In the modern NBA, fours and fives no longer live on the block as solely back-to-the-basket post-up threats. Much of an NBA forward/big’s offensive value is now derived from their ability to space the floor. Stretch bigs open up the offense for the rest of their teammates by pulling rim protectors out of their comfort zone and diminishing their effectiveness as help side rim protectors.
Through the NBA pace-and-space / Moreyball revolution, pick-and-roll actions have remained a mainstay as a prominent offensive action. What has changed, however, is the demand for ball screening bigs to be capable of not only providing roll gravity as a pick-and-roll drive threats, but also as pick-and-pop three-point shooting threats. Though circumstance and offensive scheme may mask some prospects’ potential as pick-and-pop threats, showing effectiveness and natural feel as a screener, popper, and shooter from deep on even a limited volume of pick-and-pop opportunities helps in projecting potential translatability to the NBA.
In our third Film Room Friday installment, the PBC scouting team has performed a deep-dive into forwards and bigs that project as effective pick-and-pop shooters. To provide some context, let’s first lay out a few examples of NBA players that provide valuable floor spacing, offensive versatility, and catch-and-shoot acumen as pick-and-pop scorers:
NBA Rookies and Sophomores: Lauri Markkanen, Omari Spellman, Zach Collins, Luke Kornet, Moritz Wagner
NBA Veterans: Karl Anthony Towns, Kevin Love, Dirk Nowitzki, Marc Gasol, Nikola Vučević, Al Horford, Serge Ibaka, Marvin Williams, Dario Šarić, Jeff Green, Marcus Morris, Ryan Anderson, Bobby Portis
Recent NBA Retirees: Chris Bosh, Rashard Lewis, Andrea Bargnani, Brad Miller, David West, Troy Murphy, Rasheed Wallace, Mehmet Okur, Luis Scola
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 pick-and-pop shooters.
Within the 2019 NBA Draft class, there are a handful of prospects that stand out as projectable pick-and-pop stretch forwards and bigs. Among those ranked in the top 45 on consensus big boards are PJ Washington, Eric Paschall, Killian Tillie, and Dedric Lawson. Two other notable forward prospects with pick-and-pop acumen already featured by the PBC scouting team are Nevada’s Jordan Caroline and Louisiana's JaKeenan Gant. See Caroline’s “Senior Spotlight” here and Gant’s “Mid Major, Big Game” here.
Below, we will highlight three more 2019 NBA Draft eligible prospects ranked outside of the top 45 on consensus big board rankings that have excelled as pick-and-pop forwards/bigs:
Forward | 6’10’’ | 225 | Senior | Kansas State
PBC Consensus Ranking: 64
Dean Wade (#32) is one of the top catch-and-shoot players in college basketball, ranking in the 85th percentile by converting at a 1.25 points per possession (PPP) clip. The Kansas State Wildcats utilize Wade’s combination of size and shooting by putting him in pick-and-pop situations, which puts defenses into difficult situations stemming from high ball screen actions. This season, Wade ranks in the 68th percentile as a pick-and-pop scorer, converting at a rate of 1.048 PPP. Having missed six games to injury this year, this is slightly below his larger representative sample. Over a full season as a junior, Wade ranked in the 88th percentile while converting at a rate of 1.237 PPP. Wade has shown brief flashes of attacking the paint when switching defenders are able to recover and close out, but he truly thrives as shooting threat from deep against scrambling defenses.
Forward | 6’8 ½’’ | 225 | Senior | Washington State
PBC Consensus Ranking: 95
Robert Franks (#3) has missed some time this year, but is having an incredibly productive offensive season. Franks is putting up 22.1 PPG on efficient shooting clips, knocking down 40.3% of his 6.6 three-point attempts per game. While his pick-and-pop volume may not be particularly high this year (partially due to missed time and partially due to offensive scheme), he’s been an extremely effective scorer following this action. Franks currently ranks in the 95th percentile as a pick-and-pop scorer, converting at a rate of 1.5 PPP. The majority of his pick and pops result in threes, and Franks has shown capable of making functional use of his height, length, and shot mechanics to get his shots off over high-hand closeouts from opposing bigs. He also has shown the ability to stretch his pick-and-pop fade action out to NBA range, which serves as a positive indicator of potential translatability of this skill to the professional level.
Big | 6’7 ½’’ | 250 | Senior | Northern Kentucky
PBC Consensus Ranking: 200
Drew McDonald (#34) is one of the best shooting bigs in the country. He ranks in the 95th percentile as a jump shooter, converting at a rate of 1.25 PPP. McDonald has a unique combination of size, girth, and shooting range, all of which help make him such a deadly pick-and-pop threat. McDonald’s bulky build serves the Northern Kentucky when functionally applied as a ball screener. McDonald sets sturdy, forceful picks, which are difficult for smaller guards to fight their way through. This forces his defender to make a pick-and-roll help decision, and if they fall back into drop coverage, McDonald fades out behind the three-point arc for a wide open pick-and-pop look from deep. Having a big who can both set quality screens and shoot the three like McDonald can adds a valuable, dynamic dimension to an offense.
McDonald has been involved in 36 pick-and-pop possessions this season, ranking in the 89th percentile while converting at a rate of 1.306 PPP. There is certainly room for McDonald to add counters to these pick-and-pop actions if he can improve his mobility as a driver when his shooting prowess forces overly aggressive closeouts.
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