Late last week, we posted an extensive piece breaking down the defensive play of Penn State alum and current Dallas Mavericks two-way player Josh Reaves. The analysis was extremely favorable due to the ability to read and react to oncoming passes and knack of defending on-ball drivers. Those great traits were the keys behind the Big Ten naming him as their Defensive Player of the Year for the 2018-19 season.
Although the 6’5 guard stood out as one of the best defensive guards in college basketball while with Penn State, he’s the furthest thing from a one-dimensional player. That was evident during his senior season, where the 6’5 guard put up 10.6 points, 5 rebounds, and 2.9 assists on 43% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc on 4.1 attempts per game. Those numbers were a byproduct of our subject being the third weapon in the Nittany Lions offense, as he finished behind Lamar Stevens and Rasir Bolton in shot attempts per game.
While his role within the team’s offense was a little limited, Reaves still knew how to make an impact when his number was called upon. In those moments, he showcases himself as someone that’s able to contribute in a variety of different ways. Whether it’s attacking closeouts, facilitating, attacking the offensive glass, or hitting the occasional perimeter jumper, our subject showed a knack for helping out in a variety of different ways.
Among those traits, his work as a perimeter shooter is probably the most intriguing offensive skill that he has. A lot of that interest comes from how he was able to improve in this area over his four year run at Penn State. During his first two seasons, the 6’5 guard struggled to find the bottom of the net as a long-range shooter as he only hit 22% on 98 total jumpers. That efficiency took a drastic turn in the right direction during his junior and senior years as he hit 37% from beyond the arc on 238 total attempts.
Reaves making that improvement while having his volume increase is a sign that his approach to perimeter shooting made a gigantic leap forward throughout his college career. In addition to his improved efficiency, that hard work is evident when you watch film of him shooting catch-and-shoot 3’s as the whole process is quick and cohesive. From aiming his feet at the rim before getting the ball, bringing it in, and bending his knees in a blink of an eye to finally shooting it with a high release point, his entire approach is smooth.
In addition to allowing him to be a consistent threat from beyond the NCAA three-point line, that approach gave him the type of range that will help him at the next level. According to the Stepien’s shot charts, he shot 38% on a total of 82 jumpers that were deep enough to be taken beyond the NBA’s three-point line. The fact that’s a two percent improvement on the actual three-point percentage from his senior year at Penn State. Should this fact push us to expect him to come out of the gate and be an efficient perimeter shooter during his rookie year? Not sure. However, it’s an interesting thing to keep in mind as Reaves’ transition to the pro game.
In addition to that improved perimeter jumper, Reaves stood out as an excellent offensive rebounder. He showed that during his senior year with Penn State as he snagged 1.6 offensive boards per game, which placed him as the best rebounding guard in the Big Ten. Those impressive numbers were likely due to how the guard able to quickly recognize where the ball is going to end up after it careens off the rim. Once the recognition occurs, he can use his hops for putbacks or a strong 215-pound frame to overpower foes that he’s trying to box out.
Coinciding with his shooting and knack as an offensive rebounder, he stands out as a pretty solid facilitator. That really isn’t shown from his statistics as he averaged only 2.9 assists per game with a 1.2 Ast/TO ratio. While those numbers were pretty low, the young guard showed flashes of a player that can eventually be an excellent distributor. That optimism comes when you actually watch him play as the young guard throws excellent entry passes and can quickly find open shooters or cutters while on the perimeter.
While solid in both of those areas, he probably does his best work as a drive-and-dish facilitator. This process begins with him utilizing an off-ball screen or solid first step to create separation from his perimeter defender. After moving past that defender, the 6’5 guard keeps his head up and surveys the court while moving.
This process pushes the defense to Reaves, which usually allows one of the other four offensive players to find an opening, whether from beyond the arc or just cutting to the rim. In either instance, he does an excellent job of quickly finding those teammates and throw them a precise pass.
Will he ever be looked at as an elite offensive weapon for any G League or NBA team? Probably not. However, that shouldn’t take away from the fact that that the 6’5 guard can occasionally cause havoc on opposing defense through a perimeter jumper that can catch fire at any moment. In addition to that, he could be a pain to deal with when he’s using his strength and athleticism to snag offensive rebounds.
When you put the traits together, it’s enough to allow him to be a real threat on both ends of the court. Fans will have a chance to see that versatility when Josh Reaves debuts with the Legends next month.