2021 NBA Draft: The Similarities Between Jason Preston and Rod Strickland

Ohio Bobcats guard Jason Preston (0) makes a shot over Virginia Cavaliers guard Reece Beekman (2) during the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament on Saturday, March 20, 2021, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind. Mandatory Credit: Sam Owens/Indy Star/IndyStar via USA TODAY Sports
Ohio Bobcats guard Jason Preston (0) makes a shot over Virginia Cavaliers guard Reece Beekman (2) during the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament on Saturday, March 20, 2021, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind. Mandatory Credit: Sam Owens/Indy Star/IndyStar via USA TODAY Sports /

Comparing NBA Draft prospect Jason Preston to Rod Strickland. 

Ohio guard Jason Preston officially announced on July 7 that he would remain in the upcoming 2021 NBA Draft. The decision surprised some who thought Preston would return to Athens, Ohio, to improve his draft stock with a strong showing in his senior season.

Even people who are relatively high on his pro prospects, have Preston mainly projected as a late second-round pick. The ceiling on his potential has seemingly been limited in a way I tend to disagree with pretty vehemently.

Preston is currently ranked as the 10th best prospect on my latest draft board, as I view him as a lottery talent in this class. The majority consensus is that the 2021 MAC Tournament MVP will be a very solid role player, but nothing more than an upper-tier backup point guard at the next level.

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Those projections very well could be right, I’m not interested in feeding into the toxic culture of the online draft community of claiming that someone with an opposing viewpoint of mine is wrong or clueless.

The critics and doubters of Preston have many fair concerns with why they pigeonhole his skillset as being potentially limited or problematic in the NBA. However, I personally just view him as one of the most versatile offensive prospects in the 2021 draft class and really believe strongly that he can be an All-Star lead guard in this league.

Pro comparisons are rarely ever perfect, they usually are redundant, lazy, and not well thought out. So I’m very hesitant to ever throw my own comparisons out there because usually no matter what, they seem to always be flawed in some way.

That’s why I decided to try to validate the comparisons I’m making, rather than just saying them, and started a different style of scouting report. The first time I tried this was with my breakdown of Tennessee guard Keon Johnson and if he could be a present-day Vince Carter. I wanted to show exact and specific examples of why Johnson reminded me of Carter, where their skills and even deficiencies mimicked each other, opposed to just blankly labeling a prospect as being comparable to this specific pro.

I by no means think this is a perfect formula and again every pro comparison is going to be or could be miscalculated in some aspect. At the very least though, I feel it allows me to depict in a much more precise way of what lens I view a prospect through and provide more evidence as to why to I believe that.

Either way, the NBA Draft really is just a bunch of people making educated guesses and nobody is necessarily ever wrong about their assessment of a prospect until they hit the hardwood in the NBA and their career plays out in real-time.

The similarities between Jason Preston and Rod Strickland

Circling back to Preston, I wanted to do a breakdown of his game in a similar way to what I did for Johnson. His ability as a lead playmaker and shot creator combined with his overall offensive versatility reminds me of former 1998 All-NBA Second Team guard Rod Strickland. The 17-year NBA legend provides a very intriguing archetype for Preston’s outlook as a pro.

Their physical traits are similar, but Preston is definitely the more lanky guard of the two. His six-foot-nine wingspan is three inches greater than Strickland’s and he’s an inch taller overall. Like Strickland, Preston is perceived as a non-spectacular athlete, but I think his game tape and testing numbers at the NBA Draft Combine suggest otherwise. He finished 6th in lane agility time (10.82), 11th in the shuttle run (3.08), and 15th in the max vertical leap (38.5″).

Preston and Strickland mirror each other in a variety of ways though in terms of what they do on the hardwood. The Ohio star’s playmaking, crafty handles, off-ball scoring, use of the floater, and incredible touch around the rim are reminiscent of Strickland’s skillset. It’s hard to start anywhere else than their shared abilities as elite passers when examining the similarities between the two guards.

Strickland was a multi-dimensional playmaker who dazzled NBA fans and defenders with his passing on the open floor. He did most of his damage as a passer in transition, but still had no problem dissecting opposing defenses in the screen and roll game within the halfcourt.

Preston seems to be at his best as a passer mainly as a maestro in the pick and roll, but like Strickland, the dimensions of his playmaking skills also shine in transition. Neither has hair blazing speed but they’ve got enough to force a defense to have to be urgent in rotating back. Preston is slightly more methodical, whereas Strickland was more chaotic, however, both play with a controlled smoothness and have the adaptability like water to adjust to any tempo a game may undertake.

Strickland provided most of his shot creation and playmaking within the halfcourt off of his slashing ability. He utilized his flashy handles and first-step quickness to get by opposing defenders, creating many drive-and-kick opportunities for open threes or finding openings within the defense to set up easy shots at the rim.

His slashing ability was the bread and butter to Strickland’s playmaking game, but again he was more than adept as a pick and roll creator. He had the feel, vision, and handle to make plays out of mainly high screen and rolls, adding value to the rim runners on his teams.

Preston is an extremely gifted pick-and-roll creator, potentially the best in this draft in my opinion. His understanding of how to manipulate defenders, as well as his nuanced feel, decision-making, and timing are on a different level than most of the prospects in this class. He’s cerebral in how he breaks down the defenders in the screen and roll game, having them seemingly on remote control at times.

There is just a seasoned demeanor to Preston’s operation in the pick and roll that is such a rarity for most young players. He extenuates the talents of rim-runners and stretch-bigs who can fade out to the three-point line to hit perimeter shots exponentially.

