2013 NBA Draft Profiles: Isaiah Canaan

Four year hundred-proof Murray St. phenom, Isaiah Canaan, is yet another unique point guard that is contained in this year’s draft. He intrigues me the most. Canaan is perhaps the most underrated player in this year’s draft. He has draft steal written all over him, literally.

Canaan decided to return to Murray State for his senior year, after his ridiculously awesome junior season, in which he lead Murray State to a 31-2 record, including 23 straight wins, and to a 15-1 record in the Ohio Valley Conference under 1st year head coach, Steve Prohm. That 23 game win streak start is also the third best winning streak for a coach starting out in his inaugural season. If I was in Canaan’s position, I would have felt the same, too. I would have been like “hey, we ended up at March Madness…for two games, until we got eliminated. But still, what a mirthful ride that was! Let’s do it again, team!” That’s exactly what Canaan did, except, obviously, he didn’t say those same exact words in the quote. Maybe the “team” part, but, yeah. He has everything in a point guard you want: leadership while running the offense, and most importantly, confidence.

As the centerpiece of Murray State’s offense, Canaan ran it like a floor general should. He exterminated his teammates when it came to scoring. Canaan’s 21.8 PPG lead the team, 8 points more than teammate’s, Stacy Wilson’s total at 13.5 PPG. A large component of Canaan’s game is pulling up off-the-dribble when running pick and rolls, which already shows his fundamental point guarding attributes. You’re really going to pay when you get yourself under a screen when the pick and roll is being ran, because Canaan’s NBA-like range while shooting off-the-dribble with his swift, deft release makes it a huge nuisance to defend. According to DraftExpress.com, Canaan made 43% of his pull-up jumpers, second to Michigan freak of nature and near-top 5 prospect, Trey Burke, who hit 45% of his pull-ups. Speaking of Burke-Canaan comparison statistics, Canaan accumulated the highest true shooting percentage out of anyone, with a 60.6 TS%, while Burke had shot close to a 57 TS%.

Throughout his collegiate career, Canaan made sure he was the main marksman for Murray State. In his freshman year, Canaan shot a whopping 48% from beyond the arc, because of his catch-and-shoot proficiency and the good looks he was getting, but, however, that total plunged down to 40% in his sophomore year. But, Canaan recouped by amassing 45% from downtown in his very successful junior year, the reason why he returned for his senior year. But again, Canaan’s total dove back to 37% flat, mostly due to the amount of three point attempts he averaged in his senior year this year, which was at 8.2 a game, compared to 6.5 a game in his junior year. Canaan’s three point numbers explain his shoot-first mentality. He’ll add to the Knicks three point shooting repository.

Even though this generation of point guards have major large-scale bounce above the rim, (most of them) Canaan’s vertical explosiveness isn’t what you would call great at 6 feet tall, but he has impressive acrobatic poise like a gymnast when driving to the tin. He’s not what you would call lightning fast, but with his muscular 200 pound frame, Canaan is able-bodied enough to draw contact at great rates. He causes defenses to collapse with his dribble penetration, giving himself a ton of leeway while in drive and kick situations, forcing the opposing defense to implement help defense, finding the open shooter where ever, particularly in the corner. Canaan is also a 82% free throw shooter, which is an ideal free throw shooting percentage for a point guard that draws contact consistently. I’m not saying Raymond Felton doesn’t do that, because after all, he’s the bulldog! But someone that can get to the line as much as Canaan would definitely assist the Knicks’ free throw shooting.

The first time I saw a highlight reel of Canaan, I immediately thought of Damian Lillard, not just because of the small school size of Murray State and Weber State being eerily similar, but because of their playing styles. Going by their playing styles and by looking at their stats, if you were to compare Lillard and Canaan’s offensive attributes, they are almost exactly identical; high volume scorers that can score at will, and that can dish at a mid to high rate, depending on the situation. But that’s the common weakness among draft scouts when they evaluate Canaan’s game. I remember some draft writers stating that with Lillard, and whether or not he could accept that role. And surely, he did, beating Anthony Davis in this year’s ROY voting by a landslide. With Canaan, scouts question whether or not he can can place himself into a pass-first role. They already know that Canaan is a score-first guard, because he’s already proved that. He can score at anytime he wants, and anytime he can. But his assist to turnover ratio catches eyes…in a bad way: 4.3 APG to 3.2 TPG. Yes, it’s not really appealing to anyone. So, Canaan may have to accede to become a pass-first guard.

Last Wednesday, the Knicks had worked out Canaan, and he thinks that they should take him with their 24th pick, despite his high-to-mid second round draft stock. I don’t dispute with him at all. As I said earlier, Canaan’s extremely high confidence level plays a colossal role in his playing style and his personality. It would be fantastic if the Knicks draft Canaan. In fact, I think the Knicks will take him because of the recent retirement of Jason Kidd, but don’t guarantee it, cause anything can happen on draft day. I really want it to happen, though. Hopefully it does. Reiterating what I said earlier, again, he’s hoisting a “DRAFT STEAL!” sign right in front of every team’s front office’s faces. Lastly, you can’t not like this photo.

yes we canaan!

Follow James on Twitter @j_griff