Category 2 Wings: Primary Scorers + Creation For Others
(Skills: On Ball High Usage + Efficient Shot Creation, Shooting off the Dribble, Post Up, Off Ball Threat, Non-Elite Creation for Others, Defense)
Two-Way Primary Scorers:
- Kevin Durant (Freshman) #2
- Kawhi Leonard (Sophomore) #15
- Paul George (Sophomore) #10
- Gordon Hayward (Sophomore) #9
- *Brandon Ingram (Freshman) #2
Two-Way Primary Scorer/Fringe Initiator:
- Jimmy Butler (Senior) #30
Offense-Only Primary Scorer Exception:
- Carmelo Anthony (Freshman) #3
Update: I wanted to shed more light on the ball-handling difference between Butler, who is a fringe level initiator, and the rest of the group, who have workable handles but aren’t as adept as Butler is initiating sets. You can argue Butler in Category 1, as his style of play suits that archetype better than anyone else here, but I don’t think he’s quite at that level of overall playmaker.
I also removed Andrew Wiggins who given the sample thus far doesn’t project to meet playmaking for others or defense benchmarks at this juncture (though he still could). Hayward also vaults up into this section.
I. What Sets Them Apart
Deviating from category 1 players who can either handle (LeBron) or potentially handle (Giannis, Simmons) essentially all of the handling, playmaking and shot creation burden for a team, this archetype is comprised of more pure elite level scorers who optimally need to share the playmaking burden with another perimeter initiator. That’s not to say the players in this category can’t create for others: they most certainly can. It’s just not to the same extent.
Durant, Kawhi, George and Butler are all elite two-way wings who can create offense efficiently for themselves on high usage. The first three add more versatile contributions as off ball shooting threats, unlocking more options for their respective offenses in terms of actual shooting success and spacing gravity. It also makes them more conducive to pairing next to other players who need the ball team fit wise.
All of these players score on high usage in different ways. Durant is a hyper-elite 3 level scorer who has played with a ball dominant player in every year but one of his career (and projects to assimilate well into the Warriors’ motion offense as a result). He’s always thrived more running off pindowns and attacking in isolation/pick and roll as a finisher, not a high usage overall creator. He gets his predominately by being able to shoot over basically anyone, but he’s also one of the best players in the league shooting off the dribble and is an elite finisher at the rim.
Kawhi has developed into an efficiency monster as a 3 phase shooter/finisher, but still lacks the plus handle, wiggle with the ball and vision of a Durant type, let alone a primary initiator, instead thriving as a souped up 3&D player (with improving ball-skills). George and Butler both have legitimate all around ball-skills but fall short of that elite creation for others murky threshold and are best served sharing the load. George takes a high volume of threes and long twos with high efficiency, whereas Butler lives at the rim and the foul line to generate points.
Carmelo is the exception here as he’s never been much of a two-way player, but his self-creation acumen forces him into this grouping as he’s one of the few players in basketball who have consistently been able to generate a quality look from all three levels in any situation throughout his career. He thrives especially in the midrange area.
Wiggins and Ingram are obviously more projections, and unlikely ceiling projections at that. I like Ingram’s chances of getting here far more than Wiggins, the latter of whom is only included here as a very unrealistic projection based on the sample thus far. He’s never shown even average ability to create for others, nor is he a plus shooter, and his defense at this juncture is lackluster relative to his tools. Wiggins can get to the rim at high volume and lives at the foul line, profiling similar to Butler while also throwing in elite post finishing, creating a potential plus scoring makeup. He’s never had a real coach, which is why I include him here: there is a chance he reaches his potential under Thibs, and that’s worth at least a one year sample. Ingram has the better feel and I trust his shot more. He also has the size/length advantage, which helps him compensate for being the inferior athlete.
Overall, these are primary offensive scoring options you most often find on winning teams who can create their own shot in versatile ways with plus efficiency on high usage while most provide plus ball-skills, plus defense and the ability to kick over to the four spot.
2015/16 Regular Season Wing USG & PER (ESPN SF W/ SG Inclusions)
- The starting point again for elite primary scorers is high usage capability without an efficiency curb off. These players sans Wiggins are amongst the highest usage/corresponding efficiency wings in the league.
2015/16 Regular Season Wing OBPM
- Another metric to support the corresponding efficiency. Notice Durant rates out almost twice as well as the next highest player on this list in OBPM, highlighting just how elite Durant’s offense is.
B.Scoring Versatility/Self Creation; Shot Location & Finishing
2015/16 Regular Season Drives Per Game (Non Inclusive Players > 6’4″)
- These players outside of Butler don’t have the same high usage drives per game marks as LeBron and Giannis, an indication of a lesser handling/attacking role.
- Butler rates out amongst elite company in FGAs per game on drives, as his package of handle and aggressiveness is probably the most advanced here.
