2023-24 Kia Season Preview

Film Study: 5 rotation players who could make a big impact

Christian Wood, Grant Williams, Bruce Brown, John Collins and Donte DiVincenzo could each make a big impact on their new teams in 2023-24.

Bruce Brown (right) will be a key piece in the Pacers’ backcourt alongside Tyrese Haliburton.

Some more notes, numbers and film regarding players in new places for the 2023-24 season …

1. Christian Wood is an offensive weapon

Christian Wood gives the Lakers an additional scorer and rebounder in the frontcourt.

There are reasons why Wood has never lasted very long with any of the seven different franchises he’s played for, but there’s no denying that he’s a skilled offensive player. He’s an efficient one too, registering a true shooting percentage of 61.4% over the last four seasons, a mark which ranks 22nd among 139 players with at least 2,000 field goal attempts over that stretch. That’s ahead of new teammates Anthony Davis (59.9%, 37th) and LeBron James (59.5%, 40th).

Wood (71%) has been assisted on a higher percentage of his field goals than Davis (63%) or James (39%) over those four years. He’s more of an off-ball scorer, and he’s shot 188-for-462 (40.7%) on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers over the last two seasons.

But he’s more than a stand-still scorer. Wood is quick for his size, and he can put the ball on the floor to beat a close-out …

Christian Wood drive vs. Lakers

Though he doesn’t have much bulk, Wood can also score inside. Last season, he scored 1.44 points per possession as a roll man, according to Synergy tracking. That includes pick-and-pop possessions, and it ranked second among 40 players with at least 100 roll-man possessions overall. He’s got good hands and can finish over smaller defenders, whether they’re late with help or trying to defend him in the post.

The Lakers have had a worse-than-average offense in each of the last three seasons. Even in the 887 minutes that James and Davis were on the floor together last season, they scored just 112.9 points per 100 possessions, 1.2 fewer than the league average (114.1). Wood can certainly help them score more efficiently, though it remains to be seen if he’ll be the team’s best option in key sequences when both ends of the floor are taken into account.

2. Grant Williams will defend anybody

Grant Williams will be tasked with a variety of defensive assignments in Dallas.

Williams is just 6-foot-6, but the player he defended most last season was Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. Although he’s a power forward, the player he defended third most was Miami Heat point guard Kyle Lowry.

Williams started games defending Joel Embiid … and Ja Morant.

He’s had better results defending guards than he has against bigs. But while he may not be the best option to defend any particular opponent, the bottom line is that he’s switchable. When a team can switch multiple screens, it can keep flattening out the opposing offense …

Celtics switching

According to Second Spectrum tracking, the Dallas Mavericks allowed 1.07 points per chance, the league’s worst rate, when they defended ball-screens with “soft” coverage last season. But they allowed just 0.96 points per chance (10th) when they switched a screen, and that was the league’s biggest such differential.

Overall, the Mavs fell from seventh in defensive efficiency in 2021-22 to 25th last season, with only the San Antonio Spurs seeing a bigger jump in points allowed per 100 possessions. One area where they saw a big drop-off was opponent free-throw rate, with only three teams allowing their opponents to attempt more free throws per 100 shots from the field.

Williams has had some foul issues in the past (5.3 per 36 minutes in his first two seasons) and hasn’t been all that successful guarding bigs. But he gives the Mavs another switchable defender who can keep opponents out of the paint and off the free-throw line.

3. Bruce Brown will get around a screen

Bruce Brown sees Indiana being a 'perfect fit' for him in 2023-24.

Like the Mavs, the Indiana Pacers switched a relatively high percentage of opponent ball-screens. But they were on the complete opposite end of the spectrum in regard to switch-vs.-drop success. The Pacers allowed 0.94 points per chance (seventh best) with “soft” coverage, but 1.05 points per chance (second worst) when they switched, according to Second Spectrum.

