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Blake Wesley's Space Creation | The Friday Screener
Blake Wesley's ball-handling and athleticism make him a dynamic space creator, but is it enough for him to be a truly great scorer?
Blake Wesley has been one of the biggest breakout stars this season. The Notre Dame guard is an electric scorer and promising defender. His combination of athleticism and confidence build a promising foundation for a lethal scorer. Wesley is proving to be a legitimate on-ball scoring threat for one major reason: his space creation.
At 6’5, Wesley has impressive quickness and a frame that should support more muscle. Wesley is extremely twitchy with his movements, which at times appear spastic, but is incredibly important for how he creates space when combined with his athleticism, footwork, and balance. Even though his efficiency numbers aren’t in an ideal spot, there is plenty to be excited about with Wesley’s scoring potential.
Wesley is the most comfortable and consistent at creating space in the mid-range. Here, Wesley gets a switch, and the defender can’t keep up with Wesley’s footwork. Wesley initially drives to his right. The defender is slower, so he decides to turn his hips to chase. Once the defender does this, Wesley spins against the defender’s momentum towards the lane. The defender reacts well, but to keep his balance as he flips his hips, he must plant his right foot closer to the rim, giving Wesley additional space. Meanwhile, Wesley plants his right foot out of the spin to kill his momentum and take a step back. While Wesley doesn’t create substantial space with this step, he creates enough to get the shot off while also maintaining his balance.
This move is Wesley’s go-to when attacking in isolation, but his creativity takes a step up when a screen is introduced as we can see here. After the defense switches, Wesley uses a stunning shot fake to get the defender in the air as he crosses back, sets his feet, looks at the rim, uses a hesitation dribble, and even brings his shooting hand towards the ball. Once the defender bites on the fake, Wesley immediately attacks. Wesley secures the ball around the free-throw line to avoid the help defender’s dig, decelerates to keep his balance and jump straight up, and knocks down the floater.
Wesley is excellent at unbalancing defenders, reading their momentum, and quickly countering it. Here, Wesley runs a side pick-and-roll with an empty corner, which means there is no help to the defender’s right. Wesley knows this and exploits the defender’s concern with a quick jab step that sends the defender away from the screen. Wesley quickly rips through, dribbles off the screen, and confidently knocks down the mid-range jumper.
This time, Wesley runs the exact same play, but instead of facing a disinterested drop defender, he confronts an aggressive hard hedge. As Wesley comes off the screen, the defender is eagerly waiting for him. Instead of panicking, Wesley promptly splits the defense and gets to the uncontested elbow pull-up.
While the majority of Wesley’s space creation occurs when he attacks the mid-range, he is also proving that he isn’t averse to creating space on the perimeter. His quick feet and springy legs allow him to get shots off in a myriad of ways.
Here, Wesley receives the handoff while his defender easily gets over the screen. While the screen barely deterred the defender, it did allow Wesley to take an extra dribble towards the baseline. This move forces the defender to turn his hips parallel for just a second, which is precisely when Wesley crosses back. The defender can’t halt and adjust his momentum quick enough, and Wesley pulls up for the open three.
Wesley’s timing on his moves is either extraordinarily lucky or he has a pretty good sense of what he’s doing. His quick-twitch movements not only unbalance defenders, but also allow him to move in a variety of angles and speeds.
Here, we see the quickness in which Wesley can move. After getting the switch on the bigger, slower defender, Wesley lulls him to sleep with a lengthy hang dribble. Wesley then jabs with his right foot with absurd quickness before exploding backward into his shot.
If you were paying close attention to the last few clips, you may have noticed some irregularities with Wesley’s shot. Mainly, that the form never looks the same. If so, congrats, you’re on to something. Despite being an adept ball-handler and excellent athlete, Wesley has struggled to score efficiently.
Wesley is prone to monster scoring games as he’s scored 20 or more in seven of his games (including a huge 24-point game against Wake Forest where he shot 6-11 from three), but he has also failed to shoot better than 40 percent from the floor in 11 of his games. On the season, Wesley is shooting 32.5 percent from three on 5.6 attempts and 40.7 percent from the floor on 12.5 attempts. Additionally, among players with a usage rate of at least 30 (Wesley’s is 30.8), Wesley has the seventh-worst true shooting percentage in the country and the worst among high-major conferences, per Barttorvik.
As we can see, Wesley’s shooting mechanics need significant work as his shot almost never looks the same. When he shoots off the catch, Wesley almost always has an exaggerated dip where the ball drops almost to his knees. Other times, he’ll bring the ball across to his left hip before starting his motion where he’ll release it almost on the other side of his face. Wesley also tends to rotate his lower half as he elevates, which can disrupt his balance and alignment.
Blake Wesley is one of the most electric scorers in the country because of his athleticism and ball-handling. Wesley has impeccable timing on when and where to counter his defender’s movements, and his quick-twitch athleticism is incredibly difficult to contain. Unfortunately, Wesley also has some of the most erratic shooting mechanics in the country. He has the tools to be an exquisite scorer, but if he can’t figure out his mechanics and add muscle, efficiency will be a massive problem.