In his latest Rookie Watch column (subscription required) for ESPN.com, analyst David Thorpe ranks Andrew Nicholson of the Orlando Magic as the league's fourth-best rookie, just behind Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, and Bradley Beal. Further, the ESPN scribe compared Nicholson's arsenal of back-to-basket moves to that of Al Jefferson, the high-scoring Utah Jazz center.
"[T]he man is becoming a nice go-to option inside and looks an awful lot like Al Jefferson with the way he holds the ball with one hand, away from the defense, and gets off a quick hook with either hand," Thorpe says.
In 55 appearances, Nicholson has averaged 8.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game on 52.8 percent shooting from the field. An increase in playing time has led to an uptick in production for the St. Bonaventure product in February, in which month he averaged 11.4 points and 5.2 rebounds on 53.3 percent shooting from the field.
While no one will confuse Nicholson for Jefferson on a physical level--Jefferson is a 265-pound boulder of a man, whereas Nicholson doesn't play as strong as his listed weight of 250 pounds might suggest--there are indeed similarities in their low-post productivity. Coincidentally, Nicholson and Jefferson have scored 0.87 points per post-up play in 2012/13, according to the stat-tracking service Synergy Sports Technology. That figure is good for 46th in the league.
A chief difference is that posting up is the biggest part of Jefferson's game, by a wide margin. 49.1 percent of the plays he's used--via a shot attempt, drawn foul, or a turnover--have come in post-up situations, whereas Nicholson strikes a balance between post-ups (27.4 percent) and spot-up chances (20.2 percent).
Jefferson has proven adept at turning and facing the basket out of post-ups so he can attack via a dribble-drive or simply take a jumper if the defender allows him enough space. In contrast, Nicholson is more inclined to back his man down when he catches with his back to the basket, and he's not as comfortable--to these eyes, anyway--attacking off the bounce.
Nicholson's development inside leads Thorpe to suggest that Orlando adds "a dynamic guard" in the NBA Draft this coming June, as the double-team attention Nicholson might draw could open the floor for this unnamed wing presence.
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