Catch&Score Finisher, Stretch Big

Serge Ibaka Scouting Report

(Originally posted at BballBreakdown)

Most people probably viewed Serge Ibaka peaking as a menace shot blocker and a volume rebounder when he first entered the NBA as a 20-year old. The evolution of his individual skill-set season after season is a huge testament to his work ethic and the Thunder’s player development program.

In his sixth season, Ibaka has completed the expansion of his scoring zone. He’s gone from proving capable of hitting the eventual long-two when left open in his first year to now taking over a quarter of his shots from three-point range and 80.7% of such shots from above the break. Ibaka quickly developed into one of the league’s very best mid-range shooters by his third season and it makes sense that the Thunder have attempted to extract the most value out of this skill by selectively sending him to the corner these previous two seasons and now parking him on the wings with more frequency.

In a vacuum, this has been a success. It might seem a bit excessive that Ibaka is on pace to triple his career high in three-point attempts, but he has hit his 113 long range shots at a 40.7% clip. Of particular importance is the fact that the Thunder were able to get him open (i.e. shooting with no defender within four feet) on 101 of his 113 three-point attempts, according to NBA.com’s SportVU tracking technology. This is important, for Ibaka is not a complete shooter yet. He has a rather natural stroke for a big guy, but doesn’t have a particularly quick release and needs the extra time to load his shot in rhythm, missing eight of his 11 contested three-point attempts so far.

While Ibaka is producing at an above average clip from beyond the arc, the increase of possessions in which he spots up in the perimeter has cost him production around the basket, where he was once an elite player. According to basketball-reference.com, Ibaka is taking less than a quarter of his shots at the rim this season, after taking almost a third of them there the previous two seasons. He’s a truly great finisher at the basket due to his ability to play above the rim as target for lobs, the speed and force with which he can attack off the catch diving down the lane with momentum, and his activity on the offensive glass. According to nbasavant.com, dunks and tip shots accounted for 24.2% of his 501 two-point field goals last season. But we are seeing far less of that this season.

Ibaka gets most of his mid-range jump-shots out of pick-and-pops with Russell Westbrook, so his long-two point jumpshot rate has only slightly declined, and is still large enough to represent over a quarter of his shots. What has changed however is, on those possessions where Ibaka is on the weak-side, he is no longer cutting baseline or establishing rebounding position below the rim as much due to his tendency to spot up from beyond the arc a lot more. He collected 10% of Oklahoma City’s misses last season and ranked in the top 10 in the league in this category a couple of seasons ago, but that number is now down to just 7.3%. Dunks and tip shots have accounted for just 25 of his 145 two-point field goals this season, and he is averaging less than two free throws per 36 minutes.

While one can understand why Oklahoma City is developing Ibaka into a player with an unlimited scoring zone, one also ponders if by doing so they aren’t failing to maximize what he does best and what the eventual net gain is. Ibaka is extracting that extra point of value out of his spot-up jump-shooting, but he’s averaging the same scoring per 36 minutes as a season ago on roughly the same usage rate, and his effective field goal percentage is down a bit as an effect of operating farther away from the rim.

Perhaps Oklahoma City’s motivation is hidden below the surface. In a breakdown of the Thunder’s game four loss to the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, Coach Nick raised the question of whether Ibaka could be one of the reasons why the Thunder don’t run a more complex offense. If that’s the case, by developing Ibaka into a player who can be parked anywhere beyond the three-point line on the weak-side late in games, Oklahoma City can try running better plays (with Durant screening, perhaps) than it has been able to with Ibaka potentially failing to recognize what’s needed of him based on how the opposing defense is reacting.

It is of huge importance for the Thunder to have Ibaka on the floor late in the game because of his help defense. While he doesn’t play position defense at the same level that Andrew Bogut and Tyson Chandler do, for example, Ibaka is an elite rim protector due to his shot blocking skills. He has great quickness for somebody his size rotating off the weak-side, elevating off the ground in a pinch and using his nine-foot-three standing reach to erase layup attempts. Ibaka led the league in blocks last season and currently ranks second in this one. Opponents are shooting just 41.9% at the rim with him protecting it – the fifth best mark among players who defend a minimum of five shots at the rim per game, according to SportVU.

