Edmond Sumner isn’t your father’s guard. Hell, he’s barely your prototypical, highly-hyped player at the collegiate level for today’s draft prospects, either.
He’s a tough prospect to evaluate, but one who is incredibly intriguing to follow. Furthermore, he happens to be the sort of talent that will shoot up and down NBA mock drafts all year long.
For good reasons, too. There are some very good, some bad, and a lot of different ways one can take the flaws in his game.
To put it more simply: Depending on one’s standpoint on what areas of a player’s game it is easier or harder to develop in, Sumner — who is currently projected to be a late first-round selection — can be a lottery level talent or a guy who falls out of the first-round completely.
For disclosure purposes early-on: Given his history, measurables, and projected growth, this author believes he will be a mock draft darling, finding his way into the lottery, before it is all said and done. Granted, there are many variables and too much time to pen that in without an eraser being readily available.
The Xavier Musketeers talent won’t overwhelm a soul with insane production. His numbers, which do currently look swell, won’t likely be the sort that forces people into buying in on his stock. Not for those who only casually follow college basketball, at least.
It is with the idea of what he currently is being coupled in with the famously polarizing eye-ball test that can result in him being a lottery pick come June. Die-hard fans and those who literally scout for NBA prospects can write those narratives.
Think of Sumner is the opposite of last year’s polarizing draft prospect, Malachi Richardson. He will likely be judged similarly to Richardson for obvious reasons (numbers can sometimes be misleading), but I’d argue the sample-size used for Richardson painted an inaccurate positive picture while Sumner’s will have more factual truth behind it.
People who adored Richardson’s game were mostly the ones who consumed him the least. They used his end-of-season numbers to project him for future greatness while using the eyeball test to somehow associate making bad shots with creating shots, which is an inaccurate way to go about discussing that.
For context, I wasn’t very high on Richardson last season. And, yes, it is odd how I’d knock people using the eyeball test for Richardson while imploring you to do it for Sumner, but the eyeball test — in the right hands — can still help tell the overall story of a player’s worth.
For Sumner, his numbers by the end of the season will likely be less prolific, and maybe bordering on the same sort of inefficiencies that should have had more people worried about Richardson’s game, but it can be that same dreaded eyeball-test that can put him over-the-top like Sylvester Stallone.
To get some of the semantics out of the way: Sumner’s 2016-17 numbers are already dwarfing what he did as a sophomore.
Last season, he was certainly an important member of Xavier’s team–one who got measurably better by the season’s end, but his 11 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per outing didn’t give the totality of his game justice. Thanks to Chris Mack having multiple other players capable of carrying the offensive burden, which decreased Sumner’s chances to shine, he stayed relatively under-the-radar.
Then the offseason leading into this season hit. A growing notion began to become accepted around college basketball circles. With Xavier being forced to need more production out of the guard, he was not only going to give it to the team but become one of the more dynamic unicorn-guards in the entire country.
So far, so good. He’s not only been doing that from a production standpoint — averaging 17-5-4 on on a much improved 48 percent shooting from the floor — but the idea of what kind of NBA player he can be is starting to take form.
Sumner, who is 6-6, is a point guard. That is his earnest position. In turn, that makes him a rather big one with solid athleticism to go along with it. That alone, even while ignoring his improved shooting, would be enough to want to take a flyer out on this kid.
It isn’t all sunshine, rainbows, and hyperbolic draft projections, though.
While his field goal percentage has jumped in dramatic fashion, his shooting from beyond the arc remains disturbing to the point of it being a red flag.
Having shot a below-awesome 30 percent from deep last season, Sumner is only connecting on .091 of his attempts so far this season. While this can balance out (obviously) as the season progresses, it isn’t promising that a player who knew he was going to be asked to be more offensively assertive has yet to showcase improvements in his glaring flaw.
If we are going the negative path, it would be like asking a movie director who regularly makes the mistake of casting Adam Sandler as the lead too many times to stop doing so, but the director going “OK, got it” then casting him in his next movie.
Unlike the director, though, this can simply be the case of Sumner just being incapable of making shots (despite trying to get better) or merely needing more time to improve. What he is, in all areas of his game, is not yet written in stone. He, as is everyone else, is still a fluid work-in-progress.
It’s also possible Sumner is actually just taking better shots at this point in the season, that this negative is a net-positive from another standpoint and that he is taking over four more field goal attempts per game than last season, but .05 fewer shots from distance.
If we take a glass-half-full point of view with this, it can be said this highlights how Sumner has a high basketball-IQ in which he’s taking more high percentage shots while realizing what his flaws are.
Nevertheless, Sumner remains one of the most intriguing point guard prospects in all of the 2017 NBA Draft class (presuming he declares). Many of the freshmen will get more shine, other more productive point guards will become fodder for those dissecting the draft, but I caution you not to forget about Sumner as the season progresses.
Only time will tell how well his season is, and how that correlates with his draft stock, but he might be the rare, earnest player who is best judged by using the eyeball test to a higher degree than that of advanced stats. Both will be needed to tell his story for sure, but for the same reasons people mistakenly fell in love with Malachi Richardson might be the same reason people correctly begin to jump on the point guard’s bandwagon.