Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be taking a look at some of Southern California’s top high school basketball prospects from an NBA scouting perspective. Up next is All-American Sierra Canyon shooting guard BJ Boston Jr., who will play at Kentucky next season.
Boston is a 5-star recruit and possible one-and-done who has recently been projected to go as high as sixth in the 2021 NBA Draft. Most recently listed at 6-foot-7 and 185 pounds, he has a prototypical offensive skill set for a modern shooting guard, and I expect him to live up to the basketball world’s lofty expectations for him.
Length and shooting makes him a safe bet
At 6-7 with a 6-10 wingspan, you can’t miss the fact that Boston has outstanding size for a shooting guard. He perfectly fits the mold of a wing who can spot up and stroke it from three and mid-range. Boston is always ready to catch-and-shoot with zero wasted movement. With his combination of great length and dangerous shooting ability, he spaces the floor as well as anybody. Not only will he punish anyone who leaves him open, but he can consistently knock down 25-footers even with a hand in his face with his fairly quick, high release.
Because of his length and shooting stroke at the two, he’s drawn comparisons to Jeremy Lamb and Mike Miller among others, but that’s just his baseline. Boston is so much more than a catch-and-shoot guy with prototypical wing length.
Complete package of guard skills
A lot of people out there who haven’t seen Boston play don’t realize that he’s likely to be top out as more than a nice spot-up guy at the next level. Especially for his age, he is a much stronger ball-handler and more advanced finisher at the rim than most off-guards that live in the corner at the NBA level. It’s an understatement to say that running him off the three-point line will never work–his finishing, ball-handling, and passing will rival plenty of point guards in college, and put him above many or most NBA wings with some time in the league.
While it wouldn’t be optimal to feature him as a lead guard at the highest level, Boston plays some de facto point guard for Sierra Canyon. His passing will instantly be fairly advanced for a wing the second he steps onto an NBA floor, and could develop to an even higher level when he’s surrounded by more shooting and rim-oriented big men than he is at Sierra Canyon. His feel for the game is already ahead of plenty of scoring-oriented NBA shooting guards.
Numerous similarities to: Devin Booker
I wouldn’t say Devin Booker is a great comparison for Boston across the board–largely because blanketing comparisons are problematic–but there is a striking amount of similarities in terms of offensive arsenal and potential developmental trajectory between them.
Booker came into Kentucky as a likely one-and-done and mid-late lottery prospect. His reputation was as a knockdown shooter with clear NBA range, plus good size for a shooting guard and a handful of point guard skills. Most who didn’t watch him expected him to be a nice spot-up shooter in the NBA with a good for feel the game and the ability to attack a close-out. That paragraph down to the school would describe Boston right now word for word.
However, those who watched Booker closely knew he was going to be a major threat with the ball in his hands after a couple years of filling out his frame and adjusting to the NBA game. By the time he was more than just a guy you can’t leave off the ball in scouting reports, he had turned into a devastating on-ball threat with not one tool missing from his offensive repertoire.
I don’t think Boston will ever put up MVP-caliber numbers like Booker does now, but I could see his development taking the same route with a similar skill package. Booker has quickly proven to be an all-time great shooter, but Boston is at minimum a very good one, even at NBA range. Boston’s shooting greatly sets up his ability to create off the bounce, just how it does for Booker.
Also like Booker, he’s not going to have a major edge in athleticism over his average matchup at the NBA level, but it’s not a concern. He’s plenty athletic enough to contribute on both ends in the pros and he has the conditioning to play hard on both ends and rebound for Sierra Canyon without ever needing much of a rest. Like Booker, Boston is also about as smooth as they come, as anyone who’s ever seen him will quickly tell you. He’ll never win an NBA dunk contest, but he can throw down in traffic and will probably put a few guys on posters in his career.
All that said, Boston will still be better served as a secondary playmaker against NBA competition much more than a guy like Booker who currently gets force-fed. But Boston is much longer and a better finisher at the rim than Booker was at 18. It would take a lot of development for him to compare skill-wise to one of the most skilled guards of this generation, but I expect Boston to be an all-around offensive force at the NBA level either way.
Others compare him to: Brandon Ingram
Another comparison with some merit I’ve seen is Brandon Ingram because of his wiriness and playmaking. Ingram is a good athlete who can guard even more athletic matchups by using his length to contest shots and put ball-handlers on edge. He’s a team-first guy who loves to set up teammates, but knows when–and when not–to take over a game.
One thing Booker and Ingram both do that Boston does too is wreck shorter guards anywhere in the post. Also like Ingram, Boston is likely to be an above-average rebounder for an NBA wing in his prime.
However, the Ingram comparison undersells Boston’s devastating three-point capabilities. Even more so, it really undersells the degree to which his playmaking is ignited by his stroke from way deep.
Second opinion: Beau Estes of NBA.com and NBA TV
NBA TV’s Beau Estes was a fan of Boston’s game from having watched him earlier in his high school down South before I started covering him at Sierra Canyon.
“BJ has that Scottie Pippen like quality where he appears to not be trying and yet he’s everywhere on the court. While he was clearly the most talented player on a floor full of D1 prospects, he was always a willing passer and an engaged defender,” Estes said. “There were moments though, when necessary, that BJ took control of the game in a way that made you wonder how high the ceiling on him could be. The ball handling is there. The passing is there. The athleticism is there and the frame is there. It’s probably quicker to say there’s not much that’s not there for BJ Boston. He has a really bright future in the game of basketball.”