Self Generated Offense, A Primer As To Why Unassisted Shots Are Important As Well As What It Means For Point Guards And Wings In The 2016 Draft
Point Guard Offense
Once more we see players who bear a large burden of creating their own offense in college being, in most cases, the most successful offensive players. Of the players we can look up, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Khris Middleton, Klay Thompson, Jae Crowder, CJ McCollum, Rodney Hood, Victor Oladipo, Andrew Wiggins, Chandler Parsons, Tobias Harris, TJ Warren, Harrison Barnes, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Gary Harris, Otto Porter Jr, Tyler Johnson, Allen Crabbe, Jeremy Lamb. And also Bradley Beal to a small extent, though he was a freshman and not the first option on his team, which was also true of Devin Booker.
That encompasses, I believe, every player we can look up in the hoop-math database (and we can surmise it was also true for players like Lebron, Durant, Carmelo, Hayward, even Jared Dudley, who as a do-everything player for Boston College from day one, from watching them play in high school or college). Indeed, the only perimeter player who’s a Net Positive Offensive player without any positive indicator of such skills is Troy Daniels.
More evidence that these On-Ball Scoring Statistics are not just important because of what they say about a player’s chance to score efficiently at the NBA, but more than that because they suggests other strengths these players have that are necessary to play in the NBA game. Caldwell-Pope is a good example of this fact. He isn’t even shooting well from distance, barely eclipsing 30% so far this year and he’s still a +0.58 player on offense. Imagine when he does start shooting, as the numbers suggest he probably will. Likely he’s going to end up a +2 or +3 or even +4 offensive player, while also improving on defense. And be the next guy, like Jae Crowder, that seemingly comes out of nowhere to be a legit All-Star caliber player. Of course, Caldwell-Pope, like Crowder before him, will have had many positive indicators going back to college that said, “This guy is going to be really good.” (If I’m an NBA team, he’s probably my Number 1 or Number 2 Trade Target as a player who has a chance to be really, really good by the time he is 25 or 26 and is is probably attainable without mortgaging the farm.
Now for our table where we look at the best Offensive Players and Holy Crap Our Pants about how crazy Kemba Walker’s junior season was. Again per Hoop-Math:
1) I’ve included putbacks where possible, and forgot to point out above, that in this table, like the one above, there are likely some errors for the older players on the list. Since Hoop-Math doesn’t have exact numbers for them in terms of attempts and I had to extrapolate them. Guessing happened. Rounding errors likely occurred. And we all had a grand old time. Fun stuff, I promise. I’ll tell you more about it in the future.
2) Again we see the importance of Mid-Range Jump Shots. Only Jae Crowder hit less than 20 unassisted mid-range jumpers in his best On-Ball Scoring Season, at least by percentages. This was his junior year, and the funny thing is that he was the third or fourth option on his team despite generating many of his own chances. (He was behind Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom, the latter of which is an example of a player with very good On-Ball scoring numbers that failed. Johnson-Odom just didn’t do enough of the things a 6’2″ player needs to do in the NBA. Pass, defend his position, etc . . . At 6’6″, he’s probably still in the league and maybe a lot better than that. But 6’2″ players generally need to do everything well, or at least many things well, and that often starts with defense.)
We also see Crowder is at 42% on mid-range jump shots, which is one of the upper-end numbers.
That being said, you’d still rather a guy do it from the college three or better yet, do it from everywhere, if given a choice.
3) We see that Damian Lillard only hit 24 mid-range jump shots, but that’s because he didn’t shoot a lot of them. To make up for it, he hit 40 unassisted threes. And I do think the Raw Make totals are in some ways as important or more important than the percentages, since they give us an idea of how often these players were asked to go it alone. Which for all these players was a lot. (Crowder has a much lower sample, but he had 31 unassisted makes on two and three point jumpers combined. For a 3rd or 4th option, that’s a lot. And everyone else has 40-plus makes, 50-plus makes, or in the case of
Jimmer Fredette and Kemba Walker, nearly 140 plus makes.
4) It was not a surprise both of these guys ended up shooting well from distance. And that’s including the fact that Kemba only shot 33% from three in college. We should not be surprised. Walker was generating a vast number of shots on his own, which is a good way to kill your overall shooting percentages.
5) 701 shots! How does a guard take 701 shots in a season? That’s indicative of something, I don’t know what exactly, but it’s pretty impressive regardless.
6) True Shooting Percentage as a predictor is overrated. (I’d bet eFG% is better anyway, but I have no proof and I’ve gotten in the habit of using TS% as a marker. Reason being that using TS% is basically like counting FTr twice.)
True Shooting Percentage in college is often influenced, as in Kemba Walker’s case, by the fact that he had to generate basically all of UCONN’s offense. Beyond that, True Shooting Percentage is influenced by the compositions of one’s shots. For instance, Walker shot a crapload of 2pt Jumpers. That’s going to drop his True Shooting Percentage, but a good NBA coach will put his players in situations to take higher value shots. What’s more important is that the player can make these mid-range shots if they need to. And also that, making unassisted mid-range shots at high levels in college is also a good pointer for those who might be able to extend their range to the NBA line in the future.