- The rest of the players have modest marks, which is not surprising considering either system constraints or surrounding personnel.
2015/16 Regular Season Off the Dribble FGA Per Game (Inclusive Players > 6’4″)
- The ability to shoot off the dribble separates the good from the great in terms of scoring, shooting off the bounce being vastly more difficult and rare than spot up shooting (we haven’t seen this stat since lead guard categories BTW).
- Durant, Kawhi and Carmelo are all outstanding shooters off the bounce, which for self-creators is imperative if you don’t get to the rim at elite frequency with a high conversion rate (we see this with Melo especially, as well as George to a lesser extent). Durant is the most adept taking off the dribble threes, which of course carries higher value.
- George and Butler are also plus shooters off the bounce for their attempt numbers, while Wiggins is still a work in progress.
2015/16 Regular Season Isolation Playtype
- Carmelo has always been amongst the best in the league efficiently creating his own shot at high volume in isolation situations. Ditto for Durant, but in superior fashion.
- Kawhi benefits some from San Antonio’s system in this capacity, but his handle has improved enough to where he is an off the dribble threat.
- The main takeaway here is that each player has a healthy amount of iso possessions for a wing and each is above average in terms of percentile.
2015/16 Regular Season PNR BH Playtype
- Butler is the most on-ball lead guard esque player here, reflected in his over 30% frequency on PNR BH possessions. George, Durant, and Wiggins similarly rate out as high usage PNR handlers, with Durant possessing elite efficiency (he ceded a ton of potential PNR possessions to Westbrook because KD is much more of a threat off ball).
- Melo and Kawhi ran PNR less frequency (both likely system based, at least in part), and while Kawhi’s efficiency was sterling his handle and COD isn’t quite there yet to be a full-time operator in this capacity.
2015/16 Regular Season Post Up Playtype
- Wiggins has thrived in basically one playtype area in the league: posting up smaller perimeter players. The Wolves have had great success in the past playing both Wiggins and Shabazz together and exploiting the smaller wing in either matchup. Last year Wiggins still beat up smaller players even with porous spacing, and his finishing capability here looks real (he draws a ton of fouls in this capacity, the lifeblood of his success).
- Melo is one of the most highly utilized wing post players in the league through the triangle, and his efficiency is impressive considering it is on over twice as many possessions as most of the others here.
- Kawhi and Durant again rate as hyper efficient. Kawhi really made strides in his shoulder dislodge dribble step-back move in the post, which is virtually unblockable with his length and the ground he covers fading away.
- George and Butler are considered by some “power wings”, of which the definition differs by the source (some designate a power wing based on ability to play the 4). Both players can play the 4 defensively, but neither player is a high usage post player who can score through/over defenders as opposed to getting around players off the bounce. Butler is more adept there having shown that ability in the past.
2015/16 Regular Season Durant Shot Chart
- Durant is the best 3 level scorer in the game who can beat you in any phase. His finishing acumen is (perhaps quietly?) in the elite percentile.
2015/16 Regular Season Kawhi Shot Chart
- Kawhi is most similar to Durant in being a 3 level hyper efficient scorer but doesn’t have Durant’s fluidity with the ball as an on-ball player.
2015/16 Regular Season George Shot Chart
- George doesn’t get to the rim as much as the other players on this list, but takes a high volume of threes to compensate along with hitting in inordinate amount of long twos.
2015/16 Regular Season Butler Shot Chart
- Butler lives at the rim and the foul line, which in turn compensates for his lack of consistent range. He’s also adept in the midrange.
2015/16 Regular Season Melo Shot Chart
- Melo is in rarefied air as an elite midrange shooter/scorer that largely outweighs his finishing and range deficiencies.
2015/16 Regular Season Wiggins Shot Chart
- Wiggins, similar to Butler, lives at the rim and the foul line to generate points consistently, lacking the shooting ability and range to be a 3 level spacer yet.
2015/16 Regular Season Spot Up Playtype
- Kawhi’s shooting prowess is the second biggest outlier in the league currently (considering how he projected to shoot) behind Steph’s overall ridiculousness. The frequency and efficiency here is absurd.
- George and Durant are the two other elite off ball players, which makes them more conducive to playing next to another initiating perimeter player, for they pose almost the same threat both on and off ball. Melo is also an off ball shooting threat who has gravitational pull on defenses.
- Wiggins and Butler are less impactful off ball, as neither are plus shooters. They can still do damage via flashing, but they aren’t the same two-way offensive forces as the others.
2015/16 Regular Season Off Screen Playtype
- Both George and Durant have the ability to shoot threes off the catch on screens on high usage, rendering them all around threats whenever they touch the floor. This component of Durant’s game is about to be unleashed on the Warriors, and I expect his efficiency here to blow up.
