The 2024 NBA Draft cycle is about to come to an end. Tonight the first round will take place, and tomorrow so will do the second one. This year’s class has a big particularity: apparently, no clear-cut potential franchise cornerstones exist. However, every Draft class has some players who have a low floor and high reward, who need to be drafted for a specific type of team or culture to have success in the league, or who have been overthought or overlooked because of their red flags. The best example of what we have just mentioned is Juan Nuñez.

Nuñez, a 2004-born Spanish PG who led the offense for Ratiopharm Ulm for the last two years, has been on the NBA horizon for a while. Juan is the most creative player in the NBA Draft: there are not many profiles in this class who can impose their will on the opposing defense as he does, and he has a mind-blowing ability to anticipate the scheme and create advantages. We are talking about not only a flashy, but also a highly efficient passer who makes life way easier for his teammates. Most of the concerns with him, at the end of the day, come to the same: a lack of conventional athleticism, limited scoring upside and some concerns regarding the way he transmits the competitiveness and his defensive capabilities. These weaknesses have been largely treated as borderline red flags, and in his case, it has been overlooked that he’s already elite at one thing. Juan is probably one of the players who excels the most at one concrete skill in the class, and we might have been focusing too much on what he can’t/isn’t expected to do than on what he does, which should be a strong enough selling point for a prospect with such an on-ball talent who can boost the production of all of his teammates.

All over the first years of his early career, he has been able to display his creativity at every level he’s played. Not only this: he has also been able to figure out quickly where the effort-demand bar is, and he has adjusted to it. His style of playing basketball requires assuming high risks, and he has been able to turn them into something his teams can live with because he has the talent to turn them into real production. Nuñez has found a way to raise the floor of competitive teams while developing himself at all the levels existing at the European level. At 19, he has already been a talented, starting-caliber Point Guard for a Spanish National Team with winning hopes, and he has established himself as a non-discussed part of their rotation for the years to come if it all keeps going as expected.

Juan Nuñez has every pass you can imagine in his bag. He’s not a player who relies on his explosiveness or speed to make unexpected things happen but on his mind. He’s a threat on the open floor because he can activate the transition by playing heads-up or giving the right passing lane to the defensive rebounder without the need to dribble. Not only that, but he’s capable of manipulating the pace of the game in halfcourt offense without relying on his body burst or explosiveness because his eyes and hands are so good at creating advantages and reading the gaps he creates right after that he creates a ton of easy points just by delivering the ball on point. In a league with tremendously efficient transition and fastbreak finishers and trustable shooters off movement, having an early initiator who can do a quick scan of the scheme and set the offense with a margin for improvisation and zero need to slow down the game shouldn’t be undervalued. We already saw for some stretches of the season how solid he can be as a PG for versatile shooters such as Thomas Kepleisz or Justinian Jessup, who were used off screens, flares or just slipping the screen, and took advantage of sharing the court with a team-oriented initiator. The point with Juan is that, while he can hit this pass, he will still be able to understand where the gap behind the defender is, or if any other cut/out of the scheme action occurs. Good examples of this are LJ Figueroa -the first part of the season especially- or Karim Jallow, two active forwards who can play with high activity and put rim pressure without the ball in their hands when they are focused. Juan will share the court with similar archetypes once he puts a foot in the NBA, they just will be more talented, too.

We were in Ulm earlier in the 2023/24 season to talk to Juan Nuñez and discover how he sees himself as a basketball player, as well as we also saw his game against JL Bourg. If you want a detailed scouting report on his game, you will find it attached right here. It has been an irregular season for the 2022/23 BBL Champions, but anyway, we have seen some late signals of improvement for Juan Nuñez in some areas. Back in November we already mentioned the strides he made as a shooter, and at some point he will be respectable off the dribble if it all keeps going. He has also found a package of finishes avoiding contact that, especially with high layups, allow him to get to the paint and rely on his touch. In addition, he found some ways to change speed, direction, and height and beat his opponents off the dribble when he operates off the screen, mainly in side pick&roll actions. Another thing he has focused on a lot, and it might have been the brightest improvement spot for him in 2024, is his mid-range control: as you can see in the video attached to our Twitter account, Juan has been able to put his opponents in jail more often, he has developed a new timing control to play with screeners, and he has worked on a floater that should be translatable at a certain volume. A ball-handler needs to have some scoring counters to be an NBA-level ball-handler, and while Juan might don’t have that scoring juice to go for huge amounts of points, he’s on his way to being an enough unpredictable player to fuel his playmaking by transmitting to the defense the feeling that he can take what they leave him.

Juan Nuñez has been on the mainstream scouting radar for many years. He has demonstrated he can adjust to wherever the bar is, and he will just deliver. He’s not the type of player who will demonstrate possession after possession how engaged he is and how much he cares about what’s going on, but that’s just because that’s not his way of playing basketball. He doesn’t need to show it at every moment. A player who has been able to play regularly over his age group and be a dominant and prominent ball-handler, has taken a foreign team beyond their expectations and has gone over the difficulties that Guards face in the basketball environment in Spain shouldn’t be overthought at all. He is just talented enough and, as a player who needs to feel like he’s facing a challenge day after day, he will feel comfortable in the NBA. He’s elite at a thing that just helps the teams he plays for to achieve their goal: winning.