2020 NBA Draft Preview: Isaac Okoro

Isaac Okoro is a special player. And what’s special about Okoro can basically be summed up like this, he’s an exceptionally good decision maker who also makes decisions insanely quick AND he’s an elite athlete in every regard.

Much will be made of the upside of players like Anthony Edwards, Cole Anthony, LaMelo Ball, and even… the upside(?) of James Wiseman. And yet, Okoro’s upside might be higher than all of them. Okoro doesn’t fall under the camp often associated with high-levels of upside. He’s not a shot creator, some crazy pull-up threat, some great pick-and-roll player, or in Wiseman’s case a post-up threat. Okoro is an elite athlete, who has elite defensive instincts, elite basketball-IQ, elite defensive and offensive awareness, someone who’s made exponential strides in his perimeter skills just since his senior year of high-school, elite finisher, a high high level passer, and given his shot is by no means broken, he has high offensive-upside. Isaac Okoro is still 18, he wont turn 19 until January 26th.

Isaac Okoro hasn’t lost a competitive game of basketball since the summer of 2018. Isaac Okoro is a winning basketball player in every definable sense of the words.

Offense: Finishing/Drawing Fouls

Despite shooting 20.8% from 3, and 66% from the line, Okoro still has a 61 TS%.

This combination of strength & balance is very important in the NBA, not only for offense, but it’s important for his defense upside too.
Okoro despite being built like a boulder is a very fluid athlete for his size, and also as Max noted, a very good finisher with both hands.
Okoro just since his senior year is making drastic leaps with his dribbling which is a very encouraging sign. Not only because these skills will help him, but just such exponential growth in and of itself is encouraging for other areas you’d like to see improvement in (shooting).

Simply due to the fact Okoro is able to beat people to spots, and he’s absurdly strong and balanced, he draws a lot of fouls. Isaac Okoro currently has a 43.9 FTr. That’s really good, it’s higher than Anthony Edwards who has a 41.9 FTr.

Patience and awareness by Okoros probing the zone. It’s just so difficult to defend here cause of Okoro’s passing ability combined with his finishing.
Okoro is just strong, really really strong

Passing

Isaac Okoro’s feel on offense is elite. He understand’s the game, he see’s the passing lanes, and he reads & reacts to the game quickly with impressive consistency.

Notice a bit of his ambidexterity here with the initial pass, and overall a very quick & good decision maker .
I love this play simply cause it helps illustrate how smart and quick Okoro thinks. As soon as he puts the ball down he immediately attacks the front foot of the defender to create a driving lane and then just 2v1s the big, pure basketball.

Triple-threat

PnR out of triple-threat. Okoro is a strong strong player, but he’s not reliant on his athleticism as you can see here. Creates the driving lane with the jab, and then there’s just no stopping him.
More ambidextrous highlights. Attacks the front foot of the defender and explodes off the first step.
Explosive explosive player
Strength & balance. Qualities of almost every single high-impact player in the league.

Shooting

Okoro’s numbers this year are not great, but given his recent improvment in dribbling and the fact that he has decent fundamentals, there is hope. He’s 18, he’s a basketball genius and in the right hands there’s reason to think he can become a competent shooter in the NBA.

Cooking with gas here, really fluid step-back 3.

Defense

Okoro is not a defensive prospect, he is the defensive prospect. He is an elite athlete, who has elite awareness + elite instincts, and he’s quite mobile for a small truck.

On-ball/Point-of-attack

Part of being a good on-ball defender is being strong & balanced. You can see it here has Okoro defends a big in the post:

And the other part of having an impact as an on-ball defender is mobility. Okoro has both the quickness,as well as enough flexibility with screens to guard POA:

This is really encouraging for his potential as wing-stopper, because he will need to defend POA to do so.
Okoro is just straight up scary, there’s no other way to describe it.
Okoro for a guy his size is good at getting over screens, and that combined with his strength and instincts and IQ is a formidable wing-stopper in the NBA.
Deters the drive as safety, and lighting instincts on the block.
Get bit of the mobility and strength here. Player walks cause after he bumps Okoro he has no where to go.

