Thoughts on Rui Hachimura, Matisse Thybulle, and Zach Norvell

December 6, 2018

by Alan Lu

Recently, I decided to take the time to watch Rui Hachimura and Gonzaga take on Matisse Thybulle and the Washington Huskies in an early season, college basketball game.  It presented itself as another opportunity to watch Hachimura play, as he is a player that has been getting some significant draft buzz, as well as to watch numerous prospects that played in this game.  Early on, Gonzaga looked poised to get a comfortable win, but Washington stayed in the contest.  It was a surprisingly competitive match, but Gonzaga was able to hold on to get the victory on Hachimura’s go-ahead basket.  Here are my thoughts on how various prospects fared in this game, as well as how their games may translate to the NBA.

Gonzaga’s 6-8 junior forward, Rui Hachimura had a very good showing, as he played well in virtually all facets of the game to help his team get a narrow win over Washington.  He did a good job of knocking down mid-range jumpers to help space the floor for his team.  Hachimura was able to make a pull-up, mid-range leaner in traffic, and he also showed a knack for making turnaround mid-range shots off the catch.  However, he also did not hoist up a single three-point shot from beyond the arc, although that fact did not affect the outcome of this game against Washington.

Plus, Hachimura also showed a fairly good ability to score in the post.  He was able to use a spin move to score on a leaner off the glass due to possessing good strength, footwork, and body control.  Hachimura also was able to use an overhead shoulder fake to score on a left-handed jump hook.  He would use strong moves to get to the free throw line quite often.  However, sometimes he would miss on turnaround jumpers, and occasionally he would also miss shots in the paint, as he would not always play under control.

He also did a decent job of scoring on aggressive drives to the basket.  Hachimura can finish plays using either hand, but he also missed a couple of shots due to not always having his shooting touch when looking to score off the dribble.  Hachimura also excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  His best score of the night was when he ran the floor and caught a long outlet pass to score on a scintillating, one-handed dunk in transition.  He also showed a good ability to score on put backs after grabbing offensive rebounds for his team.

Also, he displayed decent playmaking skills.  Though he didn’t look to pass often, he threw crisp, accurate passes to his teammates to set up scoring chances for them.  He was able to throw a sharp interior pass to find a cutter to notch an assist, and he also was able to throw a good pass out of the post to find an open shooter.  Hachimura did drop a pass once that eventually went out of bounds, but that was because his teammate threw him an inaccurate pass that was hard for him to catch.

Plus, he also was able to help out on the glass to get some rebounds for his team.  Hachimura managed to haul in multiple boards on both ends of the floor.  On the downside, he did drop a ball on an offensive rebound attempt out of bounds once, as he was unable to corral the basketball that time.  Defensively, he looked to be above average.  He was able to deflect a pass out of bounds to nearly get a steal, and Hachimura also would contest three-point shots to force some misses.

In general, Rui Hachimura is an athletic, skilled combo forward whose versatility and ability to get buckets could help an NBA team at the next level.  He will likely need to extend his shooting range once there, but Hachimura’s ability to score the basketball could enable him to excel in a complementary role.  With his skill set, he could be a good value pick for a team in the mid first round range in the 2019 draft.

Washington’s 6-5 senior guard, Matisse Thybulle also played very well in his team’s narrow loss to Gonzaga.  He played well in nearly all facets of the game, as he really helped himself by having a strong showing in this game.  Thybulle did a very good job of knocking down threes to space the floor for his team.  He showed a knack for making pull-up threes off the dribble, and he also was able to knock down a corner three off the catch.

He also showed a good ability to get scores on aggressive drives to the basket.  Thybulle has a good first step off the dribble, and he changes directions well, which allows him to finish plays around the basket to garner scores.  He also excelled at drawing fouls upon his opponents when taking it to the rim.   He did attempt a fancy, reverse layup off of a baseline drive, but was unable to make it that time.  Plus, he also showed a good ability to score on hustle plays.  Thybulle was able to drive hard to the hoop in transition to score on a thunderous dunk in transition.

Also, Thybulle displayed solid playmaking skills.  Thybulle showed a penchant for kicking the ball out to shooters off of drives to set up scores for his teammates.  He possesses good court vision, and his ability to make plays allowed him to rack up assists when he was on the floor.  Though he did not get many rebounds in this game, Thybulle was able to get a couple of defensive boards for his team.

