Pure Passer, Pure Shooter

Milos Teodosic Scouting Report

CONTEXT

After six years at CSKA Moscow, Milos Teodosic is said to be seriously considering a transfer to the NBA. It’s possible this is simply a negotiation tactic to incentivize the Russian powerhouse to cough up what will probably be one of the richest contracts, if not the richest, ever given in European basketball. But the mere thought of the Serbian making the jump to the United States is tantalizing.

The six-foot-five combo guard is a magician who combines genius passing with above average gunning — excelling both out of middle high pick-and-roll and as a secondary shot creator. He also tosses breath-taking passes in transition, which could materialize more often in the NBA due to the higher level of athleticism he will have around him.

Given his height and 196-pound frame, Teodosic offers some flexibility on defense, at least in the sense that no matter where he’s put he’ll be a negative contributor, mostly because of his lack of athleticism, though his general level of engagement is what’s questioned more often. Because of that, Teodosic isn’t always a good option to finish games, despite of all the value he adds on offense.

I’m not one for raising up concerns about intangibles, given the lack of available information regarding how these players behave in settings closed to public consumption and just how they think overall, but Teodosic’s general demeanor on defense draws the assumption that he just does not gives a shit.

I also try not to overvalue appearances in single-elimination games but it must be brought up Teodosic was part of several teams that endured a number of EuroLeague Final Four failures during his tenure at CSKA and that his performance in many of these instances were consistently disappointing, before breaking through with a title in 2016.

OFFENSE

Teodosic is one of those remarkable assist men who can anticipate passing lanes a split-second before they come open. His court vision is incredible and he can create three-point shots and alley oops to teammates without necessarily needing to attack the lane – just noticing on pure instinct a defensive breakdown before actually running the play.

Teodosic is not an explosive athlete and doesn’t go deep into the lane a ton these days but can at least consistently offer the threat of dribble penetration in pick-and-roll by playing with pace and exploring his craftiness to turn the corner around ball screens. Especially if he gets the chance to work off a live dribble, which he got to do a fair amount given Dimitrios Itoudis’ preference for two-point guard lineups.

Flexible enough to pass across his body to the opposite end of the floor off dribble penetration and toss wraparound passes in traffic, Teodosic assisted on 43.6% of CSKA’s scores in his 1,255 minutes last season – according to RealGM. His aggressive style of squeezing tough passes through tight windows came at the cost of him turning the ball over on almost a quarter of his possessions, though.

He’s declining from an athletic-standpoint and doesn’t get all the way to the basket a lot nowadays, lacking the lift to finish against length. But his dexterity, or perhaps simply his inclination, for drawing contract improved a lot lately. After averaging just 3.6 free throws per 40 minutes from 2013 to 2015, Teodosic averaged 5.8 foul shots per 40 minutes over the last two seasons.

The vast majority of his scoring still comes out of his jump-shooting, though. The owner of a quick trigger, he has a diverse arsenal of pull-up jumpers – able to hang dribble into his shot, stop-and-pop in a pinch, crossover into step-backs over average-sized point guards. But it’s questionable how much of that can consistently translate against longer defenders in the NBA, given his low release.

Teodosic can also step into uncontested pull-up three-pointers to make sure the opponent consistently overplays him at the point of attack; going over screens or even hedging-and-recovering, which is a doomed strategy against someone with his court vision spotting weak-side breakdowns. But it’s questionable how much of that can translate to the further out three-point line.

His catch-and-shoot stroke is expected to be fine, though. Teodosic has proven himself an excellent open shot shooter and should offer his potential NBA team the same flexibility he did CSKA, and Olympiacos before that, in terms of sharing the floor with another ball-handler, nailing 39.8% of his 1,725 three-point shots over the last six seasons. He’s even able to shoot on the move some, coming off pindown screens and operating as the back-screener on Spain pick-and-rolls a fair amount.

