Category 3: Unicorns

Category 3 Fives: Unicorns

(Skills: Floor Spacing, Post Up Scoring Creation, Two-Position Defensive Versatility + Rim Protection).

  1. Chris Bosh (Freshman) #4
  2. Serge Ibaka (International) #24
  3. Kristaps Porzingis (International) #4
  4. Myles Turner (Freshman) #11

I. What Sets Them Apart

One of the most conducive to team-building “secondary” pieces in the game, bigs who can man the 5 spot, stretch the floor and protect the rim are highly valuable with utility on any roster.  These new-age “unicorn” types mostly provide direct value in floor spacing, space defense on the perimeter with the ability to defend two positions and rim protection, but also have secondary value as floor spacing gravitational threats as pick and pop threats.  All have played a lot of 4 in their careers, and are capable defending most 4 or 5s, thus providing added defensive capability to pair with some switching ability.

Bosh is the most established primary scorer here, and while his early career self was a playmaking 5 big in which the offense ran through him in Toronto, his best years impact wise were in a stretch two-way 5 role in Miami (understandable when paired with elite ball high usage wing talent).  Thus, you could easily argue he should be in the playmaking 5 section, but he’s here to emphasize the value of floor-spacing in a secondary role.

Ibaka is the only straight “3&D” space big on the list with his lack of ball skills.  He’s really just a spot up player on offense who can’t dribble or pass.  His role in OKC’s offense over the years as essentially a pick and pop standstill shooter and spot-up guy surrounding Russ and KD’s high volume certainly didn’t help his creation progression.

Porzingis is the more advanced ball-skill and feel wise than Turner at this juncture, the former putting some impressive passes on film in his rookie year and looks to be the more fluid dribbler.  KP was best known his rookie year for emphatic putback dunks, but he adds a different element in the ability to shoot 3s on the move running off screens.   Turner wins at this point on quick turnaround jump shots in the post, his quick release in the pick and pop midrange game, and rim-running with impressive speed.  These categorizations are floor outcomes, and whether they exceed it will depend mostly on creation for others and the transcendent potential of their shooting.  KP shoots way more threes at this juncture than Turner, so he has the higher shooting upside and has more current spacing appeal.

Overall, these are the analytics darlings at the position who might not ever possess go-to scoring prowess but will be invaluable roster pieces if the shooting holds as foundational shooting and rim protection contributors.

A.Shooting/Finishing: Pick and Pop Threats/Shooting on the Move

2015/16 Regular Season PNR Roll Man Playtype

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  • The frequency is the key year for outside of Porzingis who was criminally underused in PNR his rookie year due to the triangle scheme everyone sports solid frequency marks. Bosh and Ibaka primarily pop when setting a screen, Bosh more so for 3s, whereas Turner can both pop and roll, but mostly does the former for midrange shots.  Porzingis is also a dual-threat pick and roll option when he gets the opportunity.

2015/16 Regular Season Spot Up Playtype

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  • The frequency is again the biggest takeaway here and illustrates the standstill spacing usage.  Turner is the only player who right now regularly spaces up inside the arc.  We’ll see if that changes next year.

Bosh 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart

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  • Obvious Disclaimer: Chris Bosh is really good, and I hope he plays again.  He’s a capable shooter and scorer at all 3 levels with legitimate 3 point range and accuracy on high attempts.  He’s also a better finisher than most probably think.

Ibaka 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart

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  • Ibaka is a plus midrange shooter, but probably isn’t the level of floor-spacer behind the arc that you’d hope for given his lack of playmaking. Most of Ibaka’s restricted area looks come in transition, dives or putbacks. He rarely dribbles and thus doesn’t attack off the dribble.

Porzingis 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart

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  • Porzingis’s shooting, especially three-point prowess, is a little overrated at this juncture compared to his reputation for doing so.  His mechanics are incredible, but his 51.8 TS% his rookie year is outlier bad.  Notice the porous finishing around the hoop, where KP really struggles to finish on the move on non dunk attempts especially through contact attacking the basket.

Turner 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart

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  • Turner’s range hasn’t been consistently extended out yet beyond the arc, but he flashes knockdown midrange potential, and has very positive shooting indicators to suggest he will eventually shoot 3s at a moderately high level.  Turner is also an excellent finisher, and is the best rim runner on this list.

2015/16 Regular Season Off Screen Playtype

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  • As an off-ball big it adds tremendous value if you can shoot on the move running off screens because most bigs aren’t accustomed to tracking on the perimeter on those actions.
  • Porzingis was utilized the 6th most of any big off screens last year, although he was only mediocre efficiency wise.  There is still more usage potential here, especially in minutes KP mans the 5 and has a legitimate agility/speef advantage.
  • Bosh is insanely efficient as an overall floor-spacer and shooter on the move.

