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The Archetype: Dribble/Pass/Shoot Wings
Jalen Williams, Christian Braun, Malaki Branham, Bennedict Mathurin & Blake Wesley
The Archetype: Dribble/Pass/Shoot Wings
Everywhere you look in the playoffs, it’s wings. Wings, wings, wings, tall wings, shooting wings, creator wings, defense 1st wings, strong wings - it’s the direction of the game to get as many skilled wings on the floor as possible. Today we will be looking at a specific wing archetype that is a pathway for teams who are trying to pack a lineup with wings: what we will call dribble/pass/shoot wings. Dribble/pass/shoot is a broad archetype, in terms of outcomes, presentation and volume of players that can be classified as such - think of it as an outgrowth of the 3&D archetype, into a more adaptable category of player that’s harder to play off the floor. 3&D is inflexible, it does what it says on the tin - they shoot & they defend, sometimes more than that, but never less. What of the wing players with more connective elements in their game, those aren’t as suited to being planted in the deep corners & watered with kickouts occasionally? When thinking about dribble/pass/shoot (D/P/S) wings, think less about the simple 3&D idea and more towards 3&D+ a fuzzier idea that allows for different pathways for success, different skillsets and different challenges to find situational success.
Before we dive into the group we have, there are two quick ideas to clean up: identification & optimization.
The first, identification, is defined by at the thresholds of the archetype - at the low end there are 4A players - those guys who are good at a bunch of different stuff but lack the one real NBA skill to stick or don’t quite have that compelling case for development that will limit how much organizational investment are spent on their early career. There are many players who fall below the broad skill floor (failing at multiple elements of the dribble/pass/shoot idea, even fractionally) or those who are fall below specifically, (most often this is in the shooting). On the other end of the spectrum are players that are primary bets, or are specialists-in-training. You have to build a system that can catch possible dribble/pass/shoot bets, but not accept straight up limited players in need of extensive specific development, need to catch upside or specialist bets, but not be so lenient that pure snipers are asked to run 2nd side PNRs they are totally unqualified for. I've used the Cerebro metrics to build a good baseline query - NCAA players at least 6’5 who scored 60 in PSP, 70 in 3PE, 55 in FGS, 55 in BMS, and 70+ in DSI & a 18 usage. It’s not the lowest bar, with 35 players in D-1 qualifying, many not entering into the draft or existing beyond the thresholds of our archetypal view. Let’s look at some historical examples who qualified & see if the reputation lines up with our general idea of them as prospects.
Franz Wagner, So, Michigan, 2021
Moses Moody, Fr, Arkansas, 2021
Desmond Bane, Sr, TCU, 2020
Keldon Johnson, Fr, Kentucky, 2019
Chuma Okeke, So, Auburn, 2019
That should generally scan as a overall idea. Alright, so maybe adding Bane was cheating! But it brings us to point #2 - optimization. This draft is less talented than the average draft, with an entire pathway (upside swings on best talent available) that are is just not a reasonable process given the shape of the talent pool. This means that this will be a draft of fit, of pairing players with org’s developmental strengths, and of understanding how to best return value among similarly talented players. That idea is most clear within this archetype.
Dribble/pass/shoot has become an extremely valuable archetype, and that value is tied to the challenges of unique application & team specific role valuation. Bane is an representation that with strong enough connective skills (I thought he was non-Hali/Melo live passer in this class), an insane shooter can stay in the D/P/S archetype as long as they are in a context that can get similar value out of their positive ancillary skills & their singular elite skill. There are situations that would have asked Bane to only do shooter stuff, unwisely, but that may explain how he lasted til pick 30 in his draft. There are players that are more jack-of-all-tradesy that can similar outsized value but need a totally different setup than the one that Bane was drafted into. There are scale down and scale up candidates within this archetype, players who are more embryonic developmentally in a skill or use & there are older guys who (broadly) are what they are, all requiring different situations. This is the biggest difference between 3&D and D/P/S as a framework - the nuance of the success conditions. 3&D makes things so black and white - make shots or don’t, defend this matchup or fail. D/P/S wings have taken a ton of different routes to find successful wings that all have similar enough skillsets to be grouped together, but have enough differences that tailoring is needed to optimize the pick. Organization only have to look at the past 5 drafts to see franchise changing outcomes by selecting within this archetype & fitting them into a larger scheme.