That is to say, TS% needs to be seen in context of everything else the player does and is asked to do. Which is why a player like Kris Dunn might be better than his numbers on the surface seem.
7) College players don’t have to get to the rim to become incredibly successful NBA players on offense. Neither Klay Thompson or Rodney Hood got to the rim. Thompson is a consistent +3 or +4 offensive performer. Hood is +2 this year. Neither gets to the rim a whole lot as a pro. And all of their opportunities are basically generated by the offense they are in. Which is to say, more evidence that Denzel Valentine has some possibility to be a huge plus offense player in the pros. Since he has passing skills neither Hood nor Thompson have. (And Hood’s also not athletic for an NBA player, so please no one point out that Thompson is. His athleticism isn’t bringing that much value on offense. It’s mostly his shooting skill. And his shooting skill is bringing value because others are serving him up open jump shots.)
8) I like finding ratios that are potentially meaningful, and I think I may have found one. Which is to say that when one out of every six or one out of every seven shot attempts a player takes ends up in an unassisted make at the rim, that suggests a perhaps NBA quality dribbling and driving skill. (The guys with less than that, Middleton, Thompson, Hood, don’t get to the rim very often in the NBA.) And the one that does, Draymond Green, often has a lot of help in doing so in the form of Stephen Curry.
The reason a ratio is important is because opportunities to drive and score at the rim are often inhibited by both a team’s offensive structure and a player’s pecking order in the line-up. We can see this in the form of Jae Crowder’s season for sure. And also Jimmy Butler’s. Since three players were sharing attempts relatively equally. (There’s also a lot of evidence to suggest Butler’s junior season is the one we should be looking at, but that data doesn’t exist on hoop-math.)
And this is relevant for this year’s class. A little bit for Gary Payton II and Kris Dunn, and a lot for Wade Baldwin, who could have and probably would have done a lot more with a different coach and different teammates. The Wichita St. loss was pretty indicative of this fact. How many assist opportunities were left unconverted or passed up? I lost count, but I think it might have been near 15 or 20. And it was almost certainly over 10 in the first half. Plus Baldwin had multiple turnovers which were generated by his teammates not doing routine things, like the travel he had because his teammates couldn’t figure out how to run the right play. (Basketball is a timing sport, as much as football is.) And he’s just not allowed to drive very often because for some reason they play high-low offense through Jones rather than give Baldwin the reins and allow him to work his magic.
I think this is also the reason Baldwin occasionally looks bad. It’s not just that he tends to play better when Vanderbilt gets down. It’s that when Vanderbilt gets down Baldwin becomes the player he was meant to be. A downhill attacker who in college get into the lane on anyone and without much help in the form of screen. And Vanderbilt rarely gives him any, since Stallings still prefers to weave the ball around the perimeter for 5, 10, 15 seconds before even looking to get the ball into the lane.
So after the table for this year’s prospects, but afterwards, I’m going to extrapolate Baldwin’s numbers to what they would look like if the offense played to his strengths and ran through him. (Somewhere between 400 and 500 shot attempts.)
9) Another Ratio. Free Throw Rate: 100-3PA%. Or in plainer English, the percentage of a player’s shot which are Three Point Attempts. The reason being that most Free Throws are generated as a product of Two Point Attempts. So this number gives a better sense of how good a player is at getting to the line, at least in college.
For instance, Lillard and Irving both have ratios right at or well over 1. And both players go the free throw line 5-6 time per 36 when healthy. (Generally a Top 15-20 Rate.) James Harden’s was only slightly under 1. And he goes to the free throw line more frequently than anyone. Isaiah Thomas is another player whose 50% FTr looks even better once you consider how frequently he shot three point attempts, and he’s in the Top 20 as well. And then there’s Kemba Walker. This consideration only improves his number slightly, but I’ll tell you what 700 attempts is good for now. If a player can take 700 shots in a High Major college season and be reasonably efficient, he’s going to get to the free throw line.
10) One-And-Done Unicorns. There may be some good One-And-Done perimeter players, and the best are near the very best. But there’s not generally more than one per draft. And sometimes there isn’t even that. Which is to say, if a perimeter player isn’t good enough to dominate as a freshman and still goes out, he’s likely somewhat overrated, at least as an offensive prospect. Which is perhaps why all of the recent One-And-Done perimeter players have seemed to some extent disappointments. (And also, it takes time to get really good, unless the player is an upper echelon Hall of Famer.)
There are probably some other patterns and things to note, like the fact that they are not restricted to the half-court, but I just don’t have the room. (Also, scoring opportunities at the rim aren’t restricted to the half-court. The half-court numbers, which Dean Demakis has used in the past to pick out NBA sleepers like Jordan Clarkson or Norman Powell. However, using a wider set of data potentially allows those players who are (or were) restricted by their college team’s offensive system to show up. Since these coaches presumably can’t restrict transition opportunities.)
