As we march on toward the 2023 NBA Draft, so too does our player profile series. Up next is Houston guard Marcus Sasser. Sasser played a major role for a Cougar team that went 33-4 and got a top seed in the March Madness tournament before bowing out to Miami in the Sweet Sixteen.
The 6’2 guard led the team in scoring at 16.8 points per game and was a defensive terror on the perimeter, averaging over a steal and a half per game. His play did not go unnoticed, as he won the American Conference Player of the Year, the Jerry West Award, became a consensus All-American, and was a finalist for the Wooden Award.
Now, coming off a season filled with accomplishments, Marcus Sasser has set his sights on the NBA. In a loaded class, most draft experts have Sasser as an early second-round pick. There are some, however, who believe he could find himself sneaking into the late first round. I believe he is a first-round talent, albeit one with severe limitations, who will have to work hard to find a place in the league. With that being said, let’s dive into Marcus Sasser’s profile.
If Marcus Sasser does carve out a role in the NBA, it will likely be due to his elite shooting. He has a smooth, repeatable shooting motion and a lightning-quick release, allowing him to get shots off in a hurry. He is a career 37% three-point shooter, but over his last two seasons, that number rose to nearly 40% on over seven attempts per game. He is a better shooter off the catch than off the dribble, but he is a great shooter no matter how you slice it. His best shot is his step-back jumper, which he usually shoots from the top of the key.
Marcus Sasser has a tight handle and a deep arsenal of moves and countermoves. He never drives without a plan and has incredible vision navigating through traffic. When he gets a one-on-one opportunity, he usually wins because there are so many things he can do with the ball. He reminds me of a martial arts master; he’s never going to be the biggest or strongest guy, but he is elite at using his opponent’s momentum against them. He never stops moving without the ball either, bringing to mind a certain Golden State player who wears the number 30.
Unfortunately for his opponents, Marcus Sasser is not just a threat from the perimeter. His ability to get to the paint both as a cutter and off the dribble is unique for a player of his size, as is his ability to finish around the rim with both hands. He has a quick first step and often makes good reads when he is forced to kick it back out. Sasser also possesses a dangerous floater that he can use when he gets walled off by a bigger defender.
On defense, Marcus Sasser is a ball hawk. He is a smart, instinctive perimeter defender with a knack for jumping passing lanes. He brings energy to the defensive side of the ball and fights for rebounds and loose balls. His 6’7 wingspan allows him to poke balls free and contest shots even when he gets beat.
When watching Marcus Sasser on tape, there aren’t many flaws in his game. Sure, he’s a bit of a streaky shooter off the dribble, but he doesn’t force shots and knows when to get his teammates involved. It is clear that he has put his blood, sweat, and tears into perfecting his craft and it has translated onto the court. He has mastered the things he can control, but the two main reasons that many draft experts have him falling to the second round are things out of his control: his size and his age.
Even with a 6’7 wingspan, Marcus Sasser is going to be somewhat limited by his height. At 6’2, he will be targeted defensively on switches and we know how hard it is for smaller guards to make it in the league. Some say he will struggle to score in the paint against NBA defenders. But, to be honest, I don’t think it really matters. Sasser is not a traditional small guard. He is a warrior on defense and his wingspan alleviates many of his concerns on that side of the ball. According to craftednba.com, of the 60 active NBA players listed under 6’3, only 23 have a longer wingspan than Sasser. Many of them have found great success in the NBA, most notably Russell Westbrook, Ja Morant, Donovan Mitchell, Damian Lillard, Marcus Smart, and Anfernee Simons. They obviously play different styles than Marcus Sasser, but it shows there is a track record of success for short players with long arms.
The other area of concern for many experts is Marcus Sasser’s age. He will turn 23 during his rookie year, leaving many to question how high his ceiling is. It’s a legitimate concern for some, but, like the size issue, it doesn’t really worry me. Marcus Sasser is a polished, NBA-ready prospect who will come in and contribute from Day 1. His ceiling may not be as high as some others in his range, hence the late first round grade, but his skill makes him a high-floor prospect. His age would be more of an issue if he were still a raw prospect, only showing flashes in college versus the dominance he actually displayed. He has also shown a strong work ethic and leadership qualities that only come with age and experience.
Marcus Sasser has all the tools to carve out a role in the league, but his journey won’t be easy. As the demand for size and versatility grows, players like Marcus Sasser have grown increasingly rare. I think a best case scenario for Sasser is he improves his playmaking and becomes a Fred VanVleet-style player. Both are undersized guards who are fierce defenders and floor spacers, but VanVleet is more of a true point guard than Sasser has shown so far. A more realistic comparison for Sasser is De’Anthony Melton. Melton, like Sasser, is an undersized player with a gargantuan wingspan. He is reliable for about 10 points a night and can space the floor as a shooter. He’ll likely never become a lead guard, but he can be a reliable starter for a team with championship aspirations.
Many mock drafts have Marcus Sasser going in the early second round. ESPN has him going at pick 35, the Ringer puts him at 38, and the Athletic has placed him at 32. The Thunder have picks at 35 and 37, and Sam Presti has shown a willingness to package second rounders to move up, as he did in 2021, moving up to 32 to draft Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. I’m not sure that Sasser is a player I would trade up for, nor is he the kind of prospect that Presti typically targets. He has shown a propensity for skilled ball handlers, but ones that also bring size and versatility like Jalen Williams, Josh Giddey, and Ousmane Dieng.
If Marcus Sasser is still available at 35, he would make a great addition to the Thunder. He would be a great locker room fit and his buy-in on the defensive side of the ball would quickly make him a favorite of Coach Daigneault. The only issue is the current roster construction. The Thunder already have a multitude of players who will occupy the guard position with SGA, Jalen Williams, Lu Dort, Josh Giddey, and Tre Mann. One of the benefits of drafting versatile players is that they allow you to add positionally limited players later on. SGA, Williams, and Giddey all have the size to play the wing and forward positions, and Dort has already proven himself to be a multi-positional defender. Sasser’s role on the Thunder would likely be as an offensive engine off the bench alongside Mann, adding defensive energy and instincts to a team that has prided itself on its prowess on that end of the court.