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  • Writer's pictureCarmineCoppola

Early Report : Ausar And Amen Thompson From The Overtime Elite - 2023 NBA Draft

Updated: Aug 10, 2022

Ahead of what’s considered to be an historically talented draft, scouts and draft addicts continue to complete their never-too-early-big-board. Apart from Frenchman Victor Wembanyama or maybe Scoot Henderson that seem to be locks, there are still a lot of uncertainties at the top and players could still climb or fall the ladder in the next 300+ days that separate us from the 23rd of June.

Amongst the prospects that make this 2023 draft so special, that franchises are rescheduling their entire timeline and future around it, are the Thompson’s twins, Ausar and Amen. The two brothers chose an original and empowering path to reach their goal as they skipped their senior year in High School to immediately jump to the professional level, in spite of the expressed interests of many notorious universities, joining the freshly created Overtime Elite. After a year there, and less than 11 months before draft night, here’s how things stand for them, and how their choice already impacted their future.

First of all, the Overtime Elite (OTE) started in 2021 with a vision to create a professional league where, unlike college, players from 16 to 20 years are paid and offered many other benefits. The league features 27 recruits fully living, learning and training in Atlanta near the newly built, perfectly in line with to the evolution of the data and tracking side of basketball, Overtime facilities. Those young promises are divided in three teams that play 27 games against national and even international competition before participating in a small tournament between the three teams to crown a champion. But the real winner of that first year was the league as a whole, as it continued to expand its popularity and ultimately, as three players left it for the prestigious NBA in Dominick Barlow (Spurs), Jean Montero (Knicks) and Jai Smith (Kings).

The concept of this ambitious project appeared when the leadership, now composed of many ex-NBA and NCAA recognized individuals, realised that they could take advantage of the own popularity of the Overtime structures and the growing demand for highschool basketball on internet. But they needed big names and showmanship to attracts the youth, with the high-flyings Ausar and Amen Thompson, they got exactly what they looked for, as shown by the 23 videos they produced on the youtube channel of the league including at least one of the brothers in the headline or the thumbnail since their commitments in May 2021.

However, the potential gain in popularity is not why the tandem made the choice to go there. They just thought that skipping their last year in Pine Crest High School, where they outrageously dominated, and College entirely, to benefit of 24 months of presumed NBA-like training and coaching guidance was the best and most intuitive path towards their goal, the NBA. From what they say, this decision already paid off: they feel like they’ve progressed in ways that wouldn’t have been possible anywhere else and for the first time, they were put on different teams and learned to play without each other, something they probably wouldn’t have done in college.

Ausar and Amen are basically physically identical, both being 6’7 with shoes on, having the same look and the same haircut. The OTE committee was kind enough to put them in different teams, Ausar joining Team Elite and Amen Team OTE. On the court, they also have the same exciting playing style, breaking defenses with their speed, length and vision. They both are generational athletes, as fast and athletic as practically anyone in the draft. This year, Amen played more as a primary ball-handler point guard/initiator where Ausar adopted something close to a playmaking-wing role while still having on-ball responsabilities.

You guessed it, the two are definitely the most interesting with the ball in their hands: they’re solid, shifty dribblers, they manipulate pick and rolls pretty well against different types of coverage, their drives are often sharp, incisive and once they pass a shoulder, with their quickness and athleticism, you won’t see them again.

But more importantly, because that’s what makes them so special, their passing abilities are simply mesmerizing. They both have shown a strong propensity to hit the strong-side and weak-side corner (especially Amen) because of their height which allows them to throw cross-court pass above the defense, they’re great kick-out passer and excellent in traffic with their size, body control and tremendous hang-time.

(to be more understandable and fair-minded, I will start the footages with clips of Amen followed by clips of Ausar)

Amen averaged 5.1 assists per 36 and he could’ve got way more if his teammates capitulated on the good looks he created for them. Sometimes, he tends to force passes even when the angle is not there and his constant rush with the ball can push him to throw precipitated, unprecise passes. That’s why he also averaged 3.5 assists per 36. Ausar, for his part, netted 4.1 assists and 3.4 TOV per 36 (those turnovers numbers may look worrying, but in reality, considering the “chaos” surrounding them and their playing style, it’s forgivable).

Their great feel for the game and for the show also translates in transition. Like most good athletes, that’s where they could be the most dangerous and the two will surely be strong beneficiaries of the new rules for foul in transition.

Secondly, they are great penetrators and finisher, their somewhat skinny build and agility helps them penetrates through small gaps and with their long arms, strides they quickly get to the rim. Once they’re near the basket, there isn’t a lot you can do with their athleticism and solid touch on both hands

Right now, Ausar is probably the better finisher/penetrator of the two with his strength and touch but Amen is at least as interesting as he is really shifty and can get low really quick, the younger brother (by a min) also started taking advantage of the way defenses fear his rim pressure by dropping timely passes in the paint like this.

The biggest question mark, for both of them, is their shooting. Ausar seemed to have made some improvements mechanic and rythm-wise but his splits from the season are still far from convincing: 65.2% from the line and 23.6% from three on 72 attempts in a 31 game sample. Regarding Amen, he shot an even more awful 22% from three in 59 tries and a 56.2% from the free throw line in 30 games.