B.Limited Creation (At This Point)

2015/16 Regular Season Isolation Playtype

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  • Outside of Bosh, you aren’t just going to throw the ball to these guys in face up creation situations to get baskets.  Porzingis and Turner could get there, but Ibaka probably never will.

2015/16 Regular Season Post Up Playtype

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  • The offensive creation will likely come in the post, and both KP and Turner had promising usage and frequency there as rookies despite average results.  KP can’t yet hold position against stronger players and Turner basically uses post ups to shoot quick turnarounds with his size advantage.

C.Rebounding/Passing Limitations

2015/16 Regular Season Assorted Stats (*Fours: Sorted by DRR)

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  • Rebounding: Bosh, Turner and Porzingis are respectable defensive rebounders, yet below average for starters.  Only Porzingis throws in impactful offensive rebounding metrics.  Ibaka is a really poor and sometimes unwilling rebounder.  All of these players defend on the perimeter drawing them away from the hoop and some either play next to dominant rebounders like Whiteside or in conservative schemes that abort the offensive glass, but with that said these numbers compared to both fours and fives are largely poor.
  • Assists: Turner and Ibaka are extremely poor and unwilling passers, and given the pre-NBA metrics for both, I have large reservations if they will ever get there.  Turner is young enough, but he was one of the biggest black holes in the league as a rookie.  Porzingis doesn’t have great metrics here, but from the eye test he seems like the best bet to turn into a good passer to the point of Bosh respectability.
  • Usage: Porzingis and Turner had rare usage marks for rookie bigs, showing the ability to contribute immediately.  Ibaka was often considered part of the big 3 in OKC, but he was the most distant on-ball #3 in the league.

2015/16 Regular Season Putback Playtype

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  • Expanding on the rebounding point, Porzingis and Turner were excellent attacking the offensive glass efficiency wise on putbacks as rookies, with KP finishing more possessions on emphatic putbacks.

D.Defense/Rim Protection

 2015/16 Regular Season DBPM

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 2015/16 Regular Season DRPM

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 2015/16 Regular Season Rim Protection

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  • Some metrics like DRPM really like Porzingis’ defense and other 1 number stats such as DBPM like Turner. KP looked like the better and more aware defender on film, with Turner looking lost more frequently.
  • The key metric here is rim protection, where Ibaka is one of the best in the league.  Porzingis utilized his outlier tools to be a dynamite rim protector for a rookie, and Turner is one of the best weak side block artists in the game already.  Bosh’s mark last year was below average for a 5 but above average for a 4.
  • What this numbers don’t pin down is the defensive versatility plus.  All of these players start at the 4 spot, can track most 4s in the league while defending in space in PNR, and slide over to the 5 spot to protect the rim around the basket to some degree.  It’s rare to find bigs capable of doing both.

II. College Indicators/Translations

1.Measurements

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  • I didn’t include Porzingis’ or Ibaka’s unofficial numbers here, but KP’s reported 7’3″ 240 + 7’7″ wingspan was outlier in terms of size/tools and Ibaka at around 6’10.5″ with a 7’3″ wingspan had 5 length.
  • Both Bosh and Turner have prototype height for a 5 with Turner possessing an elite reach mark for a 5 and Bosh merely average there.  Bosh still has long enough arms to cause damage at the 5, especially with his arms out wide defending PNR at the point of attack.  Also note Bosh’s outstanding no step vert.  Neither of the two had plus frames to man the position from the off.

2.40 Minutes Pace Adjusted

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  1. Bosh: From a scoring and shooting efficiency standpoint Bosh had some of the most promising “stretch” big indicators you can have, with an excellent 3pt% buttressed by a plus FT% both with good volume.  The rest of his profile was damn solid with average rebounding, assist, steal, and block marks for a 5 (fantastic for a 4).
  2. Ibaka: In one year in the ACB league Ibaka’s efficiency stats were good enough that when paired with his physical it profile produced an enticing package.  His points, 2pt%, rebounds, steals and blocks were all fairly solid, and he even shown spacing potential taking threes while sporting a positive FT%.  The only legitimate negative indicator here was assists.
  3. Porzingis: Porzingis waivered a bit on 2p%, leading to finishing concerns, but sported a consistent scoring profile along with the only outlier positive mark of the group.  He took a lot of threes with mixed results, but his FT% offered some confidence especially in 14/15 ACB league play that his shooting was real.  KP had negative rebounding and assist marks, which is part of the reason he landed a variation of Bargnani comparisons at the time. What went under the radar for some (not Pelton types) was his elite steal marks for his size.
  4. Turner: Coming off the bench for Texas, Turner had two legitimate indicators in his profile: blocks and FT%.  He wasn’t an efficient shooter/scorer on the floor, but digging deeper in his profile his 2pt jumper % & dynamite FT% on decent volume were very promising for his shooting potential (FT% is often > 3pt% given volume/sample).  Turner’s rebounding was above average and while his passing wasn’t a plus it wasn’t outlier bad.

