Category 3: Skilled + Stretch

Category 3 (A&B) Fours: Skilled + Stretch

(Skills: Shooting on Spot Ups/Pick&Pops/Off Screens, Limited Ball-Skills, Post Ups Threat)

Two-Way Skilled Stretch 

  1. Marvin Williams (Freshman) #2
  2. Patrick Patterson (Junior) #14

 One Way-Skilled Stretch

  1. Ryan Anderson (Sophomore) #21
  2. Nikola Mirotic (International) #23
  3. Kelly Olynyk (Junior) #13
  4. Frank Kaminsky (Senior) #9

I. What Sets Them Apart

The ability to pull an opposing big out of the paint to clear extra room for guards to dribble-penetrate in more spread pick and roll driven systems has a legitimate floor value-wise in the game today.  The players in this archetype have the positional size to man the 4 position in the modern game, and the shooting prowess to be (or potentially be) gravitational floor-spacers behind the arc, opening up driving lanes for perimeter players.  That two attribute size and shooting combination is the foundation of this player type, but that alone isn’t enough anymore to be a contributing force from the 4 spot.

These players also have a skilled floor game either via handing, passing or both.  They aren’t on the same level of playmaker as categories 1 or 2 in overall creation and will never be classified as “on-ball” players, immediately reducing their value significantly, but they can put the ball on the floor some and the ball doesn’t totally die with them when swung to them behind the arc.

I delineated between subcategories because Williams and Patterson are more distinguished defensive players, armed with greater overall athleticism and speed to guard the perimeter.  Williams’ offensive game last year was atypical for his career, as he developed converting off the dribble attacking closeouts and really shot the hell out of the ball.  Patterson’s game is notoriously underrated, as he has some of the best feet in the league at the 4 spot sliding laterally in space and is an excellent hedger.

Overall, this archetype is largely about size and shooting, as most don’t have the athleticism or defensive ability to be strong two-way players.  Positionally, Kaminsky and Olynyk are more 4/5 tweeners, as neither really have the speed/athleticism to track 4s nor the strength, physicality or length to defend 5s + protect the rim.  Thus, they could easily be classified as one-way stretch 5s, who are designated reserves.  The hope for the teams drafting them is they’ll do enough offensively to off-set the negative defense.  As referenced in previous posts, this is the player breed that is falling by the wayside to combo-forwards because as the game quickens speed and athleticism trump non-plus skill in most situations.

A.Shooting

2015/16 Regular Season Spot Up Playtype

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  • Williams’ 2015/16 season was quietly one of the best late bloomer/later career improvements we’ve seen over the last half decade.   He was a knockdown spot-up shooter, really opening up his newfound dribble-drive attacking closeouts floater game.
  • Mirotic had a rough shooting season in his first year as a Bull, but rebounded nicely in year two.  He’s the most comfortable with the ball on this list and has some craft handling in space, especially to draw fouls.
  • Anderson didn’t shoot to the level you’d expect last year, and when paired with his dreadful defense you can see why a parting with New Orleans seemed inevitable.

2015/16 Regular Season PNR Roll Man Playtype

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  • This playtype largely simulates pick and pop situations for these players, usually resulting in above the break threes.  Williams again shined here, while everyone else sans Patterson hovered just over the average percentile wise.
  • Keep in mind that while a three in this pick and roll situation is more valuable than a midrange shot, these players are competing with pick and roll dive finishers like DeAndre Jordan, and a lob dunk is more efficient than a three obviously.

2015/16 Regular Season Off Screen Playtype

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  • This is the distinguishing aspect of those who are primarily off-ball shooters in the league: can you shoot setting your feet quickly on the move running off screens instead of just spotting up?
  • Mirotic really thrived last season in this regard, making him a far more dangerous off-ball weapon.
  • Anderson is kind of the prototype stretch 4 with a lower playmaking ceiling, mostly because he has aspects like shooting off screens in his arsenal that enhance his value as an off-ball player.