Look at 5 players who represent 5 different expressions and value plays within the dribble/pass/shoot archetype -
Bennedict Mathurin, So, Arizona - scalable shooter
After his freshman season at Zona, Mathurin was a draft twitter favorite - shooting 52/42/85 62.5 TS% with good passing, steal and turnover numbers on low usage will do that. The central idea was that Mathurin was a currently effective off-ball option, with the projection to become an on-ball creator. After Mathurin tested the waters, his sophomore season didn’t bear out that particular promise. Mathurin developed along a different, less usage heavy line within this dribble/pass/shoot archetype, into a scalable shooter. It doesn’t come as a surprise that of our 5 man group, Mathurin is far and away the best performer in 3PE at 81.
Mathurin’s freshman shooting season has some elements that seem a bit unsustainable, shooting over 40% from deep (91a), at 8 3s per 100 possessions, 48.7 3Pr & then he broadly replicated it on a much larger sample as a sophomore. 37.2% (223a), 10.2 3s, 46.2 3pr, with dips in other areas across a much larger sample, but the shooting proven to be very real. There may be some concerns about the 5% dropoff from freshman to sophomore year, (he is at 38.5% career at Arizona), but that can chalked to the variance inherit to taking more difficult shots - running more off screen actions, taking a 65/35 guarded/unguarded split on C&S & taking a larger percentage of shots OTD than as a freshman. As a kicker, Mathurin shot 26% on unguarded CNS 3s, after shooting 43% as a freshman. I really liked Mathurin’s multiple footwork combinations to get into his jumpe, taking R/L or hop as needed for any particular shot. Mathurin has an easy stroke with allowances for different shot types & he is able to get square and gets it out of his hand quickly on pindowns and flares. There is more comfort on the hop, with more of his bad misses coming from picking the wrong footwork and losing stability. There will be a need to work on the balance on his landings, at times he can over tilt and land out of control. One of the commonalities between the connective wings (Mathurin & Braun) is how well suited they were to their college systems - esp with Mathurin & the movement heavy system of new look Arizona. The gravity generated as a movement shooter really pressurizes a defense and makes his cutting even more effective. It comes mostly as a backdoor cutter against pressure, but it stands out as his highest playtype PPP (1.4!) for 5+% of usage, 54 poss in total.
The handle development, on the other hand did not make the leap, if it had Mathurin would be in a different archetype with a totally different group of prospects. As it stands, the handle and off the bounce creation cannot support a primary usage & relegated Mathurin to more of an off ball role. It’s a one cut handle built on acceleration, with the trouble coming when Mathurin had to creatively control in small spaces at multiple paces in halfcourt offense. It’s a big space handle, with great acceleration in straight lines - but mediocre pathing, blocky movement, and mixed results with his sells. Having ball-in-hand really limits his athleticism & processing skills, and in looking at his playtype data it’s notable that PNR was his lowest PPP of any playtype with 30+ possessions - .776 PPP on 134 possessions. The worst overall, isolation, at .421 PPP on just 19 possessions. Now, 19 possessions is so little that the actual PPP is irrelevant, not being tasked with more of a creation duties does speak to coaching staff decisions and insight into the optimal usage for the Canadian wing.
Instead of using extra possessions on PNR or other creation types, Mathurin’s handling troubles moved him into more of an off-guard/wing role, where he absolutely feasted as a transition threat. It’s the most common playtype usage (22%) for Mathurin & at 1.23 PPP is a wonderful source of offense. This feasting in transition, comes through Mathurin’s consistent sprinting as a lane filler, this is where many of Mathurin’s 38 dunks come from, as well as putting a different sort of pressure on transition defenses by hunting for hit-ahead 3s.
Mileage is going to vary on skill improvement expectations, personally I find handle to be among the hardest skillset to develop to a level of NBA utility. Mathurin held a good usage (23.5) on off-ball actions, and as the season went on, the dervish of cuts and screens and empty corners PNR seemed to engender more patience into his playmaking - but it may be more of a feather in his cap than archetype re-alignment. The next step in Mathurin’s creation journey is finding more effective counters when he run off the line, he score .638 PPP on short and mid jumpers & .605 PPP on runners. Allowing Mathurin to do all the off-ball movement stuff, with some playmaking and then focus developmental attention to detail to the defensive side.