2016 Point Guard and Wing Offense at the Rim
1. First let’s address what I’ve called “Rim Rate.” This metric is attempting to quantify how often a player gets to the rim through the lens of both Field Goal Attempts at the rim and also Free Throw Attempts, which are scaled down by a factor of .44 as they are in True Shooting Percentage, which I assume is an attempt to quantify the effect of “Bonus” Free Throws. Bonus pertaining not to the foul bonus, but to And-1s and fouls on Three Point Attempts. Both statistics we should be tracking to make the metrics we use more precise.
For some players like Wade Baldwin, who was poor at finishing through contact this year, this factor might be actually be too high, as I’d guess he had less And-1’s than would be expected on average. Though I don’t know for sure.
It should also should be said it’s far from a perfect measure. The underlying assumption is that most shooting fouls occur when players are driving to, or shooting, at the rim. While that is undoubtedly the case, it’s not true for All shooting fouls. Players do get fouled on Three-Point Attempts and Mid-Range Jumpers, even if it happens more rarely. Plus the college game has “Bonus” rules which can lead to gaudy totals.
So, as with any of my makeshift metrics, use it more to ballpark these players’ abilities than as a definitive marker. It’s not meant to be accurate down to the decimal place. It’s meant to be a better proxy for a player’s ability to dribble-drive than merely accounting for shots and/or unassisted makes at the rim. Especially because these markers are directly related to a player’s role in their college offense.
2. As an example, let’s consider Wade Baldwin again. He took over full-time PG duty, after being more of a wing as Freshman, but he was still often the second banana to Damian Jones, who was very often operating as a High-Low Post Big. This kind of offense can greatly mitigate the driving opportunities of a perimeter player. And that’s especially true in the college game, where an already cramped floor space is even moreso, because you now have a Big and the player defending him jamming the lane.
3. The first player we notice is Ben Simmons. He basically lived at the rim this year, and at the Free Throw Line.
The three most important areas of the offense in terms of efficiency are the Rim, Free Throws and the Three-Point Line. Ben Simmons was a dominant scorer, in terms of efficiency, because he found a way to take almost all of his attempts from the Rim or the Free Throw Line. Which is kind of an important thing.
Indeed, in many ways the Ben Simmons vs. Brandon Ingram debate reminds me a lot of when people were trying to argue that Carmelo was a better prospect than Lebron. Yes, this was a thing and remained a thing well into these players careers.
The main argument was that Lebron couldn’t shoot, that he could only score at the rim. But that argument forgot this important fact: Lebron could get shots at the rim almost at will, and as a natural consequence, he also lived at the Free Throw Line. On top of that, Lebron affected the game in any number of other ways, most of all with his passing and his ability to incorporate his teammates into the offense. And he continues to do so.
Is Simmons as athletic as Lebron? No. But he’s also much more comfortable doing Power Forward Things if he has to do so. For instance, it took Lebron years to work out of the post, and he’s still not very comfortable with setting screens or rolling to the basket, a play which could make the Cavs offense make much more efficient. Imagine Lebron James catching the ball with the Free Lane that Draymond Green has and with JR Smith, Dellevadova and Kevin Love (or Channing Frye) waiting for catch-and-shoots.
4. As you have certainly noticed, I didn’t just include just 2016 Draft Prospects. There are some current NBA players as well. In most cases those who have had some trouble shooting at the NBA level. The reason being I wanted to include some evidence as to what more questionable shooting prospects look like, as most prospects in any draft are indeed somewhat questionable with respect to how their shooting will translate.
5. With that being said, Holy Shit Elfrid Payton! 142 unassisted makes at the rim and 302 Free Throw Attempts against only 465 shots taken. Of the players profiled here, his rim numbers are by far the most impressive, especially considering that he still had 114 unassisted makes not counting putbacks.
Indeed, I’d urge you to notice putbacks, and except in rare cases to severely discount them as positive events, especially guards. They are definitely indicators of athleticism and awareness, but they are not very likely to be a significant form of offense for a perimeter player at the NBA level.
So pay attention to them. Just beware of how they can dramatically skew a player’s percentages for the better.
6. One exception to the rule are for a player like Ben Simmons, who not only is going to spend some time as a power player, but also spent time as a power player in college. Posting up naturally mitigates a player’s opportunity to drive. That he still found a way to score at the rim when others on his team shot and missed says something about the player’s ability to work within the context of the offense.
7. The other exception is a player like Elfrid Payton. When a player is their team’s full-time on-the-ball point guard, and they are not only making more than 100 shots at the rim but also nearly 30 putbacks in a college season, you basically know that there are spaces where this player’s game is going to translate.
Unfortunately for Payton, he also has basically the wonkiest shooting numbers of the entire group. Wonkiest in the sense that he is if not the least likely player of this group to shoot, definitely one of them. And these numbers basically explain Payton as a player in the NBA. 40-50% of his shots at the rim in each of his first two years. 60-80% of his shots within 10 feet. 55% at the rim so far, a number you’d expect to go up. But no ability to score from outside of three feet.
Below 40% from every mid-range two point area. 30.6% overall from three. And it must be pointed out that Payton’s inability to shoot also makes it more difficult for him to drive. Since player’s can play off of him and clear behind the screen, allowing his defender angles to meet his drives and head them off.
