The NBA is All About Skill Sets

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

AAU basketball is a training ground for aspiring college and NBA players. There are so many talented kids that love to play the game. I’ve been following AAU basketball for the last ten years. Even during this short period of time the game has evolved. No longer are big men forced to play in the post. Bigs are now expected to be skilled in more than rebounding and blocking shots. The three point line, love it or hate it, plays a critical role in how players develop both big and small. However, the perception of the game by the fans is still struggling to catch up. Most fans are consumed with player rankings. They are blinded by points per game when neither of these measurable statistics make any difference in the larger picture. Not at the AAU level.

Fans care about scoring and rankings. Professional scouts and coaches care about skill sets. There’s a difference.

While it’s somewhat easy to qualify a players ability by numbers those numbers do not tell the entirety of the story. Over and over again you hear fans ask why a particular player doesn’t score more or why they aren’t ranked higher if at all. Take Jamaal Murray for instance. He was not ranked in the top 100 high school players in his class. Yet, he is one of the most coveted shooting guards in the NBA today. Statistics do not show a players potential, work ethic or heart. They show where a players is at in that moment. Another case in point is Bronny James. He is not ranked in the top five for his class but he is highly coveted by almost every college in the country. Why? His skill level and potential are both extremely high. He is a plus defender. He is a plus ball handler. He is a plus athlete and he carries a plus+++ IQ almost always making the correct decisions while on the floor. Much like his father he is the consummate team player that scores only when necessary and rarely takes bad shots. Does he still have areas to improve? Absolutely. Conversely, Mikey Williams, is a very talented and highly athletic player with severe holes in his overall game. Yet, he is ranked higher.

When coaches and scouts are looking at players they are looking at how they project within the system of basketball their team plays respectively. If a player doesn’t always project as a big time scorer in spite of his affinity to do so in high school and AAU. So, the obvious question is what else does he bring to the table. Can he defend? Does he make his teammates better when on the floor? Does he hustle at all times regardless of how his game is going? Can he recognize scenarios and take advantage of them? These are all things that many fans tend to bypass as unimportant. Yet coaches see as extremely significant to the success of the team.

The reason fans don’t dive in-depth into the game is because of how the NBA is marketed. The league promotes individuals above the team. This leaves the fans with only numbers to gauge the ability of the player when it is far more complex than the analytics that now play a large part in both strategy and player assessment. No. I’m not telling you analytics don’t matter. What I am suggesting is that they do not show the entirety of a players ability nor potential. You have to dig deeper and watch a lot of film. Again, as spectacular as Mikey Williams is he has huge holes in his game. He is not an inspired defender. He can make plays for his teammates but tends to take bad shots instead. His motor is questionable when things don’t go his way. He needs to learn how to be more of a play maker. Especially as he only stands at six foot two. He won’t be getting the same shots against higher caliber players that are just as talented as he is as he moves up to the college or G League level. Those easy shots he gets now will be much more difficult to find. All of these things are skills he can improve on with a little more work and experience. But he has to see it for himself.

Mikey isn’t alone. There are still several first round picks toiling in the G-League trying to become more consistent and return to the NBA or get to the league. The point is that the NBA has become a skill based league and you need to be exceptional at your particular skill set to get and stay there.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store