Logging more minutes with Steven Adams than the floor-bound Kendrick Perkins has affected Ibaka’s defensive rebounding rate some. Nevertheless, he remains a good rebounder, who looks to box out consistently on long-range shots and can get off the ground quicker to track the ball off the rim than most opposing big men. Most importantly, perhaps, he has proven able to box out bigger players thanks to the strength in his 220-pound frame, which is vital for Oklahoma City’s flexibility to downsize with Durant as a big man in the second half of important games. He is the rebounder and defender that this team – every team – needs, and year on year, he has improved and expanded his offensive game.

So many factors went into Sam Presti’s decision to trade James Harden in order to maintain financial flexibility for a longer period. One of them was him prioritizing getting Ibaka signed first, likely because he envisioned Ibaka developing into the perfect hybrid big man to complement Westbrook’s and Durant’s style of play. And with the addition of his jumpshot range, it has worked out that way.

Editor’s Note: 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.

Advertisements
Standard
3D wing, Tall Passer

Nicolas Batum Scouting Report

(Orginally posted at BballBreakdown)

Despite little mainstream notice, the Portland Trail Blazers lead the NBA in wins at the moment. The stacked Western conference is shaping up to be matchup-driven in the postseason, and therefore home-court advantage might make a huge difference on which teams survive the first round. With over a third of the regular season now passed, Portland is in play for the top overall seed. Damian Lillard has taken yet another step into superstardom, LaMarcus Aldridge has been his usual consistent self and Wesley Matthews is well on his way to earning a $70-million contract next summer.

But Nicolas Batum hasn’t been the same. After logging 93 games with the Blazers last season, Batum joined the French national team in the summer and helped it to a third-place finish at the FIBA World Cup. As a result, fatigue might be playing a role in his production being down across the board. He has also dealt with a wrist injury that may in part help explain the biggest drop-off in his performance; his outside shooting. Whatever the reasons for it, however, it is unmistakable that Batum has struggled during the first third of the season.

Playing most of minutes with two elite shot creators, Batum normally gets open quite often. According to NBA.com, Batum took 63.6% of his shots with no defender within four feet of him last season, and hit his 315 catch-and-shoot three-point attempts at a 38.7% clip. Batum has been just as open this season, on 67.8% of his shots, but has hit a putrid 25% of his 92 catch-and-shoot three-point attempts prior to the game against the New York Knicks. The issue appears to be on the follow-through; in his misses, Batum is not keeping his off-arm pointed up through the release, which he’s consistently doing at the free throw line and enjoying his normally high foul shooting percentage.

Batum is also struggling to create his own shot off the bounce, shooting just 28.6% on 63 pull-ups and 13% on 38 attempts with less than seven seconds on the shot clock. His overall two-point shooting percentage is holding up well thanks to his ability to play above the rim as a target for lobs on cuts and in transition, but Batum hasn’t been able to create separation when turning the corner. Despite standing at six-foot-eight, he doesn’t have long strides and, without a sudden change of gear, Batum is not being able to get past athletic defenders. He entered Sunday’s game shooting 71.4% on his 45 attempts within eight feet of the basket, but had been assisted on 25 of his 35 makes. Last season, more effective on his individual drives, he was assisted in only 58.9% of such scores.

Batum has never been a volume foul shooter but he’s extremely rarely at the line this season, averaging only a single attempt per 36 minutes this season. He has drawn just 12 shooting fouls in 26 appearances, which is also a reflection of his inability to attack opponents with much quickness off the dribble.

As a passer, Batum is assisting on 21.2% of Portland’s scores when he has been on the floor, in line with his performance the previous two seasons. Yet that has been mostly through his ability to hit the pocket pass out of the pick-and-roll in stride, his quick ball moving instincts, how he’s able to post up smaller players in a pinch and use his court vision identifying open teammates on the weak-side. Using SportVU’s new movement asset, I counted only seven of his first 41 assists coming from inside the lane out of dribble penetration (there’s no data available for games over the last month).

However, despite his struggles shooting from the outside and off the dribble, and while contributing less on the offensive glass than he did last season, the Blazers have still scored more efficiently with Batum on the floor, in large part because he has shared 60% of his minutes with all of Aldridge, Lillard and Matthews in the lineup. The team have played well with him, even if they have had to do it without him.