Off-ball

Almost exact play as the one two videos above, a bit of on-ball and off-ball awareness. Complete defender.
Great awareness.
Great awareness and instincts here, one of the ways Okoro brings a very clear impact off-ball.
Okoro is AMAZING

Fit

So how does this all work. When I wrote about Tyrese Maxey, it was easy to imagine how he might fit a role as a partial creator. Players such as Kyle Lowry, Bradley Beal, Or even Victor Oladipo provide both on and off-ball value. But, Okoro is a more tricky fit.

Okoro on defense is an easy fit. In the NBA, you are basically who you can guard on defense. And Okoro can guard most 4s all the way down to most 2s. That’s just actually guarding, I’m pretty sure Okoro can contain 1-5. Between his speed, lateral quickness, instincts, and strength.

On offense, it depends. If Okoro can shoot then you could use him as a spot-up threat. But the real value, and even if he doesn’t shoot, is a PnR/short-roll threat. And the closest comparison is Ben Simmons. Ben like Okoro doesn’t provide the necessary rim protection to play the 5 on defense. However, if you can pair Okoro with a stretch 5 like Brook Lopez or Jaren Jackson Jr., then in return you’re going to get elite level value. A wing-stopper who has elite decision making, passing, vision AND finishing around the rim is a high-impact player. You could win a ring with that as a starter.

This role is harder to see cause given their roster construction Ben hasn’t been able to do this, but he can operate as an athletic wing in PnR:

Like Ben, Okoro is an excellent passer and trustworthy decision maker. This is a zone, but you can see the short-roll skills:

Another point worth mentioning, is players who can attack the paint and finish or pass regardless of shooting, are very valuable. Ben Simmons does this despite the spacing, but a better example is Draymond who consistently attacks his man standing in the lane and beats them by his passing and IQ. Okoro maybe isn’t quite the passer Draymond or Ben are but I think he can definitely do this, and he’s a much better finisher than Draymond. These exceptions are available to players who are as smart and think as quickly as Okoro, Ben, and Draymond. IQ, feel, quick decision making, quick problem solving, are going to enable Okoro to be an elite defender and also be a serviceable player on offense.

Bit of both the passing and finishing here for Okoro, clearly not a guy you want to allow space to get to the rim (ignoring him/sagging off).
It’s not too far out to imagine Okoro doing what Andre Or Draymond are in this clip.

All that to say, I think shooting or no shooting, he’s a very good starter in the league with the right personnel. The shooting could come along, no one should be out on Okoro’s shooting potential. But, it’s not necessary to unleashing Okoro unto the NBA. Okoro is one of the best players, if not the best player, in the draft, and don’t let his shooting scare you away.

2020 NBA Draft Preview: Tyrese Maxey

One of my favorite experiences is when you love a players game, and after doing a deep dive, you love their game even more. I felt that way about PJ Washington, and I feel that way now about Kentucky’s Tyrese Maxey.

Maxey is a 6’3 guard, with a 6’6 wingspan, who weighs 198 lbs. Maxey will be 19 when he’s drafted to the Charlotte Hornets in 2020.

Offense

There were concerns heading into the year that Maxey would be pinned as a lead guard even though his skill-set lends itself more to a combo-guard. Whether or not this misunderstanding has been alleviated or not I don’t know, but playing alongside Ashton Hagans has allowed Maxey to show his ability to play without the ball in his hands.

Shooting

Maxey’s shooting percentages don’t look great, but I’m confident in Maxey’s shooting potential. He’s currently shooting 24.5% from behind the arc on 4.5 3PA per game. And yet, I believe Maxey is not only going to be a passable shooter, but an above average shooter (>35%) on good volume. The main reason I project Maxey being a shooter is his incredible touch. You can see here with his floaters:

This is from the elbow(!!!!!!!!!).

And you can see it here on some catch-and-shoot 3s:

NBA range

Maxey is a able and very confident shooter off-the-dribble:

Maxey is very comfortable pulling up going right even as a right-handed shooter.
Clutch (NBA range)

It’s really impressive how most of Maxey’s makes don’t even seem to hit the net. He swishes most of his makes on floaters, spot-up attempts, and pull-ups.

