Babcock Hoops' director of scouting Derek Murray breaks down 2020 NBA Draft prospect Malachi Flynn of the San Diego State Aztecs.
Position: PG | Height: 6’1” | Weight: 185 | Team: San Diego State | Class: Junior
Passing + Vision
Feel for the Game
Free Throw Shooting
Engaged + Willing Defender
Malachi Flynn’s success is a product of hard work, not handouts. The chip of being undersized and underappreciated is a part of his competitive makeup and has formed him into the prospect he is today. Although he averaged nearly 30 points per game as a senior and won Player of the Year in Washington, the recruiting rankings did not reflect his talent.
ESPN: Not Ranked
Rivals.com: Not Ranked
247Sports: #293 (#54 PG)
Originally committed to Pacific, Washington State came in late to offer him a scholarship at the end of his senior campaign after winning the state championship. While he was still unknown nationally, one thing remains true today just as it did in 2016 — Malachi Flynn can hoop. After two seasons with Washington State, he transferred to San Diego State, where he went on to win Mountain West Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and was named to the John R. Wooden All-America Team.
The most prominent part of Flynn’s offense is his ability to run the pick-and-roll. He ranked in the 96th percentile as a pick-and-roll handler as a junior, in which he demonstrated reliability as both a scorer and a passer. Although he’s only 6’1, he does a really nice job attacking the lane and finishing. He attempted only 21% of his field-goal attempts at the rim, but converted 68.2% of them, which ranks 3rd among other guards in the 2020 class. He doesn’t have elite explosiveness, but Flynn is really crafty in the way he creates advantages. His burst and agility help him to split defenders and beat his man off the dribble, while his footwork and patience make manipulating drop defenders easy. I love watching him snake his way through the lane, often hitting shots that leave you in awe. He likely won’t pressure the rim with high volume at the next level, but the tools and ability to finish with either hand make it an option when necessary.
In today’s NBA, a guard who can score on multiple levels is a real weapon. I was incredibly impressed this season by Flynn’s ability to score in multiple ways, demonstrating just how well-rounded his game can be. He ranked 83rd percentile or higher in the three pick-and-roll shooting categories: dribble jumpers, runners, and taking it to the basket. His tight handles and crisp footwork allow him to put his aggressive nature to use, making life miserable for big men who dropped, as well as guards going over screens. One thing that consistently popped for me was his ability to change speeds in tight spaces. He is incredibly shifty and can create enough separation for a jumper or open a passing lane, and only needs the smallest of opportunities to take advantage. Creating space at the next level is as much about changing speeds and pace as it is pure speed, so I feel Flynn will be able to contribute.
Flynn also projects as a decent shooter at the next level. With fantastic touch on runners and floaters, and a free-throw percentage of 85.7% (120-for-140), I believe that his three-point percentage will end up, within reason, similar to his 2019-20 numbers. He connected on 37.3% (76-of-204) of his threes, 63% of which were assisted. When he’s locked in, he’s a tremendous pull-up shooter due to his footwork and ability to stop on a dime. He also ranked in the 83rd percentile as a catch-and-shooter, which is why I feel he can be a valuable off-ball presence. With only 34 recorded off-screen possessions, it’s hard to fully grasp his potential, but with limited volume he shot well, connecting on 40% of his attempts. Flynn reads screens well and has great feel, so he’s able to lose his man often with creativity. What many scouts like about Flynn’s shooting is that he has bonafide NBA range. There’s no look, no spot on the floor, that he doesn’t think he can’t hit; a mentality required to be successful at the next level. One of the few concerns I do have with his shooting comes down to positional size. At 6’1” and average length, a number of his looks are easy to contest. At the NBA level, he may run into some trouble getting off shots under duress.
As a junior, Flynn averaged 5.1 assists per game and had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.86, good for 14th in the NCAA. His combination of vision and headiness, smart decision making, and aversion to mistakes, helped him drive one of the best offenses in the country. He distributes all over the floor; he can hit teammates on the wings, in the corner, and is consistent with pocket and over the top passes to roll men. Because he’s not the tallest or longest guard, he’s made eye manipulation and fakes a huge part of his repertoire, and developed a terrific use of either hand. Flynn is someone I trust to run a second unit fairly early in his career because he understands when to, and when not to, push the pace as a ball handler. He’s rarely in a rush and plays under control with clean decision making, traits necessary in those whom coaches rely on in important minutes.
I believe Malachi Flynn is the type of player who makes his teammates better. His combination of catch-and-shoot ability, along with the tools to be a legitimate, serviceable backup PG, should afford a team a plethora of lineup combinations to which he can slot into. While not projecting to be a superstar in any one role, his diversity of capabilities should get him on the floor early and often in the beginning stages of his career.
Competitiveness is in the blood of Malachi Flynn. Growing up the youngest of seven siblings, all of which are high-level athletes, makes fighting and scrapping for position a state of mind instead of something to be learned.
In my opinion, he’s one of the more underrated point-of-attack defenders in the class. He’s not overpowering physically, but the technique is there, and his willingness to fight through screens and compete is evident. Even when he’s beaten, Flynn never quits on a play, always providing effort until the whistle by recovering and contesting every shot he can. With good feet and quick hands, he was able to log 56 steals this season, never letting his opponents have anything easy. He’s a formidable perimeter defender, but when his man can get downhill, that causes some problems. The lack of positional size hurts him in the way he gets bumped off spot, so it will be imperative for him to employ his lateral quickness and maintain staying in front of his man.
Off the ball, I appreciate Flynn’s willingness to stunt and dig when he can; it’s clear that providing value, no matter what it looks like, is the intent with each play. With his excellent IQ and awareness, he recognizes rotations and positioning quickly which is great to see, especially when he jumps into passing lanes. His aggression does cause negative plays occasionally, however. While I love that he’s constantly looking to make a play and create problems, at times he’ll gamble and leave his man, ultimately leaving the rest of the play vulnerable. At the end of the day, I still believe in him as one of the best team defenders in the class among ball handlers.
While the NBA Draft is largely about filling your locker room with size and talent, sometimes there are players that fill a role regardless of their physical stature. Winning cultures are built on players that are willing to work, which has been evident in this year’s Miami Heat squad. Malachi Flynn is the type of competitor you want in your organization. We have been in contact with a member of the coaching staff at San Diego State and learned that in regards to Flynn’s work ethic, the program classifies him within the same tier as school legend and NBA superstar, Kawhi Leonard.
“When arriving at SDSU, he asked for film non-stop in order to learn the new offense,” said the coach. “He leads by example and is mature in how he handles his business. Malachi lives in the gym because the internal drive to improve is where he finds self-satisfaction, always asking the right questions and constantly finding ways to get better,” he continued.
At Washington State, Malachi grew tired of losing and mediocrity. When he decided to commit to San Diego State, he had a clear and concise plan laid out for himself: work his way into being an NBA-quality player and help the Aztecs win every game put in front of them.
The organization that brings Flynn in is getting a grinder with a relentless work ethic, as well as a guy with swagger and skill on the court. His shooting versatility and ability to play both on and off-ball make him a viable option for a team in need of a punch. Malachi brings a maturity that would coalesce well with any locker room and allow him to contribute in whatever way asked of him. If a team needs a reliable backup point guard with starter upside for the near future, Malachi Flynn could be their guy.