He comes from the school of the John Stockton’s and Steve Nash’s, showcasing the same skills to dominate a game through the pick and roll offensively. I’d also make a strong case that there isn’t another prospect in this class that throws a prettier bounce pass than Preston, a skill he utilizes often when defenders give him a pocket to laser a pass through.

As a scorer, Strickland did his best work with his slashing ability, his pull-up mid-range shooting, and was an exceptional finisher with incredible touch at the rim. He could beat defenders off of the bounce with his creative handles and deceptive first-step quickness, getting to the lane where his scoring was most effective.

Strickland was an ambidextrous finisher who made acrobatic shots at the rim look routine, defying gravity at times with his body control and ability to hang in space.

Preston’s touch and finishing ability are uncannily great as well, even if he might not have the acrobatic finishes that Strickland did. He can finish with either hand and does a terrific job of utilizing the glass to finish difficult shots at the cup  There’s also this notion around Preston not being able to break defenders down off the dribble or being able to score without a screen. He might not be an elite slasher, but I do think his ability parallels Strickland’s mainly due to the touch around the rim he has and his crafty ball-handling skills.

Again, Preston doesn’t have the same flash that Strickland did with his handle, but he’s equally as effective. His hesitation dribble is exceptional and puts defenders on pause mode constantly, it’s one of his best weapons as a scorer. That combined with his subtle first-step quickness that from my viewpoint has been vastly undervalued, validated by his agility testing numbers during the combine, makes him much more of a scoring threat off of the dribble than has been forecasted.

The touch Strickland possessed at the rim, also transitioned to his floater which might be the most legendary in the game’s history. The shot was arguably Strickland’s go-to move as a scorer and was tough to defend, given the high arc he effortlessly regularly put on it. If George Gervin was the originator of the teardrop floater, Rod Strickland became a master of it. It’s a shot that has continued to blossom in the modern game of basketball and the current NBA landscape.

Most elite scorers have some sort of runner, floater, or teardrop shot in their arsenal. Players like Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose, Luka Doncic, and Trae Young have shown how effective having a floater in your proverbial scoring bag can be in today’s game. It’s a shot with much more heightened importance now and is one of the most versatile weapons to have as an offensive player.

Strickland was a perfect example of this when he was at his best in the 90s, attacking defenders off of the dribble with it but also displaying how useful it was as an off-ball scoring option.

Preston’s floater in my opinion could be the best in this draft, it’s possibly his best offensive tool outside of the plethora of things he can do as a playmaker. He’s a playmaker who doesn’t need the ball in his hands to necessarily impact a game. Preston is a really good cutter off of the ball, and also to me has some really promising upside as a catch-and-shoot threat from three to add to his use of the floater.

I think an NBA team won’t just have to rely on playing Preston only as a pick-and-roll playmaker because of what he can do without the ball in his hands. They’ll be able to draw up stuff for him off of curl screens, DHO’s, and designed give-and-go sets.

Taking all their similarities into account, one area I feel Preston may differ the most from Strickland is his shooting ability. That’s not to say Strickland couldn’t shoot it, he shot a career 46.4 percent from beyond the arc while at DePaul and shot at least 30 percent from the three-point line in seven of the 17 seasons he played in the NBA. By no means was Strickland an elite shooter though or perceived as a huge perimeter threat. Outside of his pull-up shooting from mid-range, Strickland became less effective the further he was from the rim.

I don’t see Preston having the same issue, having the stats and film to back up that he should be a good three-point shooter at the next level at the very least. His career shooting numbers are solid, Preston sported a career 57 percent true shooting percentage clip and hit 36 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc during his three seasons at Ohio. Some have questioned the mechanics of his shot and view them as problematic, but again I just feel these people simply are not taking the time to watch Preston’s actual game tape.

I think the same criticisms he’s received about his shooting potential are the same ones 2021 NBA Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball heard before last year’s draft. While his mechanics might be awkward and not the most traditional, I believe Preston has a very efficient and quick release. He’s shown solid shooting versatility with the ability to hit threes in catch-and-shoot situations or off of the dribble. The potential he has with his pull-up shooting and the range he’s showcased make me have faith he can become a multi-dimensional scorer in the NBA.

Lastly, I think Preston’s pro outlook as a defender is much more positive than the majority consensus seems to be. His collegiate career defensive rating of 102.1 displays the efficiency he had as a defender at Ohio, even with the scoring and playmaking burden that was placed upon him.

Preston has good length for a guard, enough lateral quickness to shuffle to stay in front, and most importantly has the basketball IQ to make enough plays on defense to not be viewed as a liability.

Plus, his effort is unquestioned, as his hustle is one of his best traits. Preston can get into passing lanes to create steals and forces his man to work with his combination of length and quickness routinely. He might not make an All-NBA defensive team, but Preston will be an above-average defender at the next level in my opinion, and make winning plays on a regular basis on that end of the floor.

All in all, I believe Jason Preston will be one of the best players to come from this class when we look back on this draft several years from now. He will be a prospect that will leave GMs scratching their heads as to why they passed on him as he could be the steal of this class. I view Preston as a multi-dimensional scorer and playmaker who has high upside as a shooter, is an adequate defender, and could be one of the smartest players I’ve ever evaluated.

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What he will bring to an NBA rotation is invaluable both on and off the court. Preston can immediately boost a team’s pick-and-roll offense and even add a new wrinkle within their offensive scheme. I think Preston is a top 10 talent within this class and whatever franchise selects him on July 29th should feel extremely lucky.