Stretch Big

Jonathan Isaac Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Of all the prospects expected to be drafted in the top 10, Jonathan Isaac was the one given the smallest chance to showcase his skill-set on offense. As part of a veteran Florida State team that had Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Dwayne Bacon ahead of him in the pecking order, he had no shot creation responsibility/opportunity and posted only a 20.3% usage rate last season.

Nonetheless, the six-foot-10 combo forward is ranked ninth in the Draft Express’ top 100.

That’s the case because Isaac was given the chance to showcase his versatility on defense due to Florida State employing multiple coverages against the pick-and-roll and did well enough for most to envision him as a very valuable chess piece in an era of basketball where flexibility is starting to become a priority.

Florida State allowed just 95.1 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, as he led a team in defensive rating that ranked 31st in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency.

(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)

Standard
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)

Standard
7-footer, Catch&Score Finisher, Post Scorer, Stretch Big

Zach Collins Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Zach Collins was a McDonald’s All American last year but he was, for the most part, an unknown commodity entering the season as far as draft prospects are concerned.

Rivals ranked him 21st in the 2016 high school class and there wasn’t a lot of expectation the seven-footer would get a prominent role right away at Gonzaga, with stalwart Przemek Karnowski returning for a fifth year of eligibility and highly touted transfer Johnathan Williams becoming available after sitting out a year.

He was even expected to face some competition for the third big spot in the rotation, with Killian Tillie and Rui Hachimura – two players who have impressed in FIBA junior events – also joining the program.

But Collins did break out immediately and while his playing time was still limited (just 17.3 minutes per game) due to the two veterans ahead of him in the pecking order and his constant foul trouble, the 19-year-old showed enough promise in his one year of college basketball to end up ranked 12th in Draft Express’ top 100.

Collins is certainly talented but he was also fortunate to join a team that put him in the best possible position to succeed. In a time where post play is getting increasingly devalued by the day, Gonzaga got a quarter of its shots coming out of the low block – as well chronicled by Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn.

With his 232 pounds well distributed over his seven-foot frame, Collins has an advanced physical profile for someone his age and was able to earn good position with his back to the basket from the get-go, though just as important was the fact that Gonzaga was a team run by veteran guards – with Jordan Matthews, Silas Melson, Josh Perkins and Nigel Williams-Goss entering the season with a combined 271 games of college basketball experience under their belts.

Collins did well demanding the ball but those ball-handlers did just as well getting it to him and that system empowered him – as he posted a 24.9% usage rate.

(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)

Standard
7-footer, Stretch Big

Lauri Markkanen Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Lauri Markkanen has been about what he was expected to be.

As I profiled prior to the season, the seven-footer born in Finland is an exceptional shooter who affects the game with his mere existence on the court, without even necessarily needing to touch the ball – as he leads the Pac 12 in offensive rating, according to basketball-reference.

Markkanen is also not a good enough defender at this point of his development to unlock the lineups that would stretch opponents to their breaking points, the ones with him at center, because he cannot protect the rim or control the defensive glass.

But he hasn’t been that severe a liability when paired up with a center. Markkanen has the third worst defensive rating on the team but it’s not as if Arizona is hemorrhaging points with him out there. He averages 31.3 minutes per game but hasn’t prevented the Wildcats from fielding the 12th best defense in the country, according to Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency.

OUTSIDE SHOOTING

Markkanen has had a historic shooting season for someone his size at the collegiate level. According to hoop-math, he’s taken 74.5% of his shots away from the basket, which makes his .637 effective field goal percentage even more impressive, as he’s nailed 50% of his 96 three-point attempts and 40.3% of his 62 two-point jumpers.

The types of shots he’s taken is perhaps even more impressive than his raw percentages, though. Markkanen has a quick trigger and a dynamic enough release that helps him get the sorts of looks that opposing big men have a hard time defending.

Arizona has done very well getting him open with pindown screens, which are tough for big men to navigate around and then try running him off his spot or contesting him. By the time they get there, Markkanen has let it fly already.