Maxey is also a 83.3% shooter from the free throw line on 4.4 attempts per game.

Maxey’s release is quick, his mechanics are fundamentally sound, and consistent. He shoots with complete confidence, he hops into his spot-ups, and clearly has NBA range. If you weren’t aware of his percentages, you would think he’s a shooter watching him play, and I think he is too.

Drawing Fouls/Finishing

Maxey has a knack for beating defenders to spots, and when they arrive second he draws the foul:

Maxey attacking close outs. This could be pretty routine for Maxey if he’s respected as a shooter in the NBA.

He currently is shooting 4.4 free throw attempts per game, and has a 41.7 FTr (free throw rate). For reference James Harden’s free throw rate is currently at .507. Maxey gets to the line quite a bit.

The major reason seems to be the way Maxey just glides across the court. The way Maxey runs with grace, power, and balance reminds me of Kyle Lowry:

Compare that with Maxey:

Attacking off a live dribble, flashes of Maxey’s PnR potential. Maxey is 82nd percentile in points per possession as PnR ball-handler according to synergy.

Projecting Maxey as a shooter, I think he’s going to be able to score very easily between his jumper on & off the ball.

And with his combination of strength & balance, he can finish through contact:

And he also has the ability to pull off some finesse finishing:

Passing

Maxey is a good passer.

He has touch on lobs:

Quick passing with a live dribble:

And he’s a good decision maker:

As soon as Maxey realized how far Hagans’ man has shifted over he swings it.

Maxey doesn’t have elite or even subelite vision, but he plays off what the defense gives him, and makes good reads consistently. On 22.9% usage, his assist% is 19.4 with a 14.3 turnover%. Maxey is a guy you can trust to make good reads whether he’s attacking close outs, the PnR ball-handler, or coming off screens/dribble hand-offs.

Defense

I love that Maxey is consistently engaged on defense and aware of help-responsibilities:

Maxey is a formidable on-ball defender with his combination of lateral speed, the speed he opens up his hips turning to different directions, and his strength:

Stop start speed, opening his hips to change direction, clear fundamentals for a high-level defender

Maxey is a good point-of-attack defender due to his ability to get over screens while avoiding contact:

There is a solid foundation for a plus-defender who can do everything you need. He can guard POA, on-ball, and off-ball. I think Maxey can easily guard 1-2, and with his strength I think hes a passable if not good (matchup dependent) defender at the 3.

Conclusions

Maxey is a player who has a high-floor. If you buy the shooting, as I do, then he can spot-up. He’s a good decision maker who has good passing skills and vision. He’s a good finisher who can play through contact and draw fouls. He’s a versatile, gifted, and smart defender.

And yet, Maxey is by no means low-upside. He’s shown plenty evidence to be a potential plus-shooter, pull-up threat, someone who can get to the rim off-the-dribble, part-time PnR creator, and part-time facilitator.

As the Hornets have over-performed expectations they may be out of the Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball range, but Maxey will be close to where they pick in June in that 4-8 range. And I think Maxey should be at the *top* of that list. He has a very high-floor, plenty of potential, and his game can fit with any lineup. It’s no secret I love Tyrese Maxey’s game, I think he’s a good starter on a good team, and I hope that team is Charlotte come the 20/21 season.

Cody Martin is Better than you Think he is.

As i’m writing this at lunch, December 12th, Cody Martin has a 5.3 net rating which is only behind Jalen McDaniels who has only played 2.7 minutes total. He has the highest box +/- on the team at 1.5. Cody Martin currently has 2.9 steal% which tells us how many steals a player gets relative to opponent possessions. It rewards players who get steals in less defensive possessions. Among players who have played at least 15 games this year 10(!) have a higher steal% than Cody. There are some familiar names in that list of 10: Kris Dunn, Matisse Thybulle, Dejounte Murray, Donte DiVincenzo, Ben Simmons, Robert Williams, Mikal Bridges, Troy Brown, and Jimmy Butler. Cody currently generating more steals relative to his chances than Kawhi, Chris Paul, or Draymond Green. I think it’s safe to say Cody has good defensive instincts and is an impactful NBA player.

