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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3D Point Guard, Pure Shooter

Malik Monk Scouting Report

CONTEXT

After that remarkable first month-and-a-half of the season that I profiled in December, Malik Monk came down to Earth a little bit the rest of the way but nothing happened to dissuade most people from the notion that he is the most potent scorer in this draft class – currently ranked sixth in Draft Express’ top 100.

A sick shot maker who proved himself a valuable chess piece that can be moved all over the floor to stress the defense, Monk averaged 24.8 points per 40 minutes on a .543 effective field goal percentage, while 79.6% of his attempts were taken away from the basket. Able to profit of the space he created with his presence, Kentucky averaged 118.3 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor.

Viewed as a potential lead ball handler in high school, Monk didn’t have many opportunities to run half-court offense in Lexington. Even when De’Aaron Fox was out of the game, Isaiah Briscoe was the one responsible for bringing the ball up and triggering their sets at the point of attack.

Maybe there is more to Monk’s shot creation potential than he showed at Kentucky. Devin Booker and Jamal Murray are two recent examples of off guards who didn’t have enough chances to showcase their off dribble skills there. But in instances where he found himself in need of penetrating against a set defense, Monk didn’t impress a whole lot.

His defense was at best a mixed bag. At no point he flashed any ability to be an impact player on that end of the court and his awareness away from the ball is suspect but Monk did show some promise defending smaller players in the pick-and-roll when he got help from his big man, which was meaningful.

Because of his below average physical profile for a wing (six-foot-three height, 197-pound frame, six-foot-six wingspan), Monk’s future in the pros very well could be as a 3&D point guard who supplements ball-dominant wings by guarding opposing point guards and spacing the floor on offense when those guys run offense.

(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)

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Pure Shooter

Luke Kennard Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Luke Kennard started the season projected as a 2018 draft prospect on Draft Express and was first ranked in this year’s class in February, rated a late first rounder. Four months later, the six-foot-six sharpshooter is currently ranked 13th on the website’s top 100 and is generally expected to be picked in the lottery.

It’s been quite a rise for Kennard, who didn’t impress a whole lot in his freshman season but showed substantial improvement from the get-go as a sophomore. Duke dealt with a number of injuries earlier in the year and it was Kennard’s breakout as a college basketball star that kept the boat afloat through the non-conference part of Duke’s schedule.

But even as the highly touted Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles III were inserted into the mix and Grayson Allen eventually stabilized towards the latter part of the season, Kennard sustained his elite-level production, despite the ever growing competition for shots on a star-studded team.

He led Duke in scoring, averaging 22 points per 40 minutes on a .630 true shooting percentage despite the fact 81.6% of his live ball attempts were taken away from the basket, anchoring an offense that ranked sixth in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency.

Yet, Kennard has a really long path to stardom at the pro level. He’s not a special athlete, struggles to make an impact on defense and has not shown dexterity for creating shots against a set defense. Without some unforeseen development in athletic ability or creativity, he will need to translate his elite-level shot making or perhaps even improve on it in the pros to justify how high he’ll be drafted.

(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)

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7-footer, Pure Shooter, Stretch Big

Lauri Markkanen Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Lauri Markkanen enrolled at Arizona as a highly touted pro prospect, after impressive appearances in FIBA junior events for four straight years, and I think it’s fair to say the seven-foot gunner from Finland met expectations.

His rebounding didn’t translate against American competition but his shooting turned out to be even better than expected and he posted one of the most remarkable shooting seasons in NCAA history.

Despite taking 74.7% of his shots away from the basket, Markkanen averaged 1.53 points per shot and Arizona averaged 134.1 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, 15th best in the country, which made him indispensible to what turned out to be a legit title contender.

Arizona won 32 out of 37 games, won a share of the PAC 12 outright, won the PAC 12 tournament and lost to Xavier by a possession in the Sweet Sixteen. Markkanen led the team in minutes and was the driving force behind the 16th-ranked offense in adjusted offensive efficiency, despite his unimpressive 22.8% usage rate, because he is one of those players who can make an impact without touching the ball.

Given his stature, it’s enticing to think of Markkanen as an eventual full time center, providing the sort of spacing that should stretch any defense to its breaking point, but he is a poor defender at this point of his development and seems far from becoming the sort of big man who can be trusted with directing traffic, calling coverages and acting as the last line of defense.

Arizona managed to build a top 30 defense in spite of him, though. It successfully hid him by pairing him up with a prototype center for just about every minute he was on the floor. It was rare to see opponents putting him in pick-and-roll defense constantly to try exposing him in space, which will be a lot more challenging in the pros.

(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)

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3D wing, Pure Shooter

Justin Aaron Jackson Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Justin Aaron Jackson was perceived as a potential mid-second round pick by this time last year. He disappointed as a shooter in his first couple of seasons at North Carolina but possesses the sort of height and length that permits teams to envision him as an eventual 3D wing in the pros. Nonetheless, Jackson opted to return for his junior year after doing poorly at the Combine.