At 6’4.5 without shoes and a +4.5 WS, Mathurin has the physical upside to be a disruptive defender, this mostly shows up at as a point of attack defender. I think that there are really positive moments of rotational blocks (75 DSI), those moments are not commonplace. The lapses of defensive focus come often as he gets caught ball watching, in the exact sort of ways that Mathurin kills as an offensive player. The processing isn’t quick, the athleticism doesn’t always show up off ball/in help. As a POA, he has a broad profile of on-ball wings who he can slide with and make life hard on. Not a lockdown guy, but a good wing option to throw out or have lineup flexibility for switching schemes.
Jalen Williams, Jr, Santa Clara - Advantage creator
Williams has become the darling of the 2022 pre-draft cycle, going from an interesting wing to a potential lottery selection - between scout attention, a standout combine & posting outstanding combine measurements on record: 6'4.5 w/o shoes, 7'2.25 wingspan, (+9.75 WS), 8'9.5 standing reach. The Santa Clara product has the highest overall performer of the 5 by C-RAM. One of the reasons I love this grouping is that everyone here played a TON of minutes, each getting at least 29 mpg, even the unheralded freshman who had their roles evolve as the year went on. It’s great bc it makes their season stats less susceptible to small sample sizes or wishful projection of what would happen with a larger minutes load. There is another factor that has been an outside force propelling Williams’ rise, the lack of advantage creators within the draft pool. Teams have been for at least a year noting the weakness of the guards in this class, scouring this draft for any sleeper who could be able drive halfcourt offense & lo and behold, here is one emerging at just the right time. Williams represents the most likely primary creator of this group - be it in stretches with 2nd units, or as having more lineup dependent usages, flitting between secondary/tertiary duties as needed alongside multiple other ballhandlers.
Now, as a junior at Santa Clara in 21-22 we can see an interesting mix of role and efficiency - 60.7 TS% on 51/39/81 shooting and 25 usage. For mid major creators, there is an expected trade off when tasked with a massive decision making burden - this large role coming in an accepted exchange in a rise in turnovers, in % of offense made up of bad shots, or a drop in defensive energy. Williams generally shows none of those signs - he graded out the highest in 21-22 in PSP as well as FGS among our 5 wings, despite his primary creator status. Williams used 49% of his possessions (including passes) in the PNR - 1.04 PPP on over 352 total possessions, 89th percentile. Only 14 players in the NCAA had over 1 PPP and 300 PNR possessions, and only 3 (Jalen Cook of Tulane, Hunter Maldonado of Wyoming & AJ Green of UNI) were above Jalen Williams’ 1.04 PPP at such a volume.
What makes Williams so effective that he has separated himself from the pack as an advantage creator prospect - his patience. It starts with how he uses his bigger frame with his handle in the halfcourt, controlling tempo, with a well crafted but not necessarily explosive arsenal of hangs, smittys, twists and half backdowns to generate rotations and carve out space. Those angles can then be exploited as Williams sees over the defense and leverages his immense wingspan to create unexpected release angles on his passes or with extension finishes. As reader of the game, having established a laconic pace, Williams is a floor surveyor - he especially looks to early manipulate helpside to free up the roller on overhead looks, as the windows are closing. It’s a creation style that feels very grown up, rarely rushed, with all variety of escapes, jabs and pivots that can turn static possessions into positive looks. The handle can be big and sweeping, at this point in the cycle I think we have all seen the Chet clip on a nicely sold combo, but the off the bounce game is generally built on quick counters and big strides to make up for his lack of quickness and top end speed. Therein lies the concerns with Williams, how is it that a near 50/40/80 shooter who was one of the better primary playmakers in the country, play in a mid-major conference and end up with a usage closer to Christian Braun’s than to Blake Wesley’s.
That’s not to attribute a higher usage as inherently positive, it’s just that there is a bit of an incongruity of skills, situation and stats for Williams’ projection at the NBA level. The argument against Williams’ massive stock rise centers on the wingspan - this may sound a bit weird, if Williams is a great ballhandler, has the shooting skill commensurate with his career 35 3pt% & is overwhelming efficient, why does it not show up in the ways that most outlier wingspan guys do: in easy looks, in high free-throw rate & block/steal rates?
