An NBA Breakout That May Propel Kyle Filipowski into the Lottery
Lauri Markkanen is in the midst of a breakout campaign for the Utah Jazz. What does that mean for the draft stock of Duke’s Kyle Filipowski?
Prior to the start of the 2022-23 NBA season, most analysts pegged the Utah Jazz as one of the four teams that would have a 14% chance of landing the right to select the blue alien from Space Jam with the first overall pick. Vegas set their over/under win total at a lowly 24.5. By all accounts, just about everyone thought the Utah Jazz would have a season as ugly as their newly designed uniforms.
But the NBA loves to keep us on our toes, and the Jazz have defied the odds, sitting two games over .500 over a quarter through the season. There are myriad reasons for the early season success of the Utah Jazz, but the overwhelming story for the Highlighters is the breakout campaign of Lauri Markkanen.
Markkanen has been a confounding player through the early stages of his career. The Finnisher came out of the gates hot in Chicago before having to deal with the lunacy of the Jim Boylen era and a trade to the Rock and Roll Capital that took jumbo ball to a new level. But with his latest move to Utah, Markkanen has finally found his footing and perhaps a home in a Jazz offense reminiscent of when Lewis Scoot finally learned to pass.
The Jazz renaissance is a fantastic NBA story, but this is No Ceilings, baby, and we talk draft ‘round these parts. So let’s shift our focus slightly and look at Lauri Legend’s breakout through a different lens by examining what it could mean for the projection of Duke’s Kyle Filipowski.
Filipowski was a somewhat contentious prospect, entering the pre-season as the 37th-ranked player on the Draftdaq IPOs. The skepticism seemed somewhat warranted in an NBA that continues to heavily value versatile two-way wings. People had some questions and just wanted some answers. That’s exactly what the Duke freshman has done.
Filipowski has arguably been Duke’s best player, showing off a versatile offensive scoring package that has made him one of the hottest risers in the class.
As we start our dive into the film, breaking down some of the similarities that Filipowski shares with Markkanen, I want to say that this comparison is not being made to definitively say that Filipowski will reach the level that the current iteration of Markkanen is playing at, but instead is to be used as a visual aid to help better understand the different ways that Filipowski may be used as an offensive weapon throughout his NBA career.
At the most basic level, Filipowski projects as an elite spot-up floor spacer. Listed at 7’0” with a high buttery smooth release, Filipowski is unbothered by defenders and is able to cleanly get looks off versus shot contests. Pair the freshman with elite downhill NBA drivers, and spot-up threes should feel like lay-ups.
The kind of NBA offenses that have most benefited Markkanen are those with lots of ball and player movement—fast pace with a lot of strong and weak-side actions that lead to rotations and scrambles that provide enough space to get off clean looks. What makes Markkanen such a fun piece to your offense is that you can use him as you would a shooting guard and have him run off screens like he was Klay Thompson.
Duke hasn’t quite used Filipowski as creatively as an NBA offense might, but there have been flashes of that movement shooting we’re likely to see more of in the NBA. I don’t think Filipowski is going to be flying off a million pin-downs every game like Kyle Korver at the next level, but we’ll see a more healthy diet of movement shooting from him. At his size, with his release point, it could be a real weapon.
I am confident in Filipowski as a movement threat not only because of his picturesque stroke but also due to his keen sense of timing and understanding of space—imperative NBA concepts for shooting prospects. Filipowski knows when and where he needs to move to clear space for the driver and can shoot it smoothly in rhythm.
Just as Filipowski demonstrated above, Markkanen shows off his feel in flattening out to the corner out of the ball screen between Garland and Allen. This small detail is important because if Lauri doesn’t flatten to the corner as Porter tries to tag the roll, then MPJ has a much cleaner contest on the recovery. Likewise, in the Filipowski clip, if he doesn’t flatten out, then the Bellarmine defender can recover from his overzealous dig. This recognition from both guys may seem common from a wing or guard, but it is more unique for 7-footers.
In a ball screen-heavy league, a simple pick and pop can prove deadly. A true pop threat like Markkanen will open up lanes for dribble penetration, force guard to big switches, and just be an easy way to make the defense think enough to give the shooter enough space for clean shots. Even in sophisticated NBA defenses that pre-switch, it ends up in a pick your poison option when the offense makes a quick decision.
I’d like Duke to lean even more into Filipowski pick and pops, but as it stands, you see how clean of a look he’ll eventually get—especially when you imagine him running it with guards that are true threats to pressure the rim and make the right reads.
In a lot of ways, Filipowski is more of a jumbo wing than a big. The fact that he can comfortably come off a DHO and make you pay when the defender goes under is lethal stuff.