DEFENSE

Teodosic is a very poor defender at the point of attack. He consistently fails to bend his knees to get down in a stance, lacks the lateral quickness to stay in front of his man in isolation and rarely puts in enough effort to navigate over ball-screens then track his man back with urgency in order not to compromise the integrity of the scheme. Given his general size, he should be able to act as a threat to get into his man’s air space and bother shot attempts but that doesn’t materialize often.

As a weak-side defender, Teodosic is committed to executing the scheme. He does sprint to run shooters off the three-point line, positions himself well to try guarding two players when CSKA packs the strong-side and proved himself attentive to his rotation responsibilities crowding the area near the basket when he was called upon to act as the last line of defense.

Teodosic lacks the athletic ability to make a real impact, though. Opponents often have a clean straight-line path to the lane when he closes out to them, he doesn’t have the lift or the length to act as a deterrent around the rim and generally doesn’t play with the sort of energy that results in events that finish possessions. His contributions through steals, blocks and defensive rebounds are marginal.

CSKA allowed 110.6 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor last season, which was his worst defensive rating in six years with the team.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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Pure Passer, Shot Creator, Tall Passer

Lonzo Ball Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Lonzo Ball is the one player in this draft class, other than Markelle Fultz, who has already shown potential to become a franchise-altering foundation piece. The passing magician led UCLA, a team that had lost 17 of its 32 games the previous year, to 31 wins in 36 matches and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen this season.

Driven by Ball’s natural inclination to speed up the pace of the game and ability to create three-point shots for others without necessarily needing to get deep into the lane to collapse the defense, the Bruins ranked second in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency – according to Ken Pomeroy.

Though it should be mentioned he had the fortune of playing with a good collection of talent around him, as stretch four TJ Leaf and alley oop finisher Ike Anigbogu will be drafted in the first round, pick-and-pop threat Thomas Welsh will be signed to one of those preseason deals and shooters Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford will get D-League looks, Ball was nonetheless fairly considered the catalyst of UCLA’s resurgence as a national power.

He alleviated some concerns regarding his ability to control an offense and make it run on his rhythm, create for others in the half-court within a more structured system and also make shots from long range, despite his unorthodox mechanics.

But Ball, as is the case with most 19-year-olds, still has areas to improve in terms of getting to the basket against a set defense, hitting the eventual stop-and-pop jumper and making the sort of difference on defense that his physical profile (six-foot-six height, six-foot-nine wingspan – according to Draft Express) suggests he should be able to.

(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)

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Pure Passer, Pure Shooter, Shot Creator

Markelle Fultz Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Markelle Fultz announced last week he is declaring for the 2017 NBA draft, terminating his brief cup of coffee at Washington University.

With that as the case and with the trade deadline gone, giving us a clearer picture regarding which teams are expected to have the higher odds of winning the lottery, it seems appropriate to start thinking some more about how the projected number one pick in the draft is expected to fit with each of these specific teams.

I’ve profiled his base skill-set with more depth last month but for the tl;dr crowd, here are the basics:

(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)

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Pure Passer, Pure Shooter, Shot Creator

Markelle Fultz Scouting Report

Markelle Fultz remains the top player in the 2017 draft class, despite the fact Washington has struggled badly this season. The six-foot-four combo guard has shown an exceptionally polished skill-set for someone his age and has the physical abilities to be expected to develop into a good defender in time, though he is not one at the moment.

REFERENCES:

-Draft Express’ top 100: http://www.draftexpress.com/rankings/Top-100-Prospects/

-Fultz’s shot profile, according to hoop-math: http://hoop-math.com/Washington2017.php

-Fultz’s advanced stats, according to sports-reference: http://www.sports-reference.com/cbb/players/markelle-fultz-1.html

-Dean Demakis’ post on the context surrounding Fultz at Washington: https://deanondraft.com/2017/01/15/is-markelle-fultz-a-loser/

-Previous looks on Fultz over the last eight months: https://basketballscouting.wordpress.com/tag/markelle-fultz/

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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3D Point Guard, Pure Passer, Shot Creator, Tall Passer

Frank Ntilikina Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

Frank Ntilikina is the top European prospect eligible for the 2017 class. Draft Express currently ranks him 10th in its top 100 and it could be argued that’s a bit low considering the 18-year-old will be one of the youngest players in the class if he chooses to declare for it (only turning 19 in July) and the fact that no other lottery prospect has accumulated the level of experience Ntilikina already has.

