The University of Virginia will likely have two players drafted in the first round of tonight’s 2019 NBA Draft. De’Andre Hunter is a lock to be a lottery pick, but Virginia fans will most likely also hear Ty Jerome’s name called within the first 30 picks. Where Hunter was the most talented player in the program, and teammate Kyle Guy was the face of the Cavaliers, Jerome was the pivotal third piece that kept things running behind the scenes.
In Virginia’s National Championship run, Jerome was arguably the most important player for the Cavaliers. He averaged 16.9 points, six assists, 5.2 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and just 1.5 turnovers in a ridiculous 39.3 minutes per NCAA tournament game, while also shooting at a 40.4% clip from three (17-for-42).
That’s not bad.
Although his play in the Elite Eight against Purdue will likely be remembered for his missed free throw that set up THE PLAY, Jerome hit a crucial bucket with 3:17 left in overtime (and one second left on the shot clock) to tie things up once again and keep Virginia in the game. But that’s how Jerome operated. When Virginia needed a big bucket, No. 11 was there, whether dishing it out or hitting it himself.
Buckle up, this section is going to be a doozy. Jerome is one of the savviest players to come through Virginia, and he couples that inherent basketball IQ with pinpoint passing and accurate shooting. Over his career, Jerome averaged 43.5% from the field and 39% from three. His final season with the Cavaliers, he kept right on those averages (44% from the field, 40% from three), but he improved his points per game from 10.6 to 13.6 and nearly doubled his rebounds per game (2.4 to 4.2).
In ACC play, Jerome excelled. His 43.4% three point mark was sixth best in the conference, and he led the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio with 3.6 (with 6.1 assist per game). Six times Jerome reached the 20-point mark this season, and four times he registered 10 or more assists (including his first two career double-doubles with points and assists).
The numbers don’t tell the full story of just how good he is, however. Jerome can shoot from outside, create his own shot off the dribble, get to the rim, pass with accuracy in traffic, utilize screens and pick and roll plays, and direct traffic offensively. He can pass his teammates open, and doesn’t rattle late in the shot clock.
And that’s just the offense. While his defense isn’t on the same level as Malcolm Brogdon’s or Hunter’s, Jerome was no slouch on that end of the court (obviously, or Tony Bennett wouldn’t have played him). He averaged 34 minutes per game over the course of the 2018-19 season, but only committed two fouls per 40 according to KenPom. His wingspan isn’t stellar (more on that in a minute), but still averaged 1.5 steals per game in the NCAA tournament.
But Jerome’s biggest asset might be his ability to read the game. He’s an incredibly smart and competitive player, knowing exactly what move to make on the court. Nothing shows that more than this play from the 2017-18 season:
You will hear one primary complaint of Ty Jerome’s game: his athleticism. Although his height and size are a huge benefit to his game (as mentioned above), Jerome isn’t particularly quick and doesn’t have particularly impressive measurements otherwise. He has a “negative wingspan” — meaning his wingspan is just slightly shorter than his height — and his NBA Combine results weren’t anything to write home about.
Jerome missed the end of his senior year of high school with a hip injury that required surgery, so his mobility was a little affected his first season in Charlottesville. Over his three years under Tony Bennett and staff, however, his agility improved. That slow first step could impact his ability to stay with or in front of players in the NBA, or to get past his defender on the offensive end of the court.
Normally, performance in workouts and highlights outweigh just straight numbers, but there will likely be some that rely heavily on his less-than-impressive combine results to form an opinion.
Jerome’s game is most similar to another player Virginia fans should be pretty familiar with: Malcolm Brogdon. While you may not immediately think of The Prez when you watch Jerome play, both have good size, can shoot the daylights out of the ball (from all areas of the court), and have a savviness on the court that’s enviable. Neither one is going to blow you away with the first step, but both find ways to score and put their teammates in the best possible positions to succeed.
Greivis Vasquez — yes, I know, a Maryland grad — is another comparison for Jerome, similar to the reasoning with Brogdon: slower first step, but savvy player.
What the experts are saying...
He’s an absolute gamer, and has the kind of confident mentality that I’d love to go into games with. He’s also the kind of guard who can play both on and off-ball due to his shooting skill...
Listen, he’s got the dad bod, right? He’s got a negative wingspan, he can’t jump over a phone book, he can’t get by me or you [ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt], but this guy is a National Champion. He is a gamer. He’s a ball screen savant, he can make every pick and roll read, he shoots it with range, I think he’s a much better defender than he gets credit for, so I really think that he’s going to be starting — not just playing — but starting far more NBA games than people think.
Every single NBA exec, scout, college coach, media member, animal, and grandmother whom I talked to loved Ty Jerome...Your team will screw up in the draft because they look at Ty Jerome and concede that he’s good, but then end up gushing over a 19-year-old who was worthless in college and wondering what that kid is gonna look like when he is 22. The answer, 95 percent of the time, will be: not as good as Ty Jerome.
Potential landing spots...
There’s a lot of variety where Ty Jerome could end up on Thursday night. The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie has him going at No. 33 to the Philadelphia 76ers, but says he could see Jerome getting drafted anywhere from No. 20 to No. 36.
Keep an eye on the Cleveland Cavaliers pick at No. 26. Jerome and Cleveland GM Koby Altman have a long-standing history, as Altman was an assistant coach at Columbia University when they offered him a spot to come play. With John Beilein now at the helm of the Cavaliers, Jerome could be exactly what Cleveland is looking for to come play alongside Collin Sexton. Could Jerome and best buddy De’Andre Hunter stay Cavaliers together?
The Grizzlies are going to take Ja Morant at No. 2 in this draft, but there could be the need for some more perimeter help in Memphis. Jerome is a good candidate for that outside help with the 23rd pick of the draft, according to Jonathan Givony:
This was never really in doubt, as we reported the day after the NBA Draft lottery, but Ja Morant will be wearing wearing a Memphis Grizzlies hat around 740pm EST tomorrow. Wouldn't surprise me if Memphis adds shooting at 23 now. Cam Johnson, Keldon Johnson, Ty Jerome few options— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 19, 2019
Jerome could also likely end up with Boston (No. 22), Philadelphia (No. 24), or Milwaukee (No. 30), all of which could use a high IQ shooter that can facilitate within a team offense.
The Draft kicks off Thursday night at 7pm. All the action will be broadcast on ESPN.