Whenever discussing promising, young bigs, my default answer is: Jaren Jackson Jr. Yet, JJJ is already challenging Karl-Anthony Towns as the best perimeter spacing center. Regardless, we’ve recently seen bigs develop 3-point shots in an attempt to extend both their careers and talent ceilings. Which center will be the next to do it?
The candidates for this piece are players who are essentially non-spacers. This translates to players who attempt less than 0.8 3-point attempts per game. Players such as Daniel Theis and the perpetually underrated Gorgui Dieng do not qualify. In simpler terms, I’m looking for the guys who will be starting from near scratch. Let’s explore the potential players and their odds of becoming the next floor stretcher.
Bam Adebayo – Miami Heat
Boy, do we love us some Bam at The Playgrounder. He is a foundational piece of their offensive scheme; one which emphasizes the dribble handoff. Bam is always dishing to the shooter and never the shooter himself, however. Is there room for hope?
In his pre-Miami days, when a young Bam was still doing draft workouts, he displayed some spacing potential. Adebayo nailed 60 out of 100 triples during his workout in Miami, leading them to believe he could extend his range in the NBA. This has not come to fruition in the League, though, and Bam refuses to chuck threes with any regularity, despite his teammates fining him when he does not.
But when he does let them fly, his mechanics can look solid. This above-the-break triple displays a well-balanced lower body. Plus, his elbow is tucked in and the ball is does not engage in any slingshot motion.
Bam does not do this with any meaningful consistency, however. In the off chance he does attempt a three, it typically comes on a kickout to the corner. He usually seems rushed and his body is not square or balanced. Watch his feet during the landing. When legs kick out or come together, it is the body’s way of recollecting itself after an unbalanced shot.
Now, what do the stats tell us? An indicator for 3-point ability, Bam’s free throw percentage currently sits at 69 percent with just over five attempts per game. This isn’t terribly encouraging. Furthermore, Adebayo jumped to the 70th percentile on long-midrange shot attempts but saw his accuracy plummet to the 31st percentile, according to Cleaning the Glass.
Those stats don’t bode well. The eye test also reveals that Bam’s form needs reworking. He brings his arms way too high before releasing the ball, as if he is scared of being contested. Do I think Bam will eventually develop a consistent outside shot? Yes. He works too hard. But it likely won’t happen next season.
DeAndre Ayton – Phoenix Suns
Now things are getting a little more interesting. DeAndre Ayton actually took one 3-pointer per game in college and made 34.3 percent of them. His free throw percentage sits at 75.3 for his career and his midrange evidence is notable, albeit far from amazing.
Let’s start there: the midrange. Ayton is in the 97th percentile for midrange shot frequency. When watching him play, it becomes clear that he likes to take advantage of his agility and spin into fadeaways or simply shoot over bigs after dribbling to his spot. He is in the 74th percentile for short-midrange makes but only the 36th percentile in the long-midrange. Hmmm. How does he look?
While noticeably better than Bam’s mechanics, Ayton still tends to push the ball out and in doing so sacrifices arc. I believe it limits his left/right misses but, what he gains in directional accuracy he loses in arc. The space for the ball to drop through the hoop is smaller because of this. You can even see it in his makes which tend to grab a lot of iron on the way down. I’m neither sold on Ayton’s follow through motion nor his ability (or lack thereof) to properly square his shoulders.
DA has yet to make an NBA triple and only attempted seven in his career, most of them being late shot clock bail outs. Although his form is not much better than Bam’s, I’d still rank him as a better candidate to become a floor spacing big. Will it happen next season? Eh.
Wendell Carter – Chicago Bulls
I think we found our winner, folks. Despite his young career being stymied by mismanagement in Chicago, Carter clearly possesses the skill set to become an effective floor spacer. With new executives in town, expect this to happen sooner than later.
The signs were there when Carter was at Duke. He attempted only 1.2 triples per game but sunk 41.3 percent of them. Additionally, the eye test looks better for the former lottery pick.
Perplexingly, Carter’s college success from deep has not yet translated to the NBA. For his career he is 12 for 61 from beyond the arc. Some have attributed this to him needing time to extend his range to the professional 3-point line. Others have theorized that his offensive role is in flux, leaving Wendell to constantly question what the Bulls want him to do on offense and where he falls in the pecking order.
When watching him shoot, it becomes apparent that Carter does not struggle too often with discouraging left/right misses. Rather, his shot often falls short, bouncing off the front of the rim. This suggests that he may simply need to grow stronger and toss more air under the ball. His shot is frequently flat, and when Carter realizes that he can begin to work on giving it more arc.
However, fellow Bulls players know firsthand of Carter’s shooting potential. They have been outspoken in their support for him, asking him to take more 3-pointers. Strokes like the one below – featured on Bulls Twitter – explain why. Neither Bam nor Ayton have demonstrated such touch from the perimeter. Expect new management to direct Carter to revamp his 3-point shooting for next year’s season.
DeAndre and Bam could become floor spacing bigs but, it could take a couple more seasons. Not many, however, would be surprised to see Carter increase his attempts per game next year while also lifting is percentage to the early to mid 30s.
What players did we miss? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!