The 2018-19 NBA season has been one of the fastest-paced in recent memory. The average number of possessions per 48 minutes this season has eclipsed the 100 possession threshold for the first time in thirty years. Given the increasing emphasis on transition offense, understanding a given collegiate prospect’s effectiveness at creating for themselves and others in up-tempo fast break scenarios is an essential piece of analyzing their potential projectability to the professional level.
In our sixth Film Room Friday installment, the PBC scouting team has performed a deep-dive into prospects with potential to translate as dynamic transition threats.
To provide some context, let’s first lay out a few examples of NBA players that excel at pushing the pace to create high percentage looks for themselves and their teammates.
NBA Rookies and Sophomores: Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox, Ben Simmons
NBA Veterans: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul
Recent NBA Retirees: Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Jason Williams
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 exemplify this skill set.
Within the 2019 NBA Draft class, there are a handful of prospects that stand out as projectable fast break initiators and transition finishers. Among those ranked in the top 45 on consensus big boards are Ja Morant, Shamorie Ponds, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
Below, we will highlight three 2019 NBA Draft eligible prospects ranked outside of the top 45 on consensus big board rankings with the potential to add value in transition at the next level:
Combo Guard | 6’3’’ | 185 | Senior | Memphis
PBC Consensus Ranking: 188
Jeremiah Martin (#3) really loves to get out and run in transition. Memphis plays a run-and-gun style of offense, ranking 5th in the country in percentage of total field goal attempts in transition at 31.1%. Teams have to make sure that get back on defense because Martin is not afraid to push the pace after a missed basket and certainly doesn’t rely solely on turnovers accumulate transition points. Martin has shown that he is capable of both finishing through contact and making quality decisions in transition. When the defense commits, he is a very willing passer to teammates that run the floor with him. Martin uses his quickness and athleticism to beat the defense down the court and put his team in advantageous situations. Memphis ranks in the 73rd percentile by scoring at a rate of 1.376 PPP in transition possessions that end with a Jeremiah Martin shot attempt, drawn foul, turnover, or assist.
In the video above, you can see that Memphis thrives when they get out on a Martin led break. Martin keeps his head up in transition and has a great sense for when to go full speed to the rim and when to slow it down and look to dish it off to a streaking or trailing teammate. The last clip in this video highlights a particularly impressive sequence from Martin that showcases his explosive athleticism. Martin blocks a big’s shot in the post, catalyzes a transition opportunity, takes it from coast to coast, and rises up for an emphatic dunk.
Lead Guard | 6’0’’ | 188 | Senior | San Francisco
PBC Consensus Ranking: NR
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Frankie Ferrari (#2) is a dynamic lead guard and one of the most effective players in transition in the country. The Dons rank in the 96th percentile by scoring at a rate of 1.662 PPP in transition possessions that end with a Frankie Ferrari shot attempt, drawn foul, turnover, or assist. As solely a transition scorer with assists excluded, Ferrari ranks in the 86th percentile by converting at a rate of 1.262 PPP. He does this all while only turning it over on merely 8.6% of his transition possessions.
Ferrari is lightning quick and really pushes the pace. In the video above, you can see how he uses his speed to create easy transition opportunities for himself and his teammates. Ferrari’s transition passing is sharp, crisp, accurate, and despite being known as a flashy player, he rarely forces ill-advised passes. He’s really patient and precise with his dishes to rim-running teammates for open layups or trailing shooters for transition threes. Ferrari is also effective when another teammate leads the break and has a good sense for filling his lane and fluidly stepping into catch-and-shoot transition attempts from deep.
Lead Guard | 6’3’’ | 174 | Junior | Tennessee
PBC Consensus Ranking: NR
Jordan Bone (#0) is a blur in transition for the Volunteers. He’s one of the quickest players in the country and it’s quite evident when watching Tennessee get out on the fast break. Bone not only has elite end-to-end straight-line speed, but also excels at changing pace and direction, which helps him find openings to the basket. The Volunteers rank in the 83rd percentile by scoring at a rate of 1.464 PPP in transition possessions that end with a Jordan Bone shot attempt, drawn foul, turnover, or assist.
In the video above, you can see how Bone utilizes change of pace via timely acceleration and deceleration to freeze transition defenders and navigate his way into the paint. Though he could stand to tidy up his ball security and decision-making a bit (16.0% TOV% in transition), he has shown some nice flashes of transition facilitation acumen. While it isn’t the most theoretically efficient shot, Bone loves getting to his spot and pulling up from mid-range in transition, which is relatively unconventional. If he converts on one or two of these attempts early in a game, it often leads to even more efficient transition opportunities later in the game when the defense inevitably bites on a mid-range hesitation move and Bone blows by them for an easy lay-in.
*Stats provided by Synergy Sports and HoopMath
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