‘Tis the season: Pass-Happy Markell Johnson pushes NC State’s offense

Around this time of the calendar year, as the holidays approach, it’s likely to hear some folks utter the phrase “It’s better to give than it is to receive.” On the basketball court, NC State’s Markell Johnson is the physical embodiment of that notion.

Senior forward Lennard Freeman is the biggest beneficiary of the new system implemented by Kevin Keatts. However, Johnson is playing the best basketball of his young career, too. He’s a big reason why NC State is 7-2 with wins over Arizona and Penn State.


Pass first point guard: Markell Johnson

In NC State’s win over South Carolina State, Markell Johnson become the 24th player this season to hand out 12 or more assists in a game. Duke’s Trevon Duval is the only other ACC player to hit this benchmark.

Johnson now has 63 assists in NC State’s first nine games; he leads the ACC in assists per game. The sophomore point guard also leads the league in assist rate. According to KenPom, Johnson has assisted on 42.1 percent of his teammates’ made field goals while on the floor. Johnson’s playmaking is a big reason why NC State ranks No. 69 nationally in terms of adjusted offensive efficiency.


Keep it rolling

Nearly 24 percent of NC State’s possessions have been used via a pick-and-roll ball handler or roll man, per Synergy Sports. Markell Johnson is the conductor in a lot of the Wolfpack’s pick-and-roll sets. Johnson is shooting 42.1 percent out of the pick-and-roll, which is pretty good. Overall, Johnson’s shooting numbers a way up this season — 44.4 percent shooting from the floor, 53.1 percent true shooting.

According to Synergy, Johnson has used 39 pick-and-roll possessions as a shooter (30.5 percent); he has passed out of this action far more frequently (69.5 percent), though. NC State has scored 1.18 points per possession (51.3 percent shooting) when Johnson has passed out of the pick-and-roll. That ranks No. 8 in the nation amongst players with at least 50 possessions.

More specifically: the Pack has scored 1.5 points per trip when Johnson has passed to the roll man (Hello, Nard Dog) on these possessions. According to Synergy Sports, this ranks No. 1 in the nation (minimum of 20 possessions).


What to cut down on

As good as Markell Johnson has been the first nine games of the season, the point guard has been a little loose with the basketball, too: a turnover rate of 29.1 percent.

That rate ticks up on possessions used by Johnson out of the pick-and-roll. According to Synergy, Johnson has a turnover rate of 38.5 percent. Johnson is one of just 21 Division I players this season to have played at least 200 minutes with a turnover rate above 28 percent.

If Johnson can reduce the turnovers, NC State can hit an ever higher level offensively.


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