Defensively, Batum is holding up fine on the surface. Though unable to contain dribble penetration through contact due to his lean 200-pound frame, Batum still possesses the lateral mobility to keep pace with most players in isolation and uses his length very well to challenge shots. But Terry Sttots has been less aggressive using him against smaller players this season, which is something he was very comfortable doing last year. And after an elite performance collecting opponents’ misses in 2013-2014 (seventh-best defensive rebounding rate among small forwards), Batum has only been average in these 26 games.

Portland is not a team with much depth. It relies heavily on its top unit producing at an elite level, and Batum has yet to do so. But with Lillard, Aldridge and Matthews all doing what was expected of them and the Blazers leading the league in wins as a result, Batum suddenly finding his legs is what’s missing for people to realize this team is a legit title contender.

Editor’s Note: 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.

Standard
7-footer, Stretch Big

Myles Turner Scouting Report

(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)

Texas closed its non-conference schedule on Monday with an 11-point win over Rice at home, featuring one of Myles Turner’s best performances to date. The six-foot-11 freshman scored 16 points on seven shots in 22 minutes, hitting both of his three-point attempts in the process.

Turner hasn’t been particularly impressive against high level competition this season, with non-descript performances against California Berkeley and Connecticut, a struggle against Kentucky and an OK outing against Stanford. But his skill-set remains very appealing and he has done just enough to continue being viewed as a lottery-rated prospect over these first two months of the season.

Turner projects as a floor spacing big man at the pro level. He has a smooth shooting stroke and solid mechanics, flexing his elbows comfortably and keeping the off-arm pointed up on the follow through. Turner doesn’t elevate off the ground much but doesn’t need to for a high release point thanks to his six-foot-11 frame and the speed of his release. He has hit eight of his 20 three-point attempts and entered Monday’s game having hit 42.8 percent of his 42 two-point jump-shots, according to Hoop Math.

His other most intriguing skill is his passing. Turner has flashed a very high basketball IQ, doing little things such as swinging the ball quickly when he catches on the perimeter in non-shooting position to make sure the offense keeps moving. He also tends to post up his man to tie up a rim protector when one of Texas’ guards opts not to enter the ball to the post but rather drive towards the basket.

Turner is an excellent asset for high-low action, proving able to assist a teammate below the rim by flashing to the foul line or from the perimeter after popping off a ball-screen. He’s also flashed the ability to pass out of the low post. I don’t feel like Texas is using his passing ability enough but even as is, Turner has assisted on almost 12 percent of Texas’ scores when he has been on the floor, per Basketball Reference. When he is in the lineup, the team plays at a noticeably faster pace.

Other areas of his offensive game aren’t as developed, though. On the pick-and-roll, Turner is a decent screener who looks to draw contact but can’t dive hard to the front of the rim due to an inability to move fluidly in space. He hasn’t been able to finish strong in traffic or finish through contact.

On the low post, he has struggled establishing deep position against high level competition. Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl Towns, Jr. consistently pushed him off his spot, as Draft Express’ Mike Schimitz detailed in this video. Stefan Nastic also successfully denied him the ball last week. When he has caught it below the foul line, Turner has looked hesitant to create separation by backing opponents down, often opting for quick turnaround hooks or fadeaway jump-shots. He has a lean 240-pound frame in the context of his six-foot-11 height and doesn’t play with much strength, which also makes him unable to push people off the way on the offensive glass.

Although Turner functions well as a floor spacer, he often settles for contested looks in an attempt to get his shot off quickly. His high shooting percentage at the rim (67.7% on 31 shots prior to Monday’s game) is mostly a result of him making a killing against low level opponents. His lack of explosion has held him back against better teams. Although he did get to the foul line fine against California Berkeley, Connecticut, Kentucky and Stanford (15 free throws in four games), Turner was limited to just five two-point baskets in his 82 minutes.

As I mentioned in his offseason profile, Turner looked uncomfortable defending in space in the FIBA Americas U18, so it was expected this was also going to be the case at the college level. Texas has played some zone to maximize the effectiveness of his seven-foot-four wingspan and limit the amount of ground he’s asked to cover. But when they’ve switched to man-to-man, Turner hasn’t looked particularly quick rotating off the weak side to protect the rim, leaving the impression he might be a step too late at the next level.

