Category 4 Fours: Face Up Handlers With Low Defense/Feel Floors
(Skills: Agility/Handle With the Ball, Post Ups Threat)
- Markieff Morris (Junior) #13
- Julius Randle (Freshman) #7
- Thaddeus Young (Freshman) #12
- Terrence Jones (Sophomore) #18
- Michael Beasley (Freshman) #2
- Derrick Williams (Sophomore) #2
- Bobby Portis (Sophomore) #22
*Not included: Anthony Bennett
I. What Sets Them Apart
This archetype is a high variance group who mostly entered the league with face up game scoring profiles. The conceptual idea is that each has an agility and quickness advantage over less mobile bigs with above average handling ability and enough size/strength to beat smaller players in the post. These players are mostly 1 or 2 skill players with the ability to handle the ball being the constant. Randle throws in elite rebounding to make his efforts impactful across two skills.
None of the above either emerged or project to emerge as primary initiating scorers (more so bench scorers), and none are consistent shooting threats from the outside, limiting their stretch potential. This archetype generally has a low “feel” ceiling, which in my opinion has been the biggest detracting factor in the respective development of each player.
Overall, this archetype shows the unreliability of projecting elite college scoring for bigs with non-elite athleticism and merely average tools without a feel floor, with some bordering on 3/4 “tweener” status. This group generates a lot of divisiveness amongst evaluators, and for good reason, as some significant “busts” have fallen by the wayside with this skill build. There are some attributes that can help teams however, most notably perimeter handling skills, which is where the analysis will start.
2015/16 Regular Season Drives Per Game (Fours)
- Randle led all qualified fours in drives per game last year, showing the ability to eat up the space with his handle that defenses afforded him playing 5 feet off. He’s also adept as a grab and go transition handler who can cause havoc pushing the pace.
- Young is the most fluid finisher on the move attacking the basket, which is reflected in his higher FG% on drives.
2015/16 Regular Season Average Dribbles Per Touch (Fours)
- Another metric that shows Randle’s handling usage especially.
2015/16 Regular Season Elbow Touches (Fours)
- Morris and Young are the most comfortable operating in the elbow areas as scorers amongst those on this list. Randle was the only other player to garner a strong baseline of touches on the elbows, though I suspect Beasley would have if he met the qualifying baselines.
2015/16 Regular Season Isolation Playtype
- It’s important to realize that both Beasley and Williams primarily played on second units against backups, which aids their efficiency, whereas guys like Young, Randle and Morris primarily played against starters. Beasley and Williams were the two most proficient college scorers, and have arguably found niches as bench scorers in the pros.
- To reiterate, a lot of these players were touted as scorers coming out of college, and none have found an avenue to do so as a primary level creator.
- Portis had some miserable metrics in his rookie season. His game physically is tailor-made for a summer league setting, but against NBA caliber length and athleticism he was probably the most overrated rookie last year.
2015/16 Regular Season Assist Rate (Fours)
- Morris, Randle and Young are all “capable” passers at times, but are all below average. Portis had some passing promise coming out of Arkansas but notably never passed last year. Randle has shown some grab and go handling + passing moments but misses reads with tunnel vision too often.
3.Lack of Shooting/Finishing:
2015/16 Regular Season True Shooting % (Fours)
- These ranks are comprised of what ESPN deems a qualified “power forward”. Markieff is probably the best shooter but had a brutal year last season.
- None of these guys are gravitational range threats (at least not yet), which inhibits their stretch contributions.
2015/16 Regular Season Spot Up Playtype
- The most useful takeaway here outside of Beasley shooting fairly well last year is the low frequency of spot ups, which can be over 50% less than prominent stretch bigs. Spot up threes are one of the most efficient shots in the game, and it’s thus no surprise basically none of the above grade out well.
Morris 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart
- Morris was an insane finisher in college, and you can see the drop to significantly below league average last year in that arena (he finished well on the Wizards however). He has a solid midrange game, and it’s fair to say that last season was on the lower end of the scale in terms of his career shooting.
Randle 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart
- Randle was an unmitigated disaster as a shooter/finisher last year. He actually has a plus first step with good speed, but gives away a lot of his quickness advantage by both gathering before going up (he doesn’t have the vertical athleticism/length to do that) and not having a consistent right hand.
Young 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart
- Young is a fluid finisher around the rim who has made a career blowing by less agile bigs to get to the rim. He’s a non-threat outside of the paint for the most part.
Jones 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart
- Jones has legitimate ball-skills, but obviously struggled to finish/score last season. He has a longer wind up release that no one really respects, which inhibits his ability to get to the rim where he has some bounce and power to finish (though he was a horrid finisher last year)
Beasley 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart
- The most natural scorer of the bunch, Beasley found his niche as a score first, second and third player off the bench for Houston last year. He takes a lot of midrange shots in isolation situations, limiting his upside with lack of range.
