A 2015 forward who has seen his stock take off over the past 12 months, Nate Grimes is an intriguing prospect with major length and a ton of potential. He’s a rangy shot-blocker, a developing scorer, and a mobile 4-man with the physical attributes to make an impact all over the floor. He does a little bit of everything for Desert Pines (NV), but going forward, Grimes has the face-up game and versatility to become a dynamic hybrid-4.
Grimes began playing organized ball in 9th grade, when he played on the Cheyenne High School (NV) freshman squad. After academic issues forced him to sit out last season, Grimes played his first year of varsity basketball this season, helping guide Desert Pines to the Division 1-A State Semifinals, while posting averages of 13.8 points, and 9.4 rebounds per game.
During the 2013-2014 high school season, Grimes proved to be one of the biggest risers in the class of 2015, and is currently ranked No. 133 in the 2015 Industry Rankings. In order to see what all the hype is about, I looked over the film from Desert Pines’ loss against Green Valley on December 18. Check out my breakdown of Grimes’ performance, skill-set, and recruitment, as well as a highlight tape of Grimes at the Phase 1 Hoops Top 40 Camp in December, 2013:
Desert Pines HS (NV) vs. Green Valley HS (NV) – 12/18/13
Nate Grimes isn’t going to blow you away with his athleticism, or shoot the lights out from three-point range. In fact, he’s noticeably raw in almost every area of the game, and is clearly still adjusting to his rapidly growing body. But whether its his lengthy frame, or subtle production across the board, its easy to see why so many college coaches have been impressed by the 6’8” junior.
His jumper is clearly a work in progress, but while his fundamentals need work, Grimes has a consistent release point, a quick trigger, and range out to the perimeter. On catch and shoot opportunities, Grimes sets his feet in an instant, but he gets little-to-no lift on his jumper. His shot features a natural fade, which needs to be corrected over time, however, the foundation of a suitable jumper is there. His load is fluid, his stroke is compact, and it produces a high-arcing shot with decent rotation on the ball. He has to do a better job of stepping into his shot, and holding his release. This will improve his reliability from beyond the arc as he continues to extend his range. He ended up going 1-4 from 3-point range against Green Valley, hitting his first attempt of the game before going ice-cold.
On drives to the rim, Grimes didn’t show the aggressiveness I would have liked to see out of him, as he didn’t attack the body of Green Valley defenders. Instead of initiating contact, he tried to go around them, and got his shot blocked on a pair of drives as a result. He has to learn to use his size to his full advantage, taking the ball up with two hands, drawing contact, and getting to the free-throw line. He’s got a decent handle for a player his size, but is off-hand dribbling is clearly an issue, and he has to improve his ball security. He’ll have to work on lowering his dribble, as it’s simply too easy for a smaller guard to swipe the ball away.
Grimes’ biggest strength is his versatility as a defender. He frequently matched up with Green Valley’s primary ball-handler, and he showed the ability to switch onto opposing bigs, using his length to hold his own on the low-block. He’s a skilled shot-blocker with a combination of good anticipation and the length to block or alter a ton of shots in the paint. He doesn’t have the type of quick second jump that is prevalent among elite wings, but he makes up for it with his patience and ability to time his jump.
With that said, Grimes still has a long way to go on the defensive end, and his weaknesses were exposed when Desert Pines switched to a man defense. Given the assignment of Green Valley’s best long-range shooter, Grimes got caught ball-watching on a number of possessions, leading to wide open looks. Grimes also needs to do a better job of moving his feet on the perimeter. He has a tendency to use his hands a little too much, attempting to hand check the ball-handler and prevent him from turning the corner. His complete lack of proper footwork leads to easy penetration opportunities for the opposing teams, and Grimes would be much more effective by getting into a lower stance and shuffling his feet to stay parallel to his man.
The biggest detractor to Grimes’ value as a prospect is his lack of athleticism. He can finish above the rim, but he isn’t the type of fast-twitch athlete that is going to rise up and finish over traffic. With the ball in his hands, Grimes lacks the burst and explosiveness to be an efficient scorer at the rack. This was evidenced by a couple of fastbreak opportunities with Grimes at the helm. Early in the first half, Grimes led the break in a 3 on 2 situation, taking two dribbles and going up for the lay-in. His elongated stride, and deliberate movements with the rock allowed a Green Valley defender to pull a 180 in mid-air, and get a clean block as Grimes exposed the ball at the top of his jump.
