Data Tracking: Top Draft Wings Using Off-Ball Screens


Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin. Credit: Arizona Athletics

The 2022 NBA Draft has a cast of productive NCAA wing players in the mid-late lottery who are capable of being dynamic scorers playing off ball screens. Let's take a look at their usage with their college teams and identify how tendencies played a part in their production, examining the types of screens they used, what spots they liked to get to, and what they did after the catch.

 

In the latest edition of ‘P.I. Pulse’, Pro Insight contributor Bjorn Zetterberg continues ‘Data Tracking,’ a new series that explores some of the nitty-gritty nuances surrounding different groups of 2022 NBA Draft prospects. Up next: Top Draft Wings Using Off-Ball Screens.


Preface

Screen terminology for this study was very simplified for the sake of data collection. There are so many different names for picks and cuts off screens, I just had to lump them into categories to have this make sense. So ended up with pindowns, baseline screens, rip screens, and flare screens as the basics to examine how players got open off the ball. Also, there are no assists recorded off these, only direct actions (shot/foul/turnover).


AJ Griffin

Most frequent off-ball screen play: wide pindown screen to the wing

9 of 25 total OBS plays, (36%), 14 total points (1.56 points per play)

The smallest sample of off-ball screens ran for a player in this study, but it was a potent output of points produced. Griffin was very good in a low-usage role, almost reminiscent of Gary Trent, Jr. at Duke in 2017-18, a knock-down spot-up shooter, yet also an understated playmaker with the ball in his hands. Griffin has a nice handle off the catch and can create the necessary separation for his own looks. Conversely, he can force some action inside against heavy pressure and end up with a poor shot by trying to propel his body into defenders, resulting in tough looks at the basket.

Duke's AJ Griffin. Credit: Duke Athletics

AJ had the most efficient off-ball screen play at 1.56 points per possession, no doubt inflated by lower volume, but still impressive. 60-percent of his actions came off pindown screens to free him up to the wing, which tended to be his primary location for receptions at 60-percent of the time. He tied for the highest rate of drives off of off-ball screens, attacking the basket on 44-percent of his plays. Probably the most impressive part of his production was that he faced heavy pressure on 40-percent of his plays, by far the highest of the wings in this study, and yet still produced at an astronomical rate.


Jaden Ivey

Most frequent off-ball screen play: staggered baseline screens to the corner/wing

13 of 40 total OBS plays (33%), 15 total points (1.15 points per play)

With how much burst and explosiveness Ivey possesses off his first step, it was surprising to see him fall into being a catch-and-shoot guy when coming off screens. With his footwork and ability to accelerate, I was expecting much more driving than he ended up with, as his numbers resulted in a median rate of attacking on only 35-percent of the time when using off ball screens. He seemed pretty complacent spotting up, and to his credit, he was very good at it (1.2 points per play).

Purdue's Jaden Ivey. Credit: Purdue Athletics

Ivey was the second-most efficient player in this study, recording nearly 1.2 points per play on the second-highest off-ball screen volume. He also had the highest use of baseline screens at 45-percent, and also had the highest use of staggered screens. The most impressive piece of his off-ball screen field goal attempts was the shot selection was relatively clean, as he had by far the highest rate of lightly contested (83-percent) and uncontested shots (8-percent), meaning he routinely was getting good looks. To put that in perspective, the mean rate of ‘lightly’ contested off-ball screen shots in this study was 64-percent, so he had a rate almost 20-percent better.


Bennedict Mathurin

Most frequent off-ball screen play: staggered flare screens to the corner

18 of 47 total OBS plays (38%), 15 total points (0.83 points per play)

Mathurin was the catch-and-shoot king of this study, taking an immediate shot on nearly three-quarters of his shots when utilizing off-ball screens – well above the median rate of 42-percent. To his credit, Mathurin was very good on the looks he got shooting off-the-catch, cashing in at a rate of nearly 1.2 points per possession. He had the highest volume of off-ball screens in the study (47 total) and off-ball picks set for him per game at 1.3. Mathurin also had the highest rate of corner threes in the study, accounting for nearly half of his shots in off-ball screen actions.


Benn gets a lot of elevation on his shot, attempting to rise up over the defender to get a cleaner look with a natural type of fadeaway. Early in the season, some of the shot selection looked dicey, as he seemed to disregard a hand in his face but it clearly bothered him and showed up in his accuracy. It’s interesting to note that he only scored 16 points on his first 23 off-ball screens (0.7 points per poss.), but was over twice as productive on the back half with 34 points on 24 off-ball screens (1.4 points per). He must have shot the ball with more confidence down the stretch of the season because he faced a slightly greater degree of pressure in his face on those shots as the season went on.


Johnny Davis

Most frequent off-ball screen play: flare screen to the corner

8 of 34 total OBS plays (24%), 9 total points (1.13 points per play)

Despite a moderate output in terms of efficiency with 1.12 points per off-ball screen, Davis showed himself to be one of the better screen navigators to set up plays before the catch. Wisconsin had a play set for Davis with a rip screen set for him near the free throw line where he would shuffle cut to misdirect the defender into the screener, and then quickly side step to the wing for a nearly open look from range. There were a number of plays where he would curl off of screens into the paint, getting touches there on nearly 20-percent of his off-ball screens, by far the highest rate in this study.

Wisconsin's Johnny Davis. Credit: Wisconsin Athletics

Davis helps separate himself with his aggressiveness off the catch, attacking the basket on 44-percent of his off-ball screens, the highest rate in the study. He can be a physical driver who finishes through contact, and was productive looking to attack. JD also shows the ability to stop on a dime and pull up with a relatively quick trigger off the bounce. Johnny displays a nice midrange game and lane floater, making him a threat for all three levels off the catch. Almost 20-percent of Davis’ looks were completely uncontested, which was near the top among his wing peers.


Malaki Branham

Most frequent off-ball screen play: pindown screen to the top of the key

14 of 30 total OBS plays (47%), 12 total points (.86 points per per play)

Actions speak louder than words, and by virtue of seeing all Branham’s off-ball screens relative to the other wings in the study, he appears to have a truly great confidence in his midrange game. The numbers show it as well with nearly one-third of his off-ball screens leading to a jumper off the dribble, displaying a comfortable 1-2 dribble pull-up game post-catch. He looked very confident taking contested looks, attempting to shoot over defenders but can make his shot selection look shaky in the process. This perhaps played a part in his 0.77 points per off-ball screen possession rate, which was the lowest of the wings tagged for this study.

Ohio State's Malaki Branham. Credit: Ohio State Athletics

Malaki was one of the more aggressive drivers who attacked the basket on over 40-percent of his touches and he was very good at drawing fouls, doing so on sixteen-percent of his off-ball screen plays. Ohio State frequently ran pindown picks to get him to the top of the key, which accounted for nearly half of his plays and was by far the highest rate in terms of location touches. Branham also had the highest usage of pindown screens which accounted for two-thirds of his off ball screen possession setups.


Bjorn has worked in the NBA for about a decade as an associate analyst with the Orlando Magic, Video Analyst Manager for the Portland Trail Blazers and Advance Scout for the Idaho Stampede. You can follow him on twitter @bjornzetterberg and reach him by email at bjz2442@gmail.com.







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