8. Let me point out pubacks again. We’ll talk about them more later. Just notice that all the players at the top of the list (Simmons, Payton, Oladipo, Roberson, etc . . .) have scores that are completely dependent on putbacks. Well, not Payton, but everyone else.
Excluding Payton and perhaps Simmons (who was, as discussed above, in a different role) it isn’t until you get to Jaylen Brown, Kris Dunn and Wade Baldwin that you find players who can definitively create scoring opportunities off their own dribble, at least in the college game.
9. Let’s consider Victor Oladipo for a second. He’s decent at getting to the rim in the NBA game. Between 30 and 40% of his shots have typically come from that range. He’s shot 56.5% from that range. Those are good numbers, but isn’t one of the disappointments with Oladipo that he hasn’t been better at creating and converting scoring opportunities at the rim?
Perhaps our expectations were buoyed by the fact 45 of Oladipo’s 82 unassisted makes at the rim came on putbacks.
This is not to say, such players definitely won’t be able to get into the lane at the NBA level. It was pretty much Tony Wroten’s only strength as an NBA player. That’s not even mentioning the fact that Wroten could only dribble with one hand and couldn’t shoot at all. Even though the opponent knew what was coming, Wroten still was able to take 50-60% of his shots at the rim, convert at 55% and shoot 7-9 Free Throws per 36 minutes.
If Wroten defended up to his athleticism and could convert free throws, you’d have a plus NBA player pretty easily. The real problem for Wroten going forward is not just his shooting stroke, but also how much his effectiveness on both sides of the ball was mitigated by mental lapses.
10. In relation to Tony Wroten, Jaylen Brown. Jaylen Brown’s game might appear slightly different on the surface and Jaylen Brown might have a longer wingspan, but when we speak about Jaylen Brown on offense, we’re essentially speaking about Tony Wroten. Driving ability, athleticism, the ability to get to the free throw line on the plus side. On the negative side, little ability to hit jumpers, little to suggest you’d bet on Brown becoming a significant plus as a shooter, lots and lots of turnovers, and a below average understanding of the game.
Brown’s three saving graces as a prospect are these: 1) He is actually close to elite at getting to the rim, even if he has a loose dribble. 2) Unlike Wroten, I do think he’ll play some defense, though I don’t think he’ll be an absolute game changer on that end. 3) He’s probably not quite as bad a shooter as Wroten was, even if he does have suspect decision making.
Even with that, if everything goes perfectly, you are probably talking about a +1 to +3 point player before accounting for the opportunity cost of running possessions through a playmaker who can’t create efficient opportunities for others and who turns the ball over more than his fair share. (Even the best of these players generally aren’t as good as their numbers on the surface suggest.)
11. What we are mostly going to find as we go through these numbers is that Wade Baldwin’s sophomore season and Kris Dunn’s redshirt sophomore seasons are two way, way above average statistical seasons not just with respect to passing and in Kris Dunn’s case, defense, but in regards to scoring potential, even if neither season looks like it on the surface.
What is hampering people in respect to Baldwin’s season are two factors: Firstly, his role in the offense. Secondly, the fact that he struggled to finish at the rim this year, especially through contact. As we’ve seen with a player like Stanley Jackson, these struggles shouldn’t be expected to continue to this degree.
The reason being that most players do get better at scoring at the rim as they get older, and also that the NBA is a far more open game than the college one. If a player can make the right reads, which Baldwin has demonstrated that he can, then difficult finishes at the rim in college can often become easy passes to one’s teammates for lay-ups, dunks or open threes in the pros.
12. With respect to Dunn’s sophomore season we see a poor True Shooting Percentage covering up the fact that he was highly successful from all areas of the court while having to generate almost all of team’s offense. True, he had sub-optimal shot selection, but that should be teachable, especially when he’s installed into a system that generates better looks.
Turnovers are probably always going to be an issue. And Dunn’s numbers weren’t as good this year as last, at least not from two-point range. However, I’d point to one of Dunn’s major issues in shooting being that of inconsistent shot preparation, and if that’s the case, that is an aspect of the game that should improve with repetitions and time.
13. We also see that Wings, in most cases, just aren’t as good at getting to the rim as the Point Guards. Bembry, McCaw, Valentine, Brogdon rate well below the best Point Guards.
There is however a caveat here. Specifically, we shouldn’t read as much into these numbers if the player was a highly successful three point shooter. Players like Denzel Valentine and Josh Adams took well over 200 shots from three point range this year. Of course that’s going to drive down the percentage of shots they took from the rim.
However, it’s not necessarily from a lack of ability, it’s because these players were choosing to take different types of shots with highly positive outcomes. And this is something we can’t ignore. With players like Valentine, Adams, Ingram, Murray and Hield, part of the reason their numbers are depressed in terms of getting to the rim is because they were really good three point shooters.
