Nico Mannion Player Card
Measurables: 6’3″, 190 lbs
Stats last season: 32 games played, 14 points, 2.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 1.2 steals per game; 4.5/11.5 FGs (39.2%), 1.7/5.1 3FGs (32.7%), 3.3/4.2 FTs (79.7%)
Nico Mannion is a former five-star recruit from the University of Arizona. As a freshman, Mannion displayed uncanny poise for a player his age (19) and feel for the game. He was handed the keys to Sean Miller’s offense and started every game during his one season for the Wildcats. He may arguably be the best floor general and passer in the draft and is much better than his numbers suggest. Mannion displayed a nice variety of offensive versatility and shot-making that will make him dynamic on that side of the ball in the NBA. Another advanced area of his game was his shooting off the dribble, which made him incredibly tough to guard in PnR scenarios. He’s a terrific shooter going both ways, off handoffs, pin downs, and has an excellent touch from midrange. He needs to work on his strength and explosiveness as a finisher, but he has a deadly floater and soft touch around the basket.
My biggest concerns with his game are his athleticism and defense, mainly how it translates to the next level. His wingspan is limited (6’2.5″), and he isn’t an elite athlete. He has sneaky bounce at times but doesn’t have the explosiveness to blow by defenders. Instead, he relies on a tight handle and change-of-speed to get around the initial defender. Defensively, Mannion is lazy and slow to get into his stance, which may make him a liability on defense in the NBA. When he’s consistent and locked in at the end of the floor, Mannion has the lateral quickness and defensive smarts to be a pest against opposing ball-handlers.
Playmaking – Terrific vision and patience on offense
Shooting Potential – Confident shooter with great footwork, excellent in pull-up jumpers
PnR Play – Is patient and lets plays develop, hits rollers with precision passes
Touch – Loves to use the floater/runner, useful in PnR scenarios
Shot Creation – Reads defenders well to create separation, very creative and adaptive
On-Ball Defense – Has good lateral quickness but isn’t consistent in ISO situations
Explosiveness – Isn’t explosive with the ball, relies on change-of-pace to blow by defenders
Strength – Needs to gain weight and add strength to improve finishing and defensive versatility Shot selection – Falls in love with contested twos and floaters from mid-range
Defensive Versatility – Too small and lacks the strength/ length to guard positions 2-5
Best Landing Spot
Orlando Magic. The Magic have a subpar starting backcourt in DJ Augustin and Evan Fournier, and Mannion projects as a future starter for the franchise. The addition of Markelle Fultz was excellent this season, but he remains a question mark with his inconsistency and injury concerns. Mannion gives the Magic a high-floor, NBA-ready guard who can control and run the offense through Orlando’s talented big men. As one of the best precision-passers in the draft, Mannion flourishes in pick-and-roll scenarios. The Magic have a ton of roller options in Nikola Vucevic, Mo Bamba, and Aaron Gordon. Mannion also likes to push the pace and get easy baskets in transition, which bodes well for athletic wings like Terrance Ross, Gordon, and Jonothan Isaac.
Worst Landing Spot
Houston Rockets. The Rockets are set with their playstyle and backcourt for the future. The offense runs through guards James Harden and Russell Westbrook in Mike D’Antoni’s five-out system. Until Mannion improves his slow release and shooting mechanics, he isn’t a terrific spot-up shooter. He also doesn’t have the strength and defensive versatility to play in Houston’s switch-everything defensive scheme. The Rockets are already small on defensive as it is, and adding Mannion doesn’t give them the 3-and-D player that fits into their plans. Mannion will reach his full potential in a system that allows him to have the ball in his hands, and Houston certainly isn’t that team.
Draft range: Mid to late 1st round
Basketball IQ: 8. IQ and feel for the game are far beyond his age. Outstanding awareness with the ball and makes the right plays. Mannion is also good at relocating and moving without the ball and isn’t a ball-watcher after giving up the rock. Defensively, he knows the art of position and knows defensive rotations reasonably well.
Shooting: 7. Has fluid mechanics and good balance, particularly off the dribble. Mannion is deadly as a shooter in PnR situations and can hit pull-ups from three or midrange in either direction. He must improve his release time and balance, especially in catch-and-shoot situations. Mannion’s shot IQ must improve for him to be effective at the next level as he seems to settle for contested twos and midrange floaters too often.
Passing: 9. Excellent at creating looks for his teammates, and can make passes in tight windows/ tough angles. Excellent in kick out and drop-off situations after blowing by initial defenders. He excels at making passes in transition and keeps his head up to make the outlet pass to teammates in the open floor. Greatest playmaking comes from PnR situations, where Mannion is terrific at making the pocket and crosscourt passes.
Dribbling: 9. Excellent ball security and control. Isn’t overly quick with his dribbles moves but is extraordinarily crafty and unique with change-of-pace and hesitation moves.
Hustle: 6. Usually locked in on offense, but must focus on the defensive end of the ball. Too often, Mannion fails to commit to defense and allows his man to get to the rim.
Rebounding: 4. Not the best rebounder. Will have to add strength and rely on position/ boxing out to compete for boards.
Defense: 6. Has terrific lateral quickness, change of direction, and IQ. He lacks effort, commitment, and size that hurt him as an isolation defender. Defensive versatility is limited.
Leadership: 8. High IQ on offense and knows how to run a team on that side of the ball.
Athleticism: 6. Very fluid athlete, but isn’t overly explosive. He lacks quickness and vertical pop.
Upside: 7. He has nice upside if he can improve his shooting mechanics and efficiency. He must commit to defense to stay on the floor.
Total Rating: 70/100
Nico Mannion NBA Comparison
Mannion’s game draws a lot of parallels to that of former NBA player Jeremy Lin. Both players are capable passers who thrive on attacking the rim and PnR play. From a physical profile, Lin and Mannion are almost identical in height and weight. Although not exceptional athletes, both are NBA athletes who fit the category of “sneaky athleticism.” I like Mannion’s ability as a playmaker, both in the halfcourt and in transition, as well as his potential as a shooter given his solid mechanics and footwork. He’s not a defensive stopper by any means but has all the tools to become a consistent team defender. In the right system, Mannion can become a reliable asset on the offensive end, supplying his team with an array of shot-making, passing, and shot creation.
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