What does C.J. Wilcox do?
That’s the question puzzling Clippers fans. More importantly, what does Wilcox do so well that it caused the Los Angeles Clippers to draft him with their lone pick of the 2014 NBA Draft a year after drafting Reggie Bullock as both are likely to be shooting guards in the NBA?
We decided to take to the tape and deliver a GIF-laden post illustrating what Wilcox does well and, unfortunately, what he doesn’t do well.
C.J. Wilcox is a shooter. That’s his niche. Coming out of college, Reggie Bullock was also referred to as a shooter, but Wilcox draws more comparisons to J.J. Redick while Bullock is the type of shooter who will make a career off standing in corners and on the wing while others drive and kick to him.
Making threes isn’t an uncommon skill–it continues to spread throughout the sport of basketball, but notice where Wilcox is on the court on the above jumper: he’s easily five or so feet behind the college three-point line. That’s a good sign as he’s already accustomed to shooting from NBA range. Wilcox routinely knocked down these type of shots.
If given consistent playing time at the two-guard in LA, Wilcox will see plenty of shots such as these playing alongside Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Spencer Hawes. Per Draft Express’ scouting video on the University of Washington product, Wilcox posted a PPP (Points per Possession) of 1.26 on all catch-and-shoot jump shots. For a brief, cross-platform comparison, Kyle Korver scored 1.32 PPP on spot-up jump shots last season with the Atlanta Hawks. An imperfect comparison, but it shows you what kind of player Rivers is banking on Wilcox to be.
In his fours years at college, Wilcox never shot less than 36% from three–that number coming in the same season his Usage Rate Percentage took a three percent jump. Coincidence? Likely not. In the following season–his senior year–Wilcox increased both his volume (205 to 230 three-point attempts) and percentage (36% to 39% from three). Wilcox also posted the 11th best three point percentage (39%) out of all NCAA basketball players who took 700 or more threes from his rookie season (2011) to his senior (2014).
As mentioned toward the opener, Wilcox has an array of shots in his arsenal. Below is a GIF of the two guard coming off a down-screen and knocking down the open jumper.
Draft Express stated Wilcox scored 1.02 PPP shooting off screens. Movement off screens was a huge staple in the Clippers offense last season thanks to the addition of J.J. Redick who Rivers seamlessly thrusted into the Ray Allen role. An underrated part of the above clip is Wilcox shaking his defender, running him into the screen, finding the open space, squaring his feet and shoulders directly to the basket, knocking down the shot as a product of all of the above things. All of the mentioned factors are underrated elements of being a great shooter, often being the distinguishing factor between good and great.
Next is off-the-dribble shooting. While Wilcox has never been touted as a player who excels at creating his own shot–we’ll get to that later–he possess the ability to know down jumpers over defenders.
First is C.J. finding his spot after the opposing big man sagged back on the pick-and-roll.
Here Wilcox does his best Jamal Crawford impression, knocking down the jumper over Brandon Taylor.
In a similar play, Wilcox does a better job of reading the defenders body, creating open space with the one-dribble pull-up.
Due to Wilcox’s shooting prowess, a hard closeout forces the defenders momentum to push him out of place allowing a quick first step from Wilcox to create separation between the two. And for a shooter, that modest separation is all that’s needed.
According to Hoop-Math, 78 percent of Wilson’s offensive attempts came on jump shots during his final season at Washington. If you haven’t noticed by now, that’s his game and will be his crutch come the 2014-15 season.
But in the other 22 percent, Wilcox did himself statistical justice. Of his 79 attempts at the rim, Wilcox made 56 of them (or 70.9%). When he gets to the rim, Wilcox is a crafty guy, with a keen ability to adjust the shot depending on what the defense shows.
In a simple splitting of the trap (yes he traveled), Wilcox finds a way to avoid the shot blocker at the rim.
Again, Wilcox finds a way to split the trap, this time settling for a floater as the last line of defense sags back in hopes of protecting the rim. To the casual eye this is a simple shot, but the ability to make a decision based on what the defense does is a nice sign of basketball IQ.
In this clip, matched up against the bigger defender out of the pick-and-roll, Wilcox gives us a patented “Steve Nash layup”, catching the defense off guard. Not only does this move freeze the rotating defender, it also throws off the timing of the shot blocker.
With the good comes the bad. There’s a reason why Wilcox was a late 1st round pick rather than a lottery pick.
One of the biggest draws on Wilcox’s game is that he’s a marginal athlete. That’s bad news for a NBA prospect as the league is filled with extremely athletic wings. Remember the “78 percent of Wilcox’s shot came on jump shots”? That’s because he lacked the consistency to drive by his opponents, settling for jump shots as his end game–albeit in a creative manner.
These are good shots when they’re falling. But when the jumper betrays, the more talented players in the NBA show versatility in their attack. Wilcox doesn’t yet have that in his game, or at least, in a manner where you’ll expect is successfully several times a night.
In this clip, Wilcox was unable to drive past Askia Booker of Colorado.
Not only does Wilcox lack the speed and athleticism to drive past Booker, but he lacks the handle to shift the defense. The difference in handle is often the difference between a player being Kawhi Leonard/Paul George and a player being Kevin Durant/LeBron James. Usually players have a quick first step or an excellent handle to create space from the defender; Wilcox possesses neither.
And of course, defense stands as the biggest flaw in Wilcox’s game.
“I just talked to Doc [Rivers] not too long ago and defense was the first thing that he brought up which is something I’m definitely capable of doing,” said Wilcox in an interview with the media following his draft selection. Obviously Doc Rivers saw what we saw when scoping the film. If Reggie Bullock couldn’t get off the bench last season despite being the second best perimeter defender on the team behind Matt Barnes, Wilcox may be in a world of trouble.
Wilcox is a bad defender. Reasoning resorts back to behind an average athlete, but on some plays, the combination of laziness and the lack of IQ is readily apparent. Below, Wilcox let’s D.J. Bowles waltz into the paint for an easy layup. The help defense is non-existent as a product of the spread offense, but Wilcox’s inability to contain Bowles is the starting point of a poor defensive possession.
Here, Wilcox just plain falls asleep in man-to-man defense here. Unlike the previous GIF, Wilcox found himself out of position as soon as the offensive player received the ball, with a lane parting like the red sea.
These defensive miscues are James Harden-esque. And considering the Clippers are absent of perimeter defenders, this could be an issue that keeps Wilcox on the bench instead of contributing on the floor.
Of course, there are instances where Wilcox has the upper hand thanks to a wing-span that stretches to 6’9.75 inches. Here Wilcox gets a nice block despite shoddy defensive coverage.
Unfortunately there was more good then bad when skimming through Wilcox’s defensive clips like this egregious misjudgment in the pick-and-roll.
Or this instance where he turns his head on defense, losing his man in the process, allowing an easy dunk at the rim. Again, James Harden-esque.
The good news? Players can improve on defense upon entering the NBA. While many like to think growth is limited on the defensive end, the right coaching and being surrounded by the right guys could do wonders for a young player. For Wilcox, the Clippers are set in the defensive department while a guy like Matt Barnes could teach him the nuances of NBA defense.
The bad news? The players Wilcox is set to face on a nightly basis as twenty times better than his collegiate opponents. They’re faster, bigger, stronger, quicker, and smarter, all factors that could lend to Wilcox being a nightly punching bag if things don’t turn around for him on this end.
It will be interesting seeing how Wilcox meshes into the NBA game. Due to a shoulder injury, we won’t see our first live gameplay from Wilcox until the preseason, but when that time comes, all eyes will be on the rookie to make an immediate impression.