Analyzing Rui Hachimura, Zach Norvell, and Zion Williamson

November 22, 2018

by Alan Lu

This time around, I was able to watch Gonzaga take on Duke in the championship game of the Maui Invitational this year.  Duke and the trio of top prospects in R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Cam Reddish were expected to play well and lead their team to another victory, but Gonzaga played very good team basketball as they made shots, passed the ball well, and played stifling defense.  When the game ended, Rui Hachimura and Zach Norvell both had strong all-around performances to lead Gonzaga to a stunning upset victory over Duke.  Here are my thoughts on how various prospects performed on this day, as well as how their games may stack up in the NBA.

Gonzaga’s 6-8 junior forward, Rui Hachimura put on a terrific show as he played well in virtually all facets of the game to lead his team to a narrow win over Duke.  Hachimura showed off versatile scoring skills, excelled as a playmaker, was active as a rebounder, and also was active defensively when he was on the court.

Hachimura did a very good job of getting scores off the dribble.  He did a good job of taking the ball to the basket to get scores and free throws for his team, as he was able to get a bucket by using a jump stop on an aggressive left-handed drive, and he also can score on pull-up, mid-range jumpers.  He was able to go coast to coast to draw free throws on a fast break drive, and he also used a spin move to get to the foul line another time when taking the ball to the rack.  He also shot the ball well, as he can knock down mid-range shots, and he also made a spot-up three off the catch.

Plus, he also showed off a good ability to score in the post.  Hachimura has deft footwork and shooting touch on the block to get numerous scores down low.  He used a quick rip move to his left to score on a reverse layup while getting an extra free throw, and he also scored on a fadeaway jumper another time.  He also used a pivot move to score on a step-through move.  Though sometimes he would miss on jump hooks, Hachimura is an agile combo forward that excelled at getting scores in the paint.

Also, Hachimura displayed solid playmaking skills.   He is a savvy player that can throw accurate passes off the dribble or from the post, and he has good vision to spot open teammates to rack up assists.  He did lose a ball off of a drive once, but generally Hachimura passed and handled the ball well to help his team on offense.  He also showed an adequate ability to rebound the basketball.  Hachimura was active at crashing the glass on the defensive end, and he would leap up to get plenty of boards on that end of the floor.  However, sometimes he would forget to block out, and there was one occasion where he committed a foul on a put back.

In addition, he also played fairly good defense.  Hachimura did a good job of blocking and altering shots on drives to force a wealth of misses, and he was active at contesting shots against Duke.  He also managed to deflect a pass out of bounds to almost get a steal another time.  However, he also had some trouble guarding quicker players off the dribble, as he would get beat on plays to commit fouls and allow scores.   He also gave up too much space on another play to allow his man to score on a pull-up three on a separate instance.  In summary, Rui Hachimura had a stellar showing as he helped lead his team to a solid win over Duke.  He played showed off a strong all-around game, and he is a skilled, versatile player that could be a lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Gonzaga’s sophomore guard, Zach Norvell also played very well, and he is a solid athlete that excelled as a shooter and scorer to help get his team a surprising victory over Duke in Maui.  Norvell did a great job of knocking down three-point shots to space the floor for his team.  He showed a knack for making pull-up threes, as he can use a jab step, and he has a lot of range on his shot.  He also made a spot-up three off the catch.

He also showed a good ability to score on drives to the basket.  Norvell used a jab step and then quickly drove left to go by Barrett in order to score on a nifty, acrobatic, reverse layup around the basket.  He possesses a solid first step off the dribble, though he didn’t look to go all the way to the hoop often, and he missed a floater another time.  He also was ran the floor to score on a break on a separate possession.

Plus, he also displayed decent playmaking skills.  Though he didn’t look to pass often, and can throw accurate passes in a wide array of ways, and he did a good job of throwing interior passes to his teammates.  However, early on, Norvell attempted to go too fancy by throwing a behind the back pass that went astray by sailing out of bounds in transition.  He also didn’t grab many rebounds in this game, but he did manage to leap up to get a defensive board in traffic once, but on another play, he committed a loose ball foul when going for an offensive board.  Norvell also showed off adequate defensive skills.  He did a good job of playing passing lanes, as he can jump passes to get steals.  However, there was one play where he gave up too much space to allow his man to score on a long two-point shot.

