Jean Montero – Preseason Scouting Report

Background

Vitals
Age (DOB)18.3 (07-03-2003)
NationalityDominican Republic
Height6’2”
Wingspan6’4”
TeamTeam Gomes (Overtime Elite)

Jean Montero put himself on the map as one one of the earliest stand outs in the 2022 High School class after two solid performances in the 2017 FIBA U16 Americas Championship and the subsequent 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup. In both tournaments Montero was one of the youngest players in attendance, competing against players two years older than him.

His definite breakthrough would come in the summer of 2019. After spending time at DME Academy in Florida the previous year, Montero led the Dominican Republic to a third-place finish in the FIBA U16 Americas Championship of that year putting on absurd numbers and record-breaking performances, such as his his 49-point, 12-rebound, 6-steal game against Argentina. His average of 30.3 points per game put him a full 7.5 points ahead of Caleb Houston’s 22.8 points per game, which is the second best historical mark in the tournament.

(via RealGM)

Later that summer, Montero would also dominate AAU competition in the 15U division of Nike Peach Jam. Still unranked by domestic recruiting services by that point, Montero left the US before they had the time to correct, as he accepted an offer from Spanish side Gran Canaria; he would then spend the next two seasons as the core player of one of the premiere junior teams in Europe.

With seemingly little opportunity to play for the senior team this 2021-22 season, Gran Canaria and Montero reached an agreement for the Dominican Guard to spend next year playing in the inaugural season of Overtime Elite.

Shooting

After shooting an impressive 43.5% from three-point range on 4.2 attempts per game during the 2019-20 LEB Plata season for Gran Canaria, Montero’s shooting percentages took a considerable dive in the 2020-21 season, where he shot 30.1% on 6.1 attempts per game.

In order to fully understand the percentages. we need to start with his shooting profile. Montero and his perimeter self-creation abilities were heavily relied upon by Gran Canaria last season and a large portion of his three-point attempts required either previous dribbling or off-ball movement: according to InStat, only 24.4% of Montero’s three-point attempts were categorized in the catch-and-shoot playtype. Just to put his self-creation load in perspective, in the 2020-21 NBA Season only six players had less than 24.4% of their three-point attempts coming from playtypes other than catch-and-shoot according to NBA.com: James Harden, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Trae Young, Damian Lillard and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Montero wouldn’t have been relied upon so heavily by his team if he wasn’t a versatile shooter. Montero combines touch and footwork to convert shots off the dribble, both using screens to clear space (which makes him a threat as a pick-and-roll ball-handler) and in ISO situations where he’s able to size up opponents and convert shots out of rhythm.

This versatility also goes for his off-the-catch opportunities, where he’s able to quickly get to his spots, catch on the hop and shoot with little time and against heavy defensive pressure.

When it comes to mechanics, Montero’s off-the-catch motion reads like a checklist of things you like to see on a jumper. Montero staggers his feet, keeps his balance on the jump fully extending his body, has an excellent followthrough, keeps his upper body compact and he’s consistent with a jumper that has seen hours upon hours of work and repetition at the gym.

Obviously, there’s always things to improve and Montero should probably aim to develop a quicker release that allows him to get his shot off against NBA level defenders on closeouts. Montero should also continue to extend his range, as of right now, Montero is more comfortable from FIBA range, as shots that require more power can cause his knees to aggressively bend inwards in order to gain said power, which can lead to problems with balance and generate left/right variance on his results.

All these mechanical concerns however, are somewhat minor and can all be worked upon before Montero reaches the NBA. There’s nothing inherently broken with Montero’s shooting mechanics, and as of late I’m more and more inclined to believe that it’s borderline useless to put too much stock on shooting mechanics analysis when players seem to tweak them every summer in order to make their shot better.

How will Montero fare as a shooter at the NBA level? If we would just rely on shooting percentages there would be a real cause for concern, but with shooting being the most volatile skill in terms of translation between competition levels, we need to look beyond the percentages in order to project a player as a shooter at the NBA level (or any level of competition for that matter). Statistical output matters but so do mechanics, shooting versatility and touch. The percentages weren’t there this season for Montero, but the volume, touch, versatility and tough shot-making were. These indicators suggest that Montero should develop into a versatile and competent shooter at the NBA level.

Driving

Despite not having an incredibly quick first step, Montero is prolific at getting by his primary defender in the perimeter with his combination of ball-handling ability and body control. Montero is able to flow between different dribble moves (crossovers, changes of direction and one of the most convincing in-and-out moves among international prospects), which he uses effectively to get his defender off-balance.

