Category 6: Traditional Offensive Bucket-Getters

Category 6 Fives: Traditional Offensive Bucket-Getters

(Skills: High Usage Post/Scoring Creation, Midrange Shooting)

Rim Protectors:

  1. Brook Lopez (Sophomore) #10

Non-Rim Protectors:

  1. Al Jefferson (HS) #15
  2. Enes Kanter (International) #3
  3. Greg Monroe (Sophomore) #7
  4. Jahlil Okafor (Freshman) #3
  5. Jonas Valanciunas (International) #5
  6. Nikola Vucevic (Junior) #16

I. What Sets Them Apart

The antithesis of the category 5 archetype, these fives are mostly offense only bulls inside who provide shot creation on higher usage and who you can throw the ball down low to generate high percentage shots consistently.

The commonality here is that every player on this list is a drop back pick and roll defender who struggles to defend in space.  If you’re a five who isn’t mobile in today’s game you’re going to get singled out and exploited in pick and roll, especially at the more competitive playoff level.  There is nowhere to hide as an offense only five in the modern game, and the offense/defense tradeoff here is probably the worst in the game (the second being a lead guard non elite athlete/non-shooter).

The smart way to employ a player of this stature (and a niche approach) is allowing them to beat up less physically gifted/talented reserves in a high usage, lessened minutes role off the bench in the post, where a less efficient shot becomes more efficient.  This “bucket-getter” role has legitimate place in the game moving forward, but brings about an interesting question in regards to resource allocation that will be touched on below.

Lopez differentiates himself here with his ability to protect the rim, which he does well enough that when combined with his offensive scoring prowess makes him a passable starter at the expense of minus space defense and dreadful rebounding.  Okafor has the hypothetical skill-set to ascend as a playmaker and the length to protect the rim some, but based on his rookie year output that can not longer be considered the likely outcome.

Overall, it’s almost impossible in today’s game to stomach a double negative defender at the 5 spot: meaning no exterior perimeter defense in space/no positional versatility  and no rim protection on the interior. That would take one of the best offensive bigs in the league armed with legitimate perimeter skills in playmaking and stretch ability behind the arc, and these players aren’t that quality of offensive player.  This is the hardest position in the league to compensate for minus defense, and the single hardest team building input to construct a contending team around.

As most of the following points are pretty obvious (in my opinion), I wont expound much.

A.High Usage/Touches

2015/16 Elbow Touches Per Game (Non-Inclusive)

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  • Monroe is the best passer of the group and sees the most elbow touches to utilize that ability.

2015/16 Post Touches Per Game (Non-Inclusive)

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  • This archetype is the highest post up usage grouping of the fives.

B.Post Scoring/Shot Creation/Finishing

2015/16 Regular Season Post Up Playtype

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2015/16 Regular Season Isolation Playtype

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  • Okafor’s 187 isolation possessions his rookie year is an incredibly rare number for a big, and he maintained reasonable efficiency with that high usage.  Okafor also finished second in the league amongst qualified fives in drives per game, making his playmaking in face up situations is something to monitor.

2015/16 Regular Season PNR Roll Man Playtype

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  • These players accross the board are threats in the pick and pop game from midrange. No one is better setting solid screens and diving to seal than Big V.

Jefferson 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart

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  • Doing most of his damage from the left block in the post with that right hand jump hook, Big Al is probably the best pure scorer on this list out of the post.  He can also step out and make mid range shots, though his finishing left much to be desired last year.

Lopez 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart

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  • A legitimate pick and pop threat especially from the foul line extended center court area. Lopez’s finishing has never been as elite as one would think.

Kanter 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart

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  • Kanter’s ability to bully reserves and act as a garbage man on high % finishes surrounding Russ and KD was an ideal role for him.  Kanter is the only one here who has showed an inconsistent but modest floor as a range shooter.

Monroe 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart

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  • Almost 83% of Monroe’s offense came around the rim last year, and his finishing was below average.  I’d be interested to see the splits here between starter v. reserve.