14. I didn’t include Hield and Murray in my original table, because I wanted to focus mainly on players who could either pass or defender or both. But I thought myself remiss not to at least mention them. I also forgot Thomas Walkup so I included him as well. And even then, we’re leaving out Ron Baker and Dorian Finney-Smith among many others. Seriously, as of now this year has 30-40 Wings that I could argue would be deserving of real consideration. From this perspective, the 2016 draft makes the 2015 draft, in which only 25 to 35 NCAA players were even worthy of being graded look kind of ridiculous.
The Obligatory Jamal Murray-Buddy Hield Table
Unassisted at the Rim
Offensive Burden at the Rim
Unassisted at the Rim Numbers Without Putbacks
Looking at How Often These Players Get to the Rim Again
Self-Generated Offense For Guards, With Respect to Jump Shots
1. First I wanted us to get a look at the Red Flags, so I’ve pointed out a couple of things for which to look. I’ve just marked a few for player, since visually it’s easier to see some of the problem areas, and I’ve marked Red Flags for players with terrible shooting numbers like Elfrid Payton, as well as Flags for those with very good shooting numbers like Victor Oladipo, who had very good percentages but precious few makes.
2. I’ve arranged the list by Two-Point Field Goal Percentage. Worst First. Having a bad Field Goal Percentage on Two Point Jumpers is the first negative indicator. But what’s bad?
It’s difficult to know exactly. It’s pretty clear that being in the low-to-mid 20s doesn’t say great things about a player’s shooting prospects, especially when this number is paired with either poor percentages from three or poor percentages from the three point line. Having all three be bad obviously is not a good thing.
3. As you ascend the list towards the low 30s, it’s more difficult to know exactly what the numbers mean, especially when considering that we’re essentially dealing with very small sample sizes here. Take Kris Dunn’s last two seasons as an example. One season around 30% on Two Point Jumpers, one season over 40%. The truth is almost certainly somewhere in between.
4. One thing you also have to look at is burden. Or, as another way of saying it, if the player had to generate the shot himself. Unassisted shots are more difficult and should be accounted as such. And while the hoop-math.com numbers I have don’t say how many unassisted jumpers each player took, they do account for unassisted makes, which we can assume stands as a decent proxy.
5. If we look at Andre Roberson now, we see an fundamentally poor shooting profile. Low Field Goal Percentages on Two Point Jumpers. What’s more, he also has a fairly limited number of overall attempts and thus a fairly limited number of overall makes. Small sample sizes are basically bad news.
Beyond that, a rather large percentage of his makes from the range are assisted, which would mean, if the numbers were good, that they wouldn’t be as reliable as if the player were generating the shots himself.
6. Roberson also has additional Red Flags which aren’t marked. A terrible Free Throw Percentage at around 61%. Good three point percentages, but with very small samples.
7. Next Elfrid Payton. We again see a bad Two-Point Field Goal Percentage. Below 25%. In addition, we see 26% from three and 61% from the Free-Throw Line. All negative indicators.
8. Michael Carter-Williams has a profile very similar to that of Payton, except with a slightly better Free Throw Percentage.
9. Then we have Justise Winslow, who was excellent from Three. 42%. Unfortunately, almost every three he took was of the catch-and-shoot variety. That’s a potential flag. Then there’s his terrible percentage on Two-Point Jumpers and a very low Free Throw Percentage.
One flag may or may not be enough to cast doubt on the player’s potential. But multiple Flags in conjunction are not a good sign.
10. As a corollary to Winslow’s Freshman season, we have Wade Baldwin’s. He only shot 29% on Two-Point Jumpers, but over 46% from Three and 80% from the Free-Throw Line. It’s not surprising at all that his Two-Point Jumper number ticked up greatly, even as a greater percentage of these shots became unassisted.
11. Tony Wroten has different types of holes. Very decent Two-Point Jumper percentages and a very decent amount of unassisted makes. But he was terrible from Three-Point land in limited tries and terrible from the Free Throw Line. I’d be willing to bet the Two-Point jumper percentages were buoyed greatly by shots in the 3-10 foot range though it’s impossible to know.
12. That’s one of the problems with the hoop-math statistics is that it’s impossible to know exactly what a two-point jumper is. All shots from feet to the Three-Point Line count, but clearly not all Two-Point jumpers are equal. Still, these are the best publicly available numbers I know of, and the patterns are clear enough that one can in most cases spot positive or negative trends.
13. Victor Oladipo represents a player whose numbers are potentially Fool’s Gold. Very good percentages, but very few makes and relatively low number of unassisted makes. Indeed, only 24 total. And while I think his shooting percentages from distance will continue to climb, we should note that Victor Oladipo has yet to shoot great from three in the run of play. Though he was up to 35% this year.
We should also note Oladipo’s percentages from 10 feet to the three point line all climbed to solidly over 40% this year. Those are the kinds of numbers we often see from a player whose about to really improve from deep. Maybe not next year, but I’d bet we see a really good shooting year from Oladipo in the near future.
I’d also bet that Dennis Schroder and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are poised for breakouts in the near future, and that Otto Porter will improve on this season, with respect to shooting at least. But what do I know?
One Thing To Look For With Respect To Jumpshots
1. Another makeshift metric. J Burden Percentage, or Jumper Burden Percentage, is kind of a shot difficulty metric. It’s just the percentage of a player’s jump shots which end up in unassisted makes. It’s important for at least two reasons.