He’s remarkably coordinated for a player his size. He’s got soft hands, and catches just about everything thrown his way, but his left-hand is a glaring weakness. He showed a nice touch with his right-hand, but constantly went to his right hand on drives to his left, which will make his shot much easier to block as he transitions to the next level. On left-handed drives, Grimes routinely picked up his dribble after just one bounce, highlighting the lack of confidence he has in his off-hand.
His passing ability is a question mark, as Grimes struggled to read defenders and his offensive awareness left a lot to be desired. With his height and length, he’s able to see over traffic, but he made poor decisions with the rock, and turned the ball over twice in transition. On one possession, Grimes passed it to a teammate who was clearly behind half-court. He did show good vision on his lone assist, firing a 30-foot bounce pass to a leaking teammate, but the ball lacked adequate power, and was almost picked off before it reached the intended target.
Grimes is commonly listed as a small forward, but with his lack of quickness, and athleticism, he projects as a hybrid-4 at the next level. As a wing, Grimes is a defensive liability on the perimeter, and guarding swingmen will take him away from the basket, mitigating his impact as a shot-blocker. Offensively, he’ll have to improve his ability to finish around the basket, but Grimes will be able to stretch defenses with his size, and continued development as a long-range shooter.
In the TCT Rating System, he earns a future rating of 75, and is currently in the 70-71 range. His mobility, length, and shot-blocking are his biggest strengths, and his face-up game receives a favorable grade due to the progress he’s made as a shooter. He’s a skilled rebounder, with good hands, and the length to turn every loose ball into a battle below the rim. His motor is top-notch, and his toughness/desire for contact will be aided by added strength, and a thicker foundation.
As I wrote at the top of the page, Grimes has only been playing organized basketball for three years, and has spent just one season at the varsity level. His 6’8” frame give him the foundation of a talented forward prospect down the road, but his value will be decided by his work-ethic. He needs to get in the weight room and build his lower-body, which will improve his explosiveness, and allow him to be a more effective scorer on the low-block.
If Grimes was a member of the class of 2016, he’d earn a much more favorable review, but with just one more year until he begins competing at the college level, he is slated to be a reserve for the first two years of his career, but has the potential to be an impact starter by the time he puts it all together.
His breakout junior year has led to offers from a number of high-majors and west coast powers, including: Boston College, Iowa State, Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego State, and USC, as well as interest from Arizona State, Oklahoma, Oregon State, and UNLV. New Mexico and SDSU are considered to be the favorites at this point in time, but the determining factor will be the presence of UNLV, which is just 15 minutes away from Grimes’ high school.
The Runnin’ Rebels have reportedly shown heavy interest, and had Grimes on campus for an unofficial visit for the SDSU game on March 5th. The Aztecs and Lobos have both been going after Grimes pretty hard lately, with the New Mexico coaching staff attending multiple Desert Pines games throughout the season, and SDSU recently inviting him to campus a week after extending an offer. Keep an eye on USC, who has the advantage in level of play, and exposure. Ultimately, I see Grimes as UNLV’s to lose, but it remains to be seen how serious Dave Rice’s interest is in the 2015 forward.
2013 Phase 1 Hoops Top 40 Camp
With the spring signing period beginning this week, it’s time to take a look at the top prospects who have yet to make their college decisions. Over the next couple of days, I’ll breakdown the best available guards, wings, and big men, taking a look at their skill-sets, and potential fits at the next level.
Below is an analysis of the top swingmen left on the board (As a result of the recent release from his LOI, former Marquette signee Ahmed Hill has been included along with the Top 3 available small forwards):
SG Ahmed Hill – Aquinas HS (GA) – 6’5” 190 Pounds
A wide-bodied 2-guard, Ahmed Hill is an aggressive scorer off the bounce who offers a high level of versatility, and a scorer’s mentality. His stock took a hit last summer due to streaky shooting and an inconsistent motor, but he bounced back during his senior year, and is currently ranked No. 56 in the TCT Top 250. He’s a tad undersized on the wing, but he makes up for his size with his explosive leaping ability. When his motor is on, Hill is one of the best two-way players in his class, but he has a tendency to take plays off and disappear for stretches of time. In addition to playing at a consistent level, the next step in Hill’s development is adding a relabile mid-range game to make him a more effective scorer from all three levels.
