Scouting: Kendale McCullum

Name: Kendale Deshawn McCullum
Date of Birth: 31st of May 1996
Nationality: USA
Height: 1,85m
Weight: 75 kg
Pro since: 2019
Club: Uni Baskets Paderborn
Role: Quick Scoring Guard
Key Skills: Transition Game, Quickness, Passing, Quick Hands


Background

Kendale McCullum is a 23-year-old guard who spent his college time with Wisconsin-Parkside and the Lewis Flyers in the NCAA Division II. From the outside, he was kind of a risky choice as the starting point guard and lead ballhandler for a German ProA-team (2nd division). Still, Uni Baskets Paderborn, who are normally placed in the lower tier of that league, didn’t shy away and were rewarded. They played their best season in years before the virus stopped the competition and McCullum was one of the main reasons why. He was definitely a MVP-candidate, averaging 18.3 points, 7.1 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 3.7 turnovers in 31 minutes over 27 games.


Strengths

Transition. Is at his best in transition- or early offense-situations. Really benefited from Paderborn’s quick playing style, was allowed to bring the ball up quickly and look for early scoring opportunities. Could rebound the ball himself, get into open court and look what the defense gives him. Extremely tough to stop coast-to-coast. Draws the attention of the transition defense and finds open teammates for easy baskets. Exploits defenders that are either just jogging back or picking him up way too early which is both deadly against his quickness.

Quickness. Maybe the quickest player in the entire league. Used this in transition but also in halfcourt-offense. Can blow by defenders sitting on their heels for a second with his explosive first step, tough to recover for the opponent on the way to the basket. Good change of pace and directions, creates space which he can immediately use with his speed. In pick&roll-situations, can either exploit the mismatch after the switch or can go around the aggressive hedge and is still fast enough to have the advantage to attack the basket. Creative finisher at the rim, can use both hands and the hoop as a protection which makes it really tough for shotblockers. Pushes his body into big guys to create space for the layup.

Courtvision/Passing. Maybe sometimes a bit overlooked but McCullum’s vision and passing are great. Plays unselfish and always has the head up to look for open teammates, is used to draw a lot of attention with his drives and makes good passes out of it – even in rather complicated situations. Was a true floor general and ran their offense with patience, finding good solutions most of the time.

Pick & Roll Passing. Had a nice pick & roll partnership with Paderborn’s center Martin Seiferth. They developed a good understanding for each other and made it look easy on the court. With Seiferth’s athleticism, the lob-pass was a very common outcome of their two-man action.

Defensive Energy/Cleverness. Although it might not be very obvious with his 75kg (165 lbs) frame, McCullum was actually a good defender in his first season overseas. He was really engaged most of the time and showed that he can be an aggressive on-ball-defender. His opportunities to switch are obviously rather limited but he made up for this with clever plays and quick hands when sprinting into passing lanes or reading cuts and passes. His 2.6 steals per game underline just that.


Weaknesses

Long-range shooting. Shot a really good 41.7% from three-point range through his first pro season – but with a low volume. Only attempted 2.7 threes per game, compared to 8.7 two-point shots. Doesn’t always have the most confidence in his long-range shooting, especially off the dribble. Rather opts to look for the pass or get into the paint. This wasn’t a big problem in Paderborn as they had lots of other good shooters. But you’d expect defenses to drop back and beg him to shoot more, as he can do way more damage with his drives.

Body/Physicality. Will face even more physicality when he plays on a higher level in the future. Can overshadow his size disadvantages with his speed but needs to add some weight/strength to finish against bigger bodies inside. Was solid (and creative) when finishing against contact in the ProA but still room for improvement and should be easier with a more musuclar frame.

Turnovers. 3.7 turnovers per game sound a lot but considering that McCullum is a rookie PG out of the NCAA II it’s what you expect. Still, there were some unnecessary turnovers when he got into a crowded paint and threw the ball away very early or while jumping into the air. This led to uncontrolled passes and painful live-ball turnovers. He needs more patience in those situations and should not force passes as this can be even more costly on a higher level.


Outlook

Kendale McCullum was a super interesting rookie to follow in his first pro season. There were multiple opposing coaches who credited him after a game and expected him to play in a first division in Europe next year. When looking at the German BBL, you could imagine him in a team from a lower tier or as a backup-guard. He will definitely face a lot more physicality there and has to expect prepared opponents that won’t give him as much easy baskets as in the ProA this season. McCullum has to show that his quickness and finihing abilities transfer to the higher league and that his jumpshooting improves to a level where defenders have to pick their poison.

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