The six-foot-five combo guard has logged 758 minutes of pro ball for French side Strasbourg over the past two years and this season has earned a role as a legit rotation player who has averaged 15 minutes per game in 29 appearances in the French Pro A and the Basketball Champions League.

Both competitions Strasbourg plays in aren’t of the highest quality, ranking a good deal below the best domestic and continental leagues in Europe – which are the Spanish ACB and the EuroLeague. Nonetheless, these are fully developed grown men Ntilikina is competing against, which is tougher than playing Washington State or Wake Forest.

That said, Ntilikina is not as well thought of as he is now because of what he’s done as a pro. Playing in an environment where wins and losses cost people money and jobs means prospects are rarely given much opportunity to expand their skill-sets during games. Such is the case as Ntilikina has filled a role as an off-guard for Strasbourg, mostly spacing the floor and rarely given shot creation responsibility, as he’s finished just 18.8% of his team’s possessions with a shot, free throw or turnover when he’s been on the floor – according to our stats’ database.

But Ntilikina’s performances against his age group, including leading the French junior National Team to the title of the 2016 FIBA U18 European Championships in December, are what have caught people’s attention.

As a part of national teams at the youth level, Ntilikina has shown he can act as a volume shot creator, capable of getting his team shots on an every-possession basis, which combined with his height, makes him an elite prospect, even in a class as strong as this 2017 one is perceived to be.

SHOT CREATION

Though his size offers positional versatility, Ntilikina is viewed as a legit lead ball handler based on what he’s done against his age peers and has impressed with how sophisticated a shot creator he is for a teenager.

He has very good understanding of how to maneuver his defender around a ball-screen, a nice feel for whether using or declining the pick gives him a better advantage for getting downhill and patience to play with pace waiting for driving lanes to clear against hedges, hard shows and half-traps.

Ntilikina has excellent court vision on the move, proving himself able to make passes across his body to the opposite end of the court. He’s also able to see over the average point guard-size defender when that defender manages to prevent him from turning the corner.

According to our stats database, Ntilikina assisted on 40.3% of France’s scores when he was on the floor in the 2016 U18 FIBA European Championships. His 1.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in this event wasn’t as pleasing but he posted a 3.3 ratio in this same tournament the year before, so it’s still unclear to which extent Ntilikina is turnover prone.

Creating for himself, Ntilikina has proven to be a little more limited without the aid of a screen. He does have a tight handle and has shown in the past a diverse arsenal of moves to get wherever he wants on the court. But he doesn’t have an explosive first step and has struggled to blow by big men on switches.

SCORING

Ntilikina can get around some defenders with craft and sudden change of direction but has struggled to get all the way to the basket regularly, instead relying a lot on his floater to finish over length from the in-between area. He has great touch on these finishes but it’s tough to make a living with this shot as your top way to score within close range, which is his case right now.

Ntilikina has flashed some explosiveness elevating out of one foot in traffic here and there in the past but doesn’t often do that. He also doesn’t use his length for extended finishes around the basket enough at this point of his development and doesn’t yet have a big enough frame to draw contact, as he averaged just 3.7 foul shots per 40 in the U18 Euros – which wasn’t an impressive mark in the context of his 24% usage rate.

Ntilikina has improved as a pull-up shooter, though. His low release still demands he gets a good deal of separation to get the ball out comfortably but he is a lot more capable of burning opponents who opt to go under the ball-screen and have the big man only go up to the foul line against him, even flashing the ability to make these shots from beyond the FIBA three-point line.

