be the primary ball-handler in their offense right now, and hasn’t shown the creativity to consistently get a good look off of the bounce. That said, he was the OTE’s MVP, and played well in the Reaper championship run. There is evidence of him being a winning player who can impact the game, despite not being the guy.
His jump shooting is going to have to improve. His jump shot development seemed to be heading in the right direction later in the season, but he still only hit 30% of his jump shots. The includes shooting 30% from three point range. If he is going to be a connective piece at the next level, he will be a threat from outside. The improved shooting late in the season is a sign for optimism.
Overall, Ausar is a player who does a lot of things well but not one thing at an elite level. His best skill right now is likely his defense. It’s hard to justify spending a top-7 pick on a player who doesn’t have as high of an upside as some of the other players in the draft. Does it make sense to draft someone who still has question marks and a lower ceiling over prospects who produced at a higher level of competition and have higher ceilings? Ausar will need to convince teams of his upside as the draft process continues.
Ausar feels like the type of player you pick up after you draft the franchise cornerstone. The Spurs are still looking for a player they can point to as the central component of their core. There are likely other players you can get in the top-7 that fit that bill more than Thompson, including his brother. They already have enough wings who project as strong role players. They need a star.
He doesn’t add the shooting they would need from a wing at this juncture. Keldon Johnson, Jeremy Sochan and Malaki Branham all need to improve as three-point shooters, so does it make sense to add another player that fits the same description?
One thing that Ausar would do is lift the defensive ability of the group. He and Sochan would make for a strong defensive duo on the wings. Both of their versatility would create a switchy group that could guard 1-4. There are other players in the draft that have higher upsides, and could still fit that vision, if that’s the way the Spurs are looking to go.
Thompson is likely more of a late-lottery talent, rather than someone the Spurs should look to take in the first seven picks of the draft. He may have a long, fruitful NBA career, but it doesn’t seem like he will be the best player on a championship team.