Williams 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart
- Williams is a streaky shooter but at least showed some consistency from the corners. He’s an above average run and jump athlete, which is showcased by his finishing.
Portis 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart
- Portis was of course a rookie last year so he deserves some more leeway, but outside of hitting some above the break threes there’s not a ton to get excited about. Portis isn’t a plus athlete either in terms of vertical explosion finishing at the rim.
2015/16 Regular Season Post Up Playtype
- Young is the only high usage successful post up player on this list, which is interesting because he’s also the smallest. He definitely has the ability to kill smaller players down low.
- Continuing the trend, Randle had a lot of post up chances last year in Byron Scott’s “Princeton” sets, but wasn’t efficient. I still get the vibe people think of Randle as a ZBO traditional post up type. He’s really never been proficient at posting up. He’s definitely a face up player who can’t shoot yet.
2015/16 Regular Season Defensive Rebounding Rate (Fours)
- Finally some positives for Randle, as he’s one of if not the best non-5 rebounder in the league, showing that you don’t need elite bounce or length to box out and rebound effectively.
- Last year was a career outlier for Young who is a very poor rebounder (and always has been even dating back to Georgia Tech).
- Most of these guys are below the line rebounders for their position, which coupled with the lack of shooting and passing is a definitive problem.
2015/16 Regular Season Rim Protection/Defensive FG% Around the Basket (Fours)
- It shouldn’t be surprising that given the lack of length and height that none of the above players are rim protectors (EX: Randle has short arms/isn’t an explosive leaper and Young is undersized).
- None of these players are plus defenders. Randle, Kieff, Young, Portis and Jones have the feet to play above average space defense on the perimeter but struggle with consistency. The big bugaboo with both Beasley and Williams has always been defensive IQ/consistency and tweener status.
- Williams’ sample is just too small to really analyze.
II. College Indicators/Translations
- Only Portis has plus positional size for a 4 via height and at least average length.
- There are a lot of minuses here. Young is undersized for a 4 with minus length. Randle, Beasley and Morris all have average to below average height with below average wingspans. Outside of Young none of these players are sub-elite athletes either, rendering a lot of physical tools boxes going unchecked especially in terms of reach.
2.40 Minutes Pace Adjusted
- Morris: Morris’ three-point developement/efficiency over his final two years are somewhat tarnished by his dicey free-throw percentages, but he at least put some spot up range potential on film. His finishing really improved to the point of outlier positive 2p% his Junior year. He was average to above average in terms of rebounding, assists, and steals/blocks without any negative outliers, which fits his modern-day contributions. He was a fairly clean prospect with one really strong scoring season.
- Randle: Randle’s defensive negative outlier steal/block numbers really jump out as red flags, and combined with his lack of attempts/poor 3pt % with only decent FT% his shooting was also a concern, rendering him the antithesis of a modern-day analytical big. His finishing potential via a below average 2pt% and passing acumen with again a below average assists mark called into question his all-around ability. Basically, Randle’s one bankable attribute was his rebounding, which has obviously translated.
- Young: Young had a plethora of red flags, being a historically bad rebounder (one of the worst in the DX database), not blocking shots and having very questionable 2p%. His shooting interesting enough looked fairly clean with an outlier good 3pt% on a good amount of attempts fortified by a respectable FT%, but that aspect of his game didn’t translate. Young did show steals prowess and at least flashed passing ability.
- Jones: Another Kentucky product who had to share usage with Anthony Davis and MKG. Jones’ defensive stats were very promising when combined with his frame, even though he was consistently questioned for his lack of motor. There were too many shooting and finishing red flags to project him as a primary scorer. Overall, Jones regressed in his 2nd year (albeit with a changed role), which you don’t want to see.
- Beasley: One of the best scoring prospects in recent memory, Beasley’s self creation scoring stats in terms of both volume and efficiency were off the charts. His two-skill scoring and rebounding contributions were at an all-time level, and he had decent enough defensive stats to not draw one-way red flag concerns. The evident red flag watching his tape was the lack of feel as a passer, reflected in his outlier bad assist numbers. His off ball defense also wasn’t good, but some of that at the time could be chalked up to expending most of his energy carrying the offense.
- Williams: Similar to Beasley Williams was one of the most efficient scorers in college basketball over the past decade with insane finishing prowess. Digging a little deeper on his shooting there were concerns with his Freshman 3pt% and lack of elite FT%. Williams also never showed a proclivity for generating offense for others, and unlike Beasley his defensive stats were incredibly poor. It was easy to be enamored at the time, but Williams had enough concerns as a creator/shooter that his lack of defensive acumen (where only elite offense could compensate for) should have been called into more question. PASSING AND DEFENSE PEOPLE.