The simplest place to start on a deeper at the offensive creation numbers would be around the rim - Williams took 40% of his shots around the rim, converting 66% of them (1.25 PPP), was assisted on 35.5% of his makes at the rim & posted a 33 FTr. All these numbers are quite good, except for the volume and the self creation %, which is in the middle of our 5 man group - less than the freshman primaries Wesley (26.8% assisted ATR) & Branham (21.1% assisted ATR), but well clear of the more connective wings Mathurin (57.7% assisted ATR) & Braun (47.6% assisted ATR). Odd for such a good handler, but looking closer, there is a lack of simple halfcourt winning - often creating a half step of separation or will use final steps to time up goofy foot or extension finishes, but there is a theme of requiring craft to convert at a high level, which isn’t really in line with his physical tools.
The comfort for some of Williams other less-creation heavy outcomes, with less usage expectations or as a second side creator who would operate against more titled defenses - comes with the ease of adjustment for his rate stats. For a very good & versatile shooter, Williams took a lot less 3s than expected.(25.8 3PR), had a tougher average look (16.9% of shots out of C&S vs 29.4 OTS) & was used little off screens (2.9% of playtype). It’s encouraging that Williams got 1.2 PPP out his 3s, and it’s likely that Williams will use more of the actions that will establish advantages for Jalen to operate with to get an easier type of 3pt look, an easier pathway to advantage and less challenging finishes vs set defenses. Look for actions like Hand-Offs (59 poss), Cut (35 poss) & Off Screen (35 poss)to be a larger part of Williams’ playtype diet going forward. The upside being that a secondary creator who is a high level shooter, that can make smart decisions, can attack closeouts, has comfort against multiple PNR coverages & can craft finishes with touch - is a very valuable piece.
Christian Braun, Jr, Kansas - 2 way wing
Braun may be the clearest expression of the core part of this archetype - a usage capped wing who doesn’t take much off the table on either end. The role that Braun played on a very good Kansas team is very similar to the role that he is projected to play at the next level - to take some POA wing duties within the scheme, knock down shots at a high level & attack the corresponding closeouts. Similiar to Mathurin, there is a bit of the winnerman thing going on - players who have already fit into a cohesive and successful bigger picture to achieve success. This is the inverse of the upside play, both being narratives that have merit and need to be included. Winner is not always the sexiest sounding prospect pitch, a well rounded wing, but you already know that every team in the league is dying to get playoff contributing wings.
The label for a dribble/pass/shoot wing may be 3 things, but it does totally rely on the ability to shoot. If the dribbling fails, there are playtype options to adjust, if the passing isn’t real, there are lineups to still optimize the player, if the shooting fails… the whole thing crumbles. There is a primacy to shooting, and to shooting to a certain threshold that the playoffs reveal year after year as some wings become unplayable, and others earn outsized impact. The shooting is fascinating because there are so many ways to view it - he was hailed a knockdown shooter who attacked closeouts , and then expanded his game to do more than shoot, as the shooting fell off to a more reasonable 37.6 3P% on career 348 attempts. In that way, Braun’s shooting reputation is gonna depend on your priors - if you were familiar with HS Braun (44.1 % from 3 in EYBL) or FR Braun (45.6% on 68 3PA), it’s going to shade your perception on the past 2 years of shooting numbers & how you project his shooting going forward.
FR - 31-68, 45.6%, 7.2 3P/100, 56.2 3Pr
SO - 49-148, 33.1%, 9.4 3P/100, 63 3Pr
JR - 51-132, 38.6%, 5.5 3P/100, 31.6 3Pr
FR - 12 usage, 58.7 TS%, 73 3PE
SO - 16 usage, 52.6 TS%, 74 3PE
JR - 20 usage, 58.5 TS%, 72 3PE
It’s hard to find a clean through line, if I didn’t know it was the same player, I would assume these were 3 different players & the funny thing is they sort of are. Braun adapted year over year - becoming more of a dribble/pass guy and less of a one dimensional shooter. It makes sense why there is confusion how a junior with a jumper that looks so nice, and has a trademark fearlessness ends up with a 31.6 3PR. There is low-hanging fruit on his mechanics, esp the wrist/loading dip, and the shot allocation - Braun shot only 24 corner 3s on the year, which is going to be a huge part of his NBA shot diet.