Okafor 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart

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  • Okafor’s finishing wasn’t bad last year, and he showed some versatility in shot location scoring, albeit not being very efficient.  His face up game and handling abiltiy in space is perhaps his best asset.

Valanciunas 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart

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  • Big V can step out and shoot midrange shots (he really needs to stop that elongated pump fake) but over 80% of his offense comes right around the rim where he uses his massive frame to shield defenders away from his limited vertical lift/soft touch.

Vucevic 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart

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  • Vucevic is the most perimeter oriented big here, showing excellent midrange shooting prowess that provided the Magic with desperately needed floor spacing.

C.Lack of Rim Running

2015/16 Regular Season Transition Playtype

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  • As these are less mobile bigs it shouldn’t surprise that rim run finishing plays are more sparse here.

D.Rebounding/Assists/Usage

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  • Rebounding: Kanter and Big V are bulls on the glass, combining passable defensive rebounding with elite offensive rebounding attacking the bodies of opposing bigs underneath.  Monroe is the only other “starter” level rebounder for a 5 on both ends, whereas Vucevic does enough on the offensive glass to render him respectable.  Jefferson’s lack of offensive rebounding is almost entirely due to Clifford’s transition defense scheme.  Lopez and Okafor are both outlier poor rebounders, which was a quiet weakness of the latter last year.  This archetype is sometimes considered “scoring + rebounding fives”, but as demonstrated above the rebounding component isn’t there for some.
  • Assists: You might ask what the difference is between category 1 playmaking fives and these players, and a good amount offensively is passing acumen (along with stretch ability).   Outside of Monroe and Vucevic all of these players are minus passers.  This is the component of Okafor’s game to really monitor, as he showed flashes of plus passing at Duke but seemed to be rid himself entirely of that last year.
  • Usage: As outlined in the intro these players are capable of sporting higher offensive usage with plays designed for them.

E.Lack of Defense

2015/16 Regular Season DBPM

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2015/16 Regular Season DRPM

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2015/16 Regular Season Rim Protection FG%

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  • Lopez’s rim protection really renders him the only passable defender of this grouping.  Both the eye test via slow-footedness and metrics rate out basically everyone else poorly.
  • Okafor’s rim protection was at least somewhat encouraging last year.

II. College Indicators/Translations

1.Measurements

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  • All of these players have at least one passable physical tool for a 5 (Lopez, Vucevic , Kanter and Monroe with size; Okafor with length and Big Al with frame/average length). Also notice the non-elite no step vert scores, as everyone on this list is an average to below average athlete, especially compared to category 2 types.

2.40 Minutes Pace Adjusted

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  1. Brook Lopez: Lopez had two very strong scoring years (one outlier) and from his respectable FT% it was fair to assume his midrange game was real.  He also sported two average block seasons along with decent steal marks for a center, so there was evidence in his profile to suggest he could defend some.  His 2p% was outlier low, bringing about issues of how he’d score over length being a non-elite athlete, and his rebounding was also below average.
  2. Greg Monroe: The strongest passer of the group, Monroe’s college passing was outstanding, giving him the most well-rounded offensive game here.  His steal marks were also outlier good for a big, but paired with minus blocks and a lack of vertical athleticism the takeaway was limited rim protection with fast hands.  His 2p% also wasn’t ironclad, but he did sport a decent FT% on healthy attempts.
  3. Jahlil Okafor: Okafor profiled as an elite scorer with outlier points and 2p% marks.  Everything else in his profile was average to concerning, the latter being  FT% and low block totals.  Okafor’s lack of impact defensive input was red flag worthy, and he wasn’t good enough on the glass to mitigate concerns.  While he showed flashes of passing potential, his assist number was merely average.
  4. Jonas Valanciunas: Big V’s combination of elite scoring, 2p% and FT% on respectable usage had him profiled as a safe scoring big with his massive frame and touch.  The assist numbers were concerning, and his defensive numbers were for the most part at least yellow flag worthy.
  5. Nikola Vucevic: Vucevic really improved over his 3 year stint, showing pretty efficient scoring and stretch potential. He had inconsistent steal numbers, the peak of which afforded hope for his defensive acumen, but the consistent lack of blocks called into question his rim protecting potential.

