I wished I was as good in anything in life as much as DJ Cooper is at passing. PAOK’s six-foot tall pure point guard showcased impressive shot creation ability in his first season as pro, leading the Greek league in pure point ratio and ranking ninth in the Eurocup. Cooper is an outstanding passer out of the pick-and-roll and in transition, with a very diverse arsenal; shovel passing to trailers in transition, wrapping around help defenders to hit teammates below the rim when he got inside the lane, bullet passing from 30-feet away to a teammate cutting baseline to flash in front of the basket, bounce passing from hip level to the opposite direction of his body off the ball-screen…
Cooper faces challenges as a scorer but made it work OK at the mid-tier level of the European game, averaging 1.2 points per shot on 396 attempts over 1,394 total minutes. He only carries about 180 pounds on his frame and has below average upper body strength for the pro level, resulting in struggles to finish at the rim the few times he does try. A lefty, Cooper actually drives faster going right but doesn’t possess the explosive leaping ability players of similar height like Lester Bo McCallebb and Marquez Haynes have to succeed finishing at the basket against length. Driving left off the ball-screen, Cooper doesn’t even look to attack, very smartly using his off arm to shield the defender as he patiently waits for a passing lane to open up. He averaged just 2.5 free throw attempts per game.
His best scoring skill is his outside jump-shooting. Cooper took 244 of his 396 shots from three-point range, and hit them at a below average 32.4% clip. But the vast majority of the three-pointers Cooper took last season were off the dribble as he handled the ball pretty much at all times when he was on the floor for PAOK. Even possessions that didn’t start with him bringing the ball up the court featured him running around a drag screen to catch the ball on the wing midway through the shot clock and run a side pick-and-roll. His efficiency would almost certainly be higher if put in a position to catch-and-shoot more often as he is a good shooter mechanically, with fine motion and balance, and spot-up shots would help cut down his tendency to fadeaway a little rather than jumping straight up and down. But at this point, he can’t be rated as anything more than capable.
Cooper’s size limits him as an on-ball defender. He struggles to contain dribble penetration in isolation due to lack of strength bodying up opponents and is absolutely hopeless in the post against bigger, more physical types like Acy Law IV, for example. Cooper could do a better job navigating through screens, though, as he has the quickness and the foot speed to fight them with more effort than what he has shown. He doesn’t just gives up and crashes into picks but mostly simply goes through the motions without much urgency to make an impact.
But Cooper does manage to contribute on that end. He led the Greek league and ranked sixth in the Eurocup in defensive rebounding rate among point guards, grabbing around 15% of opponents’ misses. Possessing a six-foot-five wingspan and great instinct jumping passing lanes, Cooper was tremendous manufacturing turnovers, ranking in the top four in both leagues in steal rate and posting top 10 defensive ratings for his position.
Editor’s Note: Statistical data for this post was researched at basketball.realgm.com.
Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.