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Tyler Ulis could fill Nuggets' need at backup point guard

Harrison Wind Avatar
June 8, 2016


Up until the NBA draft on June 23, the BSN Nuggets staff will review first-round prospects the Nuggets may target. We’ll look at their skill set, the role they will play in the league and how they could potentially fit in Denver.

Tyler Ulis, G, Kentucky

What if Tyler Ulis, the Kentucky point guard who just averaged 17.3 points and 7.0 assists in 36.8 minutes for the Wildcats his sophomore season, was just a few inches taller?

If Ulis was a legitimate 6-foot, he’d probably be a top-five pick, could arguably be looked at the best point guard prospect in the draft and would be viewed as a franchise point guard. Instead, the 20-year-old who was listed at 5-foot-9, but measured at 5-foot-10 in shoes at the draft combine, projects as a backup point guard who should be drafted anywhere from the middle to late first-round.


Ulis is your prototypical floor general, your “pure point guard,” and his leadership and basketball IQ were apparent during every Kentucky game last season. He only turned the ball over on 12 percent of his possessions, per DraftExpress, a low number for such a young lead guard.

The first thing that jumps off the screen when watching Ulis is his vision. Kentucky got out on the break often last year and Ulis had his pick of NBA athlete after NBA athlete filling the lane to dish the ball off to. He was one of the best lob throwers in all of college basketball last season and displayed unique vision running the break that you don’t usually see from a 20-year-old. That vision also showed up when Ulis was put in the pick and roll, and while he might struggle when he gets trapped, the point guard makes quick decisions and gets around the hedge man quickly and decisively.

Ulis is also a poised shooter. Despite his size, he’s got NBA range on his jumper, shot 38.5 percent from three over his two years in college and can actually create enough space for a shot between himself and his defender when penetrating. Ulis will never be a great finisher at the rim and around the basket but displayed a capable floater often at Kentucky.

On defense, Ulis will get pushed around often, but can hold his own versus like-sized defenders. What aids his abilities on the defensive end are his incredibly quick hands, as he can often get up into defenders on the perimeter without fouling.

Ulis’ 21 points and 8 assists against Louisville was another outstanding game from the sophomore last season.


Most of Ulis’ weaknesses have to do with his size and small frame.

On defense Ulis will always run into trouble. He’s always going to be at a huge disadvantage at a generous 5-foot-10 and just 150 pounds. Take him to the post and Ulis is in trouble, get him on a switch and a bigger offensive player can simply use his body and strength to drive him under the hoop. Ulis averaged 1.5 steals his sophomore year at Kentucky and must have a high steal rate at the next level to log heavy minutes.

Offensively, Ulis has learned to play with his height but runs into trouble when he tries to be too aggressive and take on too much of the scoring responsibility. If Ulis is trapped in a pick and roll he’ll likely turn it over or risk throwing a lob pass over two taller defenders that could be picked off. He has to learn to make quick decisions coming off screens and in the half-court.

Ulis, because of his height, will never be a great finisher inside, but like I pointed out earlier has demonstrated a quality floater and has good touch around the rim when he can avoid defenders. Because of his slight frame, Ulis also doesn’t deal with contact well around the rim. He struggles at times to get good looks in the paint, especially when he encounters longer defenders.

Potential Fit in Denver

With D.J. Augustine’s impending free agency and Jameer Nelson‘s injuries last season, there might be a need for an additional backup point guard in Denver. However, Emmanuel Mudiay is still growing and learning the NBA game, and common sense would say a veteran, stable option backing him up for 15 minutes a night like Augustin or Nelson would be the right move from a personnel standpoint.

If the Nuggets do decide to look for a point guard in the draft, Ulis could be a great fit. He projects as a quality backup point guard and has the leadership and poise to be a rotation player at the next level.

Current Projection

Ulis is currently projected to be drafted in the middle of the first round but could slip because of his size and turn into a great value pick. The Nuggets, armed with three first round picks and two second round picks, certainly have the ammo to get Ulis if they feel he’s their guy.



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