We'll carry on with our skill category breakdowns by diving into some of the best pick and pop bigs in this year's draft class.
Modern floor spacing requires some bigs to shoot, and most big men drafted will be role player as opposed to franchise focal points. Possessing the ability to be a supporting cast member means doing some specific things really well, like shooting the ball from deep.
For this list, we focused more on bigs who are involved in pick-and-pops as opposed to wings or guards. While many NBA teams use screens from different types of players, college teams do so with less frequency. Add onto that the fact most NBA teams will switch guard-to-guard actions and there's less room for pick-and-pops unless you're screening for an elite scorer.
The draft is about finding fits within the modern game and in areas that influence winning. Most players aren't going to be All-Stars or franchise foundations that an offense is built around. Pick-and-pops matter because floor spacing, knocking down shots and being functional next to a star player is what earns minutes and carves out roles. We're seeing pick-and-pop bigs find themselves more secure than ever on NBA rosters.
Focus on a few areas of functionality in the video above:
During the 2019-20 regular season, there were 77 players to average at least 30 minutes per game. 45 of them were guards or wings who spent at least 20% of the time in the pick-and-roll. Of those 45, 30 shot at least 35% from 3-point range -- two-thirds of all high-volume pick-and-roll players.
Essentially, in the modern NBA, guards shoot it. Typically that brings extra attention when they come off screens from hedging defenders, seeking to prevent such a now-mundane shot and force a play elsewhere. When that happens, the first look that's typically open is a quick pocket pass to the screener.
As such, screening bigs need to be actively helping their team in the short roll and strong playmakers in those quick 4-on-3 advantages. It's a skill more in-demand than ever, and one that can expand a big man's role quickly.
Who in this draft class are among the best short roll playmakers?
We decided to start small rankings list on some of the more important skills that prospects can possess, and break down what evidence is available to lead to this conclusion. Most lists are difficult to generate, with multiple eligible players, but the tiebreaker always goes to which players were most able to demonstrate the skill in college.
We started with playmaking off the short roll:
In this first iteration, there's a solid point worth noting: playmaking is different than passing, but the two are definitively linked. Playmaking can include passing and scoring, making it more expansive. Our theory is that in order to be respected as a passer and have open reads, teams must first decide to guard you -- they only do that if there's a threat to score.
In most clips above, you'll see a few scoring clips from guys coming off a limited bounce or two, as those show a player's upside to catch in the mid-range, take a dribble and finish if the rim is unoccupied. In short roll situations, one defender sliding in to protect the rim is what opens up the passing.
We'll continue with small videos like these in the coming weeks leading up to the draft. Hopefully they illuminate some functional skills and get you thinking about prospects in different ways.