Scheme and system make a large impact on how a team is successful. Coaching staffs work very hard to build and identify something that fits their personnel, and recruit personnel who fit their principles.
Many NBA prospects owe their success to the systems they play in. Sometimes it exacerbates their strengths, giving them the chance to perform in ways that make NBA scouts see their true potential. In other ways, some systems and player development programs teach fundamentals skills which pay off once that player is in the league.
In an increasingly analytically-driven scouting process, the context of a system is sometimes lost on those who make first-glance evaluations.
Tyrell Terry of Stanford is the perfect example of this.
Terry enters this draft process with the perception of being a "shoot-first" point guard, stemming from his offense at Stanford. Statistically speaking, he didn't stand out too much: 14.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists, none of which were tops on his team in a specific category.
The reputation of a "shooting" point guard comes from the combination of his low assist rate for the position and strong 3-point prowess. That prowess, indicated both by percentages and volume, is the clear strength of his. But when it comes to the low assist rate, there might be an explanation: the Stanford motion offense.
Under coach Jerod Haase, the Cardinal run true ball screen motion, which gives equal opportunity to whoever has the ball when a scoring opportunity arises. A true read-and-react scheme makes it difficult to dictate which players are the scorers on each play and move the ball around to different players. For that reason, Stanford had four players score between six and nine points per game, behind Terry's 14.6 and Oscar Da Silva's 15.7. Terry was second in assists, while three players averaged at least two a game.
While we examine the strengths and needed improvement areas for Terry's game, we'll dive into the nature of the Stanford offense and seek to figure out whether his passing was stunted by such a system or if the system masked his inability to handle things on a larger volume.
The shooting from Terry is one of the most tantalizing skills a prospect can have. At only 19, his ability to hit deep 3-pointers and score out of the PNR off the dribble is highly sought-after. He's still thin and isn't a great finisher around the basket, but his ability to score from deep is a hallmark trait worth hanging his hat on.
Let's draw the attention to the third strength in the video, that playmaking upside. Framed in a way that doesn't discredit what he's accomplished already, the term upside is where I ultimately land on this: his skill level is higher than what he demonstrated consistently at Stanford. His passing is of good quality. He uses both hands well and has a really tight, concise dribble that allows him to weave in and out of traffic or change speeds.
Terry's passing is a lot like his athletic profile. He's not overly explosive and what he does well doesn't pop off the screen. His passes are usually off two feet and not high off the ground. He'll work to incorporate the big and is best going to his right.
That Stanford offense is a thing of beauty. If you watch it from a schematic perspective, it's easy to see how one player like Terry can be limited in his opportunity for plays that produce a statistical output:
Over the last few decades, we've seen a shift away from "assists" towards "assist to turnover ratio" in analyzing a player's positivity on team performance. Because its a ratio, it's size will always be indicative of what the subject does with the opportunities presented to it, no matter how many opportunities they may be.
A worry for Terry is that, despite the low number of assists he's generated, the turnover rate is decently high in relation.
That could be, as we will see, another attribution to Stanford's offense.
To be clear, there are other concerns with Terry that don't make him a lock to keep his name in the 2020 draft. His frame is still slight, and at 19, an NBA team might prefer giving him another year to figure out how to improve his body. That lack of strength and lateral quickness shows up while guarding the ball, too. He gets pushed around a bit and isn't ready for the rigors of physical NBA basketball.
The defensive worry is more of a long-term concern, though his overall skill level might be high enough to offset the strength or athleticism doubts.
Doesn't that just make nailing down his skill level even more important, though?
How could the Stanford system have attributed to his turnovers? A lot of it has to do with a prong mentioned under his ball security improvement area.
Terry is, indeed, a bit of an over-penetrator. Part of that is from who he is, but some of how that has come about is from the lack of kickout options from their offense. At Stanford, the lane is usually spread, but there's a ton of cutters and movement around the pick-and-rolls. That can limit kickout options. In a spread pick-and-roll, where there's a handler, screener and three shooters ready to catch standing on the perimeter, the floor is more easily spread, easy to see and filled with stationary teammates for easy kicks.
While the evenly-distributed nature of the scoring opportunities spread the playmaking wealth, the high-movement nature of the system increases turnover chances. Stanford was 297th in the country in turnovers, a connection between the two.
Overall Analysis and Draft Projection
Terry is a massively talented shooter and an underrated point guard prospect. Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer has boldly put Terry in his top eight. Most other outlets are putting him in the mid-to-late first-round, cautious of his size and the aforementioned lack of playmaking evidence at his disposal.
For me, Terry is somewhere in the middle. His on-ball defense is the big concern, and I'm not sure he's the transcendent type of shooter or playmaker to overcompensate for its absence. But I do believe his playmaking is much more a positive than a negative, and that isn't something that gives me pause.
As to the notion that Terry should return to school and add muscle, it's a pretty outlandish claim. Terry has the opportunity to be a borderline lottery pick, and is a fairly safe first-round lock. Next year's draft will be much more top-heavy, limiting his upside and just pushing back his pro debut by a year while increasing the opportunity for something to go wrong. Nobody knows what COVID will be like and how it will impact the NCAA season. If I'm Terry, I'm hiring an agent and feeling comfortable that my skill level has proven enough to get me into a good situation.