Versatility — that’s what Jayvon Graves considers to be his best trait as a basketball prospect, and with good reason. The 6-foot-3 senior can defend guards and wings, and on the other end of the court, he can run the point, play off the ball, and score from all three levels. Most importantly, he is willing to take on various roles, which is exactly what he did during his four-year career at Buffalo.
Graves never missed a game during his time at Buffalo, playing in a total of 129 contests, including 91 starts. He didn’t become a fulltime starter until his sophomore season, and during his first two years with the Bulls, he played a complementary role for a squad that made two straight NCAA Tournament appearances. In 2018, he was part of the team that thrashed fourth-seeded Arizona by 21 points in the first round of the tourney. In 2019, he took on a bigger role and helped the Bulls advance to the second round for the second consecutive year.
As a junior in 2019-20, Graves became the go-to offensive option for the Bulls. He started in all 32 games, averaging a team-high 17.1 points per game along with 2.5 assists and 5.4 rebounds per contest. He scored more than 20 points in 11 games, and finished fifth in the conference for points per game. He earned first-team All-MAC honors that season, which was cut short due to COVID-19.
As a senior in 2020-21, Graves took on more of a playmaking role, often handling the ball and running the offense. At season’s end, he was a second-team All-MAC selection, finishing in the top ten of the conference for assists (3.8), steals (1.4), and blocks (0.9) per game, plus defensive rating (97.5). His points per game dropped to 14.2, as he struggled as a shooter, especially from deep (28 percent); he hovered around the 35-percent mark in his other three seasons. In most other departments, he steadily improved throughout his career, especially in terms of assists, steals, and rebounds.
|Position:||Combo Guard||Team/Class:||Buffalo (Sr.)|
|Wingspan:||6’7’’ (unofficial)||Vertical:||34.5” standing, 43.5” max|
|Shot Hand:||Right||Stats:||Click here|
Over his college career, Graves developed into a solid combo guard. He ran the point regularly this past season, and truly is an underrated passer. He is not a flashy distributor, but he has excellent vision and consistently finds the open man, be it running the pick-and-roll or handling in transition. He finished his college career with an assist-turnover ratio of 1.46, and in terms of points plus assists per possession, he ranked at the 56th percentile as a senior.
As noted above, Graves struggled as a shooter this past season, but that was not the case for the rest of his career. When I asked the senior about his shooting woes (see interview below), he noted that his season was marred by COVID-19 interruptions, which made it difficult to get into a rhythm. Graves also believed that his increased role as a ball handler and playmaker was likely a factor, too. His career 3-point mark of 34.1 is respectable, his form looks solid off the catch, and his point-per-possession numbers (PPP) from the prior season (see table below) show that he certainly can be effective as a shooter.
|Percentile for PPP||Junior||Senior|
|Jump Shots Overall||63rd||27th|
|Catch and Shoot||73rd||39th|
|Off the Bounce||41st||16th|
An above-average athlete, Graves is capable of scoring from anywhere on the floor. He has good acceleration, quickly getting downhill. However, he can struggle at times due to a shaky handle, especially when crossing over. The lack of a tight handle hinders his ability to maneuver in traffic and to consistency get all the way to the rim. His ball-handling issues are most apparent in half-court situations. As a driver in the half court this past season, Graves made just 31 percent of his shots; within seven feet, he shot well (50 percent), but he had just 18 attempts around the rim (5th most on the team).
In my opinion, Graves’ ability to defend is his best attribute. Often asked to stop the opponent’s best perimeter player, the Buffalo senior does a great job of moving laterally, staying in front of his man, contesting shots, getting around screens, and getting back in transition. Also, he is adept at making reads and setting up to take a charge, which forces ball handlers to alter their course (at a minimum). He is effective when denying and fronting, maintains good spacing when helping, and rotates in a timely fashion. Also, he has very quick hands and is active in passing lanes, resulting in a high number of steals. Obviously, he plays with effort and awareness, and most of the scores that he allows are due to his lack of size.
