With Team USA already clinching their spot in this summer’s FIBA World Cup during their last round of games in December 2017, it seemed like the players had nothing to play for besides seeding when they joined forces for two games in February. Although the importance of the games have deteriorated, players throughout team USA’s roster were still focused on playing the best basketball in their matchups against Panama and Argentina. One example of that was 6’4 guard Michael Frazier.
That reliable play was evident in team USA’s final game of the World Cup Qualifying Process against a tough Argentina squad as he led the squad with 23 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals on 9-13 from field, 3-6 from 3 and 2-2 from the free throw line. While a jaw-dropping buzzer-beating three from Reggie Hearn helped seal the deal on an 84-83 victory, there’s absolutely no doubt that Frazier’s performance was the biggest factor in the team’s close win.
Frazier’s great play with Team USA is one of the biggest bright spots in what has been a 2018-19 season for the former University of Florida guard. Because in addition to that solid night, the 6’4 guard has stood as one of the best G League guards for his play with the RGV Vipers.
Since the calendar turned to 2019, he’s averaged 20 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.6 steals per game on 45% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc on 8.4 attempts from the field. His run over the past two months represents huge progression for the young guard as those numbers represents a career-high in points, assists, rebounds, steals, field goal percentage and 3-point percentage.
From his perspective, Frazier’s area of growth during this season is as an on-ball driver. “ coach JB (head coach Joseph Blair) have put me in a good position to be able to showcase that I can do that. It’s something that I’ve really shown at a high level for the first time in my career,” the RGV Vipers guard told Ridiculous Upside.
His progression as an on-ball driver is largely due to one specific trait that Frazier has been working on throughout the season. That newfound strength deals with his knack for pushing his body into the opposing player, whether they’re a big or forward, to gain an advantage over that defender.
“It’s something that I’ve watched a lot on film with the coaches emphasising that when I’m attacking the big guy I have to take up their space, which is the terminology that we use,” said Frazier. “Just to get in their area and go right at him because then he can’t harm my layup or block the shot which ultimately allows me to have that advantage. So that’s why you see me doing it a lot and I think it’s worked out really well for me this season as I keep on getting better at it.”
The RGV Vipers pushing him to add that to his work as an on-ball driver definitely makes sense as Frazier isn’t the most explosive guard in the world. In addition to that, this tactic has also allowed him to get the free throw line more regularly as the guard drawing contact ultimately leads to more fouls for the opposing team. Currently, he’s averaging a career-best 3.1 free throw attempts per game, which nearly doubles the 1.6 attempts per game he maintained back in 2015-16 when he was playing with the LA D-Fenders (now South Bay Lakers), Iowa Energy (now Iowa Wolves) and the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
Another significant area of growth for Frazier would be facilitating as he’s currently averaging a career-high 3.2 assists per game. That progression has a lot to do with his work within the pick-and-roll as he’s developed nice chemistry with bigs like Rockets assignee Isaiah Hartenstein and his former Florida teammate Chris Walker.
While he was more than excited to talk about both players, Frazier unsurprisingly was more hyped about Walker, whom he’s had a connection with since they were both playing for the Florida Gators in 2014-15. “We’ve connected various times on the lob pass and we’ve developed a chemistry that we really didn’t have in college because I really didn’t have the ball in my hand as much then,” stated the veteran guard. “He’s helped me in a way that when I throw it up I know he’s going to get it. That gives both of us confidence in each other so as the season has gone on we’ve become more confident with that process.”
An example of the connection that the two players have established this year is evident in the clip below as the duo work together brilliantly in the pick-and-roll which finishes with a nice lob from Frazier and a thunderous finish from Walker.
The last major area that Frazier has progressed at during his time with the RGV Vipers would be as a perimeter threat as he’s currently shooting 39% from beyond the arc on 8.4 attempts per game. While that efficiency actually pales in comparison to how he was at the University of Florida, it’s the best he’s shot since turning pro in 2015. Although a silky jumper is obviously a big part behind that efficiency, the man himself views his solid shooting as a product of the Vipers’ system, their cohesiveness as a collective and the work of solid facilitators like Angel Rodriguez and Gary Payton II.
“The system obviously puts everybody in a position to succeed which is a big reason why we have the record that we do and coach Blair is getting the accolades that he’s getting because the system fits us as players,” stated Frazier. “It also gives us the freedom to go out there and showcase what we can do with our abilities.”
In addition to that, we have a group of guys that understand the system and don’t deviate from it when things aren’t going their way,” Frazier continued. “With the facilitators that you mentioned, for them to keep telling me to shoot the ball when they throw it to me and saying that they have confidence in me definitely helps.”
“Even if I’m struggling or going through a bad shooting night, guys come up to me when we’re going to the bench and are like “man don’t worry about it, the next one is going in so just be ready for it,” stated the RGV Vipers guard as he described the brotherhood that the Vipers have developed. “Having that kind of support from my team and coaching staff is something that I can’t put into words.”
In regards the cohesiveness of the RGV Vipers, that’s been evident from their on-court success as they currently sit with a 30-15 record and have already clinched a spot in the upcoming G League playoffs. Unless the team loses a player or two to call-up or injury, that team chemistry should allow them to be one of the favorites to win a G League title.
Whether or not Frazier will be there during that playoff run is a big question as the 6’4 guard has progressed to the point where he stands as a legitimate call-up option. In addition to the tremendous perimeter shooting that has been part of his arsenal since his college days, he’s evolved into being a player that can finish in traffic while also shining as someone that can facilitate in pick-and-rolls.
So while it would be exciting to see if he can help push the RGV Vipers to a G League title, don’t be surprised if you see Michael Frazier get called up to the NBA before the end of the season.