And as a spot-up shooter, Ntilikina has taken a substantial step forward. He runs some side pick-and-roll at Strasbourg but for the most part he is not relied on to create against a set defense, so his role is as a floor spacer. And in that role, Ntilikina has excelled.

His low release, while not necessarily textbook, has not limited him as an open-shot shooter, as he’s nailed 38.2% of his 55 three-point shots this season. His trigger is quicker than it was last season and Ntilikina has even shown some dynamism, coming off pindown screens from time to time. That’s not enough to suggest he has room to develop into an Isaiah Thomas-level of shooter who can sprint from one side of the floor to the other around screens but it’s definitely enough to envision him working as a screener on small-small pick-and-rolls Matthew Dellavedova-style.

One thing Ntilikina still needs to develop is a side-step to escape closeouts, though. He often dribbles in to take a one-dribble two-pointer.

DEFENSE

Ntilikina is expected to develop into an impact defender given his size, length and quickness. But he’s only halfway there for now.

Strasbourg mostly plays him as a weak-side defender and Ntilikina has shown good awareness off the ball, attentive to his responsibilities rotating inside to bump the roll man diving to the basket and using his six-foot-11 wingspan to make plays in the passing, averaging 1.7 steals per 40 minutes.

He hasn’t shown enough leaping ability to make plays at the basket and his defensive rebounding hasn’t translated to the pro level yet, though.

For the French junior national team, Ntilikina played mostly as an on-ball defender, with mixed results. He does go over screens and has the lateral quickness to stay attached to his man in side pick-and-rolls but hasn’t shown much urgency tracking his man back when he gets downhill, exposing the defense behind him.

Ntilikina has great potential to unlock as a pick-and-roll defender, using his length to deflect passes and contest shots from behind. But for that to happen, he needs to hustle back to his man quicker.

Ntilikina might also have potential to pick up bigger players on switches some day in the distant future but that’s definitely not the case yet as he lacks strength and toughness to get physical with them fronting the post and boxing out.

But Ntilikina truly shined in individual defense among his age peers. He gets in a stance and uses his lateral quickness to stay in front. When they tried to take him one-on-one, these European teenagers really struggled getting a good shot off against his length. And though he lacks strength to contain dribble penetration through contact, Ntilikina uses his reach to pickpocket opposing point guards, averaging 3.2 steals per 40 minutes at the 2016 U18 European Championships, which led to him posting the fourth lowest defending rating in that tournament.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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Pure Passer, Pure Shooter, Shot Creator

Markelle Fultz Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Washington beat Colorado yesterday and picked up its second win over the first six games of conference play. The Huskies have won just half of their games so far this season and rank 124th in adjusted efficiency margin, according to Ken Pomeroy.

This could be viewed as wildly disappointing when you consider this team has in it the person expected to be picked first overall in the next NBA draft. But I think Dean Demakis did a good job offering context to Markelle Fultz’s lack of success carrying Washington into relevance.

From what I could tell, Fultz just doesn’t have good enough shot making and finishing around him. He plays a team-oriented style and doesn’t force anything[1], which is great – except for the fact his teammates haven’t played well enough to support his excellence.

On the other end, Washington ranks 249th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Fultz has been a part of the problem in the sense that he hasn’t been as dominant as his combination of physical profile and athleticism suggests he should. But their biggest problems are they foul a ton and don’t rebound very well, which are not really on him.

So when you analyze Fultz from an individual skills-standpoint, it’s actually simple to see why he remains the top prospect on Draft Express’ top 100 despite the fact he will probably miss the NCAA Tournament.

SCORING

His collection of dribble moves and shot making ability are remarkably impressive for an 18-year-old who will only turn 19 in May.

Fultz doesn’t consistently blow by his man on speed but has a nice handle and a lot of suddenness in his moves to lead his defender into some instability. He can go right or left, crossover his man to shake him off balance, change speeds, pivot into a well-coordinated spin in a pinch and go behind his back to split double teams at the point of attack in the pick-and-roll.

