With the draft less than a month away, Mark and Caitlin are back with a fresh episode of “Stock up, Stock down.” Breaking down a different prospect each week, the idea is for the hosts to watch a player, identifying reasons to be both bearish and bullish, with frame of reference from a few specific games as well as for the Pacers. Then, in zooming out with a broader focus, an invited draft expert reacts to the findings.
This week, @beenthrifty join to talk La Lumiere product Jeremy Sochan through the lens of Baylor’s games against Kansas, TCU, and Alabama.
Caitlin’s pick — rotational defense and movement skills
When operating at the peak of his powers, Jeremy Sochan flies around on defense with the technique of a dancer spotting on a turn, maintaining awareness of movement, direction and location in space even while rotating.
Just look at this possession against Kansas, as he processes his way out of the scramble situation, hitting his marks while communicating, before reading the skip pass and gliding from the corner to the opposite block without losing balance or control.
Or, how about against TCU, when in a single possession, he defended all five players on the floor, whether defending on-ball as principal or in providing framing. For those counting, here’s a rundown of the match-up changes.
- Begins defending Jakob Coles in the corner
2.With Coles cutting baseline out of the option screens, switches and chases Damion Baugh out to the perimeter
.3. Communicates the back-screen and trades Baugh for Chuck O’Bannon Jr. without losing vision of the ball
4. Converges on Eddie Lampkin Jr. at the elbow as a pivot point, before returning to cover O’Bannon (and resisting the urge to lunge) on the cut-through
5. After tagging Lampkin as the roller, releases once again to Coles, his original assignment, and smashes down to contest the spin move of Francisco Farabello, completing the fivefold
To be fair, he isn’t without his wobbles. Even there, in what still ultimately ended with a deflection, he probably should’ve snapped his head and stepped with his inside arm outstretched to avoid disassociating from his latest check, but he nevertheless has an undeniable shadow presence; at times, seeming as though he is shutting down an entire team’s offense just with the way he skims the floor, playing multi-positional team defense.
In that way, although Sochan still needs to perfect staying grounded, particularly with regard to tracking guards from the perimeter and at times being overeager at the point of attack, the overall control of his off-ball awareness in combination with his mix of lateral smoothness , verticality, and backward mobility point toward his potential to defend with flexibility in limited settings as well as overall connectedness as part of a collective.
Mark’s pick — Decision-making
Caitlin’s pick — “Spacing”
As of now, Sochan is not a reliable shooter. According to InStat, he made just 29.8 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes and only 58 percent of his free throws. Without a proven jump-shot, NBA defenses won’t be as likely to bite on his exaggerated pump-fake.
For that matter, Alabama doesn’t exactly seem concerned, here, with leaving him wide open out of the pick-and-pop. The guard in rearview pursuit doesn’t peel-back, there’s no tension on the rim protector, and the nearest weak-side defender isn’t moving a muscle.
Still, relying on 3-point volume and accuracy as the only two data points to determine “spacing” misses an important factor: Can he do something with the ball?
In that regard, there’s a difference between being ignored while standing still, and slipping out of an exit screen with the ancillary handle and craft for his size to do this:
For the season, Sochan only attempted nine shots after rolling or slipping to the basket, but he’s clever with a natural feel, albeit somewhat hesitant, for slashing and setting screens in the half-court. He just didn’t always touch the ball in those situations with the opportunity to make a play as a connective pass. What if he does with Tyrese Haliburton at the wheel?
To that point, instead of questioning whether he can clear the hurdle of drawing closeouts, where he at times can be formulaic with his footwork patterns and has a tendency to lean heavily on his spin move or get stranded in no man’s land, perhaps perceptions should shift to whether what he does on defense can provide him with enough rope, particularly in the right development context, to warrant allowing him to hone what else he has shown in flashes that might mitigate the need for him to improve as a shooter from deep.
Though somewhat rough around the edges, he tantalized when deployed at point center in the Kansas game, fronting David McCormack at one end of the floor while bringing up the ball and playing both sides of the pick-and-roll at the other.
If he isn’t going to be defended on the pop anyway, maybe the option will exist for him to space the floor with playmaking, opening shots for better shooters, such as Haliburton, Buddy Hield, or Chris Duarte, while also drawing the rim protector out of the paint.
Plus, while clearly not as polished or forceful around the basket, there was this intoxicating glimmer where he went from crossing over away from a double ball screen to slicing and staying below a switch that was reminiscent of how Sabonis would occasionally flex between ball-handler and finisher on the same possession.
But, here’s the thing: Sabonis, a two-time All-Star, didn’t really start getting those types of inverted pick-and-roll reps until the backcourt was depleted as a result of health and safety protocols. As such, it seems somewhat dubious that Sochan, who can do a lot of things in small doses but doesn’t currently possess a defining crystallized trait nor the tools to consistently pressure the rim, would be shaped to reshape defenses in that mold with a longer view, let alone as a teenaged rookie.
That said, even after the trade deadline, there continued to be room in the offense for the bigs to operate as trailers out of delay or as general means of continuity with hand-offs. Those actions would allow him to flow from 5-out into what could be the makings of a slippery keeper, when he can stay under control; but there’s reason to mull over how cramped the floor would be with Isaiah Jackson planted outside the action. Along those same lines, it’s probably fair to wonder if the aforementioned idea of Sochan as a short-roller would occur in favor of Jackson’s vertical pop or with Jackson in the dunker’s spot.
All of which is to say that, there’s a path for Sochan to “space” the floor that doesn’t solely depend on him as a reliable floor spacer or the variability of canning turnaround dribble jumpers, but it’s mainly built on intrigue to this point and seemingly would be the road less taken for the Pacers, at least based on recent history.
Mark’s pick — Lack of touch and shot outlook
- Parsing Sochan’s defense at the point of attack as well as in the post
- Projecting him in lineups with Isaiah Jackson on both ends of the floor
- Assessing his methodology when attacking closeouts
- Why environment matters for his development
Enjoy the pod and continue looking forward to more of these episodes as the draft approaches. Also, if you haven’t already, please be sure to Rate and Review the Indy Cornrows Podcast on Apple Podcasts and subscribe anywhere else you can listen.