Mojave King was born in Dunedin, New Zealand on the 11th June 2002. At four years old he moved to Mackay, Australia with his family. Four years later, they settled in Brisbane. King doesn’t currently have an Australian passport and as a result has been unable to represent Australia in either junior or senior teams. However, he has expressed interest in playing for Australia and his father has told NBL reporter Liam Santamaria that he will play for Australia.
King comes from a basketball family, all of them having playing experience. His dad, Leonard, played in college for Florida A&M before starting a professional career and then eventually shifting to coaching. King’s mother, Tracey, played at Duquesne, while his sister, Tylah, played in college for Pacific.
Birthday: June 10, 2002
Listed Height: 6′ 5″
(NBA Academy Games, July 2019)
Height w/o shoes: 6′ 4″
Height w/ shoes: 6′ 5″
Wingspan: 6′ 7.5″
Standing Reach: 8′ 5.5″
At the start of 2019, King joined the NBA Global Academy in Australia. At the 2019 NBA Academy Games in Atlanta, King led all scorers with 19 points per game. Last year, he played in the Australia U18 Nationals for Queensland South where he led all scorers averaging almost 27 points per game.
King started to attract some offers to some large college programs such as Arizona and Baylor. Ultimately, he decided to sign with the Cairns Taipans in the NBL in their Next Star program. He’s yet to make his professional debut with the NBL season delayed but he should see the floor in Cairns’ season opener on January 15th.
King has great size to play as a two guard in the NBA. His frame is impressive with nice broad shoulders. The strength is already there for King but going forward he will be able to add even more mass and get stronger.
He is an explosive leaper. King’s load up time is impressive as he can quickly spring up off the ground, most noticeable in transition where he quickly pops up to dunk the ball. While he prefers jumping off of two feet, when he does jump off one foot he gets high off the ground and can cover a large distance in the air. You often see him jumping from near the free throw line and hang in the air in transition.
King is a great athlete in the open court, often beating players down the floor with sheer speed. He likes to get out in transition after rebounds. His physical tools allow him to contest shots and grab rebounds. From here he can either push the ball down the floor in transition or run out for easy points.
King has a lot of upside as a shooter. He can shoot off the catch in a variety of situations. Coming off of movement he is able to set his feet and release the ball quickly. When he does come off of movement he does a good job of staying on balance.
A great thing that King does is move to open spots on the floor when the ball is moving. When a player on his team is driving the ball he takes advantage of when his defender not watching to get open. He does a great job understanding the angles of where to be for a pass to come to him. Not only does he help a defender out in case they get stuck he gets himself open to shoot.
His stroke is effortless and smooth. There is very little dip in his shot as the ball rarely goes below his hips. When you listen to great shooters talk, many say that they actively practice shooting without dipping the ball in the off-season. While there is a small dip in his shot, it allows for him to create a rhythm. He uses the rhythm to produce a comfortable and repeatable shot. Consistency is key for shooting mechanics. King’s jumpshot is repeatable with the one motion style.
Shooting from NBA range isn’t a problem for King. He has shown that he can shoot from even beyond the three point line. The ability to shoot from further beyond the three point line is one that is proving to be incredibly valuable in the NBA. With King showing this ability to shoot from here and at such a young age it raises the appeal in him even more as a shooter as he continues to develop.
The biggest question regarding King’s shooting is if he will be able to shoot at a high level off the dribble. Right now, it’s not something we really see him do a lot of. He has shown some flashes of a stepback three. In the NBL this season it would be great to see more of these flashes. Being able to create shots both on and off the ball raises his value as he is able to fit in to lineups and create shots wherever necessary.
A slight problem with his jumpshot is that he doesn’t get much elevation. The jump in his jumpshot is only small. This may cause some problems when shooting over defenders. However, his jumpshot is extremely quick which could make up for the lack of elevation and allow him to shoot over defenders. I believe this could limit his ability as a scorer off the dribble unless he can create more separation to get his shot off.
When playing at lower levels such as for Queensland at Australian Nationals, King’s percentages on jumpshots drops. It is pretty easy to blame this on a higher usage role where he demands more attention from the defense. Playing alongside other creators in the NBA Academy such as Josh Giddey, Santiago Vescovi, and Tamuri Wigness allow for better looks for King. The percentages back up the eye test here by showing that King shot better from deep in the events where he was not the main offensive threat. Albeit a small sample size the stats support the idea that King is elite as an off ball shooter. The stat splits are neatly summarised in a graph in this tweet below by Marius.
King’s athleticism and physical profile should really help him when finishing at the rim. As a guard his wide frame will be useful in shielding the ball from smaller defenders. While he might not attack the rim as much on the ball he will bring value as an off ball slasher.
He likes to get out in transition and this is when you see him attacking the rim the most. NBA teams usually like to get out in transition as these are the most efficient possessions on a points per possession basis. I’d love for King to study a player like Josh Hart who excels at grabbing rebounds and getting out in transition to score. Hart does an excellent job of protecting the ball and then using his strength to bump guys out of the way in transition. I think this is something that King could be really effective at doing.
In the halfcourt, King is useful as a slasher where he uses his physical tools to attack the rim. Playing alongside Josh Giddey in the NBA Academy allowed him to play off the ball more. With the threat he poses as a shooter teams will be wary off him coming off screens without the ball. This is perfect for him to cut off the ball which he has shown he can do, going backdoor and other similar cuts. Looking back at this in a few years it will prove to have been crucial for his development. Learning to play off the ball at a young age will help as that will likely be his role in the NBA.
