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Playing Devil's Advocate: Isaiah Canaan

A look at the negatives to Canaan and what holes exist in his game.

Andy Lyons

The Rockets acquired the 34th pick in the 2013 NBA draft from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Marcus Morris in a trade deadline deal this last season. With this pick Houston selected the fourth year point guard from Murray State: Isaiah Canaan. Canaan is a score first point-guard with a very good handle and shoots at a great clip in spot up and off the dribble situations. However, there are a lot of aspects to his game which raise questions on whether or not he'll be able to compete at the NBA level. He lacks athleticism, the ability to finish in the lane, court vision/passing ability, he turns the ball over too much, and isn't a good defender. In this post I'll be looking Canaan's weaknesses and why they will be issues for him going forward in his career.

Excuse me while I go put my Skip Bayless mask on to get into character for this.

Practical Athleticism

Canaan isn't a spectacular athelete by any means, he's not going to impress you with his quickness or verticle leap in games. This is going to be a huge issue for him in the NBA where everyone is quicker, faster, and stronger. Canaan in college didn't have a quick first step to blow by defenders, instead he relied on his ball skill to get by defenders. NBA players are much better individual defenders than they are in college, for Canaan to be able to penetrate into the lane he'll have to become quicker, especially with his first step. His lateral quickness is pretty average as well, this will hurt his defense on the next level where players switch directions a lot quicker than in college. As for his vertical, he was tested at 40.5 inches, which is ridiculous for a person of his size, but it doesn't relate to the court where he failed to finish at the rim despite being able to jump high. Overall for Canaan he is your average NBA athlete at best for now, if he wants to have a career in this league he'll have to become quicker and stronger.

Finishing At the Rim

This is my biggest issue with Canaan, he can't finish at the rim. According to Synergy Sports the past two years he shot 45% and 49% around the rim which is very much below average. Watching film of him when attacking the rim he tends to be overly aggressive leading to unnecessary charges and lots of his shots being blocked. This is partly due to his barely 6 foot frame. If you take into account that he was going against lower level competition in college it doesn't bode well for his transition to the NBA. If you can't finish against second and third tier college players, you definitely can't finish against the big-men of the NBA. Teams will play him for the shot the whole time and dare him to drive, if he can't improve his finishing ability he'll probably have a short career in the NBA.

Court Vision/Passing

Just a warning, it's going to get pretty ugly in this section. Canaan averaged a mere 4.3 assists per 40 minutes pace adjusted. That's absolutely terrible compared to the other point guards in the draft, only 3 of them have lower assist numbers than he does in that catergory. He posted a 1.29 assist to turnover ratio, good for second worst only ahead of CJ McCollum. His Assist/FgA ratio is .26. For every 4 shots he takes, he only gets 1 assist. Terrible. Draft Express also uses a measurement for Pure Passer Rating to measure how effective of a passer players are, Canaan is in the bottom 2 with a PPR of -1.32. Since he is the focal point of the Murray State offense, opposing defenses should be gravitating to him leaving his teammates open for shots. He has obviously failed to find them, and watching tape his assists were usually basic kick-outs on drives and the pick and roll. This isn't going to work in the NBA, you have to be able to find the open guy and read the defenses, especially in a wide open offense like Houston's where shooters are everywhere.


On defense his lack of quickness and size are huge issues. His lack of lateral quickness allows for quicker point guards to get by him for drives. At the next level everyone is quick and defense is a must. He'll have to work on sliding his feet and staying in front of guys to keep them out of the paint. Another issue is his size; he's only 6 fee tall, larger point guards can shoot over him or post him up. As well when defending the pick and roll, he won't be able to fight through screens, every second matters when defending the pick and roll. He'll either have to gamble going over the screen and hope his man doesn't drive the lane or go under giving his man the three point shot. He needs to bulk up to make up for his lack of size (think Kyle Lowry). In my opinion, at best he is an average NBA defender, but it will take a couple years for him to even become that.


Canaan is an incredible shooter both off the dribble and spotting up, we can't deny that, but almost every other aspect of his game leaves a lot to be desired. Going into his career I don't see Canaan as a starter or even a backup. There are too many holes in his game, he can't pass, finish at the rim, or defend. Those are three huge issues and if they stay at the rate they have been I don't see him being an impactful player ever in his career. I don't want to be the guy saying "I told you so" 2 years from now, so hopefully I'm wrong.