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And the Thunder Select…Jeremy Sochan

Shades of: Draymond Green, Kevon Looney, Boris Diaw

A player frequently mocked to the Thunder at #12 in the 2022 NBA Draft, Jeremy Sochan has been a steady riser up draft boards this past year. Starting off below his teammate Kendall Brown in rankings and mock drafts, Sochan has surpassed him in nearly everyone’s mind and now seems destined to become a lottery pick. Born in Guymon Oklahoma, Sochan grew up in England and then later came back to North America by himself to play high school basketball in Indiana for La Lumiere Prep. Due to COVID, he then moved to Germany and began playing for OrangeAcademy before committing to Baylor and eventually winning Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year. Sochan has represented Poland in FIBA U16s and their national team, becoming the youngest player to ever play for the Polish national team.

Having barely turned 19 ahead of this draft, Sochan will be one of the youngest players of his class and in the entire NBA, making what he did at Baylor all the more impressive. The concerns about his game are obvious right now, but given the combination of youth and production, Sochan may return immense value relative to his draft slot.

Defensive Versatility

The best attribute of Sochan’s game is easily his defense. A lot of recent rookies have had very successful seasons defensively, contrary to the frequent narrative that rookies will always struggle on that end of the court coming into the league. I don’t see why Sochan will not be that guy in this year’s class. He legitimately defended all five positions at Baylor (all competently), and I’d argue he is the draft’s second-best defensive player behind Chet Holmgren. But Sochan’s versatility might lead to him overtaking Holmgren in the league since that skill is so coveted if it translates without hiccups.

Sochan spent most of the game against Kansas defending David McCormack, a 6’10, 250 pound bruising center with three years on him, and he more than held his own. Then later in the year, he was guarding RJ Davis in clutch situations in the NCAA tournament. There is a real possibility he could be an elite level 3 through 4 defender in the NBA with a nice sprinkle of situational 2s and 5s. In addition to being a very strong dude (he takes blows to the body like it’s nothing), Sochan is able to slide his feet extremely effectively and move quickly on the perimeter. He had a very solid 2.9% steal rate and 3.2% block rate this past season for Baylor, where he anchored the 14th best defense in the nation as a freshman.

Comparing players to Draymond Green is usually a fool’s errand, as Green is an all-time level defender who is also one of the more unique players of the past decade. However, Sochan showed some similarities to Green during their respective freshman seasons. Of any prospect in recent drafts who have been compared to Draymond, Sochan has the best chance of becoming a similar player. His instincts are off the charts, and he plays with the same tenacity and irritating style that resembles Draymond on the defensive end of the floor. Would I bet on him to become the next Draymond? No. But I think the comparison is there stylistically and statistically if you wish to make it.

Even if Sochan doesn’t become Draymond Green 2.0, I don’t see any scenario where his defense is not impactful in the NBA. He has all the qualities you are looking for in a stud, versatile defender: length, instincts, strength, quickness, and phenomenal timing. Even if Sochan has no offensive game at the next level, his defense and instincts on both ends will keep him in the league for a while on someone’s bench. While I don’t think he has quite the vertical athlete to be a full-time rim protector as a center, I’m all the way in on him at this end of the floor.

Offensive Question Marks

Sochan’s primary issue jumps off the screen at you when looking at his statistics. His 29.6% from three is suboptimal and his 58.9% from the FT line is downright awful. Free throw percentage is a big indicator of shooting ability, and Sochan looks like Steven Adams from the line.

There is definitely a possibility that Sochan legitimately can’t score efficiently at all from outside of the paint in the NBA, which would likely make him an end of the bench player. This outcome can’t be ignored, which is why I think you can only rank him so highly (around 6th or 7th is the highest I would go). But there is a little indication that some improvement can be had given the flashes he showed in 2021.

The shooting touch and perimeter skill has been an issue with Sochan for years, starting with OrangeAcademy:

OrangeAcademy 2020-2021

The numbers don’t look all that much better for Sochan a year later at Baylor:

Baylor 2021-2022

Obviously, there are some incremental improvements here, but that could simply be variance. If not, these improvements don’t necessarily give me a reason to believe he can shoot at the next level. One thing that does give me hope? Sochan’s respectable 34% on catch-and-shoot threes, per Synergy. That is a solid number and that could point to his shot eventually coming along. A lot of those attempts were fairly open, however, as Synergy charted under 30% of his C&S attempts as being guarded. The easiest three point shot is from the corners, and on the year Sochan shot just 6/21 on corner threes, per CBB Analytics.