Thybulle also played good defense.  He is an agile, instinctive defender that excels at playing help defense, and he can get numerous steals and deflections when he is on the court.  He was able to poke a ball away to force a turnover, and he also got his hands on a pass to collect another steal.  Thybulle does a very good job of playing passing lanes and poking balls away, but sometimes he can overdo it, which lead him to commit reach-in fouls, and to be out of position, leading him to allow three-point scores on other occasions.

In summary, Matisse Thybulle had a solid showing in his team’s loss to Gonzaga.  He showed off a variety of skills that can be useful at the next level.  However, his team plays in a zone defense, and Thybulle will need to adjust to playing man-to-man defense in the NBA.  If he can make the adjustment, he could end up being a very good role player in the association.  Right now, he looks to be a solid second round prospect for the upcoming draft.

Gonzaga’s 6-5 redshirt sophomore guard, Zach Norvell Jr. had a solid game in his team’s close win over Washington.  He did a good job of shooting and scoring the basketball, and he also was quite effective as a ball mover and rebounder when he was on the floor.  Norvell did a good job of knocking down corner threes to space the floor for his team on offense.  He also excelled at attacking the basket to garner scores, as he managed to score off of a cut, and he also drew free throws after going hard to the rim on an aggressive, left-handed drive to the hoop.

He also excelled as a facilitator in this game.  Norvell had a knack for passing off the dribble to find the open man to set up numerous scoring chances for his teammates due to possessing good court vision, athleticism, and ball handling prowess to do so.  Plus, he also rebounded well, as he was especially active on the glass to get defensive boards for his team.  Defensively, he looked to be about average.  For the positives, Norvell did a very good job of collecting steals, as he was able to poke a ball away to get one, and he also jumped on a loose ball to collect another.  He also was able to contest a couple of three-point shots to force some misses, and he also managed to draw a charge when defending a baseline drive.

However, he tended to commit reach-in fouls when defending in one-on-on situations, and he generally struggled to guard his man in those circumstances.  Sometimes, he would get beat off the dribble and have trouble keeping up, other times, he would give up too much space to allow his man to score on jumpers.  In summary, Zach Norvell Jr. put forth a good performance in his team’s win over Washington.  He is an athletic, skilled basketball player that can shoot and score the basketball, and he could end up going in the late first to the second round range of the upcoming draft, as his skill set may allow him to thrive as a role player in the NBA.

Washington’s 6-4 sophomore guard, Jaylen Nowell played very well in his team’s loss to Gonzaga.  He showed off versatile scoring skills when he was on the floor, and he possesses good speed, shooting touch, and ball-handling prowess to score often on drives to the hoop.  Nowell is an agile player that can score the basketball using either hand, and he would often get past his man when looking to create off the dribble.    He also did a good job of scoring in the post.  On one play, he was able to draw free throws off of a fadeaway jumper.  He also showed showed an adequate ability to knock down jumpers to space the floor for his team.  Nowell had a knack for knocking down mid-range jumpers, as he can do so off the catch or dribble.  He also was able to make a couple of spot-up threes, but he had trouble making them consistently from beyond the arc, especially when he would dribble in to take those shots.

He also displayed good playmaking skills.  Nowell is an unselfish player that will make the extra pass to keep the ball moving, and he will find the open man to rack up assists.  He also was able to throw a crisp interior pass to a roll man to set up a score.  However, he was inaccurate on one pass after trying to kick the ball out to a shooter off the dribble, but his pass that time sailed out of bounds, which led him to commit his lone turnover of the game.

Though he didn’t grab many rebounds in this contest against Nowell, he was able to grab boards on both ends of the floor.  Defensively, he looked to be about average at best.  On the plus side, he was able to poke a ball away on a drive to get steal.  However, he would sometimes be caught ball watching, and he would tend to give up too much space to allow opponents to score on three-point shots.  Overall, Jaylen Nowell is an athletic, skilled combo guard that can quickly get buckets for his team.  Right now, he may not have much draft buzz, but he could end up being a good value pick for a team in the second round, as NBA teams could use a microwave type of scorer off the bench at the next level.

Other Notes:

Gonzaga’s 6-11 freshman center, Filip Petrusev played very well, as he excelled as a scorer off the bench to help get his team a narrow victory over Washington.  Petrusev did a good job of scoring in the post.  He was able to score on a stepthrough move once while getting an extra free throw, and he also scored on a jump hook another time.  In this game, Petrusev showed good footwork, shooting touch, and body control to regularly finish plays around the basket.  He also was able to score on a patient drive to the hoop, and he also managed to score on a put back off of an offensive rebound.

