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2020 NBA Draft
Nico Mannion Scouting Report
You’ve probably seen videos of Nico Mannion on Instagram or Twitter crossing up guys in high school and making the gym go wild. He did more of that at Arizona University. Nico Mannion is an explosive point guard with excellent ball skills, advanced vision, and strong finishing abilities. He’s nothing short of exciting on the offensive end.
After a solid freshmen campaign, he has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft where he will most likely be selected in the first round.
Height: 6 foot 3
Weight: 190 lbs
Wingspan: 6 foot 2 (and a half)
Mannion is a reasonably explosive athlete with an excellent change of direction, and the ability to play above the rim. Mannion’s first step is quick and will be hard to defend at even the NBA level. His shiftiness as a guard is one of the best in this class. His body movement when making an attack move is elusive, which helps him create separation.
He isn’t a high-flyer by any means, but Mannion is definitely athletic enough to play in the NBA. As a point guard, verticality isn’t the most crucial athletic trait, change of speed & direction is. Mannion excels at both of those.
He is on the smaller side, physically, so he will need to add some muscle before he enters the NBA. He will have trouble getting by bigger, stronger, defenders if he doesn’t bulk up a little. You can’t rely solely on quickness at the NBA level.
One of Nico’s most significant strengths in his game is his ability to push the ball in transition as the primary ball-handler. He is superb with the ball in open space and reads defenses at an advanced rate for a 19-year-old.
Mannion is always looking for the ball to start a fast-break which is an overlooked quality for point guards, in my opinion. I want my point guard to want the ball in his hands at all times. Some point guards will shy away from receiving outlet passes and run the break instead to relieve some pressure. I prefer guards who go to the ball because they know that they can make a play in the open floor.
When in the open court, Mannion’s decision making is usually pretty good. He can read defenses well and can spot the advantage quickly and attack it. He’s unselfish, which is an excellent quality to have as a guard, and he looks to make the best play for the team, rather than the best individual play.
Mannion looks to get out and push in the open floor often, which is going to translate very well into today’s ‘pace and space’ NBA style.
Although Mannion is 6 foot 3, I still consider him a smaller guard because of his short wingspan and light frame. Smaller guards usually have trouble finishing around the rim, but Mannion does not. He is quite an explosive athlete who can finish above the rim with either hand. He has a series of moves in the paint like the floater, runner, or scoop layup to get a clean look over more prominent defenders.
Mannion sometimes forces the issue driving to the basket and needs to improve his decision making. In the NBA, forced attempts lead to failed attempts. Failed attempts lead to a spot on the bench. Mannion needs to get better at making decisions when attacking the basket and passing the ball to an open teammate when he does not have a clean look.
Nico Mannion with the crossover and then the one foot floater for the finish…that's an NBA move right there pic.twitter.com/R6qJKsX21M
— ZonaZealotsFS (@ZonaZealots) November 30, 2019
Mannion had trouble shooting the ball this year, but every freshman has difficulty adjusting to the NCAA at first. Mannion only shot 39.2% from the field and 32.7% from deep. Not good at all. These low percentages do not scare me, however, and I believe Mannion will be a fine shooter once he improves his shot selection.
At the NBA level, Mannion’s shot selection will mostly be catch and shoot jumpers early in his career. Mannion is projected to go in the late first round, so he’ll be joining a playoff team. I doubt that he’ll be asked to create his own shot, but rather, let the offense come to him through system play. This should improve his percentages dramatically. This past season, Mannion produced 0.983 points per possession (PPP) which ranked in the 50th percentile. Very average numbers for a first-round pick. Mannion will need to improve his efficiency if he wants to make an impact in the NBA.
Pick and Roll
The pick and roll is so essential in today’s NBA because it creates advantages in the half-court. It is absolutely vital that teams have both guards and big men who can play in the pick and roll. Mannion’s success in the pick and roll is what truly makes him a first-round pick.
Mannion produced most of his offense from the pick and roll last year. It constituted about 30% of his total offensive output last year. Of that 30%, he produced a PPP of 0.829 as the ball handler, which is very solid. Statistics show that he has trouble making passes to pick and pop or spot-up shooters, but he is excellent with his downhill attack and his pass to the roller.
Mannion also operated mostly out of the high pick and roll which will also help him adapt to NBA offenses that run most of their P&R at the top of the three-point line.
Defensively, Mannion does not struggle; however, he does not excel either. His frame as a smaller guard could hurt him at the next level. However, from a purely technical standpoint, Mannion is solid. He is consistently in a proper stance, rotations are quick and on time, and defensive instincts are advanced. He has all of the traits to be a good team defender, but as an individual defender, he struggles.
Mannion is often targeted by opposing teams in isolation situations. They will use a bigger, stronger, ball-handler to isolate against Mannion and take advantage of his lack of strength and size. Quickness isn’t really an issue; Mannion is a pretty good athlete. He should have no problem against smaller guards. His weakness guarding bigger, stronger, players, however, will be an issue in the NBA.
