Alex Barcello is one of the best shooters in the country. He’s so good that even averaging 20.5 points a game fans are clamoring for him to shoot even more and be more selfish. And for good reason.
Last season, Alex finished with shooting splits of .52/.47/.85 which, while not quite the vaunted 50/40/90 split, is still very good, especially with a high two point (55%) and three point percentages. Through two games this year Alex is shooting a blistering 77% on two point field goals (9 attempts), 57% from three (7 attempts), and 100% from the free throw line (15 attempts). He’s also knocked down clutch midrange shots (3/3) to put away BYU’s first two opponents and place the Cougars in the early driver’s seat for another NCAA tournament berth.
With a resume like that and BYU’s other players still ramping up offensively, there’s been a clamoring for Alex to get more shots, especially from the midrange. I agree that BYU could benefit from getting him at least 4-5 more shots a game but how can they make it happen? After looking at all 24 of his midrange attempts through the last six games of last season, it looks like there’s an action BYU can run for him where he’s hyper efficient but I think he’s also done some work to be more comfortable in the midrange which hopefully spurs him to more attempts.
First, looking at all his midrange attempts in aggregate, it wasn’t surprising to find that Alex shot a very good 58% (14/24) from the midrange through those last six games. Getting deeper into the type of shots and defense being played made things a little more interesting. I broke it down as follows
Alex Barcello midrange attempts by type of Action:
Handoff - 4/4
Catch and shoot - 1/2
Regular dribble in pull up - 3/4
Ballscreen - 6/14 (43%)
— Drop defense 6/13 (46%)
— Switching defense 1/1
The thing that obviously stands out is that in the handoff action he is a perfect 4/4 and extending it to this season adds one more make against San Diego State. Essentially the action is quite simple and for a lethal shooter like Alex, perfect to create separation. Alex works his way to the deep wing or all the way into the corner then on a reversal he speeds off of a handoff (sometimes getting a downscreen from a wing). This often creates a lot of separation and even if it’s not a ton, the fact that Alex knows he has even a little bit of space is enough for him to pull. Here’s how it looked against SDSU.
This is a tough shot with the help swiping but he hasn’t missed on this specific action in a while. One simple solution, then, is to call this action a few more times a game to get him more looks and though you can’t expect him to continue making every single one, he has shown he will most definitely make more than 50% of them and probably north of 60% when given this much room to be comfortable.
The other thing that stood out to me when looking at the types of actions where Alex is attempting midrange shots is the ballscreen percentage, his least efficient action. Looking at his attempts, it became clear that there was one thing holding him back from his usual high efficiency in these situations.
Ballscreen creates separation - 5/9 - 55%
Non separation - 1/5 - 20%
It is obvious to think about but when he was unable to get space created from the ballscreen he wasn’t able to make his shots at the rate we’re accustomed to seeing. Here’s a case where he does get space when LMU was playing drop coverage on him on a ballscreen. Matt switches the angle of the screen which allows Alex to have a bunch of space coming off and come into a simple pull up with the big sagging too low.
This was the case for many of the ballscreen attempts, Alex was able to comfortably pull up and hit shots at a high rate. However, when there was no separation created and the guard was able to play it better, things got a little more dicey. Watch here against SMC where Khuse does a great job staying attached and forces an off-balance falling away jumper
The natural solution then becomes adding in some sort of extra movement to generate space for himself, either a step back or side step. He didn’t often attempt that over the six games I looked at, only putting up some sort of space generation pull up 5 times out of the 24 attempts. Here’s a look at all 4 misses:
He only knocked down one of those for an uncharacteristic 20% and he didn’t look completely comfortable taking them all the time (his feet feel real slow and off in the one against Pepperdine). He also didn’t attempt any late in the second half, possibly indicating he wasn’t quite ready to use it consistently. Contrast that with this year where he has taken 5 midrange pull ups total (made all of them, of course) and 3 of them have involved some sort of space generating movement and were in clutch time.
These look very comfortable and to me show that it’s something he’s been working on. These types of shots moving to the side or backwards are some of the most difficult to ones to master and if Alex continues to take them and make them this willingly, he becomes even more dangerous.
With this last tool he needed in his shooting arsenal looking solid, it now begs the question: Is he at the comfort level with his skill and role to take more midrange shots? This BYU offense was always designed to be dynamic and have everyone be a threat to move and play-make but Alex is the undisputed main option and closer right now. He seems by nature a team player and certainly ready and able to take over when needed but perhaps he could hunt a few more shots in the midrange outside of dedicated actions and help this offense produce more points. BYU also is calling plays specifically for him but have had some timing issues to work out over the first few games so once that gets cleaned up I expect him to have more attempts. I also expect to see more of the handoff action I pointed out earlier but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him hunt at least a couple more midrange shots as teams look to crowd him on the three point line and screens. One thing is obvious, with his improved ability to create his own space, defenses are running out of options to stop Alex Barcello.