2.Low Ceiling Creation

2015/16 Regular Season Pull-Up Jumpers (Forwards > 6’7″)

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  • Continuing the previous point, this is an all-inclusive list of players over 6’7″ in the league sorted by pull-up jumper attempts.  This is impressive company for Anderson being largely an off-ball 4, both in terms of attempts and sporting the 3rd highest FG% behind only Durant and Kawhi.
  • This shot by Anderson mostly comes in dribble step-back scenarios stepping to the side of closeouts, or in face-up one-legged dribble step-back situations operating in the post.

2015/16 Regular Season Drives Per Game

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  • Drives per game again attempts to simulate attacking closeouts off the dribble.  Some might be surprised to see Olynyk lead the charge here, but as he plays mostly a reserve stretch 5 role in Boston where he usually has the agility advantage there to utilize his handle on closeouts.
  • Kaminsky’s FG% on drives was one of the worst in basketball last year for those registering over 100 drives.  Paired with his below average shooting and poor defense, Kaminsky has a long road ahead to being a valuable rotation player, and he’s already 23.

2015/16 Regular Season Isolation Playtype

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  • The main takeaway here is noticing the low isolation possession numbers (Patterson didn’t even qualify) for this archetype.  These aren’t guys you just throw the ball to for baskets.
  • My lean is that Anderson’s higher iso frequency overlaps with post ups, similar to Griffin.

C.Passing

2015/16 Regular Season Assist Rate 

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  • Anderson is “skilled” from a self-creation standpoint, and has never been a creator for others.
  • Kaminsky and Olynyk have rare passing ability and handles for 7 footers.  The questions surrounding them consist of whether or not they have the athleticism to maximize those talents (I would lean towards no).
  • Williams and Patterson aren’t high level playmakers, but they can take a dribble attacking a closeout and whip a skip pass to the corner on the move, which is incredibly valuable.

D.Post Ups

2015/16 Regular Season Post Up Playtype

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  • Anderson’s post up frequency and fantastic efficiency is really something considering the low shot quality on which his attempts come.  Anderson mostly reverts to a one dribble step-back one-legged fadeaway in the post on a long 2 when he has a mismatch, and unless you’re Dirk or Durant, that’s a low % shot.  He converted a lot of those last year and no question has comfort there, but I question if that’s sustainable (publicly available data isn’t available before last year).  Anderson also mixes in a sweeping scoop shot going to his right in the paint which he is proficient at against blatant mismatches.  You can’t argue with Anderson’s success though beating up switches inside, at least last season.
  • Williams sported one of the best post up marks in basketball last year, having the strength to anchor against guards, albeit on far less possessions.
  • Mirotic, Kaminsky, and Olynyk rely more on drawing fouls in the post rather than converting, and foul shots are obviously higher value shots than post ups.
  • Patterson’s post up game with his bullish frame flashes more on film than the metrics here indicate, but this component of his game is why I’d have reservations about really locking big money into him long-term: he’s not that well rounded offensively and kills you on the glass.

E.Rebounding

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  • Similar to non Kevin Love offensive playmaking 4s, none of these players are especially prolific rebounders.  Williams holds his own the best on the glass on both ends, making it easier to stomach that in favor of his offensive talents.
  • I haven’t emphasized offensive rebounding much for schematic purposes, but the ability to crash the glass on mismatches is incredibly important, and a major part of the reason Anderson has had a successful career.  Anderson is a two skill shooting and offensive rebounder, and has always posted plus metrics in both.
  • Patterson is a dreadful rebounder, posting one of the worst defensive rebounding rates at the postiion in the league last year (Anderson was closely behind).

F.”Defense”

2015/16 Regular Season DBPM (Fours)

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2015/16 Regular Season DRPM (Fours)

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  • DBPM is more aligned with my subjective eye test in terms of defensive value.  Williams and Patterson are the best athletes, have the best feet defending in space and can actually track most 4s and even switch some.  Patterson’s outlier bad defensive rebounding definitely plays a role in suppressing his metrics here.
  • Both of these stats shed light on what an unmitigated disaster Anderson was on defense last year.

