Height: 6’6.75″ w/o shoes
Weight: 212.4 pounds
Standing reach: 8’8″
Olivier-Maxence Prosper, commonly known as “O-Max,” has been one of the biggest risers throughout the pre-draft process. The Montréal native entered the 2023 Draft after three college seasons; one at Clemson and two at Marquette. Prosper was the third-leading scorer on the Golden Eagles’ Big East regular season and tournament championship team in 22-23 and has shot up draft boards since the college season ended.
Prosper has garnered praise from NBA scouts and executives for his work ethic and intangibles during interviews. With every team searching for cost-controlled players with positional size, athleticism, defensive versatility and spot-up shooting, it’s not shocking that Prosper has become more popular over the last couple months. Let’s dive into one of my favorite targets with the Hornets’ 27th pick using clips from the Baylor-Marquette game on Nov. 29, 2022, a 96-70 non-conference victory for Shaka Smart and company.
Defensive range and versatility, off-ball activity on offense, physical profile
The group workout and team interview settings of the pre-draft process allow the intangible traits a draft prospect possesses to take center stage. Every stop along the workout circuit is essentially a sales pitch; it’s no wonder that Prosper’s charisma, enthusiasm and curiosity as a basketball player have stood out to teams once he’s in the building. The Q&A that USA TODAY’s Bryan Kalbrosky conducted with him and his interview at an Indiana Pacers pre-draft workout on June 13 are good examples of his positive, upbeat demeanor off the court.
On the court, O-Max totally flips the switch. I think that’s what’s really attracting NBA teams, and a main reason why he’s rocketed up the board in recent weeks. Provided he’s been shooting the ball well and showing off his athleticism while winning over scouts during interviews, it wouldn’t surprise me if he hears his name called in the top-25 after spending the early portion of last season projected as a 2024 draft prospect.
As Marquette steamrolled through a stacked Big East, losing only three games in-conference, it became clear O-Max was going to hear his name called a year earlier than expected. Playing off some high-level creators at the NCAA level, acting as a valuable cog in the offense while commandeering the chaotic, panic-inducing, pressure-defense scheme head coach Shaka Smart is known for. Though he’s 6-foot-8 and defends wings and forwards on-ball, he was the head of the snake when Marquette pressed full-court. Prosper’s mixture of quickness, strength and lateral mobility lends itself to switchable defensive schemes that apply pressure to the point of attack. I think there’s a reasonable chance he’s switchable 1-through-4, if not across all five positions if he gets stronger and reaches his ceiling as a defender.
The bulk of O-Max’s defensive production doesn’t show up in the box score. The length of his arms, strength in his core and the ability to shuffle his feet and stick to smaller ball-handlers is imposing enough to render offenses more risk-averse. He forces pick-up turnovers, makes opponents dribble the ball off their leg and kick it out of bounds and more at the top of the full-court press, which aren’t credited as steals. When offenses choose to attack his general vicinity in the halfcourt, he has the recovery speed, length and defensive acumen to affect plays away from the ball.
Oftentimes, the most vocal player on a defense is the center — they’re the anchor and responsible for calling out most screen coverages since they can see more of the floor. O-Max might be an exception as he settles into the NBA. When he’s on-ball, he’s locked in a defensive stance with his condor arms outstretched to cut down angles. Off-ball, he’s typically orchestrating coverages and switches, directing traffic for his teammates caught on screens or pin-downs while taking care of his own responsibilities.
Prosper has an endless motor, anticipates the next move of ball-handlers by shuffling to eat up driving space before they get a chance to attack and has no trouble fighting through contact — the strength and power in his hips, core and shoulders pops on both ends of the floor, too. Defensively, he can dislodge set screeners or wiggle around enough to force them into an illegal screen. As a scorer, he can withstand contact from rim protectors and adjust through it to finish in the paint.
The upside lies in Prosper’s ability to combine his physical tools and NBA-made frame with functional ball-handling, self-creation and on-ball scoring. Though he lacks elite first-step burst, O-Max has long strides, impressive bend and a low center of gravity as a driver, which allows him to work his way into open creases without an advanced handle at this stage. If he can add a few more counters as a ball-handler, it’ll free him up to attack in tight quarters. Then he can utilize that explosive leaping ability and powerful frame to create going to the rim without being forced to pass out once his first option gets taken away.