- Kawhi and Melo finish far less plays off screens but sport elite efficiency. Butler is in a similar mold attempts wise but with less efficiency as the inferior shooter.
- The Wolves ran Wiggins off screens far more than the eye test signaled last year, likely mostly on pindowns for long twos where his efficiency suffered.
D.Creation for Others/Getting to the Foul Line
2015/16 Regular Season Ass/USG Ratio & FTr
- Ass/USG: As introduced in the category 1 section, the context for the ass/usg stat is any ass/usg ratio at 1 or over with a 25% usage rate or over is considered elite. Here, Butler is damn close to both thresholds, to the extent it would be reasonable to place him in category 1. I’m just not sold on his ability to be essentially the single all-around creator, and he’s not going to get that chance with Rondo and Wade in the fold. Durant’s and Melo’s metrics are also fairly close here, as the latter experienced his best passing season of his career last season. Both are still more scorers than primary initiators, with Durant never filling that role/will never fill that role on the Warriors and Melo’s late career passing not being especially reflective of his entire career. This stat does a nice job with Kawhi, who is hyper efficient in basically every scoring category but he doesn’t create offense at high usage for others yet (a byproduct of both handling and passing on the move). Wiggins never projected to be a primary initiator, and at this juncture he creates inefficiently (outside of post ups & the foul line) only for himself.
- FTr: To avoid overabundance of chart use I included FTr here as well. Every one of these players gets to the line at a healthy rate. Butler has made a career out of it, and drawing fouls is 1 component of 3 keeping Wiggins relevant as a player currently.
2015/16 Regular Season DBPM (Wings, Non Inclusive)
2015/16 Regular Season DRPM (ESPN SFs)
- Not much to exaggerate on here, as the order is essentially what you’d expect from the eye test. Durant can really defend when engaged, though Butler is probably the more consistent defender. Kawhi is the best defensive player in basketball. George is damn solid. Melo is the one consistent negative, and Wiggins has been a negative up to this point. We’ll see if Thibs can have a positive influence there.
- Being at least passable on both ends is a huge plus for wings. It’s difficult to spend maximum energy on defense when the offensive usage is so high for these players, and the fact most remain pluses brings immense value, especially in the playoffs with more limited tradeoffs.
II. College Indicators/Translations
- Positional size matters immensely for wings, and all of these players check the 6’6″-6’8″ height box (with Durant and Ingram possessing outlier height). Durant and Kawhi have outlier length, while the latter has some of the biggest hands in the league. Only Butler has a negative length indicator with a rare negative height/wingspan ratio.
- In terms of athletic testing, notice Durant’s (notable at the time) and Kawhi’s lackluster no step vert numbers (also Durant’s lackluster agility score). Both are aided on the court by their length, and both have better on court athleticism than their testing indicated. This is part of the reason I’m dubious on athletic testing scores at the combine. It doesn’t always translate to a 5 on 5 setting.
2.40 Minutes Pace Adjusted
- Durant: Durant had a generational scoring profile, with elite marks in points and scoring efficiency (3s and FTs). He also threw in outlier steal and block numbers for a wing, buttressed by his outlier size/length. Overall, his only negative indicator in his profile was his creation for others. Even his rebounding was outlier elite and suggested in conjunction with his size he could man the four spot at the next level.
- Leonard: Similar to Millsap looking at Kawhi’s college profile doesn’t do his current form in an outlier organization development wise any justice. He scored above average at SDSU, but his 3pt% on healthy attempts as well as non-inspiring 2pt% didn’t suggest he could shoot at the elite level he is now. If there was ever an example of giving FT% on legitimate volume more attention, it was probably in Kawhi’s case. Symbolic of his athleticism, Kawhi posted some of the best rebounding numbers in DX’s database for wings, definitely suggesting four potential. His block and steal numbers were solid, but probably not what you’d expect in retrospect. The assists were also quietly solid.
- George: George had a fantastic profile without any negative outliers. He took a ton of threes and his freshman year he made an outlier %. Even when his shooting from the floor decreased his Sophomore year his FT% skyrocketed. He was overall a good bet to shoot it well with range, and he showed above average to outlier good metrics in assists. He had two elite steal marks and two solid block seasons, rendering him a plus two-way prospect. George was viewed as a raw prospect at Fresno State but he checked every box you’d look for from an elite wing.
- Butler: After transferring to Marquette Butler had a mixed first season in less PT with negative outliers as a passer and scorer. Butler was a mixed bag in terms of shooting with limited 3pt attempts, but his FT% was consistently solid with absurdly high volume. Similar to Kawhi, Butler’s FT shooting indicator was likely overlooked. The rest of his profile rated from average to above average.