If the shooting holds to the macro level, if Braun gets consistent hard closeouts to run him off the line, the passing and dribbling aspects fall into place. In his Kansas role, Braun wasn’t asked to hold a huge usage (20%) or a large decision making burden, instead acting as a varied and consistent ball mover on the floor with other good ball movers. His a% rose every year (4.5 to 10.9 to 14.5) without a corresponding spike in TO% (10.2 to 14.3 to 16.8) - a profile of a player with good vision with the opportunity to scan the defense and instincts for picking his moments. Braun isn’t gonna solve a defense with his passing, but forcing to him make reads, even reads on closeouts or on the move, hasn’t proven to be a successful defensive strategy. Similarly, the handle is a positive within the expectations of his role. Brain isn’t a self -creator in any real sense - taking only 11 midrange jumpers and 34 total OTD jumpers this season, 20 total isolation possession & nearly half of his rim makes were assisted. This isn’t a limiter on his role however, his movement style is best suited to attacking directly downhill and exploding into finishes - where his + run and jump athleticism can be showcased. This direct style of finishing limits how much creativity and counters he will need, as Braun struggles to adjust in-air or change hands into his left, best going up and thru (32.3 FTr).
As a defender, Braun doesn’t have the most imposing physical profile, 6’5.75 w/o shoes, + .75 WS, yet Braun finished with the best DMS and DSI of the 5 man group - for the Bartheads, 2.5 b% & 1.6 s%. With diminished tools from a havoc standpoint, Braun is going to have to rely on his advanced POA technique and lateral quickness to maintain the cover versatility he was famous for at Kansas. 2 guard is often where NBA teams hide their worst defender off-ball, so that removes the most like-sized profiles, will Braun cover more creative wings, or slide down to try to bother guard size pull up shooters. It seems that shifty slashing guards gave him trouble in a way that bigger creators or shooters didn’t. As a general note, I liked his ability to get skinny and reconnect after PNR, and he consistently navigated off-ball actions without losing the plot in the scheme or not scanning passing lanes. If he can hone in on being a good reader of passing lanes, without gambling, there is additional value as an off-ball wing pressure optin. The downside being he falls under the threshold length and pop combination that would allow for getting back into the play after missing on a jumped pass. Braun does most of his havoc work in recovery, able to close down whatever advantage with his last step, but the margin for error is so much smaller in the league.
Malaki Branham , Fr, Ohio State - PNR creator
There are players where the tape makes the strongest case, and there is a greater contextualization required to appreciate the numbers of a prospect, Blake Wesley who’ll be talked about here is one & that’s a fun case to make - on the other hand there are prospects where even a cursory glance at the stats makes the case loud as hell, and that’s a guy like Malaki Branham.
There are 3 major factors working for Branham’s prospecthood - his age, his development curve & his efficiency. Malaki is one of the youngest players in the class, turned 19 in may, a full 2 years younger than Jalen Williams & 11 months younger than Bennedict Mathurin. The rise from top 40 RSCI prospect to OAD lottery consideration is a steep one, and the easiest way to track is with minutes played - going from averaging 21 minutes the 1st month of the season to 34 minutes the final month. No matter the stats aggregation site you use, there are a ton of positive indicators for the freshman - high across the board shooting numbers, eye popping play-type data, high TS%, low turnovers, etc. It’s just not hard at all to see yourself high on Branham in the abstract. The other elements are much more in the eye of the beholder than any other prospect, maybe even in the whole draft.
