Yogi Ferrell was in a slump coming into Tuesday night. In his past four games, he was barely averaging four points per night on 36 percent shooting from the field including a paltry 14 percent from deep.
As a career 38 percent three-point shooter, it was only a matter of time before Ferrell righted the ship. But the second-year guard did more than just find his groove: he detonated on the Denver Nuggets.
With Wesley Matthews sitting out his second straight game nursing a hip injury, Ferrell received the starting nod. In his team-high 38 minutes, he poured in a season-high 24 points, going 9-of-11 from the field and a blistering 6-of-7 from deep. He had a team-best plus-19.
It’s not really a surprise to see Ferrell play well when he’s inserted into the starting lineup. In his 19 games as a starter, he’s elevated virtually all of his stats. It’s obvious that his points, rebounds and assists increase when he averages about seven more minutes per game as a starter, but he’s maintaining his efficiency as well. For example, Ferrell has shot 45 percent from the field as a starter compared to 43 percent as a reserve, and he’s shot 44 percent from three as a starter compared to 37 percent as a reserve.
Ferrell has proven to be a good shooter in his brief time in the NBA, but Tuesday night was a testament to how well rounded a shooter he is.
Finding the right spot
An invaluable skill shooters must possess is finding the soft spot on the floor. It makes sense. Shooters want as much space as possible and finding the hole in the defense accomplishes that. There were two instances last night where Ferrell displayed his off-ball chops, reading the ball handler and finding the open spot on the floor.
In the clip below, Dennis Smith Jr. has the ball on the block. Ferrell wisely shuffles up to give Smith Jr. more room to operate, but notice, as soon as Jamal Murray turns his back, Ferrell beelines back to the corner. Murray has no chance of recovering, and it’s straight cash for Ferrell to start the game.
Ferrell capitalizes on an almost identical situation later in the second quarter. Rather than relocating the moment Gary Harris turns his back, he waits until Smith Jr. touches the paint and sucks the defense in. Not only is this instinctive off-ball movement, but he makes the ability to stop on a dime and square his shoulders appear easier than it truly is. Bouncing it off the rim and backboard was a nice (and totally intentional) touch, too.
There were two occasions where Ferrell used a ball fake to either freeze the defender or create separation. In the clip below, he gives a quick ball fake to freeze the closeout defender who is trying to guard two players at once. It’s a subtle play, but it gives him just enough time to get a clean look off.
Maybe the best shooting technique Ferrell deployed played out with a little more than five minutes remaining in the game. As Will Barton is frantically closing out on the shooter who, at the time was 5-for-5 from deep, Ferrell gives a traditional pump fake, side dribbles and launches off his right leg to create a cavernous amount of space equivalent to three Mavs Maniacs standing side-by-side. Aspiring long-range specialists should watch this clip on repeat. It doesn’t get any more textbook than this.
The pull up
What makes Ferrell such a dynamic shooter, and what he displayed Tuesday night, is his ability to can threes off the pull-up jump shot. This season he’s shooting 39 percent from three on pull-up jumpers and has a 51 percent effective field goal percentage. The latter number is reaching Damian Lillard territory, albeit on about half the attempts.
In an action that puts the opposing team’s big man in an uncomfortable position, Ferrell comes off the high-ball screen with the option to attack or shoot. Once he gets Trey Lyles shuffling backward quickly enough, he stops, hops and launches the jumper before the defender can even lift off the ground to contest.
Nights like he had against Denver, and the night Yogimania was born in Portland, reinforce how good of a shooter Ferrell is. He possesses all the tools good shooters require. He can spot up, shoot off the dribble, move without the ball and create his own shot. For a guard of Ferrell’s stature, those skills are invaluable.
Since he arrived in Dallas last season, Ferrell has had three games where he’s made six or more three pointers, second only to Wesley Matthews. His value to the Mavericks as a reserve guard who can stretch the floor is cemented for the near future. But with performances like he had against the Nuggets, it’s hard not to see him as a key part of the Mavs rebuild and beyond.