Defensively, he looked to be above average.  Petrusev was able to use his length and timing to block a shot on an opponent’s put back attempt, but he was unable to grab the defensive rebound, so he ended up fouling on another put back the next time.  He was able to contest a shot in the post to force a miss.  However, he can struggle to defend opponents out on the perimeter, as he committed a foul on a drive due to having trouble guarding a quicker player out there.  In summary, Filip Petrusev is a skiled big man that can score and protect the paint, and he could be intriguing prospect to watch.  With his skill set, he could end up being a late first to a second round pick in the future, as he may possess a similar skill set to Portland Trail Blazers’ center, Zach Collins.

Gonzaga’s 6-8 junior forward, Brandon Clarke put himself on the draft prospect map with his strong showing in his team’s surprising win over Duke recently.  In this game, even though he still notched a double-double in his team’s victory over Washington, Clarke didn’t play nearly as well, as he struggled to make shots efficiently, played too recklessly on offense at times, and he did not actually block a shot in this game.

For the positives, he showed a decent ability to score off the dribble.  He was able to score on floaters off of high post drives, but sometimes, he would miss on floaters, as his shooting touch would waver on occasion.  Clarke was active as a finisher around the basket.  He was able to catch a lob pass to score on an alley-oop layup, and he also managed to score on a put back.  However, he tended to miss on tip-ins and put backs, as he would rush his shots rather than gather himself to try to score.

He also did not fare well as a low post scorer.  He had his shots blocked in the post twice, and he generally would struggle to identify who would roam to try to swat his shots, leaving him to try to overtly force the issue on offense without success.  He also was quite turnover prone.  Clarke did not show good decision making skills in this game, but he did get one good assist by kicking the ball out to a shooter off the dribble to set up a score for him.  However, he would drive in too recklessly, leading him to get the ball ripped away or for him to commit charging fouls.  Another time, he threw an inaccurate interior pass that was dropped by a teammate that landed out of bounds.

Clarke did do a very good job of rebounding the basketball, and he was very active at crashing the glass to collect boards on both ends of the floor.  Defensively, he looked to be about above average.  For the positives, Clarke did a good job of helping his team get steals, as he was able to jump a pass to collect one, and he also poked a ball away to get another.  However, sometimes he may over-rotate or whiff on steal attempts, which can lead him to be out of position when defending the roll man or in the post, causing him to allow scores around the basket.

Overall, Brandon Clarke did not have a great game, but he still had some good moments at times.   He is an athletic, energetic combo forward that may project to be a defensive specialist, but he will need to improve his jump shot and playmaking skills.  Right now, he may project to be a second round prospect, but he will need to expand his skill set on offense in order for him to improve his odds to succeed at the next level.

Washington’s 6-8 senior big man, Noah Dickerson also did not play very well, and against Gonzaga, he missed too many makeable shots inside the paint, and he also struggled with his defense, as well as with turnovers.  Though he did not excel as a scorer in the post, he did manage to score on an emphatic dunk once.  However, he tended to miss too often in traffic, and sometimes he would miss awkwardly as he may not possess much lift on his shot.  He did do a good job of scoring on hustle plays.  Dickerson managed to score on a dunk off of a roll to the rim, and he also scored in transition another time.  He did draw free throws on a put back, but he also had a shot blocked another time after looking to score off of an offensive rebound.

However, he was quite turnover prone in this game.  Dickerson had trouble passing out of double teams, and on one occasion when he was trapped, he ended up throwing the ball away out of bounds after being doubled.  He also got tied up on a baseline drive as the possession arrow went to the other team another time.  Dickerson also committed a traveling violation after posting up, and he also set a moving screen, as he generally had trouble making quick decisions or maneuvering in traffic against Gonzaga.  On the plus side, Dickerson did a good job of rebounding the basketball, as he was able to haul in multiple boards on both ends of the floor.   Defensively, he looked to be average at best.  For the positives, he can jump passes to get steals, and he also was able to block a shot inside.  Also, he was able to draw a charge to get an opponent to commit an offensive foul. 

On the downside, he tended to commit blocking fouls on drives as he would struggle to be in position to draw charges, and he also committed a foul in the post to allow a score and an extra free throw.  Another time, he gave up too much space to his man to allow his man to score on a jumper.  Generally, Dickerson had trouble guarding quicker players, or be in position to make plays defensively, as that would cause him to commit an abundance of fouls.

Overall, Noah Dickerson did not play very well, and against Gonzaga, he missed too many shots inside the paint, and he also committed too many fouls and turnovers.  Right now, he may be a long shot to be drafted, but if he can improve his jump shot, extend his shooting range, and cut down on the number of mistakes made on both ends of the floor, he could perhaps increase his odds to make an NBA roster.