Through the first nine games this season, the Baskonia guard has changed the way he creates damage, while remaining just as dangerous.
Stats review: Baskonia's Markus Howard stands out among 'versatile shot-makers'
Four teams survived the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague's two-round week for November without a loss: first-place Real Madrid, Panathinaikos Athens, Olympiacos Piraeus, and surging Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz. Only one player, however, eclipsed the 30-point mark: Baskonia’s Markus Howard whose 35 points were key to his team’s road victory over LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne.
Quickly establishing himself as one of the EuroLeague's most dangerous jump shooters in his debut campaign last year, the 24-year-old scoring guard has already put together several signature offensive performances across his 42 appearances. While his résumé makes his Round 9 outburst less than surprising, its contrast to his more explosive outings last season epitomizes what "versatile shot-making" looks like.
Howard scored 21 points on catch-and-shoot jump shots against ASVEL — that’s a career-best and one of the highest single-game marks in recent history. He had numerous efforts where he did not need a single shot with his feet set to crack double-figures last season and nearly all his largest point totals came on nights when he ran especially hot off the dribble.
The graph above displays where every player in the EuroLeague stands in terms of points scored on catch-and-shoot and pull-up jumpers, with the color coding splitting the field into thirds. It also includes where Howard’s ratio would have fallen last season. After doing the majority of his damage off the dribble a season ago, Howard has been more prolific off the catch this one. Some of that can be traced to some cold shooting out of ball screens to start the year and his net-blazing efforts with his feet set against ASVEL, but it also speaks to the breadth of his role offensively.
Such a large shift is a rarity among the league’s most prominent perimeter threats in their prime years. Lead guards like Mike James and Scottie Wilbekin tend to produce mostly off the dribble year-over-year as they lead their respective teams from the point while floor-spacing forwards like Alec Peters and Nikola Mirotic seldom start taking and making a high volume of pull-ups. That simply wouldn’t be the most prudent use of their skill sets.
The same is not true of players like Howard whose greatest asset as a shooter may not be his ability to score in bunches, but the number of different avenues he has to do so. The term shot-making versatility gets thrown around quite a bit at the highest levels of basketball at this point with the way teams have pivoted from post to perimeter play while further embracing the three-point shot. Howard’s shift in the graph above vividly highlights what that looks like even if he still has plenty of season for his numbers to trend in either direction. His ability to hurt a defense shooting on the move running off screens under duress, remain a threat relocating off dribble drives or broken plays, and rise-and-fire dribbling off ball screens makes him a chronic problem for opposing defenses regardless of whether he’s playing on or off the ball.
Howard is not the first dynamic shooter to see his shot-making profile shift meaningfully - Shane Larkin notably moved off the ball a lot more regularly during Efes’s second championship run, but Howard's shooting was the difference for Baskonia in Round 9 and among the reasons why the team has been able to rattle off four wins after a 1-3 start.