3.Efficiency

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  1. Bosh: Bosh had elite metrics in TS%, rounding it out with a solid ability to draw fouls with a non-damning A/TO while also shooting a lot of threes, providing a very clean profile.
  2. Ibaka: Ibaka took some threes and shot/finished around average for a 5, but his ability to draw fouls (reflecting lack of creation?) and minus A/TO mark was red flag worthy.
  3. Porzingis: Porzingis was a mixed bag as a shooter/finisher with consistently minus ability to draw fouls, but took a lot of 3s and similar to Bosh didn’t have any damning A/TO marks.
  4. Turner: Turner was a somewhat clean prospect across the board who took a healthy amount of threes per FGA.  His ability to draw fouls was a quiet positive.

4.Usage

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  • Ibaka’s limitations as a 3&D level player become clearer with every statistic such as here with minus usage.  Bosh had the healthiest amount of possessions used, while KP impressively commanded a decent amount of possessions on a high level ACB team. Turner’s usage for a freshman coming off the bench was also promising.

5.Myles Turner Sports-Reference Stats

Block % (Since Inception)

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DBPM % (Since Inception)

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  • Turner really profiled as a high-level shotblocker, and although he didn’t have the all around defensive impact projection as an Embiid or Towns type, he definitely profiled as plus rim protector and overall plus defender.

6.Myles Turner Hoop-Math

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  • There were a few noteworthy aspects of Turner’s profile.  He didn’t shot a lot around the rim, but did finish well when he did.  His 2pt jumper attempts, percentage and unassisted marks were excellent, and really shed light on his shooting potential in conjunction with his FT%.  Again note the positive number of 3s attempted, albeit a poor %.

7.Skill Translations

  1. Bosh:
    • Efficient Scoring + Shooting on Decent Usage
    • 3pt Volume and Efficiency With %s
    • Above Average Defensive Profile
    • First Contract Translation: Starter, All Star Yrs 3-4 (And every year since)
  2. Ibaka:
    • Above Average Defensive Profile
    • 3pt Range Capability With + FT%
    • Minus Assists/Decision-Making
    • First Contract Translation: Rotation Yrs 1-2, Starter 3-4
  3. Porzingis:
    • Steals Profile in Plus Defense
    • 3pt Volume/Range Capability With + FT%
    • First Contract Translation: Starter
  4. Turner:
    • Blocks Profile
    • 3pt Volume/Range Capability With + FT%
    • Below Average Passing/Decision-Making
    • First Contract Translation: Mostly Starter

III.Overall Takeaways

  1. Conducive Archetype to Successful Teams & Team Building: Bigs who can space the floor and defend reasonably well both on the interior and perimeter are perhaps the easiest archetype to fit in on a roster (the antithesis of a lead guard who can’t shoot and isn’t an elite athlete).  Even if the player isn’t a star/secondary creator like Ibaka, that player can provide star impact (though Ibaka’s rebounding is outlier poor).  Bosh had two premiere wings next to him in Miami, but it speaks volumes that he was the best player LeBron has ever played with.  This pairing is an ideal pairing next to a stud wing (IE Turner with George).
  2. Importance of Delving Deeper on Shooting/3pt Potential: A lot of people (including myself) either make or have made the mistake at times of looking too much at 3pt% to determine floor spacing potential at the expense of volume and other indicators.  Turner is a perfect example of that: he was a very inefficient 3pt shooter % wise but took a decent amount of them while shooting a sterling % on 2pt jumpers and shot incredibly well from the line.  I think most would agree Turner projects as a plus shooter overall with 3pt potential, and that potential could have been glossed over merely looking 3pt%.
  3. Importance of Steals For Bigs: Everyone knows steals historically translate, but outlier steal marks like Porzingis in this categorization and Noel in category 2 should be afforded more attention.  Most justifiably fixate on blocks, but that shouldn’t be the case to the extent of ignoring steals.
  4. Floor/Ceiling Point: These rankings of Turner and Porzingis can be considered floor outcomes. I expect them at their foundation to be floor spacers and rim protectors/plus defenders.  Whether they add the requisite self-creation or creation for others (mostly the latter) could vault them into more of a playmaking unicorn like a variation of Towns. In contrast for Ibaka this is almost certainly his ceiling.

Next Up: Category 4 Fives Defense + Passing (this will be a quick one)

Stats provided by NBA.Com, ESPN.Com, Draftexpress.Com, Sports-Reference.Com, Hoop-Math.Com and Basketball-Reference.Com