Role on Offense

It is no surprise to me Cody Martin hasn’t been given the opportunity he deserves. He’s older than some of the other players at 24 (September 28). He’s known for his production as a lead guard at Nevada. He was therefore placed into this box as an initiator, and thought to be of little of value outside of that context. Nothing could be further from the truth. So, before we begin some fruitless discussion about Cody’s skills or the lack thereof as a point guard let’s talk about the role I think he should and likely will play as an NBA player.

Cody is an off-ball player, primarily (you are all shocked, I know). People should use some healthy skepticism about Cody’s shooting given his 2-21 3PT shooting thus far, but I think Cody is a shooter. First off, during his senior year at Nevada Cody was EXCELLENT on spot-ups shooting in the 90th (!!!) percentile on good volume (79 possessions) according to synergy. In the half-court on the catch Cody ranked in the 95th percentile (55 possessions). He ranked a mindbogglingly 96th percentile on the guarded portion of those shots (32 possessions). Cody Martin has a bit of that PJ Washington (obviously to a lesser degree) style of being relatively less affected by good contests than most players.

In a Swarm game on December 6th Cody caught fire from 3 (6-11). The highlights demonstrated his touch (swishes on swishes on swishes) and his shot making (several close/good contests).

Former Nevada initiator Martin is an exceptional decision maker who has the passing and ball control to make decisions on the move as well.

I know he steps out, but the process is there.

Couple this with Cody’s athleticism, strength, and ball-handling and you have a formidable PnR ballhandler. Cody was 94th percentile in points-per-possession as PnR ballhandler (98 possessions). Cody’s roll as an NBA player is not a creator, but these stats highlight Cody’s exceptional efficiency on the move using his decision making, handle, vision, finishing, and shooting.


Cody has a bit of sneaky athleticism, because it doesn’t really stand out.

Cody Martin, the spot-shooter who can make some tough shots, attack close-outs, finish, whip passes, and consistency make the right decision time and time again. Cody has all the requisite skills to bring a positive impact to a low-usage roll even into the playoffs. He just has to shoot 3s, that’s it… literally, and I think he will.

Role on Defense

What does Cody do on defense? He. Does. Everything.

He’s 6’5.5 with a 6’10.5 wingspan, sneaky athleticism, and he’s an incredibly cerebral player who works his ass off. He has an impressive amount of lower-body mobility that allows him get over screens and recover at a rate most players can’t. He stunt’s and recovers to perfection. He doesn’t merely read the floor, he seemingly see’s dangers coming before they happen, an even more impressive skill. He has exceptional instincts which help not only in all the before mentioned areas, but also in creating events (steals, blocks, deflections etc.). He’s very strong for a wing, and he can bang with some 4s in the post using that length and functional strength (as well as those instincts). Cody is going to have a high impact on the defensive end.

So much to like, this is my favorite Cody clip

Bottom line

I don’t care who’s minutes have to be cut… just play Cody Martin. Cody Martin is the best wing on this roster, and it’s past time he was rewarded for it.

Thoughts on Miles Bridges after 22 games

We are now 22 games into the season, and it has finally reached the point where we can start drawing some conclusions about what we’ve watched so far. There have been some encouraging signs in Miles’ game thus far. He’s beginning to look like the catch-and-shoot player we all hoped he would be coming out of Michigan State. He’s averaging 1.5 3PMs a game on 35.1% from 3, which is about league average. He’s obviously a formidable player in space due to his superhuman leaping and size. And he’s finding those mismatches on offense and scoring, which is highlighted by his 68th percentile rank in post-ups on 25 possessions, according to synergy. I think we are all familiar with what Miles does well, but just in case:

And now lets talk about the not so good parts of Miles’ game. His on-ball game leaves a lot to be desired. Miles is best when he’s spotting-up, attacking close-outs, cutting, or in transition. There are moments when Miles catches defenders off guard and then he’ll use that spin move he loves so much. Most of the time, Miles is not getting to the rim. He’s not drawing fouls (1.5 FTA per). And he’s not turning the corner. He just doesn’t have the shake, and he doesn’t have the handle to beat guys off a live dribble. And so, we’re left with Miles Bridges needing to be mostly off-ball on offense to succeed. And Miles can do the things required of that role, as mentioned above.

