Digging for Diamonds: Suns’ PG Tyler Ulis
If it weren’t for Isaiah Thomas, we’d all probably see Tyler Ulis’ 5’10” height and 2nd round pedigree and overlook him as a fantasy prospect. Even with what IT2 has done, it’s fair to say most dynasty owners barely registered Ulis’ existence prior to his now-infamous tiny-man, jump ball battle and career night on 3/5 against the Celtics.
Here’s what we know about Ulis – his 1.6 rookie WARP projection would have made him a respectable lottery selection. His CARMELO forecast registered a path forward as a professional (his closest comps included Mo Williams and Nate Robinson), but ultimately labeled him an “OK Prospect,” which means he has a fleeting chance to be a difference maker. So far, those two predictors have been reasonably accurate with Ulis flashing some skills that if honed, could turn into starting caliber skills. Or he could forever be a backup. So why should we care about Ulis? His playmaking ability.
As we’ve seen with Tyus Jones and even TJ McConnell, it doesn’t take all that much to be a start-worthy fantasy point guard if you can pass the rock and chip in some steals. Ulis was average with steals in college, but his 2.9% steal rate in the NBA is actually a lot higher than his 1.9% steal rate in college. He also averaged 2.8 steals in summer league. Ulis’ calling card will be as a distributor – he was in the 95th percentile as a passer with a 39% assist rate. He pairs that with few mistakes as his turnover rate was also near the 90th percentile. As a professional, Ulis’ 27% assist rate won’t set the world on fire, but it’s perfectly respectable for a 21-year-old rookie. For reference, Tyus Jones’ 37% assist rate is Chris Paul-esque.
His skills as a play maker will be his path to starting regularly into the future, but Ulis needs to keep defenses honest. Since the All-Star break, he’s shot 48% and he’s made his free throws all season. If Ulis can continue to develop as a scorer then he has the makings of a top 100 fantasy player (dimes, low turnovers, average or better steals and acceptable shooting percentages) with upside for more.
Alas, he’s currently buried behind Eric Bledsoe in Phoenix. The silver lining is that Bledsoe has the size to occasionally play shooting guard, giving Ulis a chance to get above average backup minutes regardless.
Verdict: Ulis is a fringe top 150 prospect who I’d feel comfortable ranking more aggressively were it not for Eric Bledsoe’s presence in Phoenix. He has the ability to be a start-worthy NBA player in a vacuum.