Malik Newman was a redshirt transfer player from Mississippi State. After a tough freshman year, he returned to the basketball floor looking like the player he should have been from the get-go.
Newman measures at 6’2.5″ (w/o shoes) with a 6’5.5″ wingspan. With the modern NBA’s emphasis on wings due to size and skill combination, point guards are actually getting bigger too. Newman is now the new average. He just has an edge on Stephen Curry, listed at 6’2″ with a 6’3.5″ wingspan at his Pre-Draft Combine.
So, what led to his more efficient game? It helped he had Devonte Graham, an NBA prospect and experienced point guard beside him. That’s a rare combination in itself. Within the Kansas system, he stuck to what he did best, instead of struggling with what he was okay at in Mississippi State. He was the shooter he was expected to be and sprinkled a bit of playmaking on the side as well.
He progressed as a shooter dramatically and was no longer the player that barely shot 40 percent from the field. He became more of a modern combo guard, shooting over 50 percent from 2-point range, over 40 percent from 3-point range, and doing an absolutely tremendous job filling in the lanes in transition by spotting up in the correct places on the floor.
Everyone remember G-League MVP Vander Blue last year? Playing next to Lonzo Ball, he had a lot of corner wing three-point shots in transition. It took a few games, but eventually, he started knocking them down.
Well, look at what Newman did for Kansas:
It really helps when your future teammates know where you’re going to be. Here’s Svi Mykhailiuk with the drop pass in transition:
Notice how naturally he hops into his 3-point shot. It allows him to stay on balance, erasing all of that forward momentum, and changing it to vertical lift.
Oh, and he’s a pull-up-jumper-in-transition (PUJIT) threat too. Notice how he uses a hesitation dribble leading into a 1-2 step pull-up jumper.
While I’ve been raving about his shooting, it’s important to keep in mind that he was a tertiary playmaker for Kansas too. Kansas was ranked fourth in the NCAA in total assists, which is a reflection of how, outside of Devonte Graham as a lead ball-handler, the team moves the ball around, tries to get in transition, push pace and find the open man. Newman is one of the four players that averaged over 2 assists per game. One of the other players? Svi Mykhailiuk.
Some of my favorite stats for Newman provided by Synergy:
He’s ranked in the 92nd percentile in overall offense
- 83rd percentile in spot-up situations
- 94th percentile as PnR ball-handler
- 86th percentile in Isolation
Essentially, it breaks down as to whether his offense translates to the next level. He’s a spot up shooter, he can be a tertiary playmaker, and he knows how to attack switches or take advantage of specific situations in isolation.
It was surprising that he went undrafted. The ability to shoot usually translates to the NBA level, especially when it includes three-level scoring to Newman’s ability.
Defense? He may not be a high event creator or get a lot of deflections, but he will be in the right places and hopefully project as an average defender at the next level. With some hope, he could defend the point of attack with some effectiveness while Ball roams off-ball.
So, the big question is, how does he fit with the Lakers? It’s very simple actually. The Lakers drafted two shooters of their three draft picks. They picked up another one, worthy of draft pick, as an undrafted free agent.
Whether a pick like this is tied to certain free agents or not doesn’t matter. What does matter is these guys knock down shots. The Lakers were No. 1 in transition frequency at 19.5 percent last season and would have really extended the lead over the rest of the league if Ball didn’t miss as many games.
It’s not just Ball pushing pace. It’s also Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram with grab-and-go situations. Despite the increase in transition possessions, the Lakers didn’t always capitalize like they should have. They averaged 1.06 points per possession, according to NBA.com, 22nd in the league. While teams like the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors are ranked No. 1 and No. 3 respectively in terms of transition percentile (100 and 93.1), the Lakers were 22nd at 27.6 percentile.
Newman is exactly the kind of guy that can help boost those PPP numbers in transition. He’s an easy fit.
Special thanks to @FrankieVision and @nbastats for the video coverage and the analytics.