And now let’s talk about the ugly parts of his game. Advanced Stats are a controversial topic among NBA fans, but at the least, if someone is very good or bad in multiple advanced metrics, then there’s a reason for that. And oh boy, Miles is “not great bob”, in several advanced analytics.

And the reason why, is cause Bridges defense is awful. It’s not as if he’s some incredible offensive player. The decision making, the lack of basketball IQ that gets him in trouble on defense is also there on offense. The only difference between his offense and defense is that on offense you can put him into situations where he doesn’t need to make decisions to succeed. He’ll turn the ball over, make unwarranted passes, and what have you; but, most of his chances are finishing plays or making a very obvious next pass. It is not possible for him to avoid making decisions on defense. First off, the alternative to spending most of your time off-ball on defense is guarding the point of attack. And Miles can’t guard the point of attack, because he has poor lateral mobility, his technique sliding his feet is very poor, and for obvious size reasons he doesn’t get over screens well.

I wanted to highlight the screen in this, but you can’t ignore the lack of awareness, which is the real problem. Miles is hopelessly lost on defense, all the time. Miles being in the right spot, making the right decision on defense, is the exception to the rule.

Dunn is 2/3 at this moment, and Miles doesn’t even try to help on this.

Not great bob.

It should be said, we shouldn’t assume Miles will just fix all of his poor decision making, feel, and general basketball IQ. It’s very rare for a player to just flip this during his career, and it worries me because Miles is likely to have a negative impact. You can’t offset these negative defensive tendencies as a low-usage player. It’s not enough to be an average or slightly above average shooter, who gets out in transition, and attacks close-outs. The impact on offense in that role can’t offset being a wash on defense.

All that to say, i’m worried about Miles as a NBA player. I’m not worried about him being in the league, and being desired, but i’m worried about him ever having a positive impact on the game. Especially in the playoffs where teams could just expose Miles on defense, which is important to me.

In the post-season you’re only as good as your worst weaknesses. History tells us teams usually hold on too long to lottery picks who don’t bud, and I think the Hornets will hold on to Miles, I would bet on it, but… I don’t think they should. I think a smart team would see these concerns, and understand them in the context of the roles Miles will have to fill on both ends and then trade him for as much value as you can, while his stock is up.

2019-20 Player Preview: PJ Washington

When PJ Washington was picked by the Charlotte Hornets many fans felt disappointed and some just felt apathetic. To many, PJ Washington is a an extension of the Hornets’ history of drafting players who aren’t very exciting. Fans would have probably been happier with a Kevin Porter Jr. or a Bol Bol. A player with a potentially very high ceiling.

I think some of the lack of excitement for PJ is trying to figure out what it is that he does that will transfer to league. Did the Hornets just draft a 6’7.5 traditional Center? If you go watch PJ’s highlights you might think they just drafted a shorter Al Jefferson, but PJ has many translatable skills besides post-ups and that’s what I want to show in this article.

Intangibles

PJ stands at 6’7.5″ with a wingspan of 7’2.5″ and weighs 230 lbs. He ironically measures similar to fellow Charlotte Hornet, Marvin Williams, who is 6’8″ with a 7’3.5″ wingspan and weighs 237 lbs. These are great measurements for a power-forward in the NBA. The height is about average, but the wingspan is a great asset. PJ definitely has a strong frame that is NBA ready. For all intents and purposes I think it’s helpful to imagine a guy Marvin’s size when thinking about PJ in the league.

Offense

PJ’s touch is nothing short of elite.

Show cased in his signature hook over the left shoulder.

Runners:

PJ uses a combination of his strength and body control (the touch doesn’t hurt either) to finish at the rim:

On-ball Offense

PJ’s major offensive skill in college was his ability to score from the post. And in general, PJ excelled at scoring at the rim. It is evident that PJ for a variety of reasons such as touch, strength, right handed hook-shot, body control, and length has a knack for it. PJ ranked in the 70th percentile in post-ups on 131 possessions according to synergy scoring .901 points per possession.