- Portis: Portis was a pretty clean prospect across the board with no negative outliers here. The question with Portis is whether or not he is really proficient enough at anything.
- Morris: Morris’ efficiency numbers outside of his shooting % his Freshman year were all above average to very good. His finishing was notoriously excellent, reflected in his TS%, and his decision-making metrics weren’t red flag worthy.
- Randle: Randle showed the ability to get to the line at an elite rate at Kentucky, but didn’t take threes (or make them when he did) and his A/TO mark was very poor to the point it was very reasonable to suspect poor passing and a lack of range potential.
- Young: Young had a few significant holes in his profile with his lack of foul-drawing and aforementioned rebounding, but a lot of that could be chalked up to age. He took a plus amount of threes and his A/TO mark was solid.
- Jones: Jones didn’t stand out in any one area, but was average across the board outside of a very poor shooting season his Freshman year.
- Beasley: Beasley’s TS% for his amount of usage was very promising projecting his scoring ability, although he didn’t get to the line as much as you’d expect. His A/TO mark was an enormous red flag.
- Williams: Williams’ scoring efficiency is basically unmatched, as was his ability to get to the foul line in outlier historic level. Again we see the A/TO mark over multiple seasons stand out as alarming.
- Portis: Unlike the above section Portis had two negative outliers here: he didn’t get to the line and he didn’t take a lot of threes. That was a concerning dual-negative in projecting his scoring potential.
- Beasley had one of the highest usage marks for a big you’ll ever see in college, and given his efficiency it’s unsurprising he went #2 overall with the NBA’s obsession with primary scorers. Williams, Randle, and Jones also sported elite usage with elite efficiency for Williams and decent efficiency for the other 2.
- Markieff never commanded a ton of the offense at Kansas, and it was probably safe to assume he wasn’t going to be a primary scorer in the league.
- Randle had the most positive self-creation stats with 53 unassisted 2pt jumpers and 82 unassisted shots at the rim (again this includes putbacks). Portis thrived in the midrange area with an outlier high volume his Sophomore year but didn’t make an overly high number of unassisted shots there. Jones’ 2pj% warranted concern albeit with less volume.
Offensive BPM (Since Inception)
BPM (Since Inception)
- Two more metrics showing just how historically good Williams was on offense, and how Markieff flashed his Junior year.
- Range Potential
- Finishing Ability
- First Contract Translation: Rotation Yrs 1-3, Starter Yr 4
- Elite Rebounding
- Minus Defensive Indicators
- Minus Range Potential
- Minus Passing
- First Contract Translation: Mixed Starter Yr 1
- Rebounding Minus
- First Contract Translation: Mixed Starter/Rotation Yrs 1-4
- Range Potential
- Shooting Inconsistency
- First Contract Translation: Mixed Starter/Rotation Yrs 1-4
- Passing Minus
- First Contract Translation: Mixed Starter/Rotation Yrs 1-4
- Passing Minus
- Defensive Minus
- First Contract Translation: Mixed Starter/Rotation Yrs 1-4 (mostly played behind Love)
- Too Early
III. Overall Takeaways
- The Importance of Passing & Defense Indicators: Scoring and shooting get the most publicity, but the common denominator amongst multiple “busts” is a lack of passing (demonstrating feel) and defense. Beasley and Williams were the two most highly touted prospects in this category, and both had red flags in those areas (Williams in both). Again, if you’re going to be a minus defender you better be an elite offensive player. Beasley and Williams both had the scoring profile to be as self-creators, but neither could pass and neither had ET athleticism or outlier tools to take advantage of that.
- Physical Tools/Athleticism Matter for Scoring Profiles: None of these players outside of Portis had plus positional size or length for fours. Young is a plus athlete but he’s undersized. Williams is bouncy but isn’t overly quick laterally and has average to below average measurements. The list goes on. Length (especially reach) matter significantly with bigs, especially when the size benchmark isn’t reached.
- Off the Bench Instant Offense Role?: This archetype is difficult to fit into a starting lineup due to a lack of consistent spacing on offense and lack of rim protection/inconsistent off ball defense on the other end. Young carved out a really nice role in Philadelphia killing less mobile bigs off the bench. Beasley seemed to find a role as a bench scorer carrying the offense when Harden sat in Houston. Williams provided the Knicks with an inconsistent scoring punch off the bench. That’s likely the ideal role for this archetype: instant offense off the bench where the weaknesses can be mitigated. Maybe Randle can be a long-term starter with his elite rebounding + grab and go handling, but he probably needs to shoot non-terribly to be a long-term starter.
Next Up: Category 5 Fours: Energy + Motor