Before Buzz Williams left to take the head coaching job at Virginia Tech, Hill signed an LOI with Marquette, but he earned his release earlier this week. He’s heard from Florida Georgia, and Virginia Tech over the past several days, and is currently on an official visit to VT. With the hiring of Williams, and former Marquette assistant Isaac Chew, the Hokies now have both of Hill’s primary recruiters. Look for Hill to follow Buzz and wind up signing with Virginia Tech.
SF Josh Cunningham - Morgan Park HS (IL) – 6’7” 185 Pounds
Josh Cunningham is the ultimate glue-guy at the high-school level, and he possesses the athleticism and skill-set to be an absolute steal this late in the recruiting cycle. He is relentless in every area of the game, combining a limitless motor with the toughness to hold his own on the low-block. Always a threat to spring himself with a backdoor cut and slam home a lob pass, Cunningham has major bounce for a kid his size. His length, and quickness are his greatest assets, as he’ll be able to guard four positions at the next level, and even play a little small-ball 4. He needs to add lift to his jumper and improve his consistency from the perimeter, but Cunningham has made strides as a shooter, and can hit the occasional three in space.
After playing in the shadow of DePaul point guard Billy Gerrett Jr. for the majority of his high school career, Cunningham used a breakout summer to establish himself on the national stage. Cunningham currently holds offers from Creighton, Indiana, Iowa State, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and St. John’s, and he’s taken all five of his official visits, traveling to Creighton in September, Iowa State and Oklahoma in October, Bradley in November, and taking his last official to South Carolina earlier this month. As an Indiana native, look for Indiana’s effort to add an exclamation point to Tom Crean’s 2014 recruiting class.
SF D’Angelo Allen - Kimball HS (TX) – 6’6” 185 Pounds
A rangy wing who can rise up and throw it down, D’Angelo Allen is one of the most exciting players in the senior class, and his all-around game is beginning to take shape. He’s in his element in transition, where he gets to the rim at will, and shows excellent vision on the drive and kick. It will be interesting to see how Allen progresses at the college level. His jumper is shaky with a high release point that produces little to no arc, and he is markably streaky from outside of 15-feet. He also needs to improve his perimeter game, and tighten his off-hand dribbling.
Allen holds offers from a number of high-major programs, including: Arkansas, Georgetown, Marquette, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M. Georgetown already has Top 100 recruit Paul White, and I don’t see Arkansas, or Texas A&M having any chance of landing him. I’ve had Oklahoma as Allen’s projected destination for some time now, but that could change with a late push from Steve Wojciechowski of Marquette, or Bruce Pearl of Auburn. Marquette has lost Ahmed Hill and Marial Shayok in the past week, creating a need for a high-level wing prospect. I’m sticking with the Sooners as the eventual landing spot for Allen, but keep an eye out for a late push by a newly hired coach looking to make a big splash.
SF Djuan Piper - Rainier Beach HS (WA) – 6’6” 180 Pounds
I had a chance to see Piper and his Rainier Beach (WA) squad go up against a talented Bishop O’Connell team led by Maryland signee Melo Trimble. With his suffocating D on Trimble and a stat-line of 12 points, 4 rebounds and 4 blocks, Piper made a statement on high school basketball’s biggest stage. Piper locked down Trimble the entire game, forcing him into low-percentage, contested looks from downtown. Playing Robin to Shaqquan Aaron’s Batman, Piper made his mark in every facet of the game, shutting down the opposing team’s best player, creating shots off the dribble and making plays at the rim.
Piper is being recruited by the likes of Gonzaga, Minnesota, Oregon, South Carolina, and Washington, but it’ll come down to UW and Minnesota. The Gophers have pulled out all the stops to land Piper, and Rich Pitino has built a strong relationship with the Seattle native. Unfortunately, I don’t see Lorenzo Romar letting Piper leave the state of Washington. Plus, Piper’s teammate David Crisp is a Top 150 recruit in the class of 2015 who is currently committed to the Huskies. I’d put the odds at 75 percent for Washington, and 25 percent for the Gophers.