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  • It’s not surprising that most of the above players either rate poorly (Anderson especially) or around average protecting the rim, as they lack the size, length, and vertical athleticism to be plusses there.  Williams’ number is very impressive for his size, but he’s the longest player listed and Clifford really emphasis crashing down in the paint defensively, so there are more arms and bodies around the rim to deter quality shots.

II. College Indicators/Translations

1.Measurements

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  • Here we see a rarity in the league: three negative height/wingspan ratios with Kaminsky, Anderson and Olynyk.  Olynyk is perhaps the poster boy in the league for “alligator arms”.  He can compensate some with excellent height for the position, along with Kaminsky, but the lack of lift and length is damning for interior defense purposes.
  • Patterson had above average physical tools entering the league with good height, an advanced athletic frame and big hands.  He doesn’t have incredible length but it’s solid for his size.
  • Williams is the best overall athlete on the list and had the corresponding wingspan to shed light on the appeal at #2 overall.

2.40 Minutes Pace Adjusted

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  1. Williams: As the 6th man on a loaded UNC team, Williams was efficient in his role as a shooter , posting decent scoring numbers.  His 2pt% was a bit under what you’d expect for someone with his athleticism.  He also held his own the glass and had a plus steals mark.  As far as negative indicators go, Williams had poor passing and block numbers, the former skill of which he only acquired in the league very recently.
  2. Patterson: Patterson’s Junior year really opened up his NBA appeal in extending his shooting behind the 3pt line.  He had consistently solid scoring and block marks, but had negative indicators in rebounding two of the three years, which is expected in retrospect.  There were a litany of mixed indicators from the foul line and assists paired with mostly meh steal figures.
  3. Anderson: Anderson was a very clean shooting prospect from both 3pt range and the foul line with plus volume to the point it was very reasonable to expect the shooting to translate.  His rebounding was at least respectable enough (mostly offensively) to project adequately to the 4 spot.  His negative indicators in passing and the defensive metrics underlined his overall limitations.
  4. Mirotic: Mirotic’s shooting aligns more with his Sophomore NBA season than his rookie season in being very adept behind the arc, fortified by his free throw %.  His rebounding was consistently poor to the point it probably wasn’t fair to expect that to improve much.  On defense he was a mixed bag in terms of positive steal indicators and negative block figures, usually of which I tend to favor steals, but athletically and length wise he never had the tools to really thrive on that end.  His consistently above average passing backed up his flashes as a creator on film.
  5. Kaminsky: Kaminsky underwent the classic 3rd and 4th year improvement that scares the hell out of the analytics community (some of that can of course be chalked up to more opportunity).  His final two seasons were a mixture of good and great indicators as a shooter/scorer efficiency wise with plus indicators in assists and blocks thrown in.  His rebounding was average, but he did enough over his last two years to garner attention if you bought the skill translation against NBA athleticism.
  6. Olynyk: Whereas Kaminsky shot up his final two years,for  Olynyk it was just his Junior where his numbers spiked.  He had mixed indicators as a shooter throughout, but flashed elite level shooting in multiple components.  His floor game in terms of assists and scoring were outstanding his Junior year, and he even threw in a modest block number.  For Olynyk it basically comes down to whether you bought the third year improvements over the previous two, which were very pedestrian.