Mannion’s inability to guard other positions hurts his stock as an overall player. Today’s NBA teams are looking for versatility on both ends of the floor. Mannion can only defend one’s and two’s in the half-court so teams may pass on him in the draft in favour of a more versatile athlete. Mannion will need to add muscle and get stronger to improve this.
Pick and Roll Defense
Mannion’s bright spot defensively is against the pick and roll. As the primary defender of the pick and roll ball handler, Mannion only allows a PPP of 0.494, which ranks him in the top 10% of players in the NCAA in that category. He has excellent instincts in pick and roll situations; he anticipates when the pick is coming, and judging by scouting reports, makes his move to limit the offensive advantage. Against shooters, he’ll get over the screen. Against downhill slashers, Mannion slides under and stops the ball handlers momentum.
This is something that Mannion needs to continue to do moving forward. It is his defensive bright-spot, and he needs to emphasize it at the NBA level, so he isn’t labelled a defensive liability.
Player Comparison: Coby White
Watching both players pretty closely, Nico Mannion reminds me of Coby White. Both players are very good ball handlers with an excellent change of direction and speed. Both guys can play in the pick and roll and sometimes have an erratic shot selection.
Like Coby White, you can expect Nico Mannion to become an offensive-minded point guard with a good basketball IQ and a deep arsenal of offensive moves. Mannion can score from anywhere on the court, similar to White. Both of these guys need to improve their efficiency still; neither of these guys have met a shot that they didn’t want to take.
As of right now, Mannion is slotted on my big board as a top 20 prospect in this class. I believe that he will be selected anywhere between 15-25 in the first round.
If the draft started today, the Magic would have the 15th pick in the draft, and I think that taking Mannion here would be a solid choice.
For some odd reason, the Magic haven’t selected a guard in the draft since Victor Oladipo in 2013 who they then traded for, yes, another forward. Last year Markelle Fultz blossomed into a nice player for the Magic, but that still does not mean they couldn’t use a young point guard in their offense. DJ Augustin and Evan Fournier have to be one of the weakest starting backcourts in the NBA. Not only would Mannion get the majority share of minutes at PG, I think he’d start immediately.
Orlando is a fringe playoff team in the Eastern Conference who has been lacking steady guard play for a few years now. A frontcourt focused squad could use a high-pick and roll expert like Mannion in this draft. Nikola Vucevic is very good in the pick and pop, and Mo Bamba and Aaron Gordon are solid as roll guys. Orlando is a pick and roll team in the half-court, so I think Mannion would be an excellent fit here overall.
The Bucks currently have the 18th pick in the NBA draft which is excellent considering they had the best regular-season record in the NBA. They signed Brook Lopez to a long term deal and have Giannis, Middleton, and Divencenzo in their frontcourt, so those positions aren’t needed. They could, however, improve at point guard.
I doubt Mannion would start over Bledsoe right out of the gate, but there is a chance that in a few years he would take over that starting point guard role.
Eric Bledsoe is a defensive-minded point guard who is great at attacking the rim but struggles shooting the ball. In today’s NBA, it is vital that your guard can shoot the three. Without it, he isn’t much of a threat along the perimeter.
Mannion also loves to push the pace in transition, which would be great for this team. It would allow Giannis to rim-run, and Middleton to spot up along the perimeter for open looks.
The Bucks are still one small piece away from being legitimate contenders, in my opinion. If they can improve on their point guard play, they will be a more complete team and grow with young talent.
The Bucks are solid everywhere else on their roster. I can’t see them choosing a position other than a point guard. Mannion is a tremendous positional fit, and he’s also a good systematic fit.
The Mavs currently have the 21st pick in the NBA draft, and I would not be surprised at all if they select Nico Mannion there. The Mavs are carried heavily by Luka and KP; they lack depth otherwise. Last season, Jalen Brunson and Delon Wright did a serviceable job, but there is definite room for improvement. I think Mannion would be a great fit in Dallas.
Luka is naturally a combo-guard but is the primary ball-handler and facilitator for Dallas. This would allow Mannion to play off the ball and look for his shot in catch and shoot opportunities in the half-court. Without having the pressure of creating his own shot, Mannion’s shooting percentages should increase dramatically. Mannion has NBA range already and would help space the floor for the Mavs.
Furthermore, Mannion’s success in the open court would add another dimension to Dallas’ already top-ranked offense. If Mannion can push the pace in transition, Luka would be able to play off-ball and spot up on the perimeter, and Porzingis would get plenty of easy looks rim-running.
The Mavs have some depth issues at small forward and center, so it’s hard to say where they’ll go positionally at pick 21. Selecting Mannion, however, would alleviate their need to address their weakness at point guard, and add another element to their offense.
Overall, Mannion is a well-rounded prospect with the potential to be a very nice player. It is clear that he needs to improve his game in several areas, but overall, he has all of the tools to translate into a useful NBA pro.
Mannion is offensively refined with a smooth jump shot and tight handle. His offensive IQ is high, but shot selection must improve. Defensively, Mannion is a good team defender but struggles when isolated against. He has to put on some muscle if he doesn’t want to become a defensive liability in the NBA.
I look forward to seeing where Nico lands and what he does in the NBA.