Using Basketball Prospectus' college basketball translations, we have determined player comparisons for 2011 draftees. Through game tape, our Sebastian Pruiti explores what makes these players so similar as well as what these draftees are going to have to improve on to validate the comparisons.
In the 2011 draft class, there seems to be a influx of skilled bigs playing overseas. Maybe the most interesting of the bigs is Jonas Valanciunas, who looks like he could be the first of the internationals selected. Valanciunas' comparison is to Tyson Chandler, the big man who anchored the Dallas Mavericks' defense during their title run.
Help Defense. The first thing that really sticks out when watching Valanciunas on tape is that defensively he is a terrific help defender. Valanciunas knows when to leave his man to help on dribble penetration or a cut to the rim, putting himself in position to contest or block the shot. This is an art that Tyson Chandler has mastered over the years and he really put it on display in Dallas this past season:
When watching both Chandler and Valanciunas at the same time, you notice both players' ability to contest the shots without fouling. They do this by keeping their arms as straight as they can while jumping straight up.
This is really impressive coming from Valanciunas. Most 19 year olds with Valanciunas' height are out there jumping at everything, swinging their arms widely looking for blocks. Valanciunas doesn't really do that, keeping his hands up and bothering or blocking shots with his length.
Off Ball Offense. With both Chandler and Valanciunas, most of their offense comes off of the basketball on either cuts or as the roll man in pick-and-roll situations. This past season, 43.3 percent of Valanciunas' possessions came off of the basketball (from pick-and-rolls and cuts) as 43.1 percent of Chandler's possessions came from the same type of offense.
Both Chandler and Valanciunas were extremely successful in these situations. As a roll man in pick and roll situations, Valanciunas shot 74.7 percent while posting a PPP of 1.434 (Chandler, on 69.9 percent shooting, was at 1.359 PPP). On cuts, Valanciunas posted a 69.8 shooting percentage compiling a PPP of 1.488 (compared with 69.7 percent shooting and 1.414 PPP for Chandler):
When it comes to big men, movement isn't normally these backdoor cuts. They involve bigs finding space around the rim as dribble penetration takes place, putting themselves in a position to not only score but to receive a pass and going straight up with it. This is something that both Chandler and Valanciunas do very well. What I really like about Valanciunas in these off-ball situations is that he is able to make the catch, keep the basketball up high, and finish through contact.
Post Defense. The biggest difference between Chandler and Valanciunas is the gap in post defense. Chandler is a good post defender, holding opponents to 0.819 PP (top 36 percentile in the NBA) on just 40.9 percent shooting. Meanwhile, Valanciunas allows a PPP of 1.037 (bottom 17 percent among all international players) on 52.6 percent shooting:
The biggest difference that you see between Chandler and Valanciunas is strength. Chandler is able to keep the players posting him up well out of the lane and off of their spots. Valanciunas lacks the strength to do that. Against Valanciunas, opponents are able to get to their spots by basically pushing him out of the wa. Even if Valanciunas is able to force a catch on the outside, once they have the basketball Valanciunas' man usually is able to back him all the way down to the paint, where he is able to convert a rather easy shot over Valanciunas' outstretched arms. When Chandler is faced with these situations, he is able to use his strength to prevent his opponent from backing him down with the dribble, forcing them into longer shots that miss.
In my opinion, strength might be Valanciunas' biggest issue if he comes over this season. Looking back to when Tyson Chandler came into the league, that was his biggest problem as well. If Valanciunas can grow into his body and develop a little bit more strength, he can definitely have the same kind of impact for a NBA team that Tyson Chandler had this season.
Sebastian Pruiti is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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