Overall, Zach Norvell Jr. had a really good game, as he excelled at knocking down shots from all over the floor to help Gonzaga on offense, and he is a sharpshooter that also can reliably create his own shots to get scores on drives to the basket.  He is an underrated prospect that may have considerable upside, and he could be a good value pick in the mid to late first round range on draft day.

For Duke’s freshman forward Zion Williamson, had a fairly good game in his team’s loss to Gonzaga.  In this game, he started off having a slow first half, but he played much better in the second half, as he excelled at attacking the basket to get scores, and he also was very active in making plays to help his team on the defensive end.  Williamson did a good job of getting scores off the dribble.  He is a quick, strong combo forward that possesses good footwork when driving the ball to the basket, and he can score using an assortment of moves such as spin moves, pivots, and crossover moves.  Though he favors going to his left, he can finish plays with either hand, and he possesses a solid scoring touch around the basket.  He has great strength and body control that allows him to score on a number of plays, but sometimes he would miss shots off of drives to rushing.

He also showed some low post scoring skills.  Williamson used a hop step to score on a strong, left-handed hook shot, and he also went up another time to draw free throws on a separate play.  But sometimes he can tend to force the issue a bit too much, as he ended up missing a couple of shots, as one of his shots ended up being blocked by an opponent.

He also showed a fairly good ability to score on put backs.  Williamson excels at finishing plays around the basket off offensive rebounds when he plays under control, and on one such play, he used a spin move to score on a left-handed put back, but sometimes, he would miss shots off of put backs as he may try to force the issue too much at times.  Also, he attempted a three-point shot, but he ended up missing that time, and he did not make a jumper from outside of the paint area in this game.

Williamson also displayed decent playmaking skills.  Though he looked to score quite often, he can throw solid interior passes to set up scoring passes to his teammates.  However, sometimes his play would be too sloppy as he threw an inaccurate pass that led to a turnover.  He also fell on a drive that almost led to another, though he was able to make the pass from the ground.  He also did a very good job of grabbing rebounds for his team.  Williamson was very active at crashing the glass, and he excelled at hauling in offensive boards, as he would often look to score off of those to give his team second chance points.

He also played solid defense.  Williamson did a terrific job of blocking shots, as he would make chase down blocks to prevent opponents from getting easy shots up around the basket, and he also managed to swat a shot off of a cut as well as a three-point to teammates due to possessing terrific speed, leaping ability, timing, and overall athleticism.  He also does a good job of playing passing lanes, which can allow him to get steals and deflections for his team.

However, sometimes he can be undisciplined, as he can be too foul prone on the defensive end.  Sometimes, he may struggle to defend opponents out on the perimeter, as he had a tendency to commit fouls on drives.  He also bit on a pump fake another time, though his opponent missed a put back initially, his man then scored on a tip-in the second time.  He also gave up too much space to allow an opponent to score on a pull-up mid-range jumper once as well.

In general, even though Zion Williamson had something of a down game, he still put on a rather impressive performance even in his team’s loss, as he showed off remarkable athleticism and defensive skills in the second half, and he displayed a very good ability to score off the dribble as well as off of hustle plays as his ability to contribute on both ends of the court can have a sizable impact on the outcome of contests.  He will need to improve his jump shot and be more of a disciplined position defender to cut down on the number of fouls committed.  Even so, Williamson is a really talented player that could still end up being the top pick of the upcoming draft, as his unique skill set, outstanding athleticism, and tremendous upside could allow him to potentially be a perennial All-Star in the NBA.

Duke’s 6-7 freshman swingman R.J. Barrett had a rather perplexing performance in his team’s loss to Gonzaga.  He struggled in the first half as he tended to force up some bad shots on offense, and he ended the game doing the same, but for a good portion of the second half he played really well, as he excelled at attacking the basket to get scores in order to help bring his team back in this match.

