Scottie Lewis is a player known for his energy level and enthusiasm on the court, but near the end of the season he got a bit of a reputation as a shooter.
If a few games into the season you were told that Lewis was going to finish the season as a threat from beyond the three-point line, you’d probably be more than just a little bit skeptical. Lewis started the season shooting 20% from deep in his first ten games, something that had defenses completely disregarding him as a floor spacer and leaving him open for any attempt he should choose to take.
In his first month of collegiate basketball, Lewis only saw three of his three-balls fall.
Then, when conference play began something happened. The shots that were clanking iron and spilling out started to fall again, again, and again, and slowly Lewis was able to drag his 20% three-point stroke up to a serviceable 36% on the year, a number above the national average. Lewis’ 44% three-point percentage in conference play was good for third in the SEC, something you would have never expected after the shooting start to his college career.
Moving into the 2020-21 season when discussing Lewis’ game on the whole you’ve got to consider what he is as a shooter. Is he going to be the 20% shooter that started the season, is he going to be the 44% shooter that ended the season, or is he, as most would predict, somewhere in between?
If he is a 36% shooter like his season average would suggest, that would be encouraging. The D1 average last season was 33.3%, the lowest mark in college basketball history. This is likely due to the fact the three-point line was moved to the further FIBA distance, but it’s worth noting that if you look at the average three-point percentage over the last decade it’s 34.4%, so Lewis’ 36% mark would still be better than the average. Additionally, Lewis was, of course, a freshman last season and shooting is something you can usually expect players to improve on as they get older and more mature. That projected growth curve mixed in with the fact that he shot 44% in conference will have a lot of people expecting big things from Lewis as a shooter. Additionally, if you’re a believer in free throw shooting being an indicator of future three-point success then you’ll be happy to know Lewis hit 82% from the charity stripe.
For these reasons there are going to be people talking up Lewis as a shooter and expecting him to be a marksman as a sophomore, spacing the floor for Keyontae Johnson and Tyree Appleby as defenses make the difficult choice to help on drives or take away drive-and-hit three opportunities.
While some of the reasons Lewis could be expected to hit a high percentage of his threes next season are valid, there are some concerns regarding his outlook as a shooter.
For starters, his 36% on the season is a bit less impressive when you factor in the fact he shot just a hair over two three-point attempts per game. That is a small number, especially for a wing in modern basketball, and his 61 attempts as a freshman is a rather small sample size. For that 36% to be held up as a true indication of Lewis as a shooter that sample size would need to be much larger and because it’s not… you can’t be totally sure what he is.
Next, you’ve got to look at who his threes came against. Lewis’ best three-point performances came against LSU (2-3), Texas A&M (3-4), Mississippi State (3-5), and Towson (2-4). Those four games were the only ones in which he hit multiple threes, and each one of those teams were dismal on the defensive end. In KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric these teams were as follows:
Texas A&M (77th)
Mississippi State (119th)
When it comes to playing good defensive opponents, Lewis didn’t fare as well. Against top-50 defenses the Gators faced, Lewis only hit 23% of his threes.
Another number that’s relevant is the fact that a whopping 71% of Lewis’ catch and shoot three attempts were wide open with only 29% of them guarded. That number of wide open shots is the stuff that offensive players dream of.
On his wide open attempts Lewis hit 39% of his threes, and he hit only 29% of his guarded threes.
Looking at a player’s shooting percentage when guarded can give a much more accurate depiction of their shooting ability, as in 2020 nearly every player on the floor is comfortable taking a wide open three. The other concern with Lewis’ 71% of attempts coming unguarded is that the fact that, well, opposing defenses were comfortable leaving him open. Now, some of that is definitely a result of Florida’s offense that was efficient at generating open shots, but oftentimes teams were picking their poison with Florida’s offense and deciding that leaving Lewis open was their best option.
Here’s a bizarre stat that I came to while watching Lewis’ 61 three-point attempts on the season.
He had 8 airballs.
If you’re a Gators fan reading this, that number probably brought to mind some of Lewis’ attempts that rainbowed towards the goal but never caught iron. Lewis has one of the highest-arcing shots you’re going to see, and that style of shot has positive and negative consequences. On the positive side, when the ball is coming down from such a high angle it has a bigger face of the rim to land in. A rim is big enough that two balls can fit in simultaneously, but only if they drop straight down. The flatter the shot, the smaller the angle is that the ball can go through without catching iron and bouncing out.
The problem with a high-arcing attempt is that you lose accuracy with every degree of height added to the angle, and the consequence of that with Lewis’ shot was some crazy misses. What made his airball habit even more interesting was the fact that he didn’t shoot more airballs at the beginning of the year when he was struggling, they were consistently coming about one every three games all season long. That shows that he has some work to do with his jumper, as he definitely needs to eliminate the wild miss that was coming on one of every eight shots.
When you think of the best shooters in basketball–how many of them shoot with that exaggerated level of arc? Not many. And when you don’t see a lot of players having success with a particular method there is probably a reason why, and that’s that it largely isn’t effective.
With a big offseason in his career development coming this past summer it will be interesting to see if Lewis reworked his release at all. It’s certain that the feedback he would have received from NBA teams would have largely centered around his offensive game and his ability to hit shots and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if he heard negative information regarding his mechanics.
Bringing up numbers and reasoning why Lewis might not have been as good of a shooter as he was made out to be at the end of the season isn’t to be a wet blanket and isn’t to be negative but it’s a look at how data can help paint a more complete picture of what we see. It also is to help temper expectations of what Lewis can be, and also have a good idea of what he was likely working on this summer.
If there is one thing we know about Lewis it’s that he is a tireless worker. If he makes the necessary mechanical changes such as lowering the arc of his release and bringing more consistency to his stroke there is no doubt he could be an impactful shooter, but right now there is some work to be done that wasn’t immediately shown by his 36% shooting on the season or 44% in SEC play.