If I wanted to wear my Chip England cape, I’d say that their mechanics are odd in general, their release a bit too low, they throw their balance off by kicking their leg too much and their shots tend to fell flat. From the eye-test, and the stats should also confirm that, they are more confident shooting off the dribble. But reminder: I’m not Chip England. Moreover, they still pass/hesitate on some open threes, which is never what you want to see from young players.

They both know that their capacity to constantly make shots will decide how great they’ll be in the long run, because having a reliable jumper will of course open up a lot of other aspects of their game. It’s common to see players with such a big length struggle with their shot early in their career so no overreactions for the moment.

Now defensively, that’s where the league becomes more of a problem, because there really don’t seem to be any real team-defense culture. The concentration and the attention to details are pretty poor overall and for High School basketball it’s fine, but compared to college or the G League, the defense showcased here is, probably unsurprisingly, underwhelming. In the Finals, where their two teams were confronted (Ausar's team won 2-1 in a BO3 serie), they showed some truly worrying things for players whose goals are to join the best basketball league in the world, where ball-watching, bad close-outs and missed rotations are simply deadly for a career.

That said, the two brothers have a 6-10 wingspan that allows them to be seen anywhere on that end: they can contest shoot, disrupt passing-lane and ultimately, block every shoot they could realistically get. They’re impressive playmakers defensively, as Amen got 43 blocks, 63 steals last year and Ausar harvested an absurd 67 blocks and 53 steals.

For guards, they’ll be a big plus as rim-protector and Amen was often used as the top defender in some zone situation, with his length and instincts, he was really impactful there. We don’t have clear idea of their mobility because of the few shifty players they faced, but like in offense, they've shown some real capabilities to inclinate their ankle and body in unusual ways, which allows them to stay close on a lot of plays on-ball. They'll have to fix their awareness and discipline problems but once it's done, I imagine that they'll be solid positives on that end as they should become pretty versatile along with their truly valuable rebounding presence.

Having said all that, it's still unclear how much value and credibility we should give to the glimpses of brillance showcased in the OTE, because when we look at the games played, there is a strong sense of unprofessionalism/lack of rigour in reality. Despite concerned coaches, the availability of modern data and analytics or the eight time-outs being given to each team in a 32 minutes game, they’re basically not running any elaborated sets offensively and when they finally do, the execution is often poor. I just talked about the defensive concerns, the spacing is also not ideal, cuts seem not to be so encouraged and that’s regrettable knowing how Amen and Ausar could thrive in that type of role, with their crazy bounce and smart passing that could even translate well in some of short-roll situation.

In general, this league lacks structure and probably diversity/complexity, but maybe that’s what the organization wanted, a freed, quick-paced game, with a lot of room for highlights and personal interpretation.

Nonetheless, Ausar said that despite what people thought about the league, the practices he does here are harder than anything he’s done before. And it's also notable that the supervision and tracking that they’re subject to are really advanced from a technological standpoint which is already positive for their development.

In conclusion, Ausar and Amen Thompson are walking highlight films, they can dribble, pass intuitively, run the floor and jump out of the gym. They have basically the perfect build and tools to dominate the game in his variety of aspects, offensively and defensively. For those reasons, they fit perfectly the type of promotors a new league needs. Regarding their own development, this decision has already allowed them to use the freedom they’re given as a platform to show everything they’re capable of and to expand their on-ball game, when in college they would have been more limited or forced to enter and mould their game into an often not-so-flexible system. But the lack of real competition and what actually makes next-level basketball, next-level basketball, like high-stakes moments, adapted game-plan and more precise tasks will probably also be costly, even if we don’t truly know yet how much.

This multitude of variables and unknowns are why the sons of the trustful Troy Thompson are incredibly hard to rank, in an already historically compact and deep draft. But before their, hopefully, last year out of the NBA, I’d put Amen fourth and Ausar fifth in my board. Even if the flashes they showed was worthy of first pick considerations in a weaker draft, I feel like the lot of uncertainties surrounding them are still hard to overcome to confidently rank them higher and I think it will be the same for plenty of GMs, rightfully or not. Four and Five is still really high taking in account the questions we have surrounding them and the quality of the class, but I fell like their incredible upsides don't allow me to put them any lower (as prospects to develop, they both are arguably top 3 in the draft).

At the moment, Ausar is probably the better of the two, but I place Amen higher because they are far-from-finished products, and as such, I judge them by their supposed ceiling. Both have some shooting-related troubles and Ausar showed the best improvements there as well as being a fabulous shot-blocker, but the facility with which Amen entered a new role that will give him the biggest edge at the next level, the way he learned how to start manipulating defense, his always enterprising vision and the conviction in all his drives and passes are, to me, more outstanding and slightly more promising. The other way around is also understandable because they’re really close and with another full year watching them, my affirmation is still clearly vulnerable to changes.

Amen and Ausar took a bet on themselves, they tried a new path in a world where leaving the traced route can have irretrievable consequences, and if this gamble pays out, they will be seen as real trailblazers in the development of new alternatives to college basketball, because they surely paved the way for future prospects.

That's it for my early report regarding the Thompson twins and the breakdown of what the Overtime Elite can offer, thanks for reading it and as always, if you have anything to say, the comments are open. Until next time, have a great week !

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