One, because players with higher scores are more likely to have reliable shooting numbers.
Two, because players with higher scores are probably also more likely to outperform their college shooting splits as they transition into offenses that find ways to get these players more catch-and-shoot opportunities.
2. As naturally follows, player’s with lower numbers have generally less reliable shooting numbers. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Denzel Valentine (whose numbers are actually pretty good, especially in context with the strength of his percentages) or Patrick McCaw are players to discount completely. They shot well in their role. You can’t necessarily discount their ability because of that. But it’s something to look for, especially when a player has janky percentages.
And it might even be more useful to break it up by the individual area of the court the player was shooting from.
3. For instance, Justise Winslow. We see he was excellent from three at 41.8% and terrible from two at 26.9%. And we also see that almost all of his threes came off the catch and almost all of his two pointers came off the dribble. With that knowledge, I wouldn’t necessarily take the meaning of these facts to be that Winslow couldn’t shoot from two-point range, but rather that he couldn’t shoot off the dribble.
Still, we do know that players who struggle that much off the dribble is a little bit of a Flag.
4. 30% is clearly a very high number. That is, Kris Dunn’s Redshirt Sophomore year was a sneaky good shooting year in terms of positive predictive indicators. Low True Shooting Percentage. Success from every area. An incredibly high level of responsibility, at least in terms of generating his own shots. Over 40% from Two. 35% from three. The only Flag is Free Throw Percentage.
A flag which is not necessarily insignificant. If he shot Free Throws well too, we could be reasonably confident, he’d shoot well in the NBA. As it is, I do think many people are underrating the possibility of Dunn becoming a consistent shooter. And with better shot selection, he could become a very efficient scorer.
5. Demetrius Jackson and Anthony Barber are player’s who have everything with respect to scoring. Which is to say, there’s a reasonably high floor for both players because we can be relatively confident both players will shoot at least reasonably good percentages in the NBA. These are both high burden offensive players with a great degree of success. In the case of Demetrius Jackson, he’s actually done it for two years. Anthony Barber for one and a half.
6. 33% on threes when nearly 60% of your three point makes are unassisted is actually quite good. We shouldn’t expect Demetrius Jackson to have to shoot so many shots off-the-dribble at the next level. And thus, I’d bet that his Three-Point Percentages do go up.
7. That’s the reason why Demetrius Jackson is rated so highly with draft sites. It’s not because his likely ceiling is high, no matter how much we talk about his potential. It’s because we can be relatively sure his shooting skill is going to translate at the next level. With his explosiveness and dribbling ability, that could make him like a rich man’s Isaiah Canaan. Perhaps even a Vinnie Johnson type player.
But it’s hard to believe that he’ll be anything other than a negative defender when he devotes effort on that side of the ball not more than one to five times a game. When Demetrius Jackson tries at defense, he’s generally pretty good, at least from when I’ve seen him. But it takes a lot of energy to play max effort on both sides of the ball and Demetrius Jackson has shown little willingness or capacity to do that. Maybe if he were limited 15 to 20 minutes a night, it might be possible.
Let’s not even go into the fact that he’s yet not really a PG. Jackson probably has enough skill and explosiveness that you could reasonably project his passing to get to the point in which it is at least a semi-useful skill. But projecting a guy who has never defended to all of sudden become a good defender at the next level doesn’t make much sense. Especially when we have at least three guys at the position who have markedly better results at the college level.
This is one of the ways we confuse a player’s offensive floor with a likely ceiling. By making likely false assumptions that the player has a reasonable possibility to improve in areas he has never shown much consistency or success. And specifically on defense, where half of the game is played.
8. If you’ll notice, this is another area where Wade Baldwin’s overall statistics hide just how good his numbers were. 57% True Shooting Percentage, 40% from three. These numbers sound good. But they also don’t let us know how often he had to generate his own offense. And it was a lot. Not an unusual amount for a PG, but an unusual amount for a college player. The only real hole in Baldwin’s jump shooting numbers is his volume of total shots.
It’s one reason why I rate Baldwin so high. Considering his age, Baldwin’s shooting profile is arguably the best in the class. Though you could make equally strong arguments for Jackson, Barber, Ingram, Buddy Hield, Jamal Murray and Denzel Valentine.
9. Denzel Valentine has reasonably low burden numbers, but with his high volume of shots and high percentages, I’d be surprised if Valentine doesn’t at least match what Langston Galloway has done and probably exceed it. 59 and 52 unassisted makes on jumpers Valentine’s junior and senior years. These are strong numbers.
Additionally, from watching Valentine I don’t have much doubt that he has dribbling skills or the ability to pull-up when necessary.
10. This is one place where DeAndre Bembry has less than stellar numbers. They aren’t quite Andre Roberson numbers. But there’s also not much reason to expect that he will shoot at the next level.
Still, that’s not to say he can’t improve with work. Based on their college profiles, there was also almost no reason to think Matt Barnes or Bruce Bowen would improve as they aged. And DeAndre Bembry is a more talented all around player than either of them.
