Doldrum Series: Leap Candidates, Pt. 2

The rations have been re-inventoried, the spinnakers and gennakers still hang lazily, and our decks have never looked so clean as we all scrounge to find additional nautical references and Mamukelashvili highlights. We're in the crummiest part of a good team's schedule: the doldrums of late summer. This post is the second part of a response to a question relating to young players making the leap.

Part 1. Initial ranking and assessment
Part 2. How do we predict the leap?
Part 3. Review research results and re-assess

The main takeaway from Part 1 was that GM's have an impossible task when attempting to identify who the "leapers" are. The incredible number of players who meet the time criteria (entering their 3rd, 4th, or 5th year) and a reasonable amount of playing time (~1,000 MP) measured in the hundreds. To reduce the paralysis caused by this volume, I propose distilling the candidates down to ones that are on the current Bucks roster or people have interest in. That list appears to be:
  1. Donte DiVincenzo
  2. Grayson Allen
  3. Semi Ojeleye
  4. SGA
  5. Luke Kennard
  6. Anfernee Simons
  7. Luguentz "The Harden Stopper" Dort
The next level of questioning becomes one of assessment. How do we assess a player's ability to make the leap beforehand? What statistics or evidence can we use to better our odds? I believe it makes sense to approach this question from a mostly qualitative perspective, but I am interested to know if anyone feels that there are statistical indicators of success.

My qualitative approach involves identifying the ways in which a player could improve to become more effective. Generally, this relates to skills development because at 3+ years in, a guy should be done growing and adding strength. However, there are external factors like coaches, scheme, and roster that should be considered as well. I'll list a few of what I consider important but achievable factors:
  • Opportunity - This may exist via an open-minded coach, injuries, or simply imperfect roster construction. Players can't outperform without playing time.
  • Coaching - Some coaches just seem to have it. Others get exposed and roasted in books about Finals MVPs.
  • Role - Increasing role can expose hidden potential and other times it can reveal the limitations of a player no matter how good they are. The right role can nurture confidence and maximize potential.
  • Tightening a handle - Being fast, quick, or agile with the ball. Ballhandling is an equalizer as a less explosive guard with a tight handle can do some serious damage (e.g., Steph).
  • Shot speed - Milwaukee has had its share of redcoats (Delly, Snell, Brogdon) whose shooting limitation was not accuracy but simply being able or comfortable to get a shot up in time to avoid closeouts.
  • Off-hand development - Imagine what Jennings could've been if he had a right hand. I can still see those awkward do-anything-to-get-it-to-the-left-hand layups. Ambidexterity can make up for a players lack of explosiveness (e.g., Brogdon).
  • Counters/Attack Closeouts - The Tony Snell Experience taught me a bunch about valuing shooting and how there's more to shooting than 3P%. The ability to leverage a solid 3-pt stroke into a layup or a drive and dish really enhances the value of that player. I recall seeing Giannis begin to develop counters or additional levels of moves in the pop-up zone. It was really refreshing and effective.
  • Cutting - I don't understand what makes a good cutter, but as Justice Potter Stewart once said "I know it when I see it." Imagine PatC or Donte without the timely cutting...nevermind, don't. This skill especially useful for those who need to find purchase in rotations with established stars.
  • Rebounding - I probably wouldn't have included this if it weren't for the Bucks amazing playoff dominance on the glass. Getting contributions across the lineup really helped break the spirit of teams (lookin' at you ATL).
My questions to you are:

  1. What are the ways our candidates could improve, leading to the leap?
  2. What are the indicators that you value?
  3. Are there any examples of leaps that you think could apply to any of these players?

To level-set expectations for own evaluation abilities, I offer a crude lowlight video of Brew Hoop past. Caveats: I don't actually understand how to make videos so the fact that this exists is a testament to chance. Second, I was a lurker for many years so I didn't actually find any of my bad takes. Lastly, I inadvertently included a few usernames which was unintentional. I don't want to "out" anyone as a bad take artist so hopefully (if any of those parties are still reading BH) they don't mind.

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