- Anthony: Leading Syracuse to a national championship as a Freshman, Melo’s counting stats as a scorer and rebounder were outlier elite, and given his physical tools he projected to be a generational scorer. He was basically solid across the board otherwise, with his defense being difficult to assess in Syracuse’s zone scheme.
- Ingram: Often compared to Durant stylistically, Ingram had nowhere near the same profile. He sported an elite 3pt% on high attempts with plus overall scoring, but a negative 2pt% and below average FT% called into question his pure shooting ability. His assists were solid, as perhaps Ingram’s most underrated attribute is his feel for the game. He did have solid defensive numbers, albeit he wasn’t a plus rebounder.
- Wiggins: Wiggins was average to above average in every category, and barely passed the negative outlier threshold in assists. The fact he didn’t do one thing in plus fashion was a concern for a #1 overall pick, though Wiggins was pretty clearly drafted there primarily for athletic upside.
- Durant: Durant’s self creation efficiency and foul drawing metrics were solid, but he’s the only player on this list with negative A/FGA and A/TO ratios, rendering it reasonable to question his creation for others at the next level.
- Leonard: Leonard was an outlier poor shooter from the floor in college, but did have two plus decision-making seasons.
- George: George took a high volume of threes with corresponding plus percentages without any negative outliers in his profile, again calling into question how he fell to 10th overall.
- Butler: Butler’s ability to get to the line was amongst the best all time for wings in DX’s database. He also posted elite TS% marks and consistently outlier elite A/TO marks, showing his hyper efficient decision-making (mostly reflecting lack of turnovers).
- Anthony: Melo’s scoring efficiency profile was consistently above average, sporting no extreme numbers.
- Ingram: Ingram was very similar to Melo except he took more threes.
- Wiggins: Similar to Butler, Wiggins’ prowess for getting to the foul line was apparent in elite fashion. Other than that, he didn’t sport a plus indicator, and his A/TO mark was right on the precipice of outlier poor.
- A key component to projecting a primary scorer, George, Durant, Leonard, Melo and Ingram all had elite usage rates as primary wing scorers in college, making that transition easier to project. Wiggins was right on the border of elite usage, and the only player who didn’t have a significant plus usage mark was Butler (who had other promising indicators).
- High Scoring + Efficiency On High Usage
- Range Prowess
- Foul Drawing
- Plus Defensive Profile
- Plus Rebounder
- First Contract Translation: Starter, All-Star yrs 3-4 (AS Every Yr Since)
- Above Average Scoring On High Usage
- Elite Rebounding
- Playmaking Indicators
- Above Average Defensive Profile
- First Contract Translation: Starter (All-Star Yr 5)
- High Volume + Efficient Floor Spacing
- Plus Scoring on High Usage
- Playmaking Indicators
- Elite Defensive Profile
- First Contract Translation: Starter Yr 2, All-Star Yrs 3-4 (AS Yr 6)
- Elite Foul Drawing
- Plus Decision-Making Metrics
- Range Potential
- Above Average Defensive Profile
- First Contract Translation: Rotation Yrs 1-2, Starter Yr 3, All-Star Yr 4 (AS Yr 5)
- Plus Scoring on High Usage
- Plus Rebounding
- Range Potential
- Playmaking Indicators
- First Contract Translation: Starter, All-Star Yr 4 (9 time AS)
- Elite Foul Drawing
- Lackluster Creation For Others/Decision-Making
- First Contract Translation: Starter
- All-Star/Title Contending Holy Grail Archetype: Every one of these players outside of Wiggins (which is premature now in his 3rd year) was an all-star in their first 5 seasons. Noncoincidentally, every player has also been to at least the second round of the playoffs, with everyone but Wiggins and Butler getting to the conference finals. Wings with the positional size, athleticism and scoring/self creation prowess are one of the surest and fastest ways to landing a star caliber player.
- Importance of FT% on High Attempts as Shooting Indicator: Both Leonard and Butler had a respectable FT% on legitimate and elite attempts respectively, and especially in Butler’s case, more attention should have been afforded his proficiency there relative to his overall shooting ability. Merely looking at 3pt attempts or 3pt% doesn’t paint the entire story.
- Situational Outliers?: I think it’s fair to chalk up Kawhi as being partly a byproduct of the Spursian organizational outlier with shooting coach Chip Engelland especially. It was probably reasonable to expect success given his tools and profile, but Kawhi developing into a two-way efficiency monster and top 5 player in the league is one of the most incredible developments of the last decade. Butler’s development as a playmaker was also outlier-esque, but there were indicators there, especially in regards to decision-making, that when paired with his physical tools should have been afforded more credit. It wasn’t absolutely unreasonable to expect this outcome.
Next Up: Category 3 Wings: Secondary Two-Way Playmakers
Stats provided by NBA.Com, ESPN.Com, Draftexpress.Com, Sports-Reference.Com, Hoop-Math.Com and Basketball-Reference.Com