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Pick your poison: Bryant Crawford pushes the pedal for Wake’s PNR Machine

Around the game of basketball, we — media, fans, scouts, whatever — love to talk about the college programs that do the best job of prepping players for the pros. Duke and Kentucky are one-and-done super factories; Notre Dame turns four-year players into NBA rotation players. Arizona is “Point Guard U.”

This is all somewhat subjective; the criteria can float on a case-by-case basis. However, I’d like to take a moment to notice what’s happened at Wake Forest with Danny Manning and Bryant Crawford.

 

Wide. Open. Spaces.

Over the last decade, due to a variety of rule changes and the proper valuation of the three-point shot, the NBA game has shifted. It looks more European in it’s slash-and-kick fashion than it did even 10 years ago. Teams want to dot the perimeter with shooters, and then attack the hoop — get to the rim or find an open shooter. The best way for an offense to get downhill like this is high pick-and-roll basketball; spread the floor, and let a guard and a big man dance in the middle.

That trend has trickled down to college basketball, where there are a lot of great point guard, too. (If you haven’t already, go watch Trae Young or Collin Sexton play, like right now. Go, seriously.)

Few teams, however, rely more on their point guard to generate offense than Wake Forest, especially out of the pick-and-roll.

According to Synergy Sports, nearly 21 of Wake Forest’s possessions this season have been used by a pick-and-roll ball handler — shooting, turning the ball over or drawing a shooting foul. Only two teams have used a higher percentage of their possessions with this type of action this season — Mount St. Mary’s and Howard.

Wake Forest ball handlers, led by Crawford, have shot 45 percent and scored one point per possession out of the pick-and-roll, which ranks 10th best in the nation.

 

Bryant Crawford: Brings the goods from all angles

I’ve written about this before in this space: Crawford is one of the best pick-and-roll guards in the nation. He was especially dangerous on side pick-and-rolls last season with John Collins.

Well, Collins — a gravity-pulling rim runner — departed for the NBA, but Crawford has kept things humming in Winston-Salem.

At 6-foot-3 and quick as a cat, Crawford can see over the defense, or drive right past it. It’s quite the combination. Crawford is shooting 48 percent out of the pick-and-roll in 2017-18, scoring 1.04 points per possession, per Synergy (No. 3 in the ACC, minimum 30 possessions). That’s big jump over last season: 0.88 points per possession.

 

In great company

As Crawford’s usage rate increases to a career-high 28.2 percent, he continues to lean heavily on the pick-and-roll. Last season, one-third of Crawford’s possessions were of the pick-and-roll variety; that’s remained about the same this season — 32.5 percent. Only four ACC players use a higher share of pick-and-roll possessions: Brandon Childress (another Demon Deacon), Matt Farrell, Markell Johnson and Ky Bowman.

So far this season, 19 ACC players have used at least 30 pick-and-roll possessions. Three of those guys — Crawford, Childress and Keyshawn Woods — hail from Wake Forest — more than any other team.

This is something Danny Manning should tell every point guard prospect: come here, and you will get schooled in the ways of the pick-and-roll, the preferred action of NBA guards.

 

Holiday SZN: Better to give than receive

Like any great PNR guard, Bryant Crawford create for his teammates out of this play type, too. Wake Forest players are shooting 46.7 percent after a pass from Crawford in the pick-and-roll, per Synergy Sports — 1.02 points per possession.

It’s obviously slightly tougher sledding this season without the threat of Collins; however, that’s still a solid clip. With the help of Crawford, Doral Moore has turned into one of the top rim runners in the ACC: 1.64 points per possession, according to Synergy (80 FG%).

 

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