His 35 blocks are a virtue of his prolificacy blocking shots in individual defense. Turner is a disciplined defender in the post, holding his ground and using his length extremely well to challenge opponents’ finishes.

Turner is very active going after uncontested rebounds, showing decent jumping ability and good instincts tracking the ball off the rim. His long wingspan gives him a big rebounding area as well. But as Mike Schimitz also documented on that video, Turner struggled badly establishing inside position to collect misses against Kentucky’s frontline. He just didn’t look strong enough to fight against that level of athleticism. Turner did much better against Stanford, making sure he boxed out Reid Travis diligently, but that remains a concern with regards to his pro prospects.

Editor’s Note: 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.

Standard
3D wing, Shot Creator, Tall Passer

Caris LeVert Scouting Report

(Orginally posted at Upside & Motor)

Michigan is off to a rough start this season. Losses to the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Villanova, Eastern Michigan, Arizona and Southern Methodist have the Wolverines at an unusual position as they start Big Ten play on Tuesday. John Beilein lost a lot of older talent to the NBA draft and graduation over the last couple of years, and will be forced to rely on a more inexperienced core as they move forward and look to find their feet before tournament play.

Once he gets those freshmen up to speed, Beilein will be counting on junior Caris LeVert to lead them into conference title contention. Based on the way Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Nik Stauskas looked in their final years in Ann Arbor, there are high expectations LeVert will be the next wing Beilein develops into a first round pick.

LeVert has improved his physical profile significantly, adding more mass to his frame in a matter of months. But through the first couple of months of the season, his skill-set hasn’t really expanded the way most were anticipating. That’s not to say he has disappointed. LeVert’s strengths appeared to have solidified even more. But other undeveloped areas of his game seem to have stagnated as weak points.

LeVert’s top skill remains his outside shooting off the catch, and in a draft starved of floor spacers, his shooting ability is what’s guaranteeing his status as a lottery prospect at the moment. LeVert has a quick trigger off the catch, elevating off the ground in a pinch and releasing at a high point thanks to his height at six-foot-seven. He has shot tremendously well even if the looks haven’t been as clean as they were a year ago, when opponents gravitated more towards Stauskas, hitting 42.3 percent of his 59 three-point attempts, according to Basketball Reference.

LeVert’s excellent shooting opens up opportunities for him to attack closeouts and take advantage of his other above average skill; his passing. LeVert has proven very willing to make the extra pass around the perimeter and able to pass on the move out of dribble penetration. With Stauskas gone — Spike Albrecht has been very limited creating off the bounce and Zak Irvin just starting to develop his floor game — LeVert has dealt with increased ball handling responsibilities this season and done rather well.

I mentioned in his offseason profile LeVert was one of the better players in college basketball assisting out of the pick-and-roll and in transition, and that remains the case. LeVert has a tight handle dribbling from side-to-side, can drive with either hand and shows a high basketball IQ. When Michigan’s offense staled against Syracuse’s zone, LeVert was active trying to get to the middle of the zone and swing the ball quickly around the perimeter in an attempt to ignite some movement.

He has assisted on almost a quarter of Michigan’s scores when he has been on the floor and his 14.7 percent turnover rate is quite low in the context of him ending almost half of Michigan’s possessions (24.3 percent assist rate, 24.2 percent usage rate) with a shot, foul shot, turnover or assist.

His ability to create for others is of particular importance because LeVert has not improved creating scoring for himself. Though he is stronger than he was a season ago, more physical types can still deny him the ball successfully, as Stanley Johnson proved in a few instances when Michigan visited Arizona on December 13th. Once he gets the ball, LeVert has shown flashes of being able to attack the rim with good quickness. One of his 11 baskets against the New Jersey Institute of Technology, he drove through traffic from the left side of the wing to the basket in one dribble. But that has not been the case often. According to Hoop Math, LeVert has taken just 16 percent of his shots at the rim, though he has finished at a nice 74 percent clip when he’s gotten there. And despite an increase in usage rate, he’s drawing shooting fouls at the same pace he did last season.

LeVert was a lousy pull-up shooter and that remains the case through these first 12 games. He proved able to create decent separation from Stanley Johnson and Villanova’s athletes but simply continues to struggle shooting off the bounce, converting just 29 percent of his 62 two-point jump-shots. To add to that, only seven of his 25 three-point makes have been unassisted.