His biggest impact has been in the pick-and-pop, though. When he sets a ball-screen, Markkanen immediately erases a defender for his teammate to deal with, as that big assigned to him is told to have no help responsibility trying to contain the dribble driver. That was evident in the game against UCLA last weekend, when TJ Leaf and Thomas Welsh would stick to him and not worrying about Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Kadeem Allen getting downhill.

INTERIOR SCORING

Markkanen is very fluid off the bounce, attacking closeouts from the top of the key all the way to the basket. He can’t blow by his man on speed but has pretty good core strength in his 230-pound frame to maintain his balance through contact and sometimes pivots into a very well coordinated spin move.

Just like the Finnish junior national team did, Arizona has gotten Markkanen some ball-screens from time to time and he’s proven himself able to drive to the rim against this higher level of competition as well. He always goes left and hasn’t shown anything in terms of being able to pass on the move yet, though, assisting on just 6.9% of Arizona’s scores when he’s been on the floor.

In isolation, Markkanen has a decent handle for someone his size[1] but hasn’t developed any dribble moves to shake his defender side-to-side as of now. He has, however, flashed the ability to dribble between his legs to gain separation for a step-back jumper.

With Dusan Ristic or Chance Comance always in the game with him, Markkanen rarely has space to roll hard to the basket in the pick-and-roll. But in the few times he’s been able to, he has shown soft hands to catch the ball on the move and touch on non-dunk finishes – converting his shots at the rim at a 70.4% clip. That said, Markkanen can’t finish through contact and hasn’t flashed the ability to play above the rim as a target for lobs.

Due to his role as a floor spacer and creating his own shot[2], he’s made no impact in the offensive glass.

Markkanen also hasn’t done a ton in the post. That doesn’t matter for now because his college opponents have not been aggressive attempting to defend him with smaller players or switching against him aggressively but that’s something that will surely come up when he gets to the pros.

DEFENSE

Markkanen steps in to the front of the rim to draw some charges from time to time but can’t elevate off two feet explosively to play above the rim as a constant shot blocking threat – picking up just 10 blocks in 20 appearances so far this season. And he hasn’t shown to be the most aware help defender to begin with, often failing to rotate when a mere step or two was needed to for him just be a presence near the basket.

With that as the case, Markkanen has always matched up against the smaller big man. When he’s needed to guard in the perimeter, Markkanen has proven able to bend his knees to get in a stance and has even shown some lateral mobility not to get beaten off the bounce badly.

He hasn’t done well closing out to shooters at the three-point line, though, unable to run them off their spot.

But the biggest concern is when he gets to match up against bruising old school types. Despite his size, Markkanen isn’t very tough. In the game against Berkeley, Arizona doubled immediately whenever Ivan Rabb (not exactly known for his power moves) caught the ball against him in the low post.

Markkanen is attentive to his boxout responsibilities but doesn’t get very physical and lacks the standing the reach and leaping ability to rebound in traffic, collecting just 17.3% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor – which is a disappointing mark for someone his size.

[1] His 7.7% turnover rate is low in general but is even more appealing in the context of his 22.4% usage rate

[2] Just 24 of his 63 two-point baskets (38%) have been assisted

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

Standard
Stretch Big

Jonathan Isaac Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

Jonathan Isaac is perceived as the prototypical big wing for this Era of versatility-driven basketball. On the surface, the six-foot-10 combo forward can spot up on the weak-side, run offense against big men who aren’t used to guarding in the perimeter and shoot over smaller players in the post, then make plays at the rim defending close to the basket and pick up smaller players on switches.

But that’s mostly potential for now.

On a Florida State team that has won 18 of its 20 games so far and currently ranks 14th on Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency margin, Isaac’s role is as a floor spacer without a lot of shot creation responsibility against a set defense, as he’s posted only a 21.9% usage rate – according to basketball-reference. That’s why he hasn’t done enough tangibly to reach the top five on Draft Express’ top 100 yet.

That said, Isaac has shown flashes of the player he’s dreamed of eventually becoming, even playing some center in a few situations Florida State was trying to come from behind. The consensus expectation among draftniks seems to be that he will eventually establish himself a top five pick during the period of workout sessions.

