In the third and not-so-final part of this draft creators series (more on that later), we head over to the PAC-12 to take a look at a trio of enticing point guards. Enjoy.
Payton Pritchard, Oregon
Once the hometown freshman point guard for an Oregon team that made a surprise run to the 2017 Final Four, Payton Pritchard ended his collegiate career in Eugene as a consensus First-Team All-American, averaging 20.5 points and 5.5 assists, leading the Ducks to a 24-7 overall record. Along the lines of the previously examined Cassius Winston, 6-foot-2 seniors typically don’t excite NBA scouts due to their generally limited upside as prospects. There’s certainly truth in that, but for a team in the midst of contention like the Sixers, a player with the developed skillset of Pritchard has legitimate draft value.
His best attribute is his deep shooting accuracy, converting on 41.5 percent of the 6.8 3s he took per game. It was by far his most common shot at 45.6 percent frequency, and in a positive sign for the Sixers, a solid 33 percent of Pritchard’s deep-range makes were unassisted, off-the-dribble baskets, according to Hoop-Math. He has a very traditional, block-C under the chin form, and while this tendency makes shooting over towering bigs difficult, it does allow him to generate more power and shoot comfortably from deep.
I may be biased, considering I too utilized a lower-release, fully tucked elbow form in my playing days, but I just buy Pritchard as a quality shooter at the next level. Again, a 6-foot-2 (if that) guard doesn’t strike one as someone who’ll be able to get their shot up over defenders, lest it be a catch-and-shoot or quick surprise pull-up. Yet, Oregon was more than comfortable to let Pritchard isolate from the top of the key, as he possessed an awesome step back move that he could unleash from deep range to drop in his moon ball treys.
I prefer Pritchard’s ball handling over most of the prospects in this series, as he’s a very good lateral athlete, utilizing short side-to-side bursts on his between-the-legs dribbles, keeping the ball nice and low to the ground. Similar to Ayo Dosunmu, Pritchard was the go-to scorer in clutch situations for the Ducks, with the right combination of skill and swagger to hit the big-time shots, like this insane 30-foot step back to down Washington in their own arena.
It takes a confident player to shoot step back 3s on the regular, and as you can tell by that victorious scream, that’s exactly what Pritchard is. The only two nitpicks I could find in his step back game is that he can only do it hopping back to the left, which could eventually get scouted and game planned by NBA opponents, and second, his lack of vertical bounce can get him into trouble against the contests of long defenders. In the clip below, it’s not a bad decision for him to go to the step back 3, and he displays more good footwork, but it still results in a miss, even though the James Wiseman is a little late to lunge out at him.
Notice too in the clip above how quick Payton jumps backward into the shot. The best shooters are smooth. They’re quick, but not rushed, when they go to high difficulty moves like this. I get the sense Pritchard knows that he lacks the elevation to get his shot off over the massive Wiseman unless he catches him by surprise, so he tries to use hyper-quick step backs, rather than more relaxed ones that might allow him to be more accurate and stable upon release.
As you’d expect, this lack of vertical explosion can give him problems when trying to finish at the rim. His percentages were more than fine, as he shot 60.1 percent at the basket, and he could often make up for his lack of bounce with an abundance of skill. Still, on his escapades against tall challengers in the paint, his feet just did not get that high off the ground.
He gets bailed out by a pretty questionable call in that second clip, but even there, it just looks likes he’s laboring in his jumps. There are plenty of below-the-rim finishers that excel at that very skill in the NBA, most notably Steph Curry, but even for him, his jumps are smooth glides that take little effort. Where Curry’s feet are light, Pritchard’s are heavy.
However, Pritchard can work around this deficiency at times due to his good change of direction and crafty ball handling moves. He only shoots in the first of the three plays below, but each one displays his ability to read what the defense is giving him and quickly move to the open space. He may not be able to finish through big men at the next level, but he can definitely finish around them.
Though Pritchard does have limits as a ball handler, similar to his vertical shortcomings, his speed is much more east-west than it is north-south. In the following play, he gets forced into a bad turnover, despite hitting his initial defender with a quick in-and-out, because he doesn’t trust his own speed in order to beat the off-balance defender down the sideline, and instead runs himself back into the trap.
There are no mid-range clips of Pritchard simply because he didn’t take that many, as they accounted for only 21.9 percent of his total shots. In the NBA, Pritchard’s likely role is as a floor spacer and tertiary pick-and-roll initiator that can punish teams for playing in drop coverage. The other parts of his game have many flaws, and being 22 years old, the path to further development is minuscule, but he provides the Sixers some of the exact things they need most in their future lineups.
Nico Mannion, Arizona
For those of us in the 18-to-23-year-old demographic, we’ve known about Mannion for a long time. He broke onto the scene in middle school after an AAU highlight video of him went viral on Instagram, and prompted many commenters to nickname him the “Ginga Ninja.” Watch that reel, plus some of his high school highlights, and you’d have thought he’d be going in the top 10 of this draft, as many mainstream draft experts did too.
Well, surprise surprise, the flashy high school sensation disappointed in his lone college season. Now Mannion wasn’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination. Per game, he averaged 14 points and five assists, flashing some real potential as a pick-and-roll passer.
Most people came in with the perception that he was going to be a lights-out shooter, as he shot 44 percent from 3 as a junior at Pinnacle High School, and 36 percent for his career, according to Max Preps. However, at Arizona, Mannion shot a discouraging 32.7 percent on 5.1 attempts per game, even with most of those being catch-and-shoot, as 58.5 percent of those made 3s were assisted.
