Who Is New Jazz Man Trey Lyles?


Jun 25, 2015; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Trey Lyles (Kentucky) greets NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected as the number twelve overall pick to the Utah Jazz in the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA Draft came and went without much happening. Very few picks and fewer rotation players were traded on that Thursday night. The Jazz tried to trade up to get Justise Winslow, but it didn’t work out as Charlotte was asking an absurd price to trade their pick. Fans were upset they didn’t trade up, but it is a good thing the Jazz were not willing to give up four firsts and a player like Hood to do so.

Instead the Utah Jazz ended up deciding between Trey Lyles, Kelly Oubre and Devin Booker. They went with the safest pick in Trey Lyles, the 19 year-old power forward out of Kentucky. While it was not the sexy pick and many fans were vocal about it, it was the most logical.

So, who is Trey Lyles? We will look at his background, stats, strengths, weaknesses, fit with the Utah Jazz and NBA player comparisons.


Trey’s American father, Thomas, played professional basketball in Canada for the Saskatoon Storm. This is where he met Trey’s mother, Jasenka. Trey was born in 1995 in Saskatoon. He quickly began to realize that basketball was his favorite sport. Trey and his father would play day in and night out while he was younger. They had a strong relationship and basketball was one of the reasons for it.

Trey’s dad was working in the entertainment industry and eventually had to move for work reasons. So, at the age of seven, The Lyles family moved to Indianapolis, Indiana. Trey’s dad took every moment to train his son in basketball. Thomas and his son would wake up every single day at 5:00 AM to practice ball before school. The Globe and Mail had a wonderful quote to give you a real look into the tight-knit Lyles Family.

"“Some days I thought, I’d like to sleep in today, and he’d come in at 5 a.m. and be whispering ‘Dad, are we going to the gym?’ and I was so tired, but I never said no,” said the father. “His workouts were viscous, but he stuck with it. The reason I was so tough with him was that I wanted him to understand what it meant to have a great work ethic. He really got it.”"

Eventually he went to Arsenal Tech High School. Arsenal Tech is a 4A high school that has over 2,000 students. This school was not the typical prep-school that most Kentucky basketball players played at. It was the local high school and they did not have a strong basketball program. Trey became the difference maker for this school. He worked non-stop and his junior year he sat down with the coach and made an unusual request. He asked their coach to make the schedule for his senior year as competitive as possible. Lyles’ coach took him up on that and scheduled as many top tier teams as possible.

Trey lived up to that challenge. His senior year they won the 4A state championship. During that year he was averaging 23.7 points. 12.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He was voted Indiana’s Mr. Basketball. Throughout his time in high-school he would also spend time competing with the Canadian National Team.

Another quote from Globe and Mail shows the personality that Jazz fans should be excited about.

"“This wasn’t a winning program when he arrived, and he could have easily left for any prep school in America, but he stayed here and saw it through,” said Jason Delaney by phone, who joined Arsenal Tech as coach in Lyle’s second year. “It was like that with playing for Team Canada too. Trey wanted to be part of the foundation in Canada; he wanted to help build things there.”"

Trey was considered a top ten high school prospect, sixth by ESPN, and the second best power forward. Lyles had offers from Indiana, Louisville and Kentucky. He originally committed to the school closest to his family, Indiana. However, in 2013, he revealed that he would go to Kentucky and become a Wildcat. The power forward was considered the highest recruit going to Kentucky in 2014.

What seemed like a good scenario ended up being a logjam for Lyles. Willie Cauley-Stein decided to stay in school for his junior year and Karl-Anthony Towns ended up being far better than anyone expected (Towns went first and Cauley-Stein went sixth in this years draft). So, while Lyles was expected to be one of the starting big men for Kentucky, he had two players in front of him.

At first Lyles came off the bench. However, he was too talented to not be on the floor. In the 10th game of the season the team’s starting small forward, Alex Poythress, tore his ACL. Kentucky did something very uncommon to solve this issue. In a world of small ball, especially in college where there can be up to four guards in a lineup at a time, they decided to go big. They went REAL big.

Coach John Calipari started Trey Lyles at the small forward. So their starting lineup was Cauley-Stein(7′.05″) at center, Karl-Anthony Towns(6’11”) at power forward and Lyles(6’10.25″ and 242 lbs.) at the small forward. Moving Trey to the starting lineup was when Kentucky really started to play dominantly. Calipari said putting Trey into the starting lineup gave them the ‘x-factor’ they needed to thrive.

Lyles played out of position his entire time at Kentucky. As mentioned earlier, this means Lyles was defending guards around 6’6″ who were faster than him. This made his defense very hard to scout. The other disservice this did to Lyles was that he played with no spacing on the floor. There is already very little space in the college game, but playing with two big men and playing with the Harrison Twins who can’t shoot consistently made it even worse. There was no room for Lyles to drive to the basket at all.