WEAK-SIDE OFFENSE

Isaac’s top skill at this point of his development is spotting up away from the ball and working against a scrambling defense as a stretch four.

He has a long dip on his catch-and-shoot jumper, which slows down his release a little and makes him mostly an open-shot shooter as of now. But the touch in his shot is great and he fully extends himself for a high release that makes it tough for opponents to contest him effectively. Isaac has nailed 38.5% of his 52 three-point shots this season, while averaging 4.9 attempts per 40 minutes.

He’s also shown a great-looking stroke on one-dribble pull-ups after pump-faking to escape a closeout, nailing 48.3% of his 29 two-point jumpers – according to hoop-math.

Isaac hasn’t shown anything in terms of being able to come off screens, sprint to the ball to launch long bombs off dribble-handoffs or in the pick-and-pop, though.

Off the bounce, he has flashed a nice first step on side isolations attacking off ball reversals and has long strides to get all the way to the basket. Isaac’s taken 41.7% of his attempts at the rim and drawn 6.4 foul shots per 40 minutes, in large part in the half-court via opportunities to drive off these catch-and-go’s.

At the basket, he can’t finish through contact and hasn’t shown much ability to adjust his body in the air but has flashed an euro-step to navigate traffic in the lane and does use his seven-foot-one wingspan fairly well for extended finishes against rim protectors – as he’s converted his shots within close range at a 70.7% clip.

SHOT CREATION

Isaac hasn’t yet developed the ability to get to the rim handling the ball against a set defense.

He can’t get by his man on speed, doesn’t have any dribble moves to shake his defender side-to-side, can’t maintain his balance through contact on straight line drives and has a loose handle that makes him prone to getting the ball stripped in traffic. His 14.5% turnover rate is quite high in the context of his 21.9% usage rate.

Isaac also struggles creating his own shot out of the pick-and-roll. He isn’t able to turn the corner when he is forced to his left and hasn’t shown much in terms of changing speeds or being able to make stop-and-pop jumpers in rhythm.

Isaac has, however, flashed some very appealing passing off the ball-screen. He’s played with nice pace against big men able to defend above the foul line and proved himself able to hit his screener diving to the lane with good timing. But as a reflection of how little he runs offense, Isaac has assisted on just 7.2% of Florida State’s scores when he’s been on the floor.

For the most part, whether it’s in isolation or out of the pick-and-roll, Isaac looks for step-back pull-ups when he’s handling the ball. Given his length, few wings and even big men at the college level can contest him that well.

He has not been given any real opportunity to show whether he can burn switches in the post.

DEFENSE

Isaac has defended mostly close to the basket in college and he’s been an impact defender in this role.

He’s proven very attentive to his rotation responsibilities coming off the weak-side in help defense and can elevate off two feet with some explosiveness to make plays above the rim, as he’s averaged 2.4 blocks per 40 minutes.

Though he doesn’t have enough strength to be very physical due to his thin 210-pound frame in the context of his six-foot-10 height, Isaac is also very attentive to his boxout responsibilities, can leap off the ground quickly and has a nine-foot standing reach to high point the ball – collecting 24.8% of opponents’ misses when he’s on the floor.

His ability to rebound and bring the ball up the court to initiate offense is exactly what teams are looking for in their big men these days.

The issue is when Isaac is forced to matchup against old school bruising types. He’s unable to play stout post defense at this point, gets happy feet to try making up for his inability to hold ground and is prone to biting on fakes and making himself vulnerable to fouling.

Florida State doesn’t switch all that aggressively but Isaac has found himself guarding smaller players from time to time. He can bend his knees to get low in a stance, has shown enough lateral quickness to stay in front of wings in space and is a legit threat to pickpocket them thanks to his reach – as he’s averaged 2.1 steals per 40 minutes.

Isaac can’t stay in front of point guards out in an island but uses his long strides to keep pace with them on straight line drives and his length to contest them near the basket trailing from the back.

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

Standard