It’s not going to take a gargantuan leap as a ball-handler, shooter or playmaker for O-Max to make his presence felt offensively. Incremental improvements in broad skill categories — which NBA player development staffs are more than able to assist with, opposed to athletic traits or processing speed — will suffice for a role-playing wing that contributes primarily off-ball. Should O-Max string together those flashes of inside-the-arc creation off closeouts and spot-up efficiency in the halfcourt with his energetic, versatile defense, it’s going to be hard to keep him off the floor.
Playmaking feel, on-ball creation utility, floor-spacing sustainability
The areas in O-Max’s game in need of growth significantly impact the overall ceiling of NBA wings and forwards, which is an inherent red flag to some. Those who stand around 6-foot-8 and can also dribble, pass and shoot at a high level have a strong chance to skyrocket up the league hierarchy. Those who don’t have those abilities tend to fall into the NBA’s version of the middle class — role players.
Some of O-Max’s feel for the game was hidden within the context of Marquette’s offense last season, but even still, he hasn’t shown the on-ball creator flashes that indicate significant upside as a scorer. Particularly when it comes to self-created jumpers and setting up teammates, there’s very little production. In three college seasons, O-Max boasts an assist rate of just 5.5% and every single one of his 39 made 3-pointers last season were assisted. It’s rare that players who are unable to create and see the floor at a high level in college develop the ability to do so in the NBA.
Playing alongside Tyler Kolek, second in the nation in assists per game, and one of the nation’s best passing bigs in Oso Ighodaro drastically limited O-Max’s responsibility as a playmaker. His most efficient source of offense was to work off those two, setting screens, cutting to the rim and relocating for open threes. Part of O-Max’s appeal to me is that he won’t have to adjust much to his role in the NBA — as an athletic defender, slasher and spot-up shooter, his team won’t need him to handle the ball and create scoring opportunities for teammates with frequency.
To me, most of what O-Max needs to develop in his game revolves around skill. Over two years at Marquette, especially as the 22-23 season went on, the flashes of athleticism intersecting with skill popped up more often. What he doesn’t need to develop are the unteachable traits; he has the length to shoot over contests and finish above the rim, the fluidity to maximize driving angles once the handle takes a step and the core strength to hold his ground through contact.
On those 39 made threes last season, he showed considerable shooting touch on the majority of them. According to NBA draft consultant Zach Milner’s incredible shooting database, O-Max 41.82% on NBA range threes, 37.5% from the corners and 41.82% on 55 total 3-point attempts from NBA range last season. Though it was a microscopic sample size, he shot 5-for-7 on above the break threes from NBA range. Here’s another above the break three to give a glimpse into what it looks like, though this one is from just beyond the college arc.
Shots like these aren’t going to blow anyone’s socks off, but the shot prep here is solid. He has his body squared to the rim as he rotates up from the wing, sets his feet in-rhythm off the catch and shoots an easy ball with a high release point. O-Max’s jumper and ability to set himself from a variety of positions — off movement, out of screens and in transition — are highly translatable so long as he raises his percentage a few ticks from 34% to the league-average mark of 36.5% from deep. He has a strong base to build on as a shooter — he just has to find consistency and develop reliable counter-moves to hard closeouts.
Rumblings and reports over the last few weeks make it seem that Charlotte’s chances of landing Prosper without trading up are slim. Thankfully, Mitch Kupchak has the ammo to do that. Prosper fills an archetype that isn’t present on the current roster; a tough, muck-it-up defensive forward that’s willing to put his body on the line. He’s a vocal leader that plays with an edge and takes pride in doing the little things to help his team win. There are no concerns about his attitude or demeanor changing based on his involvement in the offense, and he’s going to bring it as a defender every time he steps on the floor.
On top of the glowing intangibles, Prosper has flashed creation at the rim when attacking closeouts, and has smooth, workable mechanics in catch-and-shoot situations. Though not a defensive playmaker or rim protector right now, he has the awareness and athleticism to make things happen both on-ball and in free roam with the potential to add new layers of versatility down the line. High-level activity as a cutter, willingness to work as a pick-and-pop shooter and fill the corners as a below-the-break specialist are highly impactful skills, especially in a small role playing off stars and elite playmakers.
The Hornets have one of those stars already, and might be adding another on draft night. Provided the shooting flashes at Marquette and at the Combine are real, which I think they are, Olivier-Maxence is bound to have a Prosperous career in the NBA.