LeVert has always played with good effort on defense but his contributions on that end have been more impactful this season due to Michigan’s lack of meaningful contribution from its younger players. He gets in his stance and has very good lateral quickness to keep pace with opponents in isolation. His added strength should help him guard bigger wings but Beilein still preferred matching Irvin up with Stanley Johnson most of that Arizona game.

LeVert’s navigation through screens was subpar last season but Michigan switched more aggressively with its perimeter players against Oregon, Villanova, Syracuse and Arizona, so I was unable to notice if he improved or stagnated on that area.

With Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle replacing Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford, more has been needed of LeVert on the boards and he has contributed by collecting 18 percent of opponents’ misses — which is an elite mark for a perimeter player. He also continues to play the passing lanes to force turnovers on a consistent basis. Michigan is allowing just 94 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, the lowest defensive rating on the team among rotation players.

Editor’s Note: 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.

Standard
3D wing

Justise Winslow Scouting Report

(Orginally posted at Upside & Motor)

After a strong month of November, which featured impressive performances against Michigan State, Stanford and Temple, Justise Winslow rose to the top six of both Jonathan Givony’s and Chad Ford’s prospect rankings. Winslow has slowed down a bit in December, with a non-descript outing against Wisconsin and an average one against Connecticut, but has still been what was expected of him early in his college career.

When I profiled him in July, I mentioned how advanced Winslow’s physical profile is for someone his age and how he maximizes the impact of his athleticism on defense by playing with a lot of effort. That remains the case at Duke, where Winslow does the blue collar work. Mike Kzryzewski has him and Amile Jefferson switching on ball screens, feeling very comfortable with Winslow guarding taller players in the post and boxing them out. He is listed even bigger than he was with Team USA in the summer, apparently growing from six-foot-six and 221 pounds to six-foot-seven and 229 pounds.

Winslow is actually logging a portion of his minutes as a small-ball power forward with Marshall Plumlee at center when Jefferson and Jahlil Okafor go to the bench for rest. He does good work helping the team protect the glass, showing the willingness to get physical bodying up bigger players. His rebounding rate doesn’t emphasize that, yet for good reason — Okafor, Jefferson and Plumlee are vacuum cleaners collecting misses. He has guarded very few pick-and-rolls as a big man but did well against Michigan State, looking in control of his responsibilities by dropping back to protect the lane.

Winslow’s huge frame for a wing doesn’t mean he is in a quickness disadvantage on the perimeter. He is not a factor playing the passing lane to generate turnovers and didn’t close out on Wisconsin’s shooters with the short range speed expected of an athlete his caliber. Nevertheless, his individual on-ball defense is probably the best of any player likely to declare for next year’s draft. Winslow has shown great lateral mobility to keep pace with smaller players in isolation, core strength to contain dribble penetration through contact, and the length to challenge shots at the rim. Duke is allowing just 89.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, per Basketball Reference.

Winslow doesn’t do much ball-handling within Duke’s motion offense but has had chances to create shots by bringing the ball up the court in semi-transition or running side pick-and-rolls off baseline inbounds. Duke also runs a play that gets him the ball at the top of key for a middle pick-and-roll with Plumlee. Winslow has proven himself as a very willing passer on the move and has flashed some really nice instincts passing out of dribble penetration, assisting on 12 percent of Duke’s baskets when he’s been on the floor. But he is a lousy pull-up shooter at this point, missing 16 of his 18 mid-range jump-shots, according to Hoop Math.

Off the catch, Winslow has been a far more capable three-point shooter than he was in the summer, when he often opted for putting the ball on the floor even when left wide open. He is only mostly an average open-shot shooter at this point but his mechanics look quite good on makes — solid balance, off-arm pointed up, elbows flexing, wrist flicking and great arc on his shot. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of getting him to elevate off the ground with some consistency and making sure he releases at the highest point. There’s good reason to think he’ll be a fine shooter eventually, though. He has hit a decent 36.4 percent of his 33 three-point attempts, with all 12 of his makes assisted.

