Nowell, who averages 16.7 points per game, ranks third in the Pac-12 in two-point field-goal percentage at 56.8. But it’s not just about the numbers Nowell is producing — it’s the manner in which he’s producing them.
You can call Jaylen Nowell a lot of things, but self-promoter isn’t one of them. He doesn’t tweet often, hasn’t posted on Instagram in more than a month, and conducts himself with humility at every news conference.
So he isn’t going to be the guy to tell you how well he’s been playing in his sophomore season with the Huskies. But somebody has to.
Through 16 games, Nowell is averaging a team-high 16.7 points and 3.5 assists to go along with his 5.2 rebounds per game. He dropped 32 points vs. Santa Clara at the beginning of the season, and then 26 vs. Gonzaga last month en route to earning Pac-12 Player of the Week honors.
But it’s not just about the numbers Nowell is producing — it’s the manner in which he’s producing them. Any fat he had in his game last season has melted right off.
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Washington coach Mike Hopkins has long preached his “good to great” philosophy when it comes to shot selection. Basically, don’t settle for a shot you can make half the time if you can find one you or a teammate will make 55 percent of the time.
Those increased probabilities, however slight, can mean the difference between wins and losses. And nobody has embodied that approach better than Nowell this year.
Last year, the Garfield graduate averaged 16.0 points while shooting .451 from the field (.484 from two-point range and .351 from three.) This year he is averaging 16.7 while shooting .520 from the field (. 568 from two and .385 from three).
His 12.5 shot attempts per game are .7 fewer than that of his freshman season, but his 6.5 makes are .5 more.
So yeah, he’s gotten better from last year to this one. But above all, he’s gotten smarter.
“It’s the type of shots I’m shooting. Last year, I’d be shooting over two guys. It’s more about getting the best shot,” Nowell said. “It’s a matter of us watching film and actually seeing it rather than just talking about.”
What’s interesting is that one of the strongest weapons in Nowell’s arsenal is something stat geeks are trying to erase — the mid-range jumper. Look at most shot chart these days and you’ll mainly see three-pointers and layups.
Even players such as Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan shot under 50 percent from mid-range throughout their careers, but Nowell’s mid-range game has been devastating.
His two-point percentage is proof of that.
For players that have made at least five field goals per game, the most efficient two-point shooter in the Pac-12 this year has been UCLA’s Moses Brown (. 677), who stands 7 feet 1 and hasn’t tried a three-pointer all year. The second most efficient two-pointer shooter in the Pac-12 this year has been Arizona’s Chase Jeter, who stands 6 feet 10 and hasn’t tried a three all year.
Those are the types of players who typically lead that category, and they rarely stray from the rim. But No. 3 in the Pac-12? That would be the 6-foot-4 Jaylen Nowell (.568), who’s all over the court. Throw in the fact that he’s 12th in the conference in three-point percentage and you have quite the asset.
“There are no shortcuts in this thing. It’s all about work. He’s gotten extra shots with the coaches. He’s grown up and become more mature,” Hopkins said. “He’s just grown up in so many different ways.”
Who knows where Nowell’s career will ultimately take him. NBAdraft.net has him going early in the second round of the 2020 draft, but that doesn’t mean anything.
The concern now is today’s home game vs. Stanford, where the Huskies (12-4, 3-0 in the Pac-12) will look to win their sixth game in a row.
Will they do it? Nobody knows for sure.
But they have a good shot with Jaylen.
Scratch that. Great shot.