I also believe he’s a reasonably good bet to defend at a plus rate. Which gives Bembry a relatively high upside if he does indeed learn how to shoot.
11. I’m far from a shot doctor so I can’t answer if there’s a potentially easy fix to be made with Bembry’s form. One thing I can say is that such players are very often on their second or third teams before they figure it out. Which is one of the risks not only with guys who can’t shoot, but also with less experienced players and something a team has to factor into their grade of the player.
It’s a shame because I really like everything else about Bembry’s game. The two-way upside with dribbling and passing ability still give Bembry a relatively high grade. But he’s probably not quite as high now as I had him previously. Since it’s difficult to be a big-time Playoffs player at a Wing Position without a jump shot. Not impossible, but very rare.
12. McCaw has numbers lower on the reliability totem. But better numbers as well. Which makes it difficult to compare him to Bembry.
These are the kinds of players it’s difficult to make decisions between, especially because I didn’t get to see the four games in which McCaw grabbed 16, 18, 12 and 14 rebounds later in the year. The kinds of totals I would have thought impossible for him by watching the way he plays. Even in overtime games.
Clearly, one of the things that happened was that McCaw was shifted up a position because of UNLV’s lack of depth. But many players could play up a position and never put up such rebounding totals. Were McCaw to rebounded even half so well the rest of his time in college, which is perhaps mainly due to effort on the glass, he’d have a much easiest projection to make going forward.
13. This is the real problem with this year’s draft class. It’s not that there aren’t a number of decent players. It’s that many of their profiles are missing some key piece information that would make a projection going forward easier. With McCaw, it’s related to how few shots he took and the games in which he was playing Power Forward in college.
Which is one thing that is probably similar about this class and the 2013 draft class that people were talking about in similar terms. A draft class which is going to disprove the pundits greatly. Looking back, the 2013 draft class had a number of players, guys like Nerlens Noel, Victor Oladipo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Otto Porter, Nerlens Noel, Robert Covington with highly positive statistical markers that spoke not only of high floors but also the possibility of reasonably high ceilings as well.
I’d make an argument you could also find a similar 6-8 players in this class. Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, Wade Baldwin, Kris Dunn, Chinanu Onuaku, Brice Johnson. Maybe a couple of others.
The differences comes firstly with the question of European players, as the 2013 draft class had two or three that will probably prove to be cream of the 2013 draft class (Giannis, Gobert, Schroder). And secondly with the depth of this year’s NCAA crop. A great deal of older players, yes, but a pretty ridiculous amount of guys who are actually at least decent players. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see a high number of Free Agents to have careers out of this draft class.
14. Gary Payton II is kind of in the Bembry boat. Especially as an older prospect. He’s an even defender, dribbler and passer though. Which are reasons for me he’s worth the risk. Payton ‘s defense gives him a relatively high floor as a player. But Payton II is one of the rare players with an actual Top-10 player ceiling due to his Two-Way ability. He has one major hole in his game, jump shooting.
However, jump shooting has been fixable for a few players. Unlike Dunn’s problem with turnovers, which probably isn’t fixable without shifting the player into a diminished role on offense. Unlike Jackson’s problem with defense, or Barber’s problem with defense, which almost no one improves upon. (Not to mention the other holes in Jackson’s game.)
Drafting Payton II is what I’d deem an intelligent risk. He’s really going have to work to fix that jumper. If he does, you have a guy who’s going to provide HUGE value in the NBA game. And you are going to get the chance to pay for all of his prime years at a discount, since as an overraged player, his first two contracts are going to carry him through the majority of his good years in the league.
15. As a way to look at this problem, let’s think about the Utah Jazz. The Utah Jazz have been very successful in drafting and acquiring young talent. Gobert, Haywood, Hood, Lyles were all draft picks. They also acquired Favors. Sure they’ve had their missteps. Mainly Trey Burke, but for the most part they’ve way exceeded the expected draft value for where they were picking.
They also still don’t remotely have the type of player that can carry them into contention. Picking solid players. Slightly above average players. Even third or fourth tier all-stars is good. But without a single great talent around which to place these players, it still doesn’t make your team relevant.
Unfortunately, the Jazz may have given up that player when they let go of Paul Millsap without offering him a max deal. But that also points to another crux. Gobert, Millsap, Haywood is definitely a team good enough to get to the playoffs. It’s also still a team probably missing some fire power to deal with the Warriors, the Spurs, the Cavs, etc . . .
It’s one reason I’ve been arguing that teams should assume a slightly more risky strategy with their picks. Especially those teams that don’t already have a Curry, Lebron or Kawhi. At least if contending for an NBA title is really the goal.
16. How can I not talk about Brandon Ingram? The Free Throw Percentage and the lack of unassisted three-point shots might be slight Flags, but he has a lot of numbers in his favor. 41% from three. 80 made three pointers. And these numbers are backed up by shooting 37.6% on Two-Point Jumpers with 53 unassisted makes from that range.
