Height/Weight: 6’3, 190 lbs.
Nico Mannion was one of the most anticipated players coming into the 2019-2020 collegiate season. The Italian born point guard was highly recruited out of high school and is part of a current trio of impact freshmen (Zeke Nnaji / Josh Green) on the Arizona Wildcats roster.
Watch any Arizona game and it is easy to tell that the first thing that stands out about Mannion’s game is how poised he is. It’s not everyday that a freshmen plays as calm and collected as he does and Sean Miller has entrusted Mannion to lead his team.
Mannion’s offensive game relies heavily on his ability to quickly pull up at any given moment. This ability keeps defenders close and opens up space for the offense. This pull-up primarily comes off of dribble handoffs or ball screens. Nico Mannion looks for the defender to go over top when the defender is chasing him.
It’s not just off ball movement that can lead to a pull up as he occasionally will use a serious of crossovers to create quick space needed and excels at these pull-ups because of how quickly he can get his feet and shoulders square to the basket.
Next is Mannion’s touch ability on runners and floaters. Lacking a crazy amount of bounce or height, getting to the rim could be challenging at the NBA level, but Mannion makes up for it with his ability to kiss the ball off the glass. This allows him to be effective in close to short mid-range. Using these tools, he can extend the ball up and over any oncoming defenders making him more effective in the half court.
An underrated aspect of Mannion’s game is his motor on the defensive end. He is a scrapper who plays up on his man and is solid at working to get around ball screens. He also displays his hustle by going after rebounds in traffic, despite being undersized, and by jumping passing lanes that he turns into quick transition buckets.
As a passer, Mannion isn’t flashy all the time but makes the right read most of the time. He can whip passes with either hand across the court and into some rather tight windows in the half court. He is capable of making full court passes on the money to set up easy fast break points. Coming out of the pick and roll, Mannion gets doubled quite often so often he’ll look to use hook passes with a little touch to a popping screen man.
As a shooter, Mannion possesses solid shot mechanics and has range that can step out past NBA range. He possesses a crafty set of handles that can get defenders out of position and has a decent first step.
Mannion is only 6’3 and lacks elite level athleticism that will be a concern going forward. He doesn’t finish plays above the rim unless out in transition. Quickness is also a big area to be worried about when it comes to attacking and defending from the point of attack. He will struggle to guard quicker guards in the NBA. Mannion currently struggles to recover when players attack his closeouts as he often gets blown by.
On the offensive end, Mannion turns the ball over by trying to force the right pass in the wrong window at times. He gets caught in the air when attacking and often has no where to throw the ball.
Shooting will be another area to monitor as his shot has been inconsistent from deep. The mechanics are good as mentioned, but consistency will be key in determining how much success he can have at the next level.
The rebounding may be an issue due to the lack of strength and explosiveness for Nico. Boxing out will have to be a key fundamental for him.
Nico Mannion has the all around skill to play effectively at the NBA level. He will need to rely on creativity and shot making to maximize on his potential. Look for him to work with trainers on strengthening his body and explosiveness. Mannion’s crafty handle, soft touch, and instincts have him high on many’s draft boards. He appears to be a near lock for a lottery pick, but could rise up even further if he can consistently knock down jumpers.
Mannion’s ability to create looks for himself and to find opportunities for others inside the motion of an offense is exciting and will get him minutes early on in his NBA career. The future looks bright for him and it won’t be long on draft night before we hear his name called as I think he could very well go in the top 10 or even the top 5.