Barrett struggled to score consistently on aggressive drives to the hoop, but he did look to score on isolation plays a lot.  When he did score on these plays, he showed great speed and finishing ability, and even though he tended to favor going to his left, he can get scores using either hand.  He even was able to get an extra free throw after scoring on a quick left-handed drive once.  However, Barrett missed too often on drives when looking to take it to the rack.  He had a tendency to try to play too out of control and wildly, as this resulted in him missing too many shots in the paint, as well as getting his shots blocked numerous times.  His tendency to overtly force the issue too much also resulted in him missing some easy shots around the basket.  He was able to score on a put back, but he also missed a shot off of a cut, and in this game, Barrett had some trouble playing or operating under control.  He looked to play too fast as he was prone to rushing, and it led to him missing shots around the basket.

On the bright side, Barrett did do a very good job of getting scores in transition.  He was able to throw down some thunderous dunks on the break, and he showed a knack for driving to his left to throw down emphatic jams on the break.  Another time, he caught a long outlet pass, and he used an overhead ball fake to score in transition while drawing an extra free throw on the play.

He also struggled to consistently knock down jumpers in this game.  Though Barrett made one spot-up three, he had trouble making outside shots on a routine basis against Gonzaga, and he even threw up an air-ball when attempting a corner three.  He was better when attempting mid-range shots, as he made a pull-up, long two-point shot, but missed on a pull-up mid-range jumper another time.  Also, Barrett displayed decent playmaking skills in this game.  Though he looked to score quite frequently, he was able to get some assists.  He showed a good ability to kick the ball out to shooters off the dribble to set up scores, and he also can throw accurate interior passes.  However, his lone turnover came when he threw a pass that sailed out of bounds.

However, he will need to improve his defense.  Though he will look to play passing lanes, he strangely struggled to stay in front of his man, and he will need to be a smarter position defender in order to make significant strides on this end of the floor.  For the positives, Barrett heaped on a loose ball to get a steal, and he also was credited for a block in the second half even though Jack White appeared to have blocked the shot instead when Hachimura was posting up while Barrett was nowhere near the play.  Barrett also was able to contest a shot on a drive as well as on a three-point shot to force other misses as well.

However, he tended to play bad angles and gamble for steals too often, which would leave him to get beat off the dribble as well as in the post, as he would tend to allow scores.  On another time, he backpedaled too far, and fouled an opponent off of a drive to give up a score and an extra free throw.  Barrett also was too small to defend an opponent in the post on another play, as he allowed a score in the paint.  In addition, there was another time where he gave up too much space to his man to allow his opponent to score on a three-point shot.

In summary, R.J. Barrett had some good plays in the second half, but that doesn’t erase the fact that he was extremely inefficient as a scorer in this game, as he needed a whopping 25 shots to get 23 points against Gonzaga.  He took too many ill-advised shots, and played poor defense for a player that is considered so athletic.  Right now, he is still being talked about as a strong contender to be the top pick, but his playing style and statistical profile may suggest that should no longer be the case.  Barrett will need to clean up his shot selection and learn to play more under control on both ends of the floor.  While his upside may still be very high, if he does get picked in the top 3, he could end up being a rather inefficient scorer on bad to mediocre teams, similar to a player like Minnesota Timberwolves’ forward, Andrew Wiggins in the NBA.

Duke’s 6-7 freshman forward, Cam Reddish did not play very well in his team’s loss to Gonzaga.  He had an abysmal first half, and while he played better in the next twenty minutes, it was not significantly more so, as his struggles to make shots and troubles with his turnovers as well as on the defensive end plagued him and prevented him from having a good game on this day.  For the positives, he did a good job of knocking down threes to space the floor for his team.  Reddish can make long-range jumpers both off the catch and dribble, and he was able to knock down a pull-up three from beyond the arc.

