In the modern NBA, efficient shooting is predominantly derived from threes, free throws, and attempts at the rim. While bigs derive most of their looks at the rim from putbacks, lobs, post-ups, and easy assisted looks, wings must be able to adeptly attack the rim from the perimeter as drivers. A well-rounded finishing package for a slashing wing is comprised of a subset of specific situational driving skills, including attacking closeouts, off-the-dribble self-creation, blowing by switching bigs, absorbing contact, one-foot and two-foot bounce, change of pace, stride length, acrobatic mid-air body contortion, fluidity, touch, and more.
In our fourth Film Room Friday installment, the PBC scouting team has performed a deep-dive into non-big prospects with potential to translate as effective slashers and finishers at the rim. To provide some context, let’s first lay out a few examples of non-big NBA players that excel at attacking the paint on drives and finishing through traffic.
NBA Rookies and Sophomores: Ben Simmons, Dwayne Bacon, Donte DiVincenzo, Deonte Burton
NBA Veterans: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Dwyane Wade, Andre Iguodala, Tony Parker
Recent NBA Retirees: Manu Ginobili, Brandon Roy, Gerald Wallace, Monta Ellis
These lists are not meant as rankings, and are certainly non-exhaustive, but serve the purpose of providing some familiar examples of NBA players that derive a substantial portion of their offensive value as slashers.
Within the 2019 NBA Draft class, there a handful of prospects that stand out as projectable slashing wings. Among those ranked in the top 45 on consensus big boards are RJ Barrett, Romeo Langford, and Talen Horton-Tucker. Two other notable slashing wing prospects with rim-finishing acumen already featured by the PBC scouting team are Terence Davis II and Amir Hinton. See Davis’s ‘Senior Spotlight’ here and Hinton’s ‘Early Entrant Outlook’ here.
Below, we will highlight three 2019 NBA Draft eligible prospects ranked outside of the top 45 on consensus big board rankings that have excelled in varying ways as rim-finishing slashers:
Zach Norvell Jr.
Wing | 6’5’’ | 205 | Sophomore (RS) | Gonzaga
PBC Consensus Ranking: 48
Zach Norvell Jr. (#23) is a crafty finisher whose prowess as a finisher pops both statistically and on tape. In half-court possessions this season, Norvell ranks in the 97th percentile (1.551 PPP) as a non-post-up finisher at the rim. Norvell is very opportunistic in his drive attempts, often taking advantage of a defender in a lackadaisical defensive stance or overly anticipating/committing to a high ball screen by blowing by them and beating them baseline. He thrives as a finisher with his dominant left hand, but has converted some impressive righty finishes, as well. What particularly jumps out when examining Norvell’s rim finishing is his smoothness, fluidity as a driver, and acrobatic craft. He makes swooping reverse layups with English off the glass in the presence of help side rim protection look routine. He uses functional in-air ball fakes to make the defense commit, then rips the ball through and finishes on the other side, using the rim as a shot-blocking deterrent. Despite the seeming difficulty of these crafty finishing techniques, Norvell rarely sacrifices touch and has proven to be a consistent finisher (62.4% at the rim) from a variety of attack angles.
Wing | 6’5’’ | 201 | Junior | Syracuse
PBC Consensus Ranking: 67
Tyus Battle (#25) has shown great improvement as a finisher compared to last season. Battle has increased his FG% at the rim from 60.2% last season to 66.0% this season. Within the specific context of half-court-derived non-post-up finishes at the rim, he ranked in the 39th percentile (1.058 PPP) as a sophomore and has climbed to the 68th percentile (1.224 PPP) as a junior. This has been a crucial development for Battle’s game. He has shown a nice balance of explosive burst, change of pace, and a great understanding of angles/leverage when attacking the basket. His speed and athleticism also make him a very capable transition finishing threat.
Though Battle has made great strides in this area of his game, there is still certainly room for continued improvement. Battle could still work on his left-hand finishing, as well as his effectiveness converting on baseline drives. Rounding out his finishing package would be greatly beneficial to his ability to provide offensive value at the next level as a slashing wing.
Wing | 6’4’’ | 200 | Sophomore | Washington
PBC Consensus Ranking: 98
Jaylen Nowell (#5) is one of the most effective non-big finishers around the rim in college basketball. In half-court possessions this season, Nowell ranks in the 72nd percentile (1.247 PPP) as a non-post-up finisher at the rim. These clips are well above average for a wing prospect. Nowell’s success around the basket is multifaceted. He is elite at absorbing contact, has great mid-air body control, and naturally soft touch. Nowell has a strong, built frame and utilizes functional strength to get to his spots by bullying smaller wings and assertively willing his way to the basket. Like most people, he prefers to use his dominant hand (right), but has proven more than capable of using his left hand for some impressive finishes, as well. Nowell finishes at an exceptional 68.4% clip at the rim.
*Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports and Hoop-Math
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