I’d argue that only Anthony Barber’s junior year, Demetrius Jackson’s sophomore and junior seasons, Kay Felder’s junior year and Kris Dunn’s Redshirt sophomore numbers are better from that range. However, none of these players are 6’9″ 18 year old Freshman with 7’3″ wingspans. Ingram’s perceived upside is probably slightly higher than his actual likely ceiling as a player. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have considerable upside or potential as a two-way player, especially if he can start training at a place like P3 so that he can better utilize his athletic gifts.
(To me, it seems Ingram’s functional in-game explosiveness in leaping, first step and lateral movement is way less than I’d guess it would be for a player with the vertical leaping ability we saw in Duke’s jumping drills last summer. Though some of the dissonance might also come from a lack of in-game anticipation and reaction ability. For instance, Ingram was in position to affect a number of shots in game I saw and was at least a beat late in reacting, allowing shots that probably should have been blocked to become scores, or at least to get to the rim.)
17. How can we not talk about Ben Simmons? He shows up better than Ingram in terms of my makeshift metric “J Burden %”, but that’s only because Simmons didn’t shoot three pointers. Had Simmons taken a healthy number of three pointers, it’s very likely that his numbers would have been in line with Ingram, Valentine and others.
Which is not really to say all that much. Probably because there’s not all that much to say. Simmons has no Red Flags besides a lack of Three-Point Evidence. 39 unassisted makes with 33% on Two-Point Jumpers is pretty decent. 67% on Free Throws, not as much, but many players have overcome much worse. ie. It’s a flag, but on its own, not a significant one.
However, having a profile that doesn’t have significant Red Flags in terms of shooting ability is not the same as having a scoring profile that would be predictive of a player that we’d expect could shoot.
The difference between Simmons and Ingram then is this: Ingram is likely going to have to shoot at near league best efficiency rates on high volume to be hugely valuable on offense. Whereas if Simmons shoots from distance with even moderately positive shooting efficiency, he’ll probably be approaching status as the best player in the league, due to his other gifts.
18. To really parse these numbers, you are going to have to do some investigation. There are other arrangements of the data which probably would have yielded more information. Sorting by Raw Unassisted Makes From Two Point land and Three Point land for instance. But I thought I’d talk about the reliability of the numbers instead, which gives you a solid tool for interpretation of these statistics.
19. Let’s talk about Buddy Hield and Jamal Murray.
1. 51 unassisted makes on Two-Point jumpers from Murray with 39% FG% from that range. 41% from three. Nearly 80% from free throw line. Only a Freshman. These are the kinds of numbers a player puts up when you’d expect that the player will eventually shoot. Sometimes it takes a while to translate, but it usually happens.
2. The same deal with Buddy Hield. 75 unassisted makes total. 46 from three. 37-46-88 percentages across the three categories we’re looking at. These are excellent numbers and numbers you’d expect to translate positively at the next level.
3. The problem with both players for me is that they don’t do anything else. I expect both will be negative defenders, probably both on-ball and in space, and I don’t expect either of them to help much in terms of passing the basketball. Though Jamal Murray is young enough that there’s time for him to do so.
Which is to say, as just offensive players, I’d rate them pretty highly. Lower potential offensive upsides than Simmons, Ingram, Valentine and the best point prospects. But higher than just about everyone else. That’s a ceiling somewhere between J.J. Redick and Klay Thompson.
But if each player is a negative on defense, or to be kind let’s say average at best, their overall value on the basketball court will be greatly mitigated.
4. So once again we see the thought process driving these rankings is mostly that there seems to exist a relatively high offensive floor for these players and lots of wishful thinking with respect to the player’s defensive ability. Though I say again that I hope they prove me wrong.
5. Let’s talk about Thomas Walkup. This is exactly the type of profile you should be looking for if you’re looking for a player who might outperform their college numbers in the pros. For anyone that watched Stephen F. Austin, and you didn’t need to watch very much, it became immediately apparent how dependent the team’s success on both sides of the ball was on Walkup. It was also apparent that while the offense generated a lot of shot attempts for Walkup, when he shot three pointers, it was as often as not off-the-dribble, which was clearly not a strength for Walkup. Only 22.6% from three on only 31 attempts.
However he was very good from the free throw line. 77.3% on 150 attempts. And excellent on mid-range jumpers, assisted or not. 49.4% as a junior, 47.7% as a senior. 240 combined attempts. 63 combined unassisted makes.
Walkup is the kind of player whose probably going to have off-the-catch shots generated for him at the next level, rather than having to do it himself. And that can make a tremendous difference in terms of jump shooting efficiency.
I don’t know if he’ll be drafted or signed as a Free Agent but he’s a player I’m going to be rooting for. Though I’ll talk about him more when I talk about Off-Ball Wings. As well Murray, Hield, McCaw, Bembry and Valentine. I just wanted to include him in this piece because he’s an excellent passer of the basketball. And that was one of the ways by which I chose a number of players in this list. Plus the number of decently interesting Off-Ball Wings in this draft is pretty crazy right now. It’s pretty easy to separate most of the guys who might play defense from the guys that won’t, but even that is going to leave a pretty healthy number of players we need to talk about.