However, he really struggled to score on drives to the basket.  He did make one nifty spin move as he showed good change of directions skills before finishing with his right hand, and he also drew free throws on an aggressive right handed drive, but Reddish really struggled to score off drives consistently, as he in particular had trouble going to his left to score around the basket.  Also, Reddish committed lots of turnovers in this game.   For a player that was billed as a point forward, he has not been that type of player at all this season in college basketball.  He did not look to pass often, but he can throw accurate interior passes to set up scoring chances for his teammates.  However, he tended to force the issue too much on drives to the hoop.  He had a tendency to get the ball knocked away or lose the basketball off the dribble amidst traffic, and he also traveled while driving to try to throw a kick out pass.  If he’s supposed to be a playmaker, this game did not at all showcase his skills in that area, as he had no assists and committed four turnovers due to playing too wildly in this game.

He also played awful defense against Gonzaga.  Reddish was pretty much a defensive liability in this game, as he tended to gamble too much for steals, but too often would miss on those, causing him to get beat off the dribble as well as when defending in the post, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.  He tended to make bad gambles that didn’t pay off, and it would cause him to be out of position. 

Overall, Cam Reddish just flat out did not play well, with the exception of him knocking down a couple of three-pointers against Gonzaga.  He played too selfishly, forced up bad shots whenever he would look to drive the ball to the basket, committed way too many boneheaded turnovers, and made bad gambles that resulted in his team paying the price on defense.  

This was probably his worst game that he’s played since his lackluster showing against Eastern Michigan.  Some of this was that he had trouble getting consistent touches on offense, and R.J. Barrett’s ball hogging can bear the brunt of the blame, but Reddish also forced up a lot of bad plays when he would look to make plays on that end of the floor too often in this game.

Even still, it may not hinder Reddish’s draft stock that much, as it is a long season, and there are still plenty of more games to go, and he’s also played well against San Diego State and Auburn.  While Reddish may no longer be a lock to go in the top 3, he is still a skilled player that can play great basketball when he plays under control, and in a favorable scenario, he could end up being like a Gordon Hayward type of player in the association.

Gonzaga’s 6-8 junior forward, Brandon Clarke had a terrific game in his team’s win over Duke, and his strong performance in this contest was a revelation, as he could be the ultimate sleeper for the 2019 draft.  Clarke played very well on both ends of the floor.  He excelled as an inside scorer, showed some shooting skills, and he played outstanding defense due to his tremendous shot blocking prowess when roaming the paint.  He is a high motor player that plays magnificent defense.  He is an excellent shot blocker that did a great job of blocking shots, as he showed terrific leaping ability, instincts, and timing to protect the paint to help his team.  He in particular excelled at swatting shots off of drives, and he made sure that Duke would not get many easy looks in the lane, which may be a daunting task for most college basketball teams in the country.

Clarke also showed a strong ability to finish plays around the basket.  He had a knack for scoring around the hoop after being left open inside, as he managed to score on an acrobatic reverse layup once, and he also caught a lob to score on an alley-oop dunk another time.  Also, Clarke was able to score on a tip dunk after leaping up to get an offensive rebound.  He also did an adequate job of scoring in the post.  He can go up strong to score after getting the ball down low, and he also used a spin move to draw free throws on a turnaround jumper.  But sometimes, he may miss shots, as he may not always have his balance when taking shots from the block.

He didn’t take many jumpers, but he was able to make a spot-up three in his lone attempt from beyond the arc.  Also, he managed to draw a non-shooting foul when looking to drive to his left on another play.  Clarke was also active on the boards, as he showed an adequate ability to get rebounds, particularly on the defensive end.  On the downside, he was turnover prone on offense.  He would sometimes lose his balance or not show great footwork, as he had a ball stolen from him once and he also traveled another time.  Clarke was also called for setting a moving screen on a separate occurrence.

Overall, Brandon Clarke had a terrific game, as he made shots from all over the floor, and he was a standout defensively, as his strong interior play made it tough for Duke to get good shots up in the paint.  Clarke is an athletic, energetic combo forward that has strong defensive skills, and he is an underrated prospect that could develop into being a solid role player, akin to Memphis Grizzlies’ forward, JaMychal Green in the NBA.

