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Taking a deep dive into Yogi Ferrell’s success with the Mavericks

The young point guard could be a key piece to Dallas’ future success

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

One cannot help but to root for the diminutive dynamo that is Yogi Ferrell. The performance that Ferrell put on during his 10-day contract with the Mavericks is exactly what every undrafted D-leaguer, fringe professional, college player, and aspiring to-be pro hopes to be able accomplish.

We took a general look last month at Yogi’s season, but let’s revisit some basics:

Ferrell averaged 14.2 ppg, 1.036 points per possession, 4.7 apg, 45 percent FG, 95 percent FT, and 47 percent 3PT during that magical 10-game stretch. Throughout the remainder of the season, Ferrell’s play tailed off slightly but he managed to post solid numbers through the spring. In March, Ferrell averaged 10.3 points on 43 percent from the field and 46 percent from beyond the arc. Through the last seven games of the season in April, Ferrell finished strong, recording 11.9 points, 4.7 assists, while only committing 1.6 turnovers per game. He maintained a high-level of play throughout the rest of the season.

So, how did Ferrell’s performance fare over the course of the entire season? And, where can Ferrell improve the most in order for him to play an even bigger role for the Mavericks?

Let’s break down Ferrell’s game and determine where he has room for improvement and offer methods for helping him maximize his improvement trajectory in preparation for next season.

Offensive strengths

Pick and Roll Scoring: Yogi has shown that he can do one thing extremely well on the offensive end in pick and roll action: knock down dribble jumpers off of the initial ball screen. When his man goes under the screen, Ferrell averaged 1.48 points per possession and is the 8th most lethal player in the league in these situations for players with at least 25 possessions.

Take a look at how he attacks and drafts off of the back of the Celtics’ Kelly Olynk for a rhythm three pointer before Jae Crowder can recover.

Catch and Shoot Efficiency: Ferrell killed it in catch and shoot situations, averaging 1.4 points per possession and shooting 48 percent from the field in unguarded situations. His quick release and elite level shot preparation allowed him to be ready at all times to knock one down.

In the below clip, you can see it doesn’t take long for Ferrell to load and get his shot off against the oncoming defender. He has conditioned himself to shoot the same way every time, in a compact, concise, and explosive manner.

Scoring in Off the ball screen situations: Ferrell did most of his best work in ball screen action this season. However, when Ferrell utilized screening action off of the ball, he excelled. On low volume, Ferrell ranked in the 98th percentile with players that had at least 23 possessions in these situations. Hypothetically, with further repetitions, Ferrell’s efficiency may have decreased this season. However, the fact remains that when the Mavs needed a bucket from Ferrell in screening action off of the ball, he delivered.

Offensive weaknesses

Transition: Ferrell struggled scoring the ball in transition this season. Transition plays make up 12 percent of his overall play types in these situations, and Ferrell would often find himself in spot up jump shot opportunities unable to connect. It seems as if the ability to knock down shots in the half court is beyond his ability to master in the full court at this point in his career.

Ferrell also at times gets too deep on his drives to the basket in transition as he does in the clip below. Because of his size and inability to finish above the rim consistently, Ferrell struggled in these situations this season.

Isolation scoring: ISO scoring opportunities made up less than 8 percent of Ferrell’s overall offensive play type this season. Most of the time, Ferrell tried to utilize his pull-up, or fade-away jumper. When opposing defenders used their length to bother his jump shooting, Ferrell struggled, as he does in the below clip versus the Spurs.

Defensive strengths

Off the ball screen coverage: Ferrell did a solid job of pestering his offensive man in off of screen this season, holding the opposition to .9 points per possession. His low center of gravity and ability to get head and shoulders over the screen helped Ferrell. However, the Mavs’ point guard only found himself in these situations 5 percent of the time.

Post Defense: Ferrell holds his own when it comes to post defense. Take a look at how he holds his ground against the PelicansJrue Holiday in the below clip, and then walls up when Holiday goes to shoot the ball. Ferrell found himself in post defensive situations 8 percent of the time this past season, giving up .87 points per possession.

Hand Off Coverage: Ferrell used his speed and high basketball IQ to effectively guard opposing guards in hand off situations. This season, Ferrell ranked in the 57th percentile in the league when defending hand off situations, giving up just .85 points per possession on 35 percent shooting.

Take a look at how Ferrell beats Isaiah Thomas under the screen, makes Thomas kick it back to Amir Johnson due to Ferrell’s great shot contest, and busts his tail back to again contest Thomas’ shot attempt.

Defensive weaknesses

Pick and Roll ball handler coverage: As a point guard in the NBA, Ferrell finds himself in an abundance of ball screen situations. This past season, he really struggled, giving up 1.06 points per possession, with opponents shooting 51 percent from the field on him.

To put this in perspective, Ferrell ranks in the 9th percentile in the league in this category. This is definitely an area that needs to improve in preparation for next season.

Isolation defense: This season, Ferrell was just an average defensive player in isolation situations. He gave up .97 points per possession and allowed the opposition to shoot 52 percent. Ferrell is a good athlete, but in the possession below, the Brooklyn NetsSpencer Dinwiddie blows right by him for an easy layup. Guarding in one-on-one situations will have to improve.

High performance solutions for Ferrell’s offseason improvement

Players can, of course, improve by going through traditional skill development, gaining game experience, and through film work. However, there are other leading edge ways, that when combined with the traditional methods teams are employing, such as virtual reality and analytics, to help players gain an edge.

The next wave of leading edge, player development methods to be used at the NBA level are processes geared towards addressing and eliminating mental and emotional performance blocks held on the deep muscle memory level. These blocks, when removed, have shown to help a player’s performance skyrocket. For Ferrell, employing a process like this could dramatically help to improve his game on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor in preparation for next season.

Based on the results of college players employing traditional player development methods combined with a focus on aligning the deep muscle memory, it is not a stretch to think that Ferrell could drastically improve and eliminate the weaknesses in his game by next season. Here are examples of two players who improved by taking this comprehensive approach.

Player example #1: After going through a program between seasons, the player’s pick and roll defense improved from .71 points per possession to .489 points per possession, indicating that the player’s defensive efficiency improved by 30% in these situations year over year.

Player example #2: During the first 10-games of the season, the player was shooting 31% from the field. After completing a comprehensive program geared towards breaking him out of his down trending performance, the player’s field goal percentage took off, improving by 15% throughout the remainder of the season.

Targeting Ferrell’s weaknesses (PNR defense and isolation defense, transition shooting, and isolation efficiency) through a comprehensive program like this could help the Mavs second year man improve greatly as he heads into next season.

* All statistics are courtesy of Synergy and and are current as of May 18, 2017.

Jake Rauchbach is the founder of The MindRight Pro Program and has coached numerous professional and collegiate basketball players. Rauchbach serves as the Player Performance Specialist for Temple University’s men’s basketball team and provides high-performance analysis on the NBA and college basketball. You can follow him at @mindrightpro.