The Jazz have been excellent at getting Markkanen in motion out of these actions. Lauri misses the shot here, but the reason I chose this clip versus a make is because of how it mirrors Filipowski’s above: same spot on the floor, and they both use that one dribble to create just a touch more separation from the defense.
What I love about DHOs for shooters are the options those plays present. Guys like Filipowski and Markkanen aren’t necessarily the type of offensive players you give the rock to on the perimeter and let them cook. If you get them moving and give them a head of steam, though, they’re both fluid enough to use that momentum to attack the rim.
Neither clip shows a super creative downhill drive like you may see from a shifty guard when they receive the handoff, but both Markkanen and Filipowski use their size, strength, and footwork to change directions and get into the body to get to the spot and create separation.
Let’s get back to the shooting.
There’s a reason that Markkanen went seventh overall to the Bulls in the 2017 NBA Draft. The off-ball stuff made him an easy fit in an NBA offense, but the true potential was in the lethal shooting combined with the self-creation. Neither guy is going to over-dribble before letting it fly, but they’re more than capable of hitting you with an efficient combo and using their size to get a look off cleanly.
Duke has a bunch of guards that like to dribble a lot, so Filipowski hasn’t gotten a ton of looks out of isolation, nor will he get them at the next level if he’s being used properly. But there have been some fun moments off the bounce where you go “oh, he has that in his bag?”
The first clip from Filipowski mirrors that sweet Markkanen behind the back trey ball, only he busts it out from the mid-range.
The next clip we see shows Filipowski extending his range and knocking down the combo move three: quick, efficient with only two dribbles, and knocks down a shot with a hand in his grill. Some real tough shot-making potential.
It’s just tough to contest guys with the size of these two shooters. When a guy at that size makes a quick and decisive move, it’s even tougher. Both guys here are going to get into the mid-post here, and they feel the defender taking away the middle. All it takes is a quick spin over their right shoulder, and there’s nothing the defender can do.
When you’re as much a shooting threat as Markkanen has been through his career, teams are going to respect that. The scouting report is going to say that you need to close out hard to him when the ball swings his way. Again, Lauri isn’t the most creative ball handler, but he can put it on the floor and get to the rack.
Filipowski has that same respect from the defense. Likewise, nothing fancy from Kyle, but when the ball swings his way, he’s confident, fluid, and decisive, attacking the rim hard and throwing it down.
Markkanen and Filipowski are not plodding post-up guys, but they’re both capable of taking advantage of mismatches. Get a smaller guy on them in the paint, and they’ll dip their shoulder into the chest of the defender and get an easy two.
In a switch-heavy NBA, Filipowski is going to get opportunities to take advantage of those mismatch scenarios. Filipowski sets a screen under the hoop leading to a switch with a guard, and then he shows off the nifty footwork with the quick spin and finish.
Markkanen gets the same inside positioning on the smaller David Roddy here and uses the same footwork spinning over his left shoulder when he feels Roddy taking away the left-handed finish.
These aren’t post and re-post old-school scenarios; they’re easy post-up attempts off quick actions that allow your team to take advantage of the size and skill of your versatile offensive weapon.
These next two clips are the last two clips I’m going to show to showcase the similar ways these two guys score, but it’s my favorite example as the kinesthetics are so eerily similar.
Markkanen has always had these kinds of unorthodox movement patterns in his game that make him tough to predict. As he takes John Collins off the bounce (due to the threat of the shot and Collins having to play him tight), he uses a left foot right foot deceleration and then finishes by getting into his body with a right-handed finish on his way down.
Almost the same exact movement patterns are here from Filipowski. Kyle takes him off the bounce and then uses that same left-right footwork to decelerate, seek contact, and then finish with that right-handed lay-in on the way down.
I’m glad that in the Year of our Lord 2022, we can finally stop comparing every big white shooting prospect to the greatest big man shooter of all time Dirk Nowitzki. Try hard as I might, I couldn’t fully shake the white-on-white comp for Filipowski, but I think that it’s warranted based on how he can be used at the next level.
Although Lauri Markkanen’s breakout this year was somewhat surprising, we do have to realize that Lauri was the seventh overall pick. Talent was never the question. I’m not ready to lay claim that Filipowski will ever play up to the heights Markkanen is currently reaching, but I think there’s a likely outcome where he reaches some of those Chicago and Cleveland Markkanen years. That’s a good basketball player! It’s maybe not a guy you build your team around but is a guy who will add value to your offense. Shooting and offensive versatility are at a premium right now, and NBA teams are starting to trust the two big lineups more and more. That means good things for Filipowski’s draft stock. The Duke big man may have been on the outside looking in when the season started, but don’t be surprised if Filipowski hears his name called in the lottery come June.