3.Efficiency

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  1. Brook Lopez: Nothing from an efficiency standpoint really popped with Lopez, and his shooting/finishing again was especially poor.
  2. Greg Monroe: Monroe’s A/TO marks really offered confidence that he could be one of the secondary options for an offense as a post/elbow initiator.  He also threw in two solid scoring/finishing seasons and two plus seasons getting to the line.
  3. Jahlil Okafor: Okafor’s shooting/finishing % was outstanding.  He also sported slightly below average marks in getting to the foul line and decision-making.
  4. Jonas Valanciunas: Big V’s shooting efficiency was a sizable plus, enough to convince Toronto to pull the trigger at 5 given average to low marks in the other efficiency categories (of course this was the reason why).
  5. Nikola Vucevic: Vucevic had some notable positives here in decision-making and actually took a healthy amount of threes.

4.Usage

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4 of the players posted outlier positive usage rates for 5s in college, demonstrating some go-to potential in the pros without any experiencing a drastic efficiency curb off (though Lopez wasn’t especially efficient).

5.Hoop-Math

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Okafor had very positive indicators as a shooter from 2pt range, but again Hoop-Math’s numbers include putbacks and don’t have a specific distance attached.  Thus, I think Okafor’s numbers are aided via those push shots closer to the rim, and shouldn’t be taken as stretch indicators (especially considering his minus FT%).

6.Skill Translation:

Brook Lopez:

  • Minus Rebounding
  • Rim Protection Ability
  • Stretch Element To Midrange
  • Scoring Ability with High Usage
  • First Contract Translation: Starter (All-Star Yr 5)

Greg Monroe:

  • Scoring Ability with High Usage
  • Stretch Element To Midrange
  • Plus Passer/Decision-Maker
  • Foul Drawing
  • Steals
  • Minus Rim Protection
  • First Contract Translation: Rotation/Starter

Jahlil Okafor:

  • Scoring Ability with High Usage
  • Minus Defender/Rim Protector
  • Average Playmaker
  • First Contract Translation: Starter

Jonas Valanciunas:

  • Scoring/Finishing
  • Stretch Midrange Potential
  • Above Average Rebounder
  • Minus Rim Protector
  • Minus Passer
  • First Contract Translation: Starter

Nikola Vucevic: 

  • Scoring/Finishing With High Usage
  • Stretch Potential Out Beyond the Arc
  • Above Average Rebounder
  • Minus Rim Protector
  • First Contract Translation: Rotation/Starter

III.Overall Takeaways

  1. Utility in Role: The narrative (at least on twitter) is to blast players of this ilk and avoid them at all costs. People want defensive bigs, and there is definitely merit to that.  I want my starting 5 to defend. Bottom line.  But these players in a specific role off the bench as either the primary scorer or one of the primaries operating out of the post can be a real asset to a team.  The Pacers just signed Big Al for this very reason, giving them a different look behind the Turner/Young frontcourt.  I’m all in on this conceptually.  It just becomes an issue of resource allocation.  This isn’t the kind of player you want to take high in drafts or give sub max level money too, and unfortunately, teams have consistently done that.
  2. Okafor Floor: Okafor is the one guy here who has the flashes of playmaking chops, the length and hypothetical rim protection to ascend from this ranking.  This is his floor, largely based on the negative aspects of his game last year, and I think he’ll be the best player of this group.  A lot comes down to situation and personnel, rendering it difficult to see Okafor taking steps in needed areas in his present environment.
  3. Blocks In College: There is much debate between the value of rim protection v. actual blocks in the NBA, but it’s fair to say that barring a handful of exceptions that if you don’t block shots in college at a plus rate as a 5 around the rim it does not project well to the pros.

Next Up: Category 1 Wings: Primary Initiators 

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

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