King likes to go to his floater once he sees the defender start retreating. This happens rather often when he attacks coming off screens. If he sees the big man dropping in these situations, he chooses to shoot a floater or runner. These can come from as far out as the free throw line/ elbow area. The touch he shows on these shots is quite impressive. While this shot is not considered to be a very high value shot in the NBA, it is notable for a prospect to have and display this skill. Not only does it show creativity scoring against different coverages but it also indicates touch which is useful to predict shooting progression.
At times he can struggle to finish around the rim. There is a combination of things that I put this down to. One of those things is jumping from too far away from the rim. Taking an extra dribble or two is something he can learn and would help with the finishing. Going forward I would like to see him use his body better. He projects to be quite a strong player which will be helpful for him to attack the body of the rim protector instead of trying to avoid them.
King prefers to operate in pick and roll situations or straight line drives coming off a catch. While his handle may not be very advanced to break down defenders, it is functional. At lower levels where he was needed to create more, he handled the ball in a wider variety of situations.
I don’t think King’s first step is that good. When he is trying to create from a standstill in isolation he struggles to beat his defender straight away. Instead he usually relies on a screen or will have to combine a couple dribble moves together. This is likely another reason why King struggles as a creator at times. As a result, he is more suited to attack when the defense is scrambling.
King likes to keep it simple in pick and roll situations. He is smart in the way he operates by creating 2 on 1 situations. Once he engages the help defender he looks to offload the ball to his big man. An improved handle would help to break down defenses and create easier looks at the rim for himself. The improved handle would also allow for him to create more separation and open up the opportunity to shoot off the dribble.
As a passer, King isn’t very advanced but he is effective. His passes aren’t likely to deceive defenses or break them down. Instead he acts as more of a connector. When there is a breakdown in the defense he has the IQ and ability to find the open man. He can be considered a ball mover on offense; when the ball is passed to him he will effectively move it on. He is a good shooter so he can shoot semi-contested shots but if he has an open team mate he will give the ball up to them.
King has the tools to be a great defender. On the perimeter he has the footspeed and recovery ability that is necessary to keep up with guards. He is a good size for a wing and has a great frame to help defend other wings. While he is strong already, adding more strength will allow King to act as a defensive stopper on the wing when he is fully locked in.
He has the potential to guard 2s and 3s well in the halfcourt. He is usually prepared and in a defensive stance which allows him to either cut off the ball handler or contest their shot. I don’t like seeing when he stands up from his stance as he does when he anticipates that he can block the shot at the rim. Obviously, it is nice to see his athleticism as he often challenges the shot at the rim. However, against bigger and stronger opponents this is something that he won’t be able to get away with as often.
I think he might have some problems defending the elite, fast guards in the NBA. This is partly due to just how quick the quickest NBA guards are but also partly due to technique that could be improved. If King is able to clean up his first step when sliding with his man he could shut down more plays. This is likely just nit-picking though, he should be fine when defending smaller guards most of the time due to his recovery ability. You just don’t want it to be his primary matchup.
Defending in the pick and roll King tends to go under on ball handlers. This seems to be more of a personnel/gameplan decision rather than King just choosing to constantly go under on screens. When playing against good shooters he has stepped up and fought through screens to stay in front of his man. I don’t think this will be a problem for him given his strength, movement ability, and general fight on defense. It will be something to watch in the NBL though as he will be defending high level shooters more often.
King has the potential to be very useful switching pick and rolls. His strength, length, and vertical leaping ability can be disruptive for big men in the post. He won’t be able to stop bigs 1 on 1 but it would be handy if he is able to force them to take a dribble. Holding the big up for long enough will hopefully force the big to give the ball up once help arrives.
In transition, King often trails the ball handler and explodes vertically for chase down blocks. It is very impressive how easily he pins layups against the backboard. His timing is impeccable as he times his strides to jump for the block.
King is quite useful as an off ball defender. He does a good job of making the right rotations. Quite often he is defending in the corners so he will tag down on the roll man or bigs in the post. It’s useful to have a wing with his strength and length to disrupt interior play. This can be a problem at times as he can overhelp and then give up an open shot on the perimeter if he can’t recover in time.
Playing the passing lanes King is able to pick off lazy passes. With his athleticism these turnovers often result in a transition opportunity at the other end.
I like the way that King is able to chase guys away from the ball. He does a good job of making himself skinny to navigate through off-ball screens. I’d like to see him do a better job of locking on and trailing players, especially when he is guarding a shooter. When guarding shooters, he sometimes tries to cheat his way through screens which causes him to get caught when they flare off the screen instead of wrapping around. Instead if he trails them and forces them to put the ball on the floor he can use his physical tools to recover.
Mojave King is an excellent prospect and will have a great professional career. His mix of shooting ability and athleticism will allow him to be successful. In order for King to reach his ceiling he will need to improve his ability to score off the dribble. Currently he projects to be more of an off ball player but if he is able to improve on the ball with his shooting ability and athleticism the sky is the limit.
The upcoming season in the NBL will be crucial for King’s development and draft projection. Cairns should be really good so he will have to earn his minutes. It’s likely he is going to be playing a role for Cairns that will give insight in to his future role in the NBA. Even if his season goes under the radar from a statistical standpoint, King will have plenty of attention on him.
At the end of the day Mojave King is one of the best shooters in the 2021 draft. That alone generates NBA interest to an extent. When you factor in the age, athleticism, frame, and defense then that’s basically a first round talent. With the potential that King possesses teams will regret letting him slip, especially if he develops more creation ability on the ball.