However, Lyles played through this and had a great year. In fact, he made the All-SEC Freshman team. Kentucky won the SEC Tournament and was the heavy favorite to win the championship. Then shockingly, they lost in the Final Four against Wisconsin, led by Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker. It was a close game with some questionable calls at the end, but it ended an incredible season for Kentucky. They finished the year with an overall record of 38-1 after going unbeaten during the regular season.

At Kentucky he began dating Olivia Jester. She is a class act out of Cincinnati, Ohio who was always involved with community work. Olivia was an honor student and excelled academically. She played both basketball and soccer in high school and ended up going to Kentucky to play soccer. The senior midfielder played more minutes than any other player on the team this year. Make sure to follow her on Twitter and welcome her to #JazzNation. Besides, she tweets gems like this, so it will be worth the follow.


Trey’s stats will not blow you away. A lot of this is attributed to the Kentucky system and how he was used. The issues with the system were him playing out of position, lack of spacing, multiple scoring options, etc.

The first thing you may notice as a Jazz fan is Lyles’ shooting numbers. They are pretty good across the board, with one glaring exception. His three-point shooting percentage. The 13.8% is ugly, but it is an incomplete story.

First of all, free throw percentage has been proven to be a more accurate number to use to project shooting. Lyles shot 73.5% from the free throw line, which indicates he should be able to become a capable shooter.

The next component of his shooting from three was something Jeff Mac pointed out to me. He lives in Kentucky and watched plenty of Lyles games. When you look at Lyles’ three-point attempts per game something is apparent. Over 50% of Lyles attempts came in his first five games. After that they absolutely tapered off. It appears Lyles was encouraged to not shoot threes for most of the year, which likely hurt his confidence with his outside shot.

The next thing you may notice is that his point per game production was minimal. The reason behind this is that four players took more shots than him on his team: The Harrison Twins, Devin Booker, and Karl-Anthony Towns. Cauley-Stein only took four fewer shots than Trey, so you could argue that Trey was the sixth option on his team. That will affect anyone’s points per game output. His offensive rating was an incredible 115.9 and he had a strong offensive win share of 2.1. These point to him being better than the PPG numbers indicate.

Trey was a decent rebounder, but not great. His 5.2 rebounds per game is not what you want to see from a power forward. In fact, SF Stanley Johnson had about 60 more rebounds than Lyles. Why? Well, there is again a plausible explanation for this. Towns and Cauley-Stein were arguably the best rebounding duo in the league. Both big men played as big men and were close to the basket. This led to fewer rebound opportunities for Lyles. The fact that he was able to rebound so well out of position is something that should leave fans hopeful.

Lyles’ assist ratio was pretty good for a big man. He was a little inconsistent, but did have multiple games with three or four assists. He projects to be a good playmaker.

The biggest concern I have with his statistics are the low number of blocks and steals. Those often are used to project defense. Still, Lyles had defensive rating of 86.3 and a strong defensive win share of 2.3.


The first strength that Trey possesses is his NBA-ready body. It’s rare to find a freshman prospect that is 19 and doesn’t need work out his body. However, Trey stands at 6’10.25″, has a 7’3.5″ wingspan and weighs 242 pounds. That is a big 19 year-old. He has the body to play in the NBA immediately.

Lyles is a fantastic ball handler for someone of his size. This was shown in glimpses at Kentucky. However, he was only put in nine pick and rolls all year, so he didn’t have the opportunity to really show his potential. The Jazz have mentioned multiple times that one thing they loved about Lyles was how he ran the pick and roll in his workout here in Utah. Not only can Lyles handle, but he is a great passer for a big.

Trey is very diverse offensively. He can post up, cut and drive. He finished well in college and actually completed a nice amount of alley-oops. He has soft touch and nice footwork around the basket. At Kentucky he showed a promising turnaround jumper that could be very effective in the NBA. Lyles can use his ball handling skills to get past other defenders. Where I see him being the most effective on offense though is as a face-up big. Lyles will be able to face up and make plays for the Jazz in the post.

We have mentioned Lyles’ shooting already. Three-point shooting may take some time for Lyles. However, he is a very capable mid-range shooter right now. Trey’s mid-range shot will help while he develops the three. He has the potential to be a capable three-point shooter. If he could become a 34% shooter from three, he will be a deadly offensive player. Quin is the man to help him though. Paul Millsap and Trevor Booker both never really took threes until they were coached by Quin. He helped turn both into capable shooters and should do the same with Lyles.

Lyles is also a better defender than people give him credit for. At Kentucky he was asked to defend small guards while he played small forward. So, it often looked like he got beat by his man. While he did get beat, when will he ever be guarding guards for an extended period of time in the NBA? He won’t. All he has to be able to do is cover them on switches, which he can do. He has more than enough speed and ability to guard a power forward in the NBA. The Jazz also mentioned they loved to see that he was always one of the first players running back on defense.

