Unlike the last Rockets’ Summer League prospect we featured (Campbell University’s Chris Clemons), St. John’s product Shamorie Ponds is far from an unknown in basketball circles. From high school, to college, to the pre-draft process, the Brooklyn native has consistently been a star of the youth basketball hype machine companies such as Ballislife or Hoopmixtape have built.
As one would expect from a New York-raised, YouTube hoop star, there is a lot of flash in Ponds’ game. His isolation game is as aesthetically appealing as it gets. From various hesitation-crossover combinations to half-spins and other pace-manipulating moves, Ponds’ bag is deep.
Much like C.J. McCollum or D’Angelo Russell, Ponds uses the threat of his jumper, his change of pace, and his one-on-one wiggle to create the requisite space to make up for his undersized frame (6’0, 180 lbs) when he attacks or to rock a defender to sleep before elevating for a jumper. It’s no accident he ranked in the 93rd percentile for Synergy Sports isolation efficiency metric this past year. Unfortunately, as much as Ponds’ NY style game helps him, it hurts in other ways.
A born scorer, Ponds’ main knock is his inability to realize when to defer and create for others. While he has certainly improved in this regard, reaching a 2.5 assist/turnover ratio this past season, Ponds’ is a ball-stopper. His 5.1 assists a game this past season is primarily a product of how often he has the ball. For Ponds to find a place in this league, his decision-making needs to balance out.
Furthermore, Ponds’ score-first mentality affects his intensity on the less-sexy end of the floor. Despite leading the big east in steals, Ponds too often floats on defense and rarely draws a tough assignment in order to conserve energy for offense. Much like Stephen Curry, Ponds is a high-steal defender primarily due to his easy assignments not requiring much attention, allowing him to roam and use his instincts to jump passing lanes.
When Ponds has to defend capable players one-on-one, his quickness allows him to hold his own against smaller guards on the perimeter, but his size limits him when he has to switch onto any player above point guard size and whenever he has to close out to a shooter. Defending more than one position is key if Ponds wishes to turn heads at Summer League.
Lastly, Ponds’ over-reliance on his left hand is a red flag. Despite having a solid touch around the rim with either hand, on the whole, Ponds is far less effective attacking with his non-dominant, right hand. In contrast to right-wing pick-and-rolls and high pick-and-rolls, where Ponds accrues over an efficient 1.0+ points per possession (PPP) since he can attack down hill using his left hand, Ponds is far less effective in pick-and-rolls on the left wing, where he has no choice but to create with his right, registering a paltry 0.368 PPP. That scouting report needs to change for Ponds to stick in Houston.
However, regardless of his flaws, Ponds is a natural scorer (19.7 points per game in 2018-19) that shot 43 percent on catch-and-shoot threes this season with savvy pick-and-roll instincts and a ton of room for improvement. Plenty of draft boards had him getting selected in the 2nd round, so Rockets’ brass managing to sign him to a Summer League roster that already featured three quality, scoring guards in Trevon Duval, Chris Chiozza, and the aforementioned Clemons is a win. For a franchise with no picks and minimal upside on the fringes of the roster, getting four bites at the “cheap, young guard-depth” apple is as good as one could hope for.