If they’d like to switch less (having Myles Turner as a rim protector is certainly a reason to use drop coverage), having Brown on the ball will help because few players are better at getting around screens …

Bruce Brown gets around two screens

Despite Turner’s presence inside, Indiana has ranked in the bottom five defensively in each of the last two seasons. Their offense was good (116.9 points scored per 100 possessions) when Tyrese Haliburton was on the floor last season, and if Brown can help push their defense out of the bottom 10, they’ll have a chance to compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

4. John Collins is a finisher

Utah hopes its trade for John Collins addresses a frontcourt scoring issue.

Collins can space the floor if you need him to. He’s attempted 2.7 3-pointers per game over his six-year career, making them at a reasonable rate (35.6%). He has also shot better than 50% from mid-range (on limited attempts) in two of the last three seasons.

But Collins is obviously more effective if you can get him opportunities near the rim. With his 3-point percentage a career-low 29.2% last season, he had an effective field goal percentage of 46% on shots from outside the paint. The discrepancy between that and his field goal percentage in the paint (64%) was the ninth biggest among 147 players with at least 200 attempts both in and outside the paint.

Collins is one of two players who have scored at least 1.2 points per possession on at least 100 roll-man possessions in each of the last five seasons, according to Synergy. Rudy Gobert is the other, but Collins is a much different roll man than Gobert. Primarily, some of those roll-man possessions are pick-and-pops, with Collins shooting from the perimeter. But Collins also has better hands and more athleticism on those rolls to the basket.

And the special thing about Collins is how quickly he rolls. He often spins out of the screen and has his head at the rim before the defense can react (even if there’s another big on the baseline)…

Trae Young lob to John Collins

Walker Kessler finished third in Kia Rookie of the Year voting and should be the starting center in Utah for many seasons to come. So Collins may not get much more time at the five than he did in Atlanta, where he started alongside Clint Capela.

But the Jazz’s back-up center (Kelly Olynyk) is a lot more of a floor spacer than Hawks big man Onyeka Okongwu. So Collins could get a few more opportunities to be a rim runner, though he’ll likely miss Trae Young (who had 72 more assists on dunks than any other player last season), both in regard to the attention he draws to the ball and his timely passing.

5. Donte DiVincenzo will drive and kick

Donte DiVincenzo brings his all-around game back East after joining the Knicks.

DiVincenzo passed on 66.5% of his drives in his lone season with the Golden State Warriors. That was both the highest rate among 271 players with at least 100 total drives last season and the highest rate for a player with at least 200 total drives in the 10 seasons of tracking data.

DiVincenzo shot a career-high 39.7% from 3-point range last season, with 92.7% of his 3s being assisted. He’s got a quick and compact release on catch-and-shoot attempts.

But he’ll attack a close-out and turn a good shot into a great one …

Donte DiVincenzo assist to Moses Moody

In addition to shooting better from deep, DiVincenzo shot much better in the paint last season (55.6%) than he did the season prior (40%, fourth worst among 328 players with at least 100 attempts). But he’s much more likely to pass than try to finish against bigger defenders.

And that can be a good thing for the New York Knicks, who ranked 23rd in the percentage of their 3-point attempts (69%) that were off the catch last season. That was a lower rate than that of the Warriors (72%, 13th), even though Golden State has the guy who shot 45.1% on pull-up 3s.

Among 130 players who attempted at least 50 catch-and-shoot 3s and at least 50 pull-up 3s, RJ Barrett (32.3% vs. 19.6%), Quentin Grimes (40.0% vs. 29.1%) and Jalen Brunson (47.6% vs. 38.0%) had the 10th, 16th and 21st biggest differentials between how well they shot on catch-and-shoot attempts and how well they shot on pull-ups. (DiVincenzo had the third biggest, 42.4% vs. 22.6%.) And while the Knicks had a top-five offense in the regular season, they were the only team to shoot less than 30% from beyond the arc in a 2023 playoff series, doing so in both of their series.

One way to shoot better is to shoot more off the catch. And the Knicks’ new drive-and-kick addition should help them do just that.

* * *
John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.