When forward Mike Scott came to Atlanta Hawks training camp in 2012, he was labeled by then-coach Larry Drew as “a solid pick-and-roll option.”
In other words, although Scott proved himself to be a legitimate offensive weapon in his five years at Virginia (medical redshirt in 2010), no one really expected him to develop into more than a decent midrange shooter at the next level.
Scott was the 43rd overall pick in a less-than-stellar 2012 draft and entered the league as a 24-year-old. It was fair to assume Scott’s NBA ceiling would be as an end of the rotation player on a solid team.
Scott’s rookie season did little to make people change their assumptions. He averaged just nine minutes per game and shot 47 percent from the entire field.
Now, just a year later, Scott has morphed into a dynamic offensive weapon. After attempting just one 3-pointer in his entire rookie season, Scott has launched 134 3-pointers this season, converting at a very respectable 37 percent rate.
Pressed into increased duty by injuries to Hawks frontcourt players Al Horford, Pero Antic and now Paul Millsap, Scott’s evolution into a perimeter threat is fully evident. Last Saturday, he scored a career-high 30 points against the Knicks, making 6-of-7 from the arc.
Look at the highlight reel. New York’s defenders had absolutely no idea Scott had added a 3-pointer to his arsenal:
Scott started the season slowly from deep. Through his first 30 games, he knocked down just 17-of-56 threes for 30 percent. Since the calendar changed, however, Scott has been on a tear. In his last 24 games, he is shooting 42 percent (33-of-78) from deep.
Even with an 0-of-2 Wednesday at Boston, Scott is shooting 11-of-21 from the arc since the All-Star break. That pace compares favorably over the same period with sharpshooting teammate Kyle Korver, who is 19-of-35.
For a guy who came into the league with the backhanded compliment of being NBA-ready – code for limited potential – Scott has developed into a player no one thought he would become. In fact, analytically, Scott has joined exclusive company as one of the best bargains in the entire NBA:
Chart courtesy of ESPN’s Kevin Pelton
For one more visual on how much he’s progressed this season, compare his shot charts from last season (on the left) to this season (right):
Scott has come a long way in less than two years of NBA experience.
Clearly, Scott is no longer just the mere “solid pick-and-roll option” he was believed to be when he entered the league. And if the injury-riddled Hawks are going to hang on to a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, they will need more from this emerging sixth man.
Now, on to the rankings.
|1||MARKIEFF MORRIS, F, PHOENIX: After Reggie Jackson and Manu Ginobili returned to their bench roles, I assumed Morris’ days at the top would be over. Boy, was I wrong. He took it to the Spurs in a statement game last Friday, scoring 21 points with a season-high five dimes.||3|
|2||REGGIE JACKSON, G, OKLAHOMA CITY: Both Jackson and the Thunder are struggling since Russell Westbrook’s return. OKC dropped three straight home games to Heat, Clips and Cavs, and Jackson had nearly as many TOs (9) as assists (12).||1|
|3||MANU GINOBILI, G, SAN ANTONIO: Took a similar step back, playing only 13 minutes in a 20-point loss to Phoenix. Still, season averages of 12 points, 4.4 assists and 3.3 rebounds warrant praise for a guy barely logging 20 minutes per game.||2|
|4||TAJ GIBSON, F, CHICAGO: Bulls have won seven of eight with lone loss to Miami. Gibson’s February has been enlightening, averaging 16.3 points and 7.8 rebounds, and continues to get fourth-quarter minutes ahead of starting power forward Carlos Boozer.||5|
|5||ALEC BURKS, G, UTAH: Still impactful when his game is off because he gets to the line. Offset a 2-of-11 showing vs. Minnesota with 11-of-14 FTs. In his last seven games, he is averaging 19.4 points — a number helped by his nearly nine FTAs during that span.
FIVE TO WATCH: Mike Scott, F, Atlanta; James Johnson, F, Memphis; Jamal Crawford, G, LA Clippers; Rodney Stuckey, G, Detroit; Vince Carter, G-F, Dallas.
OTHER RANKINGS: Rookie | Most Improved | MVP | Power
Jacob Eisenberg is a student at Emory University, spending the spring semester abroad in Brazil, and covers the NBA for SheridanHoops.com. Check out his website and click here to follow him on Twitter.