Once Montero gets by his man on the perimeter, he uses his body control to shift directions and navigate tight spaces with the ball in his hands. Montero is not easily rattled by pressure or traffic as he always seems to have a counter to what defenders throw at him on his way to the rim. He is incredibly deceptive in terms of changing directions, where he shows solid footwork to fool defenders and create space on his way to the rim.

Montero is clearly limited by his size as a finisher at the rim, but he does compensate to some degree with his incredible finishing ability against contact. In these situations Montero is able to put his high level of touch on full display.

While Montero has an undeniable ability to initiate and to finish drives despite his limitations in terms of size and explosiveness, it’s what happens in the middle stages of his drives that are the area for concern.

After getting by his primary defender, it can be difficult for Montero to gain momentum on his way to the rim with his second and third steps, which leaves the door open for his man to recover and contest the shot at the rim, forcing Montero to either pick up his dribble and force a floater or to take tough shots at the rim. This is especially noticeable when he drives right, as he’s a bit more agile going to his left, but not to a degree where this is a non-issue.

Montero has incredible tools and skills in this area with his ball-handling ability and his touch at the rim, but it’s still a concern that he’s forced to use those tools in order to be effective as a driver, especially considering the level of competition he’s facing in these clips.

Some of these woes will be mitigated as Montero continues to grow into his body and gain weight, which should undoubtedly make him an even more reliable finisher at the rim, but the lack of elite explosiveness is a reality and it will certainly be a factor into how much pressure he can put against an NBA defense.

A potential avenue for Montero to be effective as a driver at the NBA is to continue to maximize his opportunities as a screen-assisted driver. In these situations, Montero appears to be more comfortable gaining momentum and getting to the rim with a head of steam. Considering his ability to shoot off the dribble and punish defenders for going under, his screen-assisted drives might be yet another weapon which forces defenders to play both the shot and the drive. In order for this to be a credible weapon at the next level, Montero will also need to be more consistent about making the right decisions as he drives to the rim.

Passing vs. Tunnel Vision

One of the most consistent criticisms levied at Montero is that he projects more as an undersized scoring guard than as a “traditional” point guard, two archetypes that are perceived to be in completely different ends of the spectrum when it comes to projected NBA value. This criticism, does have its merits, but in my opinion it has little to do with his capabilities and a whole lot to do with his tendencies and the decisions he makes with the ball in his hands.

Throughout his breakout performances at FIBA competitions back in 2018 and 2019, Montero’s approach to passing was simple but effective, as he was able to make sound decisions with the ball in his hands and create open shots for teammates both in transition and half-court drives. Montero took full advantage of his scoring gravity, exploiting help defenders with simple reads and deliveries while showing enough flashes of reactive passing to make me buy into his potential as an initiator.

Montero has displayed steady improvement and added more advanced reads and deliveries in the following years. Last season Montero was especially impressive when finding cutters and delivering the ball with bounce passes through traffic or with long range passes from the perimeter through the top of the defense.

One of the holes in Montero’s tape from last season was the lack of pick-and-roll passing executions, something that correlates with the stat sheet, across the 17 games of the 2020-21 season that were tracked by InStat, Montero took 87 field goals out of pick-and-roll plays against just 10 assists made (6 to the roll-man, 4 in pick-and-pops). There is potential in this area however, as he has shown reactiveness as a passer and enough moments as a pick-and-roll initiator this season to buy into his potential to grow in this particular area. Some of the early tape from scrimmages at OTE seem to show an emphasis on Montero acting as a pick-and-roll passing, something that he certainly didn’t have last season at Gran Canaria.

Once Montero goes into “scoring mode”, which happens often after he’s able to clear space by using a screen, it seems difficult for him to snap out of it and go back to being a facilitator. There is a level of premeditation in his intention to score which opponents can quickly pick up on in order to successfully defend him; after all it’s infinitely easier to defend a one-threat player than a two-threat player.

These decision making lapses don’t only extend to the shoot-or-pass type of decisions, but also to the this-shot-or-that-shot type. Montero doesn’t seem to be fully there in terms of adjusting on the fly and taking what the defense gives him, premeditating shot decisions that lead him into taking ill-advised jumpers despite the defender getting right in his face, or settling for jumpers off the dribble despite having a nearly open lane.

To be fair to Montero, a good number of these tough, ill-advised shots do end up going in just due to his aforementioned touch and ability to make tough shots both in the perimeter and in the paint. The shotmaking won’t be a concern for Montero and the advanced reads and deliveries won’t be either. The biggest thing to monitor is how Montero will be able to process the game as he moves and how he’s able to read defenders and adjust accordingly.