Diving into the details, Branham is 6’4.25 wing with a +5.75 WS, who flirted with 50/40/90 shooting splits and has a funky creation style. At OSU, Branham didn’t have the largest usage (23.4) but he was the least assisted at the rim of the group, being assisted on only 21% on attempts. Even better, Branham crafted his way into making 72.2% of his shots on the rim, which is great for such a large percentage of self-created looks. I say percentage, but not volume. Branham only took 79 around the rim attempts, compared to Wesley (160a ATR), Williams (196a ATR), Mathurin (174a ATR) & Braun (197a ATR), and those rim attempts made up 24% of his total shot attempts. What can be made of this disparity between rim frequency and finishing acumen, the tape says that Branham struggles to consistently create advantages due to his lack of shift and burst, needing to craft into middys and floaters where other prospects can get rim looks or get fouled (Branham’s FTr was 29.8). A way of reading these numbers is to see the promise of further creation upside as Branham’s handle and physicality develop thus earning more finishing opportunities, or as a warning sign of diminishing returns against bigger, faster, stronger, more coordinated NBA defenses. That camp would also point out that Malaki used a mere 13 possessions on the season categorized as isolations.
The shooting & passing have the same sticker shock level goodness that will require translation for any team looking to fit Branham into their organization, especially in the PNR (including passes) where Branham used 37.5% of his possessions. In those 184 possessions, Branham averaged 1.08 PPP, 92nd percentile, shot 55.9% from the field and turned the ball over only 12% of the time. How does a not particularly quick, strong, or long ballhandler produce so well in the defensively focused Big 10, know that there is a shortage of rim attempts? Tempo, feel and touch on pullups. The OSU guard made a meal out of what was given to him, knocking down runners (.95 PPP, 21 poss) ,midrange jumpers (.94 PPP, 101 poss) & OTD jumpers (.89 PPP, 101 poss) at a high level. These touch indicators bode well for the continued shooting progression as Branham looks to expand his versatility to OTD 3s. The passing is generally good process, with a continual experimentation of passing angles and tempo to try and solve defenses. It is still in an early stage in his development as a playmaker, as Branham wasn’t the most productive passer (14.7 a%, 59 FGS), but there are good indicators of being able to handle a larger burden of playmaking decisions as time goes on, especially in his patience and angle finding.
A boon for Branham is his immediate utility as a second-side creator, as teams season him with reps against a tilted defense. At OSU, Branham may have been slightly underutilized as a CNS threat, often turning down semi-contested looks to attack closeouts, as we can see in the spot up being his 2nd most used playtype (25.8% of usage) despite CNS only totaling 62 possessions (1.26 PPP). Knocking down 41.1% of 3PA is going to bring a lot of attention, and rightfully so - as Branham shot the hell out of the ball, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t low hanging developmental fruit in his versatility. OSU basically never ran him off screens (31 total poss) and 91.9% of his made 3s were assisted, so for all of the PUJ wizardry in the midrange, there is work to do on the self-created 3s. The mechanics, specifically the energy transfer from his lower body, need to be optimized to expand into further shooting versatility.
It’s arguable that Branham has the weakest tools on both ends of any player in this grouping - his handle lacks burst, he has some shin angle issues that cause poor routing on drives & there are possession where a lack of separation is clear. A belief on how much of the physical/handle element can be projected to develop is going to vary by analyst - some will see the lack of athletic advantage as a positive, that a guy uses screens so well, pace so well, and touch so well that if marginal gains are made, they will have maximal impact on Branham’s creation. Others may see a usage threshold capped by shot versatility and a team’s implementation of the Theis screen.
Blake Wesley , Fr, Notre Dame - Upside play
Blake Wesley takes the crown as the most unheralded recruit to make this list, a guy who was by my count the 18th highest RSCI recruit to enter the ACC in the 2021 class. Yes, that Blake Wesley, he of 31 usage & the highest here and largest roles for any player in the draft class (for reference, Wisky’s Johnny Davis usage was 32.5). Wesley is the upside bet of this D/P/S group, for the steep development curve over the last year & also because he is the lowest clearance of the set thresholds. There isn’t a really nice way to say this, but it is hard to make a singular statistical case for Wesley on last year alone - it’s about the meaning of the positive flashes, the value of the archetype and how much offensive burden a skinny guard from South Bend could handle on a good team in a major conference.
