There have been a lot of premature conclusions about San Antonio Spurs rookie forward Jeremy Sochan. The first-year player has won the fans over with his fiesta-colored hair, but how does his popularity translate to the court?
“Man, Primo was lighting it up, but that kid, Sochan, he’s a bust! I don’t know how the hell he was the number nine pick?”
That was the reaction of many Spurs fans following his first few games of the season (including my father). Well, let’s dive into it.
The Archetype of Jeremy Sochan
Sochan was drafted to fit the archetype of a quintessential prototype for an NBA star in the modern league: the big playmaking wing.
LeBron James is not an anomaly, wings can be playmakers. In fact, in the playoffs, they must be playmakers. In postseason basketball, teams throw the kitchen sink at stars – packing the paint, sending doubles and stunts, and overall daring role players to make plays. There is a higher level of defensive attention thrown at stars in the playoffs. Therefore, the ability to make reads when the defense is overplaying them is arguably the most important skill on the offensive end of the floor in the NBA today.
The playmaking wing archetype has begun extending beyond the heliocentric model – the Lukas, Hardens, and LeBrons of the world. Many organizations have begun realizing the potential for their scoring wings to make their impact felt beyond just putting the ball in the basket.
Big Play-Making Wings Around The League
The Boston Celtics were 7-0 in the playoffs when Jayson Tatum had at least seven assists. They were 7-10 when he had fewer than seven assists. Early in the season, Boston made it a point of emphasis to put Tatum in a position to be more of a point-forward. He was consistently getting dribble penetration and making the right reads out of it, allowing Jaylen Brown to flourish as the pure scorer on the team.
This was true for other teams in the playoffs too. Brandon Ingram flashed high-end playmaking for the New Orleans Pelicans. He went beyond the reactive passing showcased by wings like Paul George or Kawhi Leonard, players who can make the basic reads that come from the way the defense collapses on them.
What Does High-End Playmaking Look Like?
Imagine Brandon Ingram coming off of a ball screen. He works it down to the elbow, being patient, and puts the defender in jail on his backside. Then, he waits to bait the rim-protector into stepping up, and the weak-side corner guy to step in, helping against a lob threat. Ingram then throws a big looping cross-court pass that hits that shooter in the pocket on the weak-side corner. Bucket.
Playmaker Jeremy Sochan
If you go back and watch the film of Sochan playing with the Polish National Team, particularly in the Eurobasket qualifiers, you will notice Sochan flashing his own playmaking potential. He dished in heavy traffic around the rim, finding cutters. Sochan also made one-hand swing passes (with both hands) or faked out his defender to open up passing lanes in drive-and-kick.
As the primary threat offensively, he was able to keep role players engaged and confident. Sochan consistently fed them in their sweet spots on the floor; he was an offensive engine.
17 year old Jeremy Sochan (@SochanJeremy) drops 18 points in 29 minutes in his EuroBasket debut for Poland plus the W 🔥🔥🔥 #TheHoopersVoice #BritishBasketball
Best prospect out of the U.K. youth right now? 👀
Follow @thehoopersvoice for more hoops! 📲🏀🔥 pic.twitter.com/MpzrfVinjW
— THE HOOPERS VOICE (@thehoopersvoice) February 21, 2021
More importantly, he didn’t have tunnel vision. Instead, he was looking for his own shot while also looking for his team to get shots. That is important for the playmaking wing because often their passing ability, and relentless willingness to make reads keep them in single coverage opportunities because teams are scared to help. Teams are so hesitant to help LeBron precisely because they know he will barbecue them 99.9% of the time for sending that help.
As a result of their playmaking prowess, the big playmaking wing can rely a little bit more heavily on size and strength in their scoring than they do on skill. They have some of the same matchup-hunting potentials as scoring wings, so they can attack smaller perimeter players in post-up situations or they can attack slower-footed bigs if they pull them away from the basket.
Pluses and Minuses
While still an inconsistent shooter from deep, Sochan makes up for it with efficiency at the rim, shooting 75% in the restricted area in his season at Baylor.
Baylor’s Jeremy Sochan really showed off the kind of defensive versatility that makes him a potential lottery pick. Just 18-years-old, Sochan can bang with bigs, guard multiple P&R coverages, and guard the perimeter. The kind of wing every NBA team covets. pic.twitter.com/rgfXb0ZvLX
— NBA Draft Dude 🤙 (@CoreyTulaba) March 20, 2022
With his size and velocity going downhill, he continues to become more comfortable with the ball in his hands. A few times a game he will be able to overpower a defender with his strength and agility to finish above the rim. Already, he has showcased a variety of spin move finishes to get to the rim, not just sneaking past defenders with a smooth spin but using strength and footwork to get to an easy lay-in in tight spaces.
With his skill already in ball handling (which he certainly must continue to develop), as well as his combination of brute strength and an impressively soft touch, Sochan projects as a high-level finisher. This is an important quality of the playmaking wing.
Jeremy Sochan Is Surrounded By Weapons In San Antonio
Lastly, the playmaking wing is often highly dependent on competent role players, particularly those than can attack closeouts – either knocking down threes in spot-up situations or attacking that closeout to extend the advantage as the defense is in rotation.
Both Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson have shown that they flourish in this second-side action. Neither is generally the advantage creator. However, Devin can spot up and has been fine-tuning his mid-to-short-range game. Keldon Johnson has become one of the most efficient spot-up shooters in the league, and his strength in attacking downhill cannot be denied. Each is an ideal, high-end complementary piece to the playmaking wing.
In terms of the second star, the playmaking wing is often accompanied by a pure scorer. Someone who creates advantages, puts the ball in the basket, and draws attention. Think Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving, or Anthony Davis alongside Lebron, Zion Williamson alongside Ingram, Khris Middleton alongside Giannis, Jaylen Brown alongside Tatum, or even what the Pistons are building with Jaden Ivey alongside Cade Cunningham. Both on-ball and off-ball Joshua Primo has flashed immense scoring potential and would likewise complement a playmaking wing excellently.
Of course, this is all highly idealistic. The Spurs roster and Sochan especially have much more to prove in terms of their development. But Spurs fans – don’t let a few bad performances get you down on the potential of the organization’s budding stars. The best is yet to come.
How do you believe Jeremy Sochan will finish the season?