Monday, January 11, 2016

Johnathan Motley

Johnathan Motley hasn't gotten a ton of publicity in his time at Baylor. He was a three-star recruit coming out of high school, a 6'8 185 senior without the type of NBA-ready frame that was going to impress the recruiting services. After red-shirting in his first season at Waco, he re-emerged as a 6'9 230 post player and played a pivotal role on a good Baylor team that went on to lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament thanks to the heroics of the Hunter family. His playing time has slightly decreased as a sophomore but his efficiency has gone through the roof and he's starting to live up to his immense potential.

He's coming off one of the best games of his career at Iowa State, with 27 points and 13 rebounds on only 15 shots. He dominated the Cyclones on both sides of the ball and looked like the best big man in the Big 12.

The first thing that stands out about Motley is his physical profile. At 6'9 230 with a 7'3 wingspan, he has prototype size for a traditional PF and he's long enough to survive as a small-ball C. He's big, physical and active and he moves really well. Watch him run from rim to rim and beat the entire Iowa State team down the floor for a monster dunk:

He's just a beast on the offensive boards. It's very hard to put a body on him and he relentlessly attacks the glass. His long arms allow him to keep balls alive and he has the strength to finish through contact and the touch to score in traffic:

He can also score with his back to the basket. He has some moves and a good feel for scoring in the post and he's big enough to create position and long enough to score over the top of most defenders. Baylor has churned out a lot of NBA-caliber big men under Scott Drew and Motley looks to be the next in line:

He's really fluid with the ball in his hands. Watch him smoothly bust out a turn-around jumper:

While Motley doesn't have great shooting range, he can hit mid-range jumpers in the pick and pop. That's the biggest thing he needs to work on if he stays in school for another season. I don't think he's ever going to be a 3-point shooter but a more consistent outside shot would open up the rest of his game and allow him to take advantage of his quickness against slower defenders on the perimeter:

Iowa State eventually had no choice but to start doubling him on the block. He's not a great passer by any means but he definitely shows some potential in that area. Motley has got a lot of skill for a big man and there's still plenty of room in his game for improvement:

It's hard to evaluate Baylor players on defense because they mostly play a series of gimmick zones, from the 1-3-1 to the 1-1-3 and the 3-2, and try to trap and confuse the other team with their length and athleticism and force turnovers. There are times where they play man defense but they didn't play any against Iowa State. Motley did play a lot of the C in the game and he has shown the ability to protect the rim:

He knows how to use his length to put players in jail in the paint and it's difficult to score over his 7'3+ arms:

What you have to like is his physical profile - he's an athletic guy with quick feet and he should be able to hold his own on the perimeter and switch the pick-and-roll from time to time.

Put it all together and Motley is a really interesting prospect. He's kind of a perfect combination of two guys I profiled last week - Thomas Bryant and Nigel Hayes. He has Hayes quickness and ability to guard on the perimeter and Bryant's size and ability to score in the post. In terms of projecting him to the next level, he's not quite big enough to be a full-time 5 and he's not quite perimeter oriented enough to be a starting 4 in the modern NBA. What I think he can be is a great 3rd big man who can slide between either front-court position and provide a ton of versatility of the bench, either as a small-ball 5 in an uptempo line-up or a more traditional 4 in a bigger line-up. Think of him like a bigger and more explosive version of Darrell Arthur.

His development puts Scott Drew in an interesting bind in terms of his line-ups this season. The reason he is coming off the bench at Baylor is that they start Rico Gathers at the 5, an undersized big man whose a great NCAA player and whose built like an NFL DE, and Taurean Waller-Prince at the 4, a combo forward and a first-round prospect in his own right whose best used when attacking a spread floor with only one big man. They can play Gathers at the 5, Motley at the 4 and Prince at the 3 but that doesn't provide a lot of spacing and their best line-up is Motley at the 5 and Prince at the 4.

The problem is that maximizing Motley means minimizing Gathers to an extent so Drew can't really utilize three of his team's best players to their fullest. It's a tough decision for an NCAA coach - whether or not to feature a senior whose not quite as talented or an underclassmen with more talent but who might end up going pro at the end of the season if given a bigger role in the offense. He could try to max out this team by featuring Motley or he could try to get the most out of Gathers and then hope he can build a good team around Motley next season rather than getting less out of Gathers this season and nothing out of Motley next season. An NCAA coach always has to keep one eye on the future.

My guess is he'll continue bringing Motley off the bench but he'll give his younger big man more playing time in games against the top teams in the Big 12. At this point in their careers, Motley has shown more than Kansas freshman Cheikh Diallo, who barely gets off the bench and with Killa Cam Ridley out for the rest of the season at Texas you can make the argument that Motley is the best big man in the conference. He's a first round pick for sure and you will be hearing a lot more about him in the future.

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