Trey has no off-the-court issues. Everything I have been able to find leads me to believe Trey Lyles is an extremely hard worker who is always trying to improve his game. He has a non-selfish attitude that teams like. Trey’s family is strong and will be a good source of support for him during his transition to the NBA.

You can find DraftExpress’ video analysis of Lyles’ strengths here.


The biggest weakness in Trey’s game is that he lacks the elite athleticism that you want in a modern power forward. He does not play above the rim like Gobert and Favors. Because of this he is not a great shot blocker and probably never will be. You likely will not see him dunking over defenders or making highlight put-back dunks.

He lacks elite-level burst as well. He does a decent job at staying in front of the person he is defending, but lacks elite lateral quickness. I do think this is somewhat overblown, as he was guarding small forwards who should be quicker than him. Ideally he would have more of that quickness. On picks, you likely cannot have him switch out onto point guards like we will see Derrick Favors do.

I’m not as down on Trey’s defensive instincts as others, but he still needs to work on his off the ball defense. He gets caught focusing on the guy he is guarding or watching the ball and can miss a needed rotation. I think Quin should be able to help him in this aspect, as he will spend the needed time with Trey in the film room.

Lyles can be somewhat soft at times. He needs to gain strength for sure. Derrick Favors weighs 20 pounds more than Lyles and the strength and conditioning coaches will probably strive to get Trey to that level. He needs to add some strength to be able to fight in the post more effectively. This would also help in allowing him to box out players for a rebound with more power.

While I discussed Lyles’ shot and how I think it can be a strength for him, there are some weaknesses with it. He has very good form, but it takes him awhile to get his shot off. I think that Trey still needs to build some confidence in his shot, so these will both be things that the Jazz staff will need to work with him on  He also needs to work to extend his range to the NBA three. This could take a year or two, or possibly never develop. Statistically he projects to shoot around 30% from three. However, because of the factors we have already mentioned that cannot be accounted for in stats, I expect him to exceed that.

One thing I have seen other fans be vocal about is his attitude. He doesn’t show his emotion often and fans mistake that for him being passive or bored. I think he has a similar attitude to that of Derrick Favors. While you may want to see him scream after a ferocious dunk, Favors has become a very solid player and this attitude shouldn’t effect Trey’s game. Additionally, Trey’s proven commitment to a team while times are rough is a desired trait in a prospect.

You can find DraftExpress’ video analysis of Lyles’ weaknesses here.

Fit With The Jazz

Lyles is the type of player that every team would love to have. As a versatile big he brings everything you want. He has always shown the desire to build a team up, similar to his high school team, and he will be a part of building this young Jazz team as well.

I think he will eventually become the third big for the Utah Jazz, though he may need some time to develop. A good third big is crucial in this league because bigs get hurt. If Favors or Gobert were to get hurt, he could easily step in and start without the Jazz falling off completely.

Trey plays with the pass, which is something the Jazz love. He brings versatility in his ability to run the pick and roll from the power forward position. Imagine a pick and roll with Lyles as the ball man, Favors rolling to the basket, Hayward and Hood in the corners for the three and Exum behind him for the bail out. That is not something the Jazz have been able to do with Favors. In fact, he will instantly be the best passing big on the team, which I sense will be very important to Quin Snyder.

Lyles can also rebound the ball and immediately begin the push to the other side of the court. His ball handling means he does not always need to wait to dish the ball to a guard. He can rebound and begin pushing! This is good as the Jazz have mentioned speeding up the offense some.

NBA Comparison

I have seen a large amounts of NBA comps for Trey Lyles. I asked Twitter who they thought Lyles was, and there are the responses I got.

Kevin Pelton compares him to Brandon Bass, Fran Fraschilla comps him to David West, Chad Ford comps him to Carlos Boozer and David Locke compares him to both Patrick Patterson and Nick Collison with ball skills.

I see Lyles similar to a Boris Diaw-like player with better offensive potential. I could also picture him being a larger version of Marvin Williams, or essentially the player Jazz fans wanted Marvin to be when he was here in Utah. He will be a good defender, handler, distributor, rebounder and shooter. I think his post moves will develop nicely and he will be able to post up, or face up. He will not be elite at anything, but there will be no deficiencies in his game. He has the chance to be a ‘jack of all trades’ type player.


Overall Jazz fans should be very excited about Trey Lyles. Many have said there is nothing sexy about him. While that is true, he is also very solid. If he were a baseball player he would be Ichiro Suzuki. The guy very rarely hits a home run, but he is always finding a way to get on base.

He is a fantastic player with a wonderful attitude.

Here are some Trey Lyles highlights to enjoy from a nice game against Arkansas.

Next: Jazz Facing 'Good Guy' Dilemma

More from The J-Notes