And that decision has paid off nicely. The just-turned 22-year-old not only improved his three-point rate and the overall efficiency of his spot-up gunning but also developed some versatility to his shot and enjoyed a bigger role in last season’s team – with his usage rate rising up from 21% in 2015-16 to 25.7% in 2016-17[1], thanks to the departures of Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson.

The six-foot-eight sharpshooter won ACC player of the year, North Carolina avenged the previous year’s heartbreaking loss to Villanova with a victory over Gonzaga in the national championship game and he is now perceived as a borderline lottery pick – as Draft Express currently ranks him 13th in its top 100.

READ MORE: Jayson Tatum | De’Aaron Fox | Lonzo Ball

SHOOTING

Thanks to the improvements in his footwork, elevation and mechanics, Jackson’s proven himself an excellent open-shot shooter spacing the floor away from the ball, as he nailed 37% of his 284 three-point shots (at a clip of 8.9 attempts per 40 minutes) and averaged 1.15 points per possession on catch-and-shoot jumpers over the first 31 games last season[2], adding value with his mere existence on the court.

Jackson also impressed with his intelligence working the second side, constantly relocating off drives or offensive rebounds to get himself open and cutting hard to create a second passing lane when a defender successfully denied him a catch or a teammate missed him in the first window.

But he is so highly rated right now because he’s also shown to be the most valuable type of shooter, that chess piece who can be moved around the floor and stress the defense with his movement. Jackson sprints hard around staggered screens, plants, adjusts his feet in a pinch, rises up with great balance and has a quick release to let it fly before the contest can be effective.

And if the defender can negotiate screens well enough to keep up with him and stay close on the catch, Jackson can take an escape dribble to readjust and then launch a one-dribble pull-up over him.

READ MORE:  Markelle Fultz | Frank Ntilikina

SHOT CREATION

North Carolina put his shooting to use in the post here and there, trying to take advantage of a particular matchup, and Jackson proved himself able to make the eventual turnaround jumper over a smaller defender but nothing substantially impressive came out of it often. There is no diversity to his post game and he didn’t do so well that opponents rushed to double team him there and leave someone uncovered.

Most of Jackson’s shot creation came on straight line drives when he curled around pindown screens. He did not get all the way to the basket often — as just 22.1% of his attempts were at the rim[3], but converted stop-and-pop mid-range pull-ups and underhanded toss-ups from the in-between area over length reasonably well — as he nailed his 180 two-point jumpers at a 39.4% clip, with just a third of them assisted.

Jackson also flashed some decent passing on the move when he attacked closeouts, reading collapsing defenses well off dribble penetration — assisting on 15.8% of North Carolina’s scores when he was on the floor and turning it over on just 9.5% of his possessions last season.

However, Jackson didn’t do much of anything against a set defense. He has enough of a handle to get a pull-up three-pointer off a middle high pick-and-roll if he gets a good screen and the big man drops back and can run a side pick-and-roll against a bent defense to keep the offense moving but for the most part can’t assist with the shot creation process from the top when he is on the ball.

He doesn’t have an explosive first step, doesn’t have a lot of quickness to shake his defender side-to-side, hasn’t yet developed his handle to deal with pressure or manipulate his way into wherever he wants to get on the floor and doesn’t have a lot of strength in his 201-pound frame to maintain his balance through contact.

READ MORE: Lauri Markkanen | Jonathan Isaac

DEFENSE

When evaluating players with Jackson’s height, one point of emphasis is trying to notice if he is versatile enough to defend bigger players on four-out lineups. Due to his lack of strength, Jackson does not figure to check that box in the immediate future.

But Jackson has shown he can offer flexibility on defense with his ability to guard smaller players, not just picking them up midway through the shot clock on switches but also cross-matching on ball handlers for entire possessions.

His thin frame should be a weakness against bulkier wings but has helped him navigate staggered screens trailing shooters as they sprint from one side of the court to the other and navigating over ball screens at the point of attack in order to beat them to the spot on the other side, stay in front and contest shots with his eight-foot-eight standing reach, though he could be more effective if he got into the pull-up shooter’s personal space some more.

If Jackson can translate that sort of on-ball defense to the pros is vital because he doesn’t offer a lot of value as a weak-side defender. Despite his six-foot-11 wingspan, Jackson didn’t use his length to make plays in the passing lanes or act as a shot blocking threat rotating to the basket area in help defense – with marginal contributions in steals and blocks.

He was also a below average for someone his size, collecting 9.3% of opponents’ misses in his 3,430 minutes on the floor during his three seasons at North Carolina.

[1] According to sports-reference

[2] According to research by Draft Express’ Mike Schmitz

[3] According to hoop-math

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

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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