3.Efficiency

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  1. Williams: Williams capitalized on his reserve role efficiency wise, sporting elite shooting metrics and free-throw rate.  His amount of 3s per FGA weren’t overly high, and his decision-making metrics were pretty alarming.
  2. Patterson: Patterson had consistently sub-elite TS% with average to below average foul-drawing metrics, and again only shot threes his 3rd year.  The positive indicators on A/TO were promising.
  3. Anderson: Aligning incredibly well with modern day Anderson, Anderson was a plus shooter who took a ton of threes and didn’t display a proclivity for making sound decisions at all.
  4. Mirotic: Mirotic was merely solid in multiple categories, mainly shooting and foul-drawing, while posting consistently high 3ptA per FGA metrics and across the board promising decision-making indicators.
  5. Kaminsky: Kaminsky took a lot of threes and made consistently sound decisions, which was unquestionably a draw to some with his ability to put the ball on the floor.  His foul-drawing acumen was a red flag.
  6. Olynyk: Olynyk’s Junior year was hyper efficient as he focused more on an inside the arc game.  As for his playmaking translation having two negative decision-making seasons probably didn’t get the notoreity it should have.

4.Usage

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  • Sans Mirotic and Williams, the latter in his 6th man role, the other 4 posted at least 1 elite usage season, which combined with plus efficiency probably eased the minds of decision-makers when factoring in non-elite and mostly below average NBA athleticism.

5.Offensive BPM (Since Inception)

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  • *Doubling down on just how well these players graded out offensively at their respective college peaks*

6.Hoop-Math

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  • Both Kaminsky and Olynyk demonstrated an ability to create shots in the midrange area for themselves (likely in post up situations), and Olynyk had an obscene 2pt jumper % his Junior year.

7.Skill Translations

  1. Williams:
    • Range Potential
    • Above Average Defensive Potential With Steals
    • First Contract Translation: Starter Yrs 2-4
  2. Patterson
    • Range Potential
    • Respectable Decision-Making
    • Minus Rebounding
    • First Contract Translation: Mostly a Reserve (Starter Yr 3)
  3. Anderson
    • Shooting Efficiency and Range
    • Offensive Rebounding
    • Minus Defense
    • Minus Decision-Making
    • First Contract Translation: Reserve Yrs 1-3, Starter Yr 4
  4. Mirotic
    • Shooting Potential and Range
    • Capable Decision-Making/Passing
    • Minus Defense
    • Minus Rebounding
    • First Contract Translation: Mixed Reserve/Starter
  5. Kaminsky: (Too Early, But Not A Promising Rookie Year)
  6. Olynyk:
    • Shooting Potential and Range
    • Capable Decision-Making/Passing
    • Minus Defense

III. Overall Takeaways

  1. Overrated Archetype: The NBA has put such a premium on shooting that other damning aspects, mainly defense, but also lack of athleticism and even legitimate shooting consistency across multiple areas go overlooked. If you’re a big who can shoot and defend in space/switch some, that has legitimate value at the 4 spot (expecting rim protection is overzealous), which is why Williams and Patterson have their own subcategory here as the best players on this list.  If you’re just a big who can shoot and put the ball on the floor some at the expense of defense, you need to be damn good offensively, and none of these guys are good enough there to compensate.  You can only do so much as primarily an off-ball player.  Personally, I want my off-ball players to be at least passable two-way players if they aren’t elite creators, even if you have to sacrifice some ball-skills.
  2. Long Road Developmentally: Williams is the best player above and it took him until his 11th season at age 29 for the 2nd overall pick talent to shine through.  Patterson found his niche in Toronto, his 3rd NBA team, after being moved from Houston to Sacramento to Toronto all in the span of a year. Anderson found legitimate success next to Howard, who at his peak could cover up for anyone defensively in ways Anderson hasn’t found since. Considering guys like Kaminsky are already 23 and didn’t show much in his rookie year, that “immediate impact” methodology to replace McRoberts’ playmaking could have longer developmental ramifications than expected, and passing on a player like Winslow could look even worse in hindsight than it did at the time.
  3. Fit/Team Building Restriction: Offense only bigs require a tailor-made climate to succeed, mainly being placed next to a rim protector or outstanding perimeter defense, especially if they are going to start.  Patterson and Williams are at least passable defenders where team building outside of have strong rebounding elsewhere isn’t overly restricted.  The others require a specific fit to the point you question if that tailoring is worth the cost.