I recently re-watched Graves’ first two contests from this past season vs. Ohio, an NCAA Tournament team that features star point guard Jason Preston. In a close loss to Ohio in January, he defended Preston for much of the game, and the Bobcats’ guard had most of his success when Graves was not defending him. In February, it was more of the same, as Preston struggled and Buffalo won by 20.
Colleague Clayton Conover made similar observations from the Syracuse game (12/19/2020), saying “Graves guarded Buddy Boeheim the majority of the game, who shot inefficiently throughout.” Conover added, “There were at least five times, maybe even ten, when Graves had a hand in Boeheim’s face. Graves played with discipline, was glued to Boeheim for most of the game, and picked up only one foul. He also did a good job using his length to disrupt in the passing lanes when guarding someone off the ball.”
Known for his work ethic and team-first mentality, everyone seems to have nothing but good things to say about Graves. His strength and conditioning coach, Sean Conaty, told me, “Jayvon was one of my favorite athletes I’ve ever coached — phenomenal kid,” while Head Coach Jim Whitesell likes to say that Jayvon is the kind of young man that you’d like your daughter to date.
I asked Conaty to expound on his quote, and he replied, “Jayvon embodies every positive trait you would want in an athlete. I could always count on him to uphold the standard and culture of the team. He is a smart kid and always wanted to know the “why” behind what we were doing. He treated his body like a pro athlete. Not only did he work extremely hard in the weight-room, but he did that consistently, day in and day out. To me that is what separates the good from the great. Everyone can have a few good days, but the greats are consistent with that same level of effort.”
“As a person, Jayvon was just as impressive as he was as an athlete. I think back to last spring when everyone was stuck in the house, and each week I would make sure I called every player, just to check-in with them. My conversations with Jayvon were always the most memorable. His maturity really showed as we all dealt with the pandemic. I would call to check up on him, but he would end up asking me just as many questions about how my family and I were doing, as I asked him. He truly cares, and is invested in those that care and are invested in him,” Conaty added.
- Very good perimeter defender; as a senior, ranked fifth in the MAC for defensive rating, and over the past two seasons, ranked no worse than 63rd percentile for PPP allowed
- A defensive playmaker; averaged 2.7 combined steals and blocks per 40 minutes this season
- An underrated passer; averaged nearly four assists per game as a senior, with an A/T ratio of 1.55
- A proven all-around scorer who averaged 15.8 points per game over his last two seasons
- Effective catching and shooting; made 35 percent of his attempts over the past two seasons
- Very good rebounder for his size; grabbed 6.1 boards per game this season
- An above-average athlete, with good length and vertical pop
- A versatile player with great intangibles
- Subpar career shooting splits (.422/.341/.615); never shot better than 65 percent from the free-throw line at Buffalo
- Very inconsistent shooting off the bounce, ranking below the 42nd percentile for PPP for two straight seasons
- Shaky handle limits his ability to score and can lead to turnovers (2.5 per game as a senior)
- Right-hand dependent when finishing and passing
- Size and age are not ideal for an NBA prospect
At this time, Graves is looking like a 3-and-D prospect. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the ideal size and shooting consistency for that role in the NBA. If he can tighten his handle and improve his shooting off the bounce, he could be used as a combo guard, which would greatly enhance his chances of having a long pro career.
Currently, Graves is on the fringe of the NBA’s radar, but that could change as prospects withdraw from the draft. At a minimum, he will certainly get a chance to prove himself at the G-League or international level, and his development as a shooter and ball handler will be key in determining his success and longevity.
Sources, Credits, and Acknowledgements: Stats used in our scouting reports come from Synergy Sports Technology, RealGM.com, and Sports-Reference.com. Photos, video highlights, and background information, including the player’s measurements, were via Buffalo Athletics. Special thanks goes to Buffalo Strength and Conditioning Coach, Sean Conaty. Other outside sources are noted with links to the source.