Edmond Sumner has unique physical tools that could propel him to be considered a “unicorn” one day.

The word “unicorn” is thrown around NBA spheres to describe a player who has a unique combination of skills. Usually, this distinction is reserved for big men who can shoot the ball from the outside or run like a gazelle – but I am adding a guard to the group who gets this distinction. Edmond Sumner should be on the list.

Sumner is taller than Traveon Graham and Sindarious Thornwell, two players who have gotten minutes at the 4 this season. Yet Sumner is a combo guard. Draft Express lists Sumner’s wingspan at 6’8 – he’s huge for his position. That allows him to be effective despite being raw in most skill areas on the court.

Players with long limbs just have an advantage that others don’t. They can put the ball in a position that others can’t reach on offense, and vice-versa on defense – they can reach the ball in situations that a typical player couldn’t make a play. It’s an immediate advantage.

On top of being freakishly long-limbed, Sumner is a monster athlete. Even now, with very few NBA ready skills, that combination of length and athleticism lays the foundation for Sumner to one day be an awesome player; a unicorn who can do things on the court that nobody else can.

Let’s start with this clip of the kid attacking the basket. The layup doesn’t go in, but watch how Sumner uses his body. He avoids the first defender by pulling the ball down low, and then he avoids the second defender by pulling the ball out in front of him. In both instances, he put the ball where another player couldn’t get close to getting a hand on it:

Sumner has been more athletic than his matchup his whole life. He could get away with a maneuver like that against non-NBA level defenses – just swinging the ball around before jumping up and scoring.  But in the NBA, he’s going to figure out a new way to use his length. These flashes where he plays keep away with the ball are a good start, but he’s going to need a method to put it in the basket eventually. A lot of that has to do with ball control.

He has shown us that he can do it. Watch here as he keeps the ball high, but before he actually lays it up, he brings the ball into his body and maintains controlled possession. This allows him to be balanced as he draws contact, and he throws it up and in:

Finishing is the most obvious offensive area where length helps Sumner thrive. But there are others. One I noticed: passing. Where smaller guards need an angle to squeeze in a pass to an open teammate, Edmond Sumner can just throw it right over the top.

Take this pick and pop with Myles Turner, for example. A smaller guard is forced to wait for the pocket pass to reveal itself. Sumner can leap up and throw a hook pass while Turner is at his most open point and dimes up the sweet-shooting big:

In my eyes, though, the area where we see Sumner’s length benefit his game the most is on defense. Our metrics agree.

His DPIPM is +0.19, an above average figure. Yes, he has an above average impact on defense already, and he’s only played 169 minutes in his career. In terms of talent grades, Sumner grades out in the 61.7 percentile in perimeter defense. He’s already miles ahead of most players his age on that end of the floor.

Defensive field goal percentage isn’t a perfect stat, but it’s fine. And Sumner’s is REALLY good. His matchup has hit just 38.3 percent of their shots this season, 6.8 percent lower than expected. He gets his long arms right in the face of his assignment, forcing misses and snagging turnovers.

Klay Thompson had a tough time, shooting 3/7 when guarded by Edmond Sumner. Watch all of these mistakes that were directly caused by something Sumner did – a good shot contest, blowing up a DHO, or stripping Thompson altogether:

Remember earlier when I discussed how Sumner can reach the ball in situations that other players can’t? That happens… a lot. Combined with his athleticism, you get crazy steals like this:

Sumner averages 2.6 steals and 1.5 blocks per 100 possessions, numbers only being matched by 8 other players this season. He makes guys miss and makes plays that get the ball back in the Pacers hands. Sumner has the base on the defensive end to grow into a special player.

Overall, Edmond Sumner is still very raw. His shooting percentage is pretty shocking – and in a bad way – and he still looks jittery with the ball in his hands. But he’s young and inexperienced. He will get playing time to grow past those hurdles.

Thanks to his length and athleticism, Sumner looks like he’s going to be a great player one day. Give him time (he just signed a two-year deal), but eventually, this unicorn is going to be one hell of a player.

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