By far the most frequent play type Sochan had on offense was spot-ups, coming in at a total of 99 possessions on the season. On these possessions, he shot 37.3% and ranked in the 48th percentile in college basketball. Clearly, these numbers are nothing special, but I don’t think the shot is unfixable. Sochan just turned 19 years old and shooting is arguably one of the hardest skills to predict and project. But given the passable numbers and form, I am expecting some improvement at the very least.

Sochan’s entire off-the-dribble game is a major work in progress. He was 0-8 on OTD threes this past season and his handle could use some work despite flashes of solid moves. His athleticism isn’t top tier and he doesn’t possess a very good burst or a quick first step to beat defenders consistently. There’s nothing wrong with not having a proficient OTD game–especially for a player of his archetype–but we need a little more out of him there unless his other skills keep developing and are too good to pass up.

Passing Chops

For a player of his size and archetype, Sochan is quite the impressive passer. Sochan’s instincts evident on defense translate fairly well to the other side of the floor. His feel for the game allows Sochan to make some really nice passes to open shooters on the perimeter, or make the right play in the interior of the defense. Barring outlier development (like Draymond), Sochan will still have to improve the outside jumper to take full advantage of his playmaking talents. If defenses don’t respect his jumper and he can’t attack closeouts, the skill will be greatly hindered. Regardless, he showcased a lot of great passing last season:

His assist rate of 12.3% doesn’t jump off the page, but relative to his fairly low usage on the year it isn’t a bad number. I like assist rate a lot as a statistic, but it’s obviously not the end all, be all. I believe Sochan has the ability to be a transition weapon at the next level with his size and ability to grab-n-go after a rebound or blocked shot. Of course, he had his fair share of missed reads and was a little predictable with some sloppy passing that caused turnovers, but this starting point of playmaking and feel for a 6’9, 230 pounder is pretty good and definitely a skill that I can see transitioning to the next level. Sochan’s handle and quickness aren’t good enough to break down a defense from a standstill, but his connective passing traits are real and have a chance to really benefit an offense when he is making decisions with the basketball.

Scoring Arsenal

The best attribute of Sochan’s scoring package is his finishing at the basket. He shot an impressive 75% at the rim this past season, with only 60.8% of those being assisted, per Bart Torvik. As I stated earlier, he is built well with a powerful upper body, and showcased good touch at the basket off of spin moves and when absorbing contact. He even threw in a few lefty finishes:

One aspect of Sochan’s offensive game that I enjoy is his cutting ability. He had quite a few baseline cuts for alley-oop dunks this past season and ranked in the 93rd percentile on cuts in college basketball. His instincts and size shine here, as Sochan is able to cut at the right moment and find soft spots in the defense.

As I’ve said before, the C&S numbers for Sochan are solid. 34% from three is a workable number and he has quite a few turnaround jumpers on his tape that look really clean. I am not much of a believer in his shooting despite the fact that his form and mechanics look like that of a much more efficient jump shooter, but there’s enough to point to if you want to believe.

There are many avenues for Sochan to achieve offensive value. He can leverage his high level finishing at the basket and around the paint, develop a very capable C&S three point jump shot, or improve the handle some in order to attack his opposing defenders. At the end of the day, if he is a complete nonfactor from behind the arc, a lot of his offensive value in his passing and finishing is zapped.

Lock it In?

Sochan has quite literally everything you could ever want in a high level role player, except perimeter shooting. If you believe in his incremental improvements in percentages, average spot-up and C&S numbers, along with his extended developmental curve due to his age, you could easily talk yourself into Sochan as one of the six best players in the draft. While I believe shooting is one of the easiest skills to improve upon in the NBA, Sochan’s numbers (especially his free throw numbers) scare me off a little bit.

The fit with the Thunder may be rough at the beginning due to the team’s already present lack of floor spacing. But Sochan’s other skills may be too good to pass up on since improvement could be on the horizon. He could be an instant impact defender for any team with a bevy of intriguing ancillary skills that a developmental staff could mold into a do-it-all archetype. If GM Sam Presti believes in Sochan’s upside at number 12, I don’t see him picking another player regardless of how it projects to look in year one or two on the offensive end. It would be hard to pass up on someone with this skillset, and previous Thunder drafts indicate Sochan is the type of guy they’re comfortable rolling the dice on.

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