Post ups:

Eventually teams got tired of him scoring, so they sent double teams when he posted-up. Kentucky scored 1.532 points per possession off PJ’s passes out of the post. You can’t stop PJ in the post, and you can’t double-team PJ in the post.

Pistol PJ:

PJ is also an impressive driver. He scored .962 points per possession on runners on 26 possessions which were 7.9% of his total possessions.

Runners part two:

PJ is also an impressive driver.

Icing on the cake, PJ is a very adept passer while driving to the basket.

Pistol PJ part two:

Here’s a bonus clip of PJ making a very good pass to the weak-side corner with his left hand out of a pick-and-roll:

Off-ball Offense

PJ is an intelligent cutter. He ranked in the 60th percentile on cuts according to synergy scoring 1.254 points per possession on 59 possessions.

PJ shot 42.3% from 3 on 2.2 attempts per game. He was in the 84th percentile on spot-ups according to synergy scoring 1.107 points per possession on 112 possessions. According to synergy, in the half-court he scored 1.297 (72nd percentile) points per possession on unguarded off the catch AND 1.389 (96th percentile) on guarded off the catch shots. PJ was in the 98th percentile in half-court jump shots where he scored 1.326 points per possession on 86 possessions. It should be noted that PJ’s jump shots are almost exclusively face up shots and not shots off the dribble.

It’s important to note how well PJ shoot’s on guarded shots because there is another dynamic to him as an off-ball player when he can get his shot off with little time, with little repercussions. He’s a greater threat, his man is going to be punished more often for helping, and he’s ultimately going to create more space than your average shooter.

Mechanically PJ’s fundamentals are consistent, quick, and fluid.

PJ’s shot:

People who are smarter than me have pointed to the correlation between the three ball translating and touch for a while now.

PJ has a niche for getting offensive rebounds:

And lastly, PJ is a willing and able floor runner:

On-ball Defense

PJ is a switchable player. I think his switch range is around 3.5-4.5 where he can guard some 3s except the faster more twitchy guys, and I think he can guard most bigs excluding yours Embiids, Jokics, and KATs etc.

Here’s a clip of PJ opening his hips to slide with Nassir Little and finishing with a great contest on the shot:

Jordan Nwora turns the corner with his first step but a great recovery and contest by PJ using his speed and length:

Off-ball Defense:

PJ is a smart help-defender with good blocking instincts. He posted a 4.8% block percentage his sophomore year.

PJ block party:

This one is just cruel:

Here is a thread by Brian Geisinger with some great clips from the preseason game that show off PJ’s off-ball instincts in particular:

Closing Thoughts

Now, PJ is not really a shot creator. He is an excellent post player and that can be used at the end of shot clock as an escape valve. PJ has some potential to attack the basket from the perimeter due to his handle, strength, touch, and body control. However, for the most part he plays off of other players, ideally a creator. And as a role player PJ can do just about anything you need him to.

PJ spaces the floor better than most due to his ability to knock down more contested shots. You don’t want to close out to hard due to his ability to finish driving to the rim. You never want to switch smaller defenders on to PJ due to his post play and finishing ability. You don’t want PJ rolling to the basket he has great hands, elite touch, and can absorb contact and finish. You can’t force PJ in short roll cause he can shoot, he has the touch to shoot floaters, he can drive, he has the intelligence to find weak spots in the defense, and he has every pass in his arsenal.

Now, on defense PJ is also pretty clean. PJ can bang down low unless we’re talking about your elite bigs and then again how many fours can? He can switch unto plenty of wings, excluding of course your quicker and more twitchy athletes who are again, mismatches for most fours. PJ is a very smart off-ball defender who makes good plays that include weak side blocks, steals, and pivotal rotations.

PJ is about as high-end a role player as they come, you need your elite role players just like your creators. Kawhi is really important, but so are Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol. Steph is amazing, but he needs Klay and Draymond with him. PJ is an elite role player, and for my Hornets fans who want a creator to pair with him we’ll see you in the summer for the 2020 draft.