By hitting the open shot at a decent clip, Winslow is forcing opponents to close out on him with some urgency and taking advantage of them on straight line drives. Duke isolates him in the post against noticeably smaller wings from time to time, usually by running a simple play where Okafor handles at the high post and hits Winslow diving to the front of the rim for an easy catch-and-finish. He is able to play above the rim as a target for lobs but we haven’t seen much of that at Duke so far. Only eight of his 26 scores at the rim have been assisted, with only five coming on putbacks.

Winslow is mostly getting to the basket off the bounce. His handle is okay, though he struggles when forced right. He is averaging three turnovers per 40 minutes as a result. However, few players at the college level can keep him in front after his first step, and Winslow has show great balance and touch finishing against length, shooting 70.3 percent at the rim on 37 attempts. That force attacking the basket has also translated into 7.3 foul shots per 40 minutes, but Winslow hasn’t shown the same improvement he does from beyond the arc, missing 20 of his 48 free throws at this point. The issue seems to be the follow through; he will often move that off-arm down rather than keep it pointed up.

Because of the free throw misses and the merely average three-point shooting, Winslow hasn’t been as positive a presence on Duke’s offense as his diverse skill-set should allow him to be. He has the second lowest offensive rating on the team among the rotation players, only marginally better than Rasheed Sulaimon’s, who is also struggling with his three-point shooting.

Editor’s Note: 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.

Standard
3D wing

Deshaun Thomas Scouting Report

I was generally confused when Barcelona signed Deshaun Thomas as Kostas Papanikolaou’s replacement. Thomas played as a stretch four in France and Barça already had a full depth of options for the wing with Juan Carlos Navarro, Alex Abrines, Brad Oleson, Mario Hezonja and Tomas Satoransky in place at the time of Thomas’ signing. That turned out to be a good decision, though. Navarro, Abrines and Oleson have struggled with injuries in December and Thomas has been a more productive player than Papanikolaou was last season.

Thomas’ role in this team is mostly as a spot-up shooter, though his three-point rate (30.6%) isn’t as high as you would expect from someone in that role. He gets good elevation off the ground and has a sound release off the catch but is more reliable as an open shot shooter from the left corner than as shooter with gravitational pull. Thomas has converted his 42 three-point attempts at a 40% clip. Attacking closeouts, he has proven a willing passer on the move but is not a consistent shot creator for others out of dribble penetration, assisting on just 6.7% of Barcelona’s scores when he’s been on the floor.

Thomas has logged the majority of his minutes with Marcelinho Huertas and Juan Carlos Navarro (or Mario Hezonja, over the last month), so he’s had no ball-handling responsibilities from the perimeter and mostly gets to create his shots posting up smaller players. Barça often gets him deep position by having him as one of their players in the high post on horns alignment, then dive to the strong-side low post as Huertas and Tomic run a high pick-and-roll.

Thomas has a big frame for a wing at the European level but will more often use skill rather than force to get his shot off. He can get a bit clumsy with his dribbling but has shown good touch finishing through left-handed jumphooks and turnaround, fadeaway jump-shots. Between those looks off post-ups and one-dribble pull-ups when the opponent runs him off the three-point line, Thomas has converted on 50% of his 28 mid-range jump-shots in 205 Euroleague minutes this season, after converting on 47.6% of his 21 such attempts in 93 Euroleague minutes with Nanterre last one.

He has a good handle but doesn’t attack the rim with much speed on straight line drives, needing to rely on fast-breaks and weak-side cuts to get his interior scoring. Thomas is a good runner in transition, though not impressively explosive in the open court. He does not finish with power in traffic and has not shown able to finish through contact but has good hands to catch the ball on the move and touch to finish around length at rim level. Thomas has converted 15 of his 20 attempts at the rim in the Euroleague and 62% of his 47 two-point attempts in the Spanish league, with only five of his 137 total shots in both leagues blocked.

Thomas defends with effort, getting on his stance and moving his feet well enough so he’s able to contain dribble penetration through contact in isolation. But he struggles badly navigating through screens due to his frame. He is just not built to go over the pick, consistently crashing into the opposing big man. Thomas also doesn’t leverage his athleticism as an asset in rim protection or rebounding much – blocking just three shots in 22 appearances and collecting just 8% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor. His on/off splits are mixed, with Barcelona preventing scoring better with him in the Euroleague but without him in the Spanish league.

