Age: 18 (birthday – 3/17/01)
Weight: 190 lbs
Nico Mannion is very good at controlling the pace of the game. He has a good understanding of when to speed the game up, and when to slow the game down. This is a great, underrated trait for an NBA point guard. Your ball handler needs to play to your team’s strengths. It’s also good to know if your team has rushed the offense the last few possessions, then you may need to slow it down, or if your offense is getting too stagnant then maybe you want to speed the game up. Mannion does this without a coach instructing him to do so. He makes these reads on his own which is not common for an 18-year-old. He also possesses very good, clean mechanics on his jump shot where he is very comfortable shooting off the catch or bounce. Something else he will be one of the very best at as soon as he comes into the NBA is his willingness to work without the ball for a PG. Mannion understands how to change speeds coming off screens and can read his opponent to know how he should be coming off the screen whether he is trailing and wants to come off hard or if his opponent is cheating the screen and Mannion decides to flare off of it. Every NBA coach would tell you that they have just as much trouble guarding Steph Curry without the ball as much as with the ball for a lot of the same reasons just mentioned. Nico Mannion also doesn’t need to dominate the ball for this reason so he can play alongside a lot of different players offensively. On the ball, Mannion understands angles, has good vision, and is a willing playmaker. He has a great IQ and when he sees that one of his teammates has a mismatch, he breaks the play down and gets that player the ball. At the NBA level, this happens quite a bit because many teams switch so the big man will have an advantage many times with a smaller player on him. Mannion is also a very good finisher for someone at his size as he isn’t the biggest player on the floor. He has a good floater that allows him to get his shot off before he meets the shot blocker. Nico also has the potential in terms of being able to finish with both hands. He is willing to use his left hand and is an area he has been working on, however, it definitely needs some work. Also off of these drives, Mannion is comfortable finding the big man for a lob or kicking it out to a shooter with good accuracy. On defense, Mannion isn’t as bad as many people assume. When defending the ball, he has the willingness to get down in his stance, stays wide, and can sit in it for a long period of time. His lateral quickness is also surprisingly good so he should be able to at least stay in between his man and the basket when he’s on the ball
Mannion has had some trouble turning the ball over. His fundamentals aren’t always great as he throws some jump passes that are unnecessary or telegraphs a pass before he delivers it. This is an area that Mannion has improved since the start of the season, but can still get better. When coming off the pick and roll, it has been difficult for him this year when he gets trapped off of it as he doesn’t have the height to see over the defense or possesses elite handles that allow him to keep his dribble alive and create angles to get the ball to the open man. So far Mannion has been good when needing to score against longer guards, but that is an area that has to be a little concerning as NBA point guards are now around 6’4, 6’5 generally with a positive wingspan. Mannion’s wingspan isn’t officially listed but he has about the same wingspan as his height. His lack of size is concerning, especially on the defensive end of the floor. He can do everything “right”, but still allow his man to score on him because he isn’t as big, strong, or long as his opponent will be generally. This also makes it difficult for his team to run different defensive schemes as he won’t be able to switch or be good when rotating on to a big because he just isn’t physically capable. Mannion will be a below-average rebounder for a point guard as well. Then along with these, he hasn’t had any real injuries yet, but with his lack of size, it’s entirely plausible to have concerns if he will be able to sustain the bumps and bruises the NBA comes with and if he will be able to stay healthy. On the bright side, Mannion doesn’t have a serious injury history. As a scorer, Mannion has had his struggles. He is only shooting 32.9% from 3 and 42.4% from the court. His most inefficient games have usually come against ranked opponents in big environments where the stakes feel high. A lot of this is mental as he gets looks that he normally converts, but the moment seems to get to him. This is worth monitoring the rest of his collegiate career.
Nico’s lack of size is going to make it a little bit of a difficult transition to the NBA. As mentioned earlier, he can do everything he is supposed to do, but it still won’t be good enough. In the proper system, Mannion can be a good enough defender though if his team doesn’t switch frequently and if he plays alongside a good rim protector because there isn’t much concern with his ability to defend on the perimeter as he has the willingness and speed to keep up with guards. On offense, it might take some time before we see the real Nico Mannion, but over the course of his career, he has a lot to offer. He has the traits that a lead point guard should have. His play is contagious for his teammates because he keeps everyone involved and understands that that is his job. Mannion does a lot of things that don’t always show up on the stat sheet, but no one will ever question his willingness to win. Nico Mannion is going to have a lot to overcome, but in the right situation, he has what it takes to become a franchise player and a starting point guard on a good team.
Article written by Bradley Patten
Photo Credit: Amy Bailey at the Daily Wildcat (https://www.wildcat.arizona.edu/article/2019/11/nico-mannion-takes-over-as-arizona-set-to-play-for-wooden-legacy-title-on-sunday)
Stats and measurables found on Sports-Reference (https://www.sports-reference.com/cbb/players/nico-mannion-1.html)