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NBA Draft Prospect Review: Amen and Ausar Thompson
The NBA has a rich history of brotherhood, and I don’t just mean the closeness and respect shared among the player community. There is a legendary repertoire of elite NBA brothers that have taken the league by storm, the most recent pair being Lonzo and LaMelo Ball, who shattered expectations for how high two brothers could be drafted (2nd and 3rd, respectively). However, the Thompson Twins of the Overtime Elite League are twins, and they are both locks for the lottery, something a pair of twins has never seen in NBA history.
These history-making twins are an interesting case because of the changing landscape of pre-professional basketball. The Thompsons belong to the Overtime Elite League, a professional league of college-aged players that functions like the NCAA in terms of NBA draft eligibility, but with a different kind of competition. The Atlanta-based league started in 2017 in response to the social media highlight reel craze that saw upcoming "hoopers" as potential NBA stars. The league wanted to recruit these exciting players to play at a higher level that stressed more scoring, more highlights, and less defense. Here are some rule differences that we must keep in mind:
Players shoot one free throw that amounts to the value of the basket attempted. For example, if a player is fouled on a 3-pointer, they will take 1 free throw worth 3 points to speed up the flow of the game (and-1's are the same as usual).
The timeouts are only 20 seconds.
If the game enters OT, the first team to score 2 baskets wins (including the free throw).
There are four 8-minute quarters that amount to only 32 minutes.
2 timeouts are allowed per team per quarter.
They use the FIBA 3 point line, which isn't as far as the NBA line, but farther than the NCAA mark by a foot and a half.
Because the minutes and timing are all different, I am grateful that Overtime Elite provides “per 40 minutes” stats on their website, something that will help me sift through these rule differences. Another reason this is useful is the fact that the brothers have had all different spans of minutes, playing anywhere between 18 minutes to 35 minutes in any game (they only average around 27 MPG). Here is their head-to-head comparison for this season as of January 30:
There’s not a lot of tape on these guys yet, but I managed to catch a full Overtime Elite game that showcased both brothers. Here is what I noticed:
For Amen, he has an almost De’Aaron Fox-level first step but is able to make crafty passes even at the level of burst he often exerts. He takes his time, something Ausar doesn’t do as well. He is more cerebral and understands offensive creation better than his brother, but he still does make errant passes occasionally. He has excellent hands and reaction time while in one-on-one defense. He is definitely the better floor general, and is able to create more while possessing the basketball.
Ausar is surprisingly different considering the identical genetics. When we think of NBA twins, they are often very similar players (the most modern example being Markieff and Marcus Morris), and Amen and Ausar’s statistics don’t show a huge difference, but when watching them, they have very different skills. I am more impressed with Ausar’s hangtime and lateral quickness, both offensively and defensively. He is often at the top of the league in blocks, a rare feat for a guard. He makes better decisions in transition, but in a set offense, he is weaker at playmaking. He does have very good off-ball awareness and makes explosive cuts, something the NBA is valuing more and more. They have very similar jumpshots, and both appear somewhat conventional and effective. Their jumpshots are very trainable for NBA coaches.
To me, Amen’s NBA floor is this year’s Markelle Fultz; a willing passer who creates from his speed, agility, and quickness. When he is hurt or labored, he cannot do nearly what he can while healthy. His ceiling is a D’Angelo Russell with a longer-lasting peak; it may take awhile, but he can eventually become a natural leader on both sides of the ball (with amazing hands on defense) who talks the most and can create a bucket for him and others at will.
In contrast, I see Ausar’s floor as Dennis Smith Jr; he is at least a purely athletic guard who is more gifted at scoring than playmaking and shooting. His ceiling is Knicks JR Smith; he can be an athletic microwave who is streaky at times but always a plus defender. If any of the two brothers are going to get minutes from their defense, it is Ausar.
No matter which way you put it, both twins are worthy of a lottery selection. I have Amen going anywhere from 6-12 and Ausar going anywhere from 8-14. Think of the Jonathan Kuminga: relatively low floor (a project, in other words), relatively high ceiling. It MAY take some years before they get into the rotation (maybe not), but we’re talking about two 6’7 athletic freaks with 6’11 wingspans; they are going to make waves in the NBA.
To learn more about the Thompson Twins, the rest of the 2023 draft class and the future of the NBA, tune in to NBA Tomorrow on Radio DePaul Sports every Tuesday at 12:00 PM Central