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Deciphering the rise of Yogi Ferrell

Yogi Ferrell is the story of the season, but where did he come from and can he continue to play at this level?

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Yogi Ferrell has been a joy. He’s seemingly come out of nowhere to spark a Mavs team that desperately needed it, giving the team crucial minutes at point guard while Deron Williams and J.J. Barea are on the shelf.

It’s kind of staggering how effective he is. Despite the two straight losses, Yogi’s numbers are incredible – a little over 16 points and 36.7 minutes per game, 47.1 percent from three on over five shots a game and only 1.7 turnovers per game. He dropped 32 on Damian Lillard. He’s great.

But where did he come from? Why was he one of the three dudes Donnie Nelson and Michael Finely presented to Mark Cuban a week ago? I had to know. I don’t follow college ball as much since graduating college so I was completely oblivious to Yogi. I wanted to see if what Yogi was doing sustainable in any shape or form.

The first thing I did was scan Yogi’s scouting report from Draft Express. This sound familiar?

He is very confident with the ball in his hands as a decision maker and has no fear about being aggressive to get his team a bucket...

...He has ran an up-tempo, pick and roll heavy offense that has prepared him for the NBA, with these possessions accounting for almost 30% of his individual offense according to Synergy Sports Technology....

...Ferrell isn't afraid to pull up off the dribble when the defender goes below the screen, either from the three point line or a step or two inside the arc and he shoots 40.3% on these attempts according to Synergy Sports Technology. This is a big increase from the 34.1% he made as a junior.

If there’s one thing Yogi’s not on the court, it’s bashful. He’s come off screens aggressive and ready to fire, continuing his nature from his days at Indiana. Yogi’s hitting 52.9 percent of his pull-up threes since joining the Mavs, a number that’d make Steph Curry blush.

While Yogi’s three-point percentage is boosted by his historic night in Portland, he’s still been good from deep – good enough to make defenders pay when they sag off him to check Seth Curry, Harrison Barnes and Dirk Nowitzki. Luckily, not only was Yogi a good shooter off the bounce in college, he was a good shooter period.

He was a career 39.9 percent shooter from deep at Indiana, and his last three years he was over 40 percent in each season on a healthy number of attempts. I don’t know if Yogi is a “make nine threes and break an opposing teams spirit” kind of shooter, but he’s definitely not bad – not what he showed in his brief stint in Brooklyn earlier this season.

What’s confused me the most going through Yogi’s college numbers and scouting reports is why wasn’t this guy drafted? The knock on his height is real – the Mavs are struggling with their new starting lineup to keep teams out of the paint and off the boards. Ferrell uses his quickness well to prevent screeners from laying him out, darting out on the person he’s guarding and avoiding the screen like a running back going up the middle. However, when he does get screened, Yogi gets slammed. He’s instantly obliterated on the play and the Mavs find themselves scrambling in 5-on-4 and 4-on-3 matchups.

He’s still learning the nuances of the NBA pick-and-roll game. Against Portland on Tuesday, the Trail Blazers wised up and started going over screens to prevent another three-point bonanza. That meant Yogi had more space to probe deeper in the paint, yet he’d consistently pick up his dribble around the elbow, almost not sure what read he needed to make with this new coverage. He’ll learn – playing with the starters will help that a lot.

Even with those knocks, still, how wasn’t he drafted? The NBA puts a premium on shooting and plenty of small guards have been balling out in the last couple years. Yogi was such an elite college shooter for a big time program in a competitive conference, it’s a little baffling no one took a shot in the second round – Mavs included. It’s not like Yogi was a one-hit wonder with his shooting in college like Justin Anderson.

The shooting could always taper off and perhaps his small stature is too small to overcome on defense, but it appears Yogi is about as legit as a 10-day contract star can be.