Editor’s Note: Statistical data for this post was researched at gigabasket.org, basketball.realgm.com , ACB.com and baloncestostatsacb.es

Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here and at BballBreakdown or at Upside & Motor, a couple of websites where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.

Standard
Croatian, Tall Passer

Dario Saric Scouting Report

(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)

Dario Saric is the highest touted European prospect since Ricky Rubio and many were disappointed when it was announced the 12th pick in last June’s draft would not be transferring to the NBA until 2016. 76ers’ fans wait patiently, though, as Saric continues to add to his legend. Named the Euroleague player of the month in November, the youngest to ever do it, he’s off to a good start to the season in his first year playing for Anadolu Efes in Turkey.

Efes’ head-coach Dusan Ivkovic has utilized him as a stretch-four, which is technically the same position he played at Croatian club Cibona Zagreb last season, except for the fact he got to do more ball-handling from the perimeter. Saric even used to have the chance to run some offense when point guard Jerel Blassingame was subbed out, maximizing his top skill which is his feel for the game. Saric is an excellent passer who is constantly looking to assist teammates in better scoring position, particularly in transition.

But while Saric can pass off dribble penetration, especially as a ball-handler out of the pick-and-roll, he has limitations as a shot creator from the top of the perimeter. Saric has a good handle dribbling from side-to-side for somebody who stands at six-foot-10 but struggles with his left hand. He does not create much separation off the bounce due to a first step that is not at all explosive at the highest level of European ball. He is also a lousy pull-up shooter, missing 18 of his 26 mid-range shots in 10 Euroleague appearances this season, according to GigaBasket.

Saric no longer does much ball-handling from the perimeter and his new team doesn’t get in transition as much as his old one, but he still has plenty of opportunities to flash his feel for the game by attacking closeouts, passing up decent perimeter looks to better shooters, placing himself at the foul line when the opponent play zone, facilitating from the high post, and hitting cutters and shooters out of post-ups. Saric leads both the Euroleague and the Turkish league in assist-rate among power forwards, and has assisted on 22.3 percent of Efes’ scores when he has been on the floor, according to RealGM.

As a scorer, Saric gets most of his points within close range. He struggles to finish around length on straight post-ups and has had 10 of his 89 attempts in the Euroleague blocked. He doesn’t have a jump-hook or a fadeaway jump-shot to rely on, almost exclusively looking to pass with his back to the basket. But he is great in transition and filling open voids around the rim. Saric is also able to take it to the rim attacking closeouts on straight line drives, although it’s important to keep it mind he is a better athlete than most position peers he plays against, especially in the Turkish league. He doesn’t finish with much power but has shown great touch, converting 70 percent of his 40 attempts at the rim in the Euroleague and averaging five foul shots per 36 minutes.

Saric has struggled badly from three-point range, though. He has always been merely capable but has regressed this season, missing 29 of his 38 attempts from beyond the arc. Saric gets good elevation off the ground and has a quick release but doesn’t keep his off arm consistently pointed up, fails to angle his body straight towards the rim, and has a habit of kicking with his right leg. His jump-shooting struggles have affected his efficiency and impact on the team. Saric has posted a lousy .472 effective field-goal percentage on 161 shots and Efes has scored just 99.2 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, while netting 106.8 overall, per RealGM.

On the other end, Saric has been a more positive presence. It’s noticeable how hard he plays. That’s particularly impressive because players who become stars as teenagers often lose focus on defense. Saric defends on the ball with a lot of effort, getting on his stance and using his lateral quickness to stay in front of opposing power forwards. However, stronger players have found success in overpowering him in the post, and Saric lacks the wingspan to effectively contest these shots without leaving his feet, thereby making himself vulnerable to fouling.

On a team-level, Efes switches a lot on pick-and-rolls and Saric has been attentive with his help responsibilities, rotating to pick up opponents diving to the basket. He is able to play above the rim as a shot blocker but not in volume, which limits his impact despite his effort. Saric maximizes his athleticism as an asset protecting the glass, though, ranking 10th in the Turkish league and 12th in the Euroleague in defensive rebounding rate. That has translated on Efes allowing 94 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, while permitting 96.2 overall.

Editor’s Note: 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.

Standard