The problem originates not with the flick of his wrist, but with the distribution of weight in his body. He hunches forward Draymond Green-style and holds the ball to the right side of his head, with disrupts the fluidity of motion in his jumper, and causes him to miss short off the front of the rim far too often.
Of course, it’s not like Mannion is a total non-shooter that can be completely ignored by defenses. In fact, he’s able to leverage one of his very best skills — his tight ball handling and impressive array of dribble moves — into smooth hang-and-glide 3s off the bounce.
He also showed some ability to punish defenses for backpedaling too far and playing really deep drop coverage, as he pulled up from two with great frequency. A total of 35.9 percent of his shots were of the mid-range variety, and though he only converted on a 39.4 percent clip, a whopping 90.5 percent of his makes were unassisted. He’s studied in the J.J. Redick school of running into one’s shot while going to the right, meaning he rotates while mid-air and uses a significant forward jump for power.
However, we are just now getting to the Mannion’s biggest downfall — his subpar athleticism. Vertically, he gets swallowed up at the rim, leading to his meh 54.1 percent conversion rate. Straight-line speed is a minus, especially in crowds. Really the only plus is change of direction, and even that is a bit of a stretch. He can shake defenders occasionally, but not in a way that’s threatening and seemingly omnipresent. You can see the lack of the burst in the play below, as in his attempt to accelerate through the gap, the ball gets poked away from him fairly easily.
Mannion only took 20.1 percent of his shots at the rim, often settling in favor of floaters. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. He has good touch, crafty footwork and an library chest of fakes and tricks, but still, these shots are tougher than layups and need to be converted at an elite rate in order for them to be viable.
The Draft Comp App made by @YoungWizzyDFS has Mannion resembling Jordan Farmar the most statistically, which feels about right — both below average shooters, both lacking in height and quickness, but both using ball handling and court awareness to take advantage of what’s given to them on the court. Solid, but probably not worthy of the 22nd pick.
Tyrell Terry, Stanford
Terry was not receiving a lot of draft hype during the preseason. He’s a tiny 6-foot-1, 160-pound guard, who committed to a school known more for academics than athletics (he said with arrogance despite being a Northwestern undergrad). And while his raw stats are nearly identical to those of Mannion’s, what separates the two is the difference in shooting efficiency.
Terry shot 40.9 percent on 4.9 3s per game, though to be fair only 30.6 percent of those makes were unassisted. He has a snappy form in which he kicks both his right arm and leg out to their absolute full extension, and he can fire them several feet behind the arc in order to compensate for this more laborious method.
Going back to the origin of this series, what the Sixers desperately need is off-the-dribble shooting. Terry is fantastic in this facet of the game, whether it’s tightly curling around ball screens or simply putting up the shot from farther out than a lackadaisical defender would expect. However, that weird form can lead to some awkward misses, making him look like an LA Fitness pick-up player that just came to get some cardio and take a bunch of 3s.
But Terry isn’t just a selfish jacker that wants to hedonistically launch 3s, he’s incredibly smooth in how he moves and feels the game. That’s evidenced particularly in how he’s able to finish at the rim despite his small stature. He’s certainly quick enough to get by defenders, but more often he relies on guile and smarts to take advantage of cracks and crevices that reveal themselves.
Notice how in the last two of those three clips he rips through against the momentum of his defenders. He’s learned how to use his lateral position lower to the ground and get a step around an opponent shuffling his feet in the wrong direction. It’s a major reason why he converted 60.4 percent at the basket this past year.
He eludes obstacles and then puts together Steph Curry-esque ducks and dips to often finish in jaw-dropping fashion. When you really dig into his film, you see that Terry has somewhat more skill with the ball in his hands than almost any prospect in the class.
Terry, similar to our two previous examinees, is not a raw athletic marvel. He depends on those advanced moves a great deal due to his lack of size or strength, but more importantly, his limitations lower his overall volume. He only took 10.7 field goal attempts per game in 32.6 minutes of play, and only 25.5 percent of his total shots were from the mid-range, to which he capitalized on a less than acceptable 31.8 percent of those attempts.
You can see the problems that originate from Terry’s diminutive size in the play below, as the trap of a lanky Washington defense makes him panic and whip a weak jump pass that doesn’t stand a chance of getting to his teammate.
Players with superior athleticism are more comfortable forcing up those inefficient shots in jumbled up messes in the half court. It’s the skill that Jimmy Butler employed so well during the 2019 postseason. So no, Terry can’t be the dominating make something out of nothing force that bails the Sixers out at the end of the shot clock, but he can be a lethal pick-and-roll operator that forces opponents into less than ideal matchups against the physically imposing roster Elton Brand has assembled.
So I told you all that this would be over in three blog posts, but seeing how I’ve already rambled on for over 6,000 words throughout the course of the last week, I figured it’d be better for me to create a fourth, ranking in order my preference of the nine prospects, rather than just leaving you here with a numbered list with no explanation. It will be a very short, but hopefully worthwhile, piece that I hope you’ll all enjoy. Til’ next time.
(P.S. Apologies to all the Markus Howard, Malachi Flynn, Leandro Bolmaro and Theo Maledon truthers out there. The line of demarcation had to be drawn somewhere).