Everything You Need To Know Nico Mannion

Nico Mannion didn't live up to expectations this season but he still has an excellent foundation to build on. His shot creation and playmaking upside make him an intriguing late first-round target.

The 2020 NBA Draft is loaded with point guards at the top of the draft. Unfortunately for Nico Mannion, this has resulted in a substantial fall in his draft stock. When Mannion came out of high school, his well-rounded offensive game looked to make him a likely lottery pick. With the emergence of other prospects and inconsistencies in Mannion's game, he will likely go in the back-half of the first round.

Like many recent Arizona guards, Mannion didn't meet his full potential. Whether it is the fault of the system or his own inconsistencies, Mannion only showed a fraction of the player he can develop into. Like most NBA lead guards, Mannion has an offensive focus with some severe defensive limitations.

Even though Mannion's shooting splits of 39/33/80 are far from ideal, I don't think they are a perfect representation of the shooter he will be. In high school, Mannion had 50/36/82 shooting splits, and while he won't be an elite outside shooter, the results from his one year at Arizona are misleading.

This season, despite poor shooting percentages, Mannion scored 1.342 points per possession (PPP) on unguarded shots off the catch (82nd percentile) and 0.781 PPP on shots off the dribble (54th percentile), per Synergy. Since Mannion will likely be the primary ball-handler when he is on the floor, improving his jumper off the dribble is vital.

Mannion has shown flashes of brilliance at creating his shot by using step-backs, hang dribbles, and change of pace. As we can see below, Mannion has a strong understanding of how to manipulate his defender's momentum. As Mannion brings the ball across half-court, he takes advantage of his defender's open stance and gets him on his hip. Now that Mannion has the defender on his hip, he has complete control. Mannion accelerates with a burst of speed and then slams on the breaks to drain a step-back jumper.

Again, Mannion creates space for himself out of the pick-and-roll. As the screen comes, Mannion recognizes that the other top guard in the zone is hedging hard. This defense leads to Mannion dribbling away from the screen. Once Mannion gets inside the arc, he gets into his defender's body before knocking down the step-back jumper. Getting into his defender's body is crucial because it limits how much the defender can elevate to recover and contest the shot.

When Mannion is decisive and confident with these moves, he is incredibly difficult to stop. The problems come when he hesitates, or a second move is required, as we can see below. The initial move by Mannion is excellent. He gets into his defender's body, creates space with his step-back, and then it all falls off a cliff once he hesitates. Mannion's hesitation allows the defender to recover and heavily contest Mannion's airball.

The obvious solution to avoid that scenario is for Mannion just to take the shot. Another route is for him to keep his dribble alive after the step-back. This action is an incredibly advanced move that we typically see from only the elite ball-handlers. If Mannion can develop that move where he can then cross over the recovering defender, he will become a much more dangerous creator off the dribble.

The majority of Mannion's dribble jumpers come in the midrange. While this shot has gone out of fashion to an extent, it can still be incredibly valuable. We routinely see players like Chris Paul navigate the midrange and decimate opponents with 15 to 20-foot jumpers. The midrange is an area Mannion also found success in as he scored 0.771 PPP (63rd percentile).

Mannion's ball-handling helps him create space for his jumper but is also useful at getting him to the rim. When Mannion drove in isolation situations, he scored 0.905 PPP (61st percentile).

Here, Mannion takes full advantage of the switch. Mannion expertly lulls his defender to sleep with a hang dribble before quickly crossing over. After a quick burst, Mannion beats his defender with ease to finish at the rim.

Mannion has also shown an aptitude for using screens to get to the rim. One of Mannion's issues when running the pick-and-roll is how tightly he comes off the screen. Too frequently, Mannion leaves a breadth of space between him and the screen, which gives his defender ample room to recover. When he uses the screen well, though, Mannion is a much more significant threat.

When Mannion dribbled off the screen and took it to the rim, he scored 1 PPP (51st percentile). His inconsistent at-rim finishing brought this number down, but as we can see below, he is highly adept at getting to the rim. As Mannion dribbles off the screen, he quickly splits the defenders before they can trap him. Mannion then accelerates to the rim to finish through the noncommittal swipes from the help defenders.

Even when Mannion is unable to get to the rim after using the screen, he is highly effective with his floater as he scored 0.857 PPP (60th percentile). Here, Mannion correctly attacks the defense's drop coverage of the pick-and-roll. Mannion tightly dribbles off the screen and attacks the drop defender. Once he realizes that the drop defender won't step to him, Mannion elevates off one foot for the floater.

The most significant improvement that Mannion needs to make in his game is his decision making. We saw a horrid shot selection earlier, but that poor decision making also leaked into his passing. Mannion's assist-to-turnover ratio of just 2.04 is unacceptable for a lead guard in the NBA.

The below clip is one of many examples of a Mannion decision that makes zero sense. Mannion initially does a magnificent job of splitting the double team and snaking his way into the lane. Instead of pulling up or kicking it out to the wing, Mannion throws and errant lob to a covered teammate who never has a chance of scoring.

While these common occurrences are inexcusable, they get exacerbated by the beautiful passes Mannion does make. It would be one thing if Mannion just didn't have a great passing vision, but as we can see below, he is entirely capable of reading the floor and making a great pass. Mannion uses the screen correctly, which forces the screener's defender to step up. Once he steps, the weakside defender must collapse to the lane to tag the roller, leaving the corner shooter open. Mannion reads it correctly and makes a live-dribble pass to his teammate.

Again, Mannion shows that he can manipulate the defense to create for his teammate. Mannion quickly realizes that his drive is cutoff and dribbles back out. After reusing the screen, Mannion engages the screener's defender and shovels a pocket pass to the open roller.

At his size, Mannion will be expected to act as the primary ball-handler off the bench. If he continues to throw errant passes and heavily contested shots, his playing time will rapidly dissipate. Mannion has the vision to be a quality playmaker in the NBA; he just needs to improve his decision making.

The inconsistencies with Mannion's game also crop up in his defense. On the surface, Mannion's defensive numbers don't indicate many issues as he allowed 0.691 PPP overall (87th percentile) and 0.515 PPP in the pick-and-roll (88th percentile). These are excellent numbers, but they are more reflective of Mannion's support with a good rim protector in Zeke Nnaji and a superb wing defender in Josh Green.

Mannion is an adequate team defender, primarily when he can hide, but there are some significant issues with his individual defense. When defending in isolation, Mannion allowed 0.909 PPP (28th percentile).

Here, Mannion is flat out lazy on defense. As the ball-handler slows his dribble, Mannion's defensive stance disappears. He stands more upright, goes on his heels, and squares his hips to the ball-handler. Once he throws a lazy steal attempt out there, the ball-handler blows past Mannion with ease.

This sort of defense will make NBA teams eager to force a switch on Mannion. As we can see below, he is less than comfortable in these situations. Immediately after the switch, Mannion looks around for help instead of just recovering and denying the ball. This indecision results in Mannion being out of position and giving his opponent an easy baseline drive.

Mannion developing into a stellar defensive guard is out of the question. His fundamentals are inconsistent, he has poor positioning, and he lacks the confidence to compete against larger opponents.

Going forward, Mannion can be a quality score-first guard in a rotation. I struggle to see a scenario where Mannion becomes a top tier starter for a contender, but at his peak, he could be an excellent sixth man.

His shot creation and playmaking upside are impressive. He needs to improve his decision making, and if he does so, his impact will skyrocket. Nico Mannion will likely get drafted in the late first round. If he can enter a situation with an already established lead guard, Mannion could learn a tremendous amount, which will only help his development.

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