The stats may be the least encouraging of the group, but Wesley does hold two superlatives for this group - highest usage & easiest paint touch. The 6'3" guard with a +6.25 WS lived in the paint and continually created advantage for a Notre Dame team that was in desperate need of an offensive engine. Compared to Williams or Branham, two creators who have a slower, slaloming style and use their cunning to create advantage, Wesley’s pathway to scoring seems simple - make my move and go. It’s not that Wesley can’t make those reads or is uncomfortable in slower situations, it’s that Wesley doesn’t need to always win that way because he can sell 1 move hard, tilt a defense and generate looks. Wesley has a great feel for when to use his tempo, with his top end speed and quickness bursting out of setups and into open space. The variety of counters and slithery moves is a nice mixture of approaches and footwork patterns, with a spotlight on slow to fast counters like hangs, hesis and big moves outside of his frame to set defenders off guard. Its prolly relevant that in big space like transition, Wesley was most effective - in fact, transition (1.19 PPP, 78 poss) is his only shooting only playtype with a meaningful threshold above 1 PPP,.For every good creative idea, there is still a lack of control and an inability to play in tight spaces with a low center of gravity, leading to rushed decisions in crowds, like jump passes. Many of the live ball turnovers are a young player playing too fast for their own good. Wesley’s best results came when attacking a non-set defense in semi-transition or on the second side, as his finishing style isn’t as suited to a walled up big - he likes to hang and finish, lacking the core strength to earn fouls driving through contact. That being said, the ability to break down a defense is a rare trait in this draft class and there is proof of a high shot creation ceiling in the halfcourt for Wesley, if cultivated.
The idea of Wesley driving offense as a guard/wing tweener is going to come through high ball screens and attacking a spaced out floor - where his extension finishes can be more meaningful and the movement skills can be most weaponized. NBA defenses will go under on actions until Wesley proves that he can punish conservate coverages with a jumper and can finish against a wall - the individual moments can have interesting flashes of promise, but taken as a whole Wesley struggled big time in both areas.
As OTD shooter, made 33% (38 of 115) shot, or .791 PPP.
As a finisher, Wesley shot 41.4% on non-dunk attempts at the rim attempts, being assisted on 26.8% of makes.
One of those skills is going to have to be correcting into a real positive, as both being negligible makes it too easy for NBA defenses to recover into their base scheme. This isn’t intended to be pessimistic, as Blake has reason for encouragement on both elements: the jumper is streaky, with the low hanging fruit on his core strength and on the gather that will iron out the dry spells, the finishing has a lack of diverse craft to seize upon his created advantage, that can be mitigated by experience and again, adding strength.
Telling the story of Wesley’s ascent is important to understanding him as a prospect, there was no way that this burden of creation and decision making was in the cards for his freshman year at Notre Dame & it’s clear that he was tasked with a role that was a bit beyond his comfort zone. For reference, the 2nd largest usage for a guard size player was Prentiss Hubb’s 18.3 usage, nearly half of Wesley’s rate. Given this, it’s not unexpected that his decision making was rough, but that he was reasonably effective as the lead engine for a good ACC team, as an underweight unheralded freshman, is a useful data point going forward. He looked unfamiliar with many of the situational reads and struggled with processing decisions at the speed of the HM game, especially when the option for hold up play was presented. There is still a major difference between used PNR possessions (.699 PPP, 206 poss) and used PNR possession + passing (.93 PPP, 313 poss), and in that we find another optimistic data point.
The most misunderstood element of Wesley’s projection, in my eyes is on the defensive end - he played at the top of a zone often and had his stock numbers deflated by that (2 blocks on the year). The s% and DSI (2.5 & 74, respectively) paint a story of a young player who can be a positive and disruptive force with his length, but there are consistency issues on and off ball. Defensively, he is really young. He moves well laterally, to the point that he will over pursue and need to recover to erase advantage - which he can do, but it’s so often a result of a youthful mistake in routing, rising out of stance or foot placement. It felt like the inverse of Braun’s recovery skills, i found Welsey’s to lose advantage because the technique was poor, but he recovered far better than expected due to athleticism and good length. In time Wesley can be a versatile defender, he has the length and the instincts to be a schematic asset, the POA work in progress is still a work in progress, the technique needs seasoning and there needs to be lower body strength added. I say in time because while he may have one of the higher ceilings as a defender here, he will struggle as a rookie just due to the volume of issue he is going to be cleaning up & it’s going to require toning down his strength initially to improve on the areas of weakness in the long run.