We often think of shooting and passing as totally separate characteristics. But combining basketball skills like them in your analysis allows you to understand the game better.
Skills like them may look different on the surface but they influence one another.
Skills aren’t independent of one another. They fit together in some way.
As a scout, it’s up to you to try to untangle them. It’s how you do better overall basketball scouting evaluations.
I’ll explain with point guard examples.
Ricky Rubio has playmaking skills and court vision that contribute a ton of value to his team.
However, the impact of those skills is constrained by his ongoing struggles to finish at the rim or make jump shots consistently.
Because defenses don’t worry about his scoring, they’re able to focus more attention on Rubio’s teammates, which limits Rubio’s passing output.
If opposing defenses feared his scoring, it would open up opportunities for Rubio’s passing to look even better.
If you were doing algebra, you might write something like:
Scoring Coefficient x Raw Passing Ability = Visible Passing Production
If you’re interested only in the output, then what you see is what you get. It’s how fantasy basketball works.
But when you’re a scout trying to measure different sets of skills, then the raw skill matters.
Depending on team context and the development of other skills, that partially hidden skill could reveal itself in an even bigger way in the future.
Kendall Marshall also comes to mind.
His raw passing ability and decision-making were there.
However, he lacked the quickness and foot speed to bend the defense to create opportunities for teammates. And because he couldn’t consistently gain much separation from defenders, there was less room for him to make passes as well.
When put in Mike D’Antoni’s offense on the 2014 Lakers, which featured lots of shooting and screening actions that put pressure on the defense and finally allowed him space to work, his passing shined. He finished the year as one of the NBA’s elite assisting point guards, averaging 8.8 assists per game.
Following his return to more conventional situations in Milwaukee and Philadelphia, his passing production looked much less remarkable. He ultimately retired from basketball in 2017 at age 26.
Finally, you have Russell Westbrook.
His raw passing ability is magnified by his immense athleticism and scoring ability.
Due to defenses’ fear of his scoring and his own skill at creating separation from defenders, he can showcase his playmaking in a big way.
Those other skills and attributes enhance his passing output.
So when you evaluate players, consider:
- How the different skills you see might be connected
- How the environment influences what you see
- What might be lying beneath the surface.
Seeing how the different pieces fit together makes you better at scouting. It’s one of the best scouting habits you can develop.