The 2020 pre-draft process has been anything but normal for NBA prospects, but Creighton’s Ty-Shon Alexander is making the best out of his situation while working out in Phoenix, Ariz.
“To be honest, it’s not even that bad, really. I’ve been working out here in Phoenix and I’m liking it a lot,” Alexander said. “It’s kind of weird, but I’m also loving it at the same time. I’ve been working out every single day and I’m cherishing the moment every time I step on the court.”
That’s Alexander in a nutshell. He’s a positive, opportunistic person, and his teammates would be the first to point that out. His three-year progression at Creighton was impressive, but the 22-year-old made winning plays from the second he arrived in Omaha, Neb. That’s something he’s done his entire life and it’s one of the many qualities that make him a valuable sleeper in this year’s draft class.
Alexander has met virtually with over a dozen teams so far during the pre-draft process, including the Boston Celtics, per sources. He isn’t a high-profile prospect compared to some of his counterparts, but Alexander would be a perfect fit in Boston as a back-end rotation piece or a two-way player. If the Celtics ultimately keep pick Nos. 26, 30 or 47, look for Alexander to be on Boston’s board.
The Celtics need shooting and backcourt depth off the bench, which falls right in line with Alexander’s skillset. He shot 39.9 percent from deep last season, the culmination of his consistent improvement over the past three years. Alexander shot 43.1 percent from the floor and 86 percent from the line during his junior campaign to round out his impressive shooting splits.
He thrives in catch-and-shoot opportunities, but Alexander drastically improved his shooting off the dribble over the last two years. That goes a long way in Brad Stevens’ system, where guards that can shoot off the bounce while acting as the primary ball-handler receive ample opportunities. If his ball-handling continues to trend in the right direction, he could eventually form into a valuable role player. In speaking with Alexander, it’s clear that he’s well aware of this.
“Right now, I pride myself a lot on my ball-handling. I’ve really been dialed in and focusing a lot on my ball-handling skills,” Alexander said. “It’s really helped me a lot, especially working with my former trainer Jeff McInnis. He played in the league for about 11 years as a point guard, so he really stressed the importance of ball-handling and me pounding the ball. When I got down here to Phoenix, it was the same thing. I’m really prideful that I can really handle the ball now.”
As that ball-handling continues to blossom, so will his shot creation. We saw flashes of it during his third and final season at Creighton, where he quietly was a good pick-and-roll creator. Alexander became increasingly comfortable in those sets, especially as a playmaker where he showed great patience. That will only continue to improve as his handle tightens.
This is all in addition to his basketball IQ and feel for the game, arguably his greatest strengths alongside his defense. As previously mentioned, Alexander makes winning plays on both sides of the court. He provides effective floor spacing with smart off-ball movement, which helps him create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. That spacing helped Creighton attain the nation’s third-best offensive efficiency last year, according to KenPom. Alexander’s high motor and admirable effort go a long way on both sides of the court, but it’s extremely evident defensively.
Celtics fans would love Alexander’s defensive activity and versatility. He’s an aggressive on-ball defender who uses his length and good footwork to relentlessly bother opponents, doing so against the likes of Markus Howard and Myles Powell, two of the country’s best offensive point guards last season. That length, along with his noticeable preparedness, helped him guard up against quicker wings during Big East play as well.
“I feel like my defense will end up making a huge jump, especially when I get to the NBA,” Alexander said. “I just feel like when I get a chance to actually show that, it’ll be amazing to show teams that I can really dial in and play defense on a lot of people that may be big-time scorers.”
Alexander’s feel for the game additionally shows with his team defense. His rotations, particularly last season, were on the money more often than not. When he was needed as a help defender, his length and quick feet allowed him to answer the call effectively. He knows this side of his game will help him get on the court sooner rather than later.
“I’ve been talking to a lot of teams and they’ve said if my defense can still be there, it’ll be like a no-brainer and that I’d get minutes and be able to show my talents,” he added. “So I think if I just keep that mentality of being dialed in on defense, then I may end up having an opportunity one day.”
As it stands now, Alexander’s defense and shooting, both off the catch and off the dribble, would be a nice addition to Boston’s backcourt depth, either at the end of the rotation or in a two-way role. With 12 guaranteed contracts already on the roster entering next season, Boston will find itself in a tight spot when it comes to adding young players. With that roster crunch in mind, Alexander would be the perfect prospect to add on a two-way contract.
Maine’s staff has done a great job with young Celtics time and time again. Having the luxury of getting G League reps while still working with the NBA club is a proven path to stability for young prospects, and Alexander would be no different. That flexibility would allow Alexander to work on things like his finishing package while continuing to improve his ball-handling.
No matter where he lands, however, Alexander will make the most of his situation, just as he always does.
“If I’m on a team, then I’m just going to keep working hard every single day no matter who it is and be happy about it,” Alexander said. “That’s going to be the No. 1 thing for me.”