At the basket, he can finish with both power and finesse. Fultz has vertical explosion to elevate off one foot in traffic for some monster dunks and great body control to navigate rim protectors – using his length (six-foot-nine wingspan) for reverse, over-extended and up-and-under finishes and proving himself able to absorb contact and finish through it.

Fults has finished his 90 shots at the basket at a 63.3% clip – according to hoop-math.

He’s even flashed a floater to score from the in-between area when an opponent beats him to the spot and prevents him from getting all the way to the basket and draws contact very well despite the fact he doesn’t have that big a frame (six-foot-four, 185 pounds), as he’s averaged 7.9 foul shots per 40 minutes – according to basketball-reference.

But what Fultz truly does expertly well is pulling up from mid-range, with over 45% of his field goal attempts coming on two-point jumpers. He initiates contact to create separation, can step-back or side-step in rhythm to neutralize how well his defender can contest him, elevates with great balance, fully extends himself for a high point in his release and has great touch on his shot, nailing 44.3% of them so far this season.

In impressive fashion, Fultz has made some of these step-back pull-ups from the college three-point line out of middle high pick-and-roll. And he’s also flashed the ability to take smaller guards into the post as well and hit turnaround fade-away jumpers over them.

Perhaps just as key is the fact Fultz doesn’t need to monopolize possession of the ball to be effective, as he’s proven himself an above average catch-and-shoot gunner spacing the floor as a weak-side threat. Fultz has a quick release and can easily get his shot off before a closeout can affect him, nailing 40.3% of his three-point shots this season.

He can also play above the rim as a target for lobs cutting baseline behind the defense.

PASSING

Fultz might be just as great a shot creator for others as he’s a scorer himself.

As mentioned above, he plays a team-oriented style, passing ahead in transition to speed up the pace of the game and pretty much never pounding a hole into the ground or looking off a teammate.

Fultz handles traffic attacking the lane out of pick-and-roll very well, often maneuvering his way around defenders as if he were in a traffic cone drill and keeping his dribble alive waiting for slower developing passing lanes to come open.

He has shown pretty great feel for sucking in the help and finding teammates out of dribble penetration, assisting on 35.3% of Washington’s scores when he’s been on the floor – usually on simple drop-offs and kick-outs to shooters spot-up on the strong-side.

Washington doesn’t space the floor particularly well but Fultz has flashed the ability to make passes across his body to the opposite end of the floor and can see over the top of average-sized point guards, so he projects as a perfect fit for a conventional pick-and-roll-driven offense.

Fultz has averaged 3.4 turnovers per 40 minutes, which is not great, but his 12.9% turnover rate is not that problematic in the context of his 31% usage rate.

DEFENSE

As it tends to be the case with most teenagers, Fultz is not consistently engaged in half-court defense at all times, rarely keeping his stance away from the ball. But he has an elite physical profile for his position and can be reasonably expected to develop into least an average defender in time.

Fultz has the quickness to run shooters off the three-point line and the length to contest shots effectively as a weak-side defender, if he needs to be hidden off the ball or picks up wings on switches – which he could become a viable option to do regularly but probably needs to fill out his frame some more first.

But Fultz should be more of a difference maker defending opposing point guards on the ball. He has the reach to pick their pockets, has flashed the ability to navigate over screens and use his length as a threat to contest shots or deflect passes tracking his man from behind, though he’s mostly lacked the urgency needed to make these plays.

Nothing can be said about his urgency in transition, however, as Fultz has a number of chase-down blocks to show for his effort not giving up on plays. And he’s also leveraged his athleticism on the glass, collecting 13.5% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor – which is an excellent mark for a point guard.

According to basketball-reference, Fultz has the best defensive rating on the team among rotation players.

[1] Though his usage rate has gone up some in conference play, which has dragged his efficiency down against this higher level of competition

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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