Gonzaga’s fifth-year senior, Josh Perkins had a good game in his team’s win over Duke.  He did a very good job of running the point on offense.  He would make sure that everyone would get the basketball, and he also excelled at throwing interior passes to set up a wealth of scores for his teammates.  A couple of times, he would make some careless turnovers, but generally Perkins had an affinity for throwing crisp, long passes that would lead him to get assists in this contest.

He also did a very good job of scoring on jumpers.  Perkins showed a knack for making spot-up threes, and he also made a pull-up mid-range jumper.  Plus, he also was active on the glass, as he did a good job of getting offensive boards for his team.  Defensively he was not too noticeable, but he did commit a couple of fouls in this game.  Overall, Perkins quietly put forth a good performance, as he ran the point well to help lead his team to a victory over Duke.  He is a smart game manager that plays his position well, and he could potentially end up making an NBA team’s roster in the association.

Other Notes:

Gonzaga’s 6-11 freshman Serbian center, Filip Petrusev played very well off the bench, as his versatile scoring and rebounding skills helped pave the way to lead his team to get the upset win over Duke.  Petrusev is a skilled big man that has a good feel for the game.  He shot the ball well, as he was able to fade out to the top of the key to make an open three off the catch, and he also drove to the hoop to get quick scores around the basket.  He also was quite active as a scorer off of energy plays.  Petrusev managed to score on a dunk off of a roll to the rim, and he also scored on a tip-in.  Plus, he was active at crashing the glass to get boards on both ends of the floor.

Overall, while he may only be an above average athlete at best, Petrusev is a mobile big man that can score the basketball from all over the floor, and he could be a potential first round pick in a future draft.  In some ways, he may be kind of like a lesser athletic version of current Portland Trail Blazers’ center, Zach Collins, and Petrusev’s quick development as a player is a testament to Mark Few’s strong coaching skills.  Petrusev may need to spend some time in college basketball, but he could be a star in a few seasons, and he could profile into being a reliable role player in the NBA sometime down the road.

Tre Jones had his ups and downs in his team’s loss to Gonzaga.   He struggled early on, as he would play too fast and out of control, and he had a tendency to commit turnovers off of wild drives.  Sometimes he would hold the ball too long, other times he would be too predictable as he would look to only score on drives to the basket, but when he didn’t commit turnovers, he actually played decently on offense.  Though he had his shots blocked a couple of times due as he would not use pump fakes, Jones showed a knack for scoring on floaters, just like his brother Tyus.  However, Tre Jones tended to miss shots in transition, as he would tend to try to make the big play rather than try to score under control.

He also shot the ball well when he would look to take jumpers.  That was not very often, but Jones was able to make a pull-up, mid-range jump shot as he elevated high to score from the left elbow, and he also made a deep, pull-up three just before half time.  Defensively, he looked to be about average.  He was able to jump a pass to get a steal, but sometimes he would not quickly rotate or stay up on his man, as he would be prone to allowing opponents to score on jumpers.  Right now, Tre Jones is a point guard that has some interesting skills, and he could profile into being an effective game manager at the next level.  He will need to play more under control and be a more disciplined defender, but he may have the skill set to be a quality backup in the NBA, as he could end up being a good value pick in the second round of the upcoming draft.

Duke’s junior center, Marques Bolden had the game of his life against Auburn, where he played with a tremendous motor, scored on an alley-oop dunk and was a terrific finisher around the basket, rebounded the ball very well, and Bolden also played great defense by blocking many shots in the paint to his teammates to shore up the interior on that day, but against Gonzaga, this game was different.  While Bolden was still able to make some plays on offense, as he managed to score on a couple of dunks around the basket, he was actually pretty bad on the defensive end against the Bulldogs, as he really struggled to defend out on the perimeter. 

Bolden lacks elite lateral quickness, and he had trouble guarding his man out there, as he would give up too much space to allow three-point scores, and he would also struggle to stay with his man on drives or rotate back to the roll men, which would lead him prone to committing fouls and giving up baskets at the rim.   Right now, Bolden’s terrific game against Auburn might be enough to get him drafted late into the second round in 2019, but he will need to improve his lateral mobility and defense out on the perimeter in order to improve his chances to succeed in the modern NBA.