Marius’ Scouting Notebook – March 2021

Photo: ACB

The Versatile Shooting of Yotam Hanochi

Almost all of the excellent shooters in the list above are guards or wings in smaller international leagues. Yotam Hanochi stands out immediately as a 6’8″ forward, who is producing these numbers in Israel’s Ligat ha’Al, which was recently rated one of the ten best leagues in Europe by the German basketball magazine FIVE, and the Balkan International Basketball League. He has never been quite that efficient from beyond the arc, but he’s been in the mid-thirties for years now, which indicates that he really is an excellent shooter. Most stretch-4’s at that age can effectively knock down spot-up-threes from a standstill, but Hanochi can do so much more than that.

He has a very quick release, which allows him to shoot over hard closeouts, and he shows comfort shooting with forward momentum and out of compromised stances with imperfect energy transfer throughout the lower body. This gives him tremendous versatility as he can quickly pull up under pressure, in PnP and as the trailer in early offense. And despite a rather difficult shot diet from downtown, he converts these shots at a high clip, which makes him one of the best tall shooting prospects of his generation alongside talents like Henri Drell, Nikita Mikhailovskii and Vrenz Bleijenbergh.

Hanochi still has several areas for growth – on the season, he’s shooting 21-63 (33.3%) from two-point range, 17-40 (42.5%) at the basket and 5-30 (16.7%) on post-ups (via InStat) – but his sublime shooting is a great base to build on. Over the next couple of years, he should add counters to capitalize even better on his shooting ability. He has the fluidity to attack the hard closeouts he generates on the perimeter, and he can vastly increase his offensive effectiveness if he adds footwork patterns to get into better scoring positions on his drives and utilizes more pump fakes to create better looks for himself and others.

Josh Giddey’s Defensive Court Vision and Hand-Eye Coordination

Through six games in the NBL, Josh Giddey only collected four steals and blocked two shots in total. Since then, these numbers have increased tremendously: In his last eight games, he’s averaging 1.9 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. While Giddey’s main appeal is passing ability at his size, he’s also shown some promising signs as a team defender, which are worth detailing. Giddey’s best defensive skills, not counting his physical tools, are his court vision and hand-eye coordination. He reads the game on a similar level defensively as he does on offense, quickly recognizing the trajectories of passes and often successfully swooping in for steals, and doing it without risking complete defensive breakdowns if he can’t gain possession.

His hand-eye coordination is particularly noticeable on his blocked shots as he does a tremendous job hitting all ball and avoiding unnecessary fouls. This skill can also be observed when he swipes at the ball from behind after he’s beaten on the perimeter. While that has some value, these situations occur way too often as he’s often tasked with defending smaller players on the perimeter, and he just doesn’t have the lateral quickness to compete with athletes like Yudai Baba or Didi Louzada. He occasionally has decent moments against lesser shooters, where he can defend one step further back and has more time to react to the offensive player’s moves.

A similar phenomenon can be observed with his off-ball screen defense. He might not have the elite quickness of some guards and wings, but this gives him more time to pick up visual cues from the screener’s positioning – quicker players can sometimes struggle with decision making on both ends, because their feet are too fast for their perception -, which, combined with good screen maneuvering technique, allows him to make up valuable milliseconds in the race around the screens. And when his man receives a pass coming off those screens, he has the size and length to make shots difficult even if he’s a step behind.

While he’s had good moments as an off-ball defender, he still has plenty of room to improve, in terms of physicality, execution of the rotation patterns of professional basketball and the ability to see man and ball at the same time. Nevertheless, he’s shown this season that he has the chance to bring value on the defensive end with his size, length and various perceptual skills, even if his lack of fast-twitch athleticism should prevent him from becoming a high-impact defender. He’ll initially struggle with the physicality of the NBA, though he has already made a big step strength-wise, but there’s a way of him eventually becoming a passable defender, who might only defend lesser (in terms of offensive ability and athleticism) perimeter players, but can cause some havoc off the ball and effectively use his tools to help his team.

Yannick Nzosa’s Development Situation

Yannick Nzosa has exceeded all expectations in his first professional season in Malaga, contributing regular rotation minutes to a EuroCup team and already establishing himself as one of the better defensive bigs in the ACB. It’s widely assumed that he’ll spend next season in Spain as well before entering the 2022 NBA Draft, which prompts the question what his next season will look like. Defensively, he’s already playing the role he’ll play in the NBA, the one of a primary rim protector and PnR defender, but his offensive role is mostly limited to setting screens – though he’s so active in that regard that it sometimes feels like he sets about four screens a possession – and rolling to the basket. Almost all of his field goal attempts have been dunks/layups as the roll-man or after offensive rebounds.

Yannick Nzosa’s 20/21 Shot Chart as of March 10, 2021 via InStat

At the youth level and in rare moments in the ACB, however, he’s shown potential to be more than just a play-finisher. He’s had impressive flashes attacking from the perimeter, displaying exceptional fluidity for a teenager of his size and the ability to handle the ball on straight-line drives. Additionally, his free-throw percentage of 73.1% for the season, admittedly on only 26 attempts, and the three midrange jump shots he’s converted recently hint at shooting potential.

This is a common issue. Nzosa is good enough to contribute at the ACB/EuroCup level right now and this experience against high-level competition should be tremendous for his long-term ability as a rim protector and PnR defender. But for a professional team like Malaga winning is the main goal, which gives their players little margin for error. In Nzosa’s case, this means he doesn’t get chances to experiment with skills he might develop in the future, like perimeter self-creation or jump shooting, which could potentially hamper his long-term potential in these areas. Another example would be Usman Garuba, who has been getting EuroLeague reps on the defensive end since he was 17, but spends most of his time on offense stationary in the corner. This is not the fault of their teams – Real Madrid in particular is way better at incorporating young players into the first team than most other professional teams – but rather a consequence of the nature of professional basketball.

These kinds of developmental situations are excellent for raising the floor of a young player, but they aren’t perfect for reaching their ceilings. In an ideal world, players like Nzosa would play for a high-level professional team and an amateur team with a developmental focus at the same time – German teams do this really well – but this is not the case with Nzosa. At least, there has been a slight uptick in self-creation and jump shooting opportunities for Nzosa in recent weeks, so it’ll be interesting to track whether that trend will continue and how much, if at all, his role changes in the upcoming season.

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