As someone who has consistently stressed the importance of not penalizing NBA prospects for having a scoring mentality and for being willing to shoot, as opposed to the pass-first-second-and-third virus that seems to afflict a number of (generally) European initiators, it’s a bit hypocritical from me to criticize a prospect for doing just that, but my point is that there’s a balance that I think Montero has yet to strike between his scoring and passing instincts.

It’s hard to be a positive NBA contributor as a pass-first player when you lack a certain level of scoring gravity, but the opposite is also true; It’s already difficult for defenders to be prepared to defend Montero’s drives and jumpers, it will be even harder for them if they also have to play the pass. Passing gravity is necessary because it makes it easier for a scorer to, well, score.

Defense

Standing at 6’2” with a fairly skinny 172lbs frame and lacking an elite level of lower body strength, Montero has been limited to defending opposing Point Guards throughout his stay at Gran Canarias, and it’s fair to project this as his most likely defensive role at the NBA level.

In the perimeter, Montero makes an impact as an event creator. As evidenced by the 2.8 steals per 36 minutes he put up on the 2020-21 season, Montero is able to use his combination of length and quickness to create deflections and come up with steals. Montero’s quick hands allow him to not only pick errant passes but also to put pressure on ball-handlers and pick the ball right out of their pockets.

Montero is not exactly a shutdown perimeter defender, lacking enough lateral quickness to keep opponents in front at all times and having trouble going through screens as a ball-defender in the pick-and-roll. His engagement will be the swing here, as staying focused and in a stance will be necessary to maximize his impact in drive coverage and pick-and-roll defense.

The biggest area for improvement on defense is his focus and discipline off-the-ball. Montero has a tendency to get caught ball-watching and to gravitate towards the rim when he’s not defending the ball, which leads to open shots for opponents as he tends to lose his defensive assignment in the process. Being disciplined, staying with his man and developing a better sense of timing when it comes to defensive helps from the perimeter will be one of the clear areas for improvement moving forward.

NBA Projection

Let’s look at the impact that players 6’3” or smaller made in the NBA during the 2020-21 season. I’m setting 6’3” as a height cut-off for players that, just like Montero, are generally tasked with defending just one position at the NBA level — yes, I know there are cases for versatile defenders that are 6’3” or shorter but they are rare and don’t really apply to Montero’s overall archetype.

Among the players that made the height cutoff, our good friends at Cerebro Sports identified 19 of them who ranked in the upper 20% of NBA 2020-21 season performers by their C-RAM metric.

Cerebro also details five different skills represented in the columns to the right of C-RAM, which are graded on a 0-100 scale; 60 is good, 80 is very good, 100+ is historically good. In this exercise, I’m going to focus on the three most relevant skills for Montero’s projection: PSP (a metric for volume scoring while maintaining efficiency), 3PE (a metric for three-point efficiency) and FGS (a passing metric). For a deeper explanation of both C-RAM and the five skill metrics, you can visit Cerebro’s analytics glossary.

From the 19 players in that upper 20% of NBA performers, 18 of them graded at 70 or more in at least two of the three categories mentioned, with the only exception being TJ McConnell, who despite not grading well in the scoring or three-point metrics, he graded as an 85+ in both the passing and defensive metrics.

All of this to say: it’s nearly impossible to be 6’3” or smaller and be within that tier of high-impact players without being excellent, maybe even a specialist in multiple offensive areas.

All indicators point to Montero becoming a versatile and consistent shooter at the NBA level, there’s even an avenue where he becomes elite, which will depend on potential improvements to his shot selection and minimal tweaks to his shot mechanics. Projecting him as an elite driver however is less likely considering his inability to explode at an elite level both vertically and horizontally on his way to the rim, which leads to him relying on tough, low efficiency shots to make an impact.

If the “magic number” is indeed two when it comes to offensive areas of specialization required to be in that tier of high-impact players at the NBA level, then passing and decision making are going to be effectively his swing skills.

The big question for Montero, entering the inaugural season of OTE is if the change of scenery will help him to find the balance between calling his own number and involving teammates. The answer to this question is not likely to change my mind about the fact that Montero is clearly an NBA player, between the aforementioned shooting ability, the touch at the basket that will help him compensate for the lack of explosiveness and the defensive contributions as an event creator in the perimeter, he does a number of things that are valuable at varying degrees at the NBA level.

It does, however, change his projected impact at the NBA level. If by the end of the season we have a clear projection on just how much of an impact he can make as a floor general, it means that we’re also going to have more clarity on a question even bigger than those we have made so far: Is Montero destined for that elite-impact tier? Or does he top out at whatever is below it?

This is the type of question that can cause a variance of twenty-draft spots.

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