Breaking Down Keyonte George's Playmaking | The Friday Screener
Keyonte George is proving to be much more than just a scorer through his tremendous passing ability.
When Keyonte George committed to the Baylor Bears, he became the highest-rated recruit in the program’s history. Coming out of IMG Academy, George was known as a dynamic scorer, a lethal shooter, and one of the top prospects for the 2023 NBA Draft. He thrived in more of a pure shooting guard role at IMG and had monster performances in international play. With Baylor, though, we knew that George would be more on-ball and asked to create for others as their system requires tremendous amounts of ball and player movement. George has quickly proven that not only is he more than an off-ball scorer but that he is also an incredibly adept playmaker.
At 6’4” and 185 pounds, George has the size of a point guard but came up as a shooting guard. George’s lack of size (in relation to most NBA shooting guards) and lack of playmaking through high school engendered concerns about how feasible his game would be in the NBA. He doesn’t always look the most comfortable; however, Baylor’s offensive system is not only putting him in situations that will force growth, but it is also allowing him to showcase ancillary skills that his previous roles tended to hide.
So far this season, George is averaging 4.2 assists per game and has an assist rate of 28.5, per Barttorvik.com. This assist rate is well above average and is also the highest for any freshman at a true high-major program. George’s assist rate is outpacing players like Cason Wallace (24.4), Jalen Hood-Schifino (22.4), and Anthony Black (18.9). George is showcasing his playmaking by leveraging his scoring gravity, manipulating defenders out of the pick-and-roll, and reading the floor at an advanced level. In the NBA, George will likely be put in a combo/shooting guard role where he’ll be more of a secondary playmaker utilizing second-side pick-and-rolls and dribble handoffs.
George is already incredibly comfortable running the pick-and-roll and has proven to be one of the best players in the country at splitting the double when he comes off the screen. Here, George explosively splits the double as Virginia aggressively hedges the pick-and-roll. This decisive action has now created a situation where Armaan Franklin panics and collapses from the strong side corner. George capitalizes on the advantage and delivers a perfect pass to the wide-open corner shooter.
This time, George faces a more NBA-esque drop defense. George’s defender gets cleared out by the screen, which forces the drop defender to step up to the ball a little more. By doing so, the help defender is now forced to collapse more aggressively to take away the lob. George kills his dribble and utilizes a quick fake to get the help defender to fully commit with two feet in the lane before making a skip pass to the open shooter.
George is eager to spray the ball all over to open shooters out of the pick-and-roll, but he’s also looking to reward cutters at the rim. Here, Virginia is again looking to blitz the pick-and-roll, but George quickly counters with a jab step and denies the screen. This move creates a driving lane for George and forces the low-man defender to rotate from the weak side. George’s teammate quickly recognizes the opportunity with a well-timed cut and is rewarded with a perfect lob.
George isn’t the most explosive athlete, so the utilization of screens will likely be a common tool for him. Here, George receives the handoff at the top of the arc and is immediately met by a hard hedge. George does a great job of slamming on the breaks and using an escape dribble back to the space he just came from. Since Virginia employed the hard hedge, Flo Thamba has a clear lane to roll into. As Thamba rolls, the weak side help defender moves to collapse to him. However, the way George gathers the ball over his head simulates that he’s about to make a skip pass, which sends the help defender back toward the corner. Instead, George perfectly leads Thamba to the rim for two points.
This time, George fails to break down his opponent in isolation, so he quickly executes a give-and-go. As George explodes to the middle of the floor, all eyes are on him, and he knows it. Instead of solely hunting his shot, George displays his quick processing speed and passing accuracy as he rewards his teammate’s perfect cut.
Understanding where every player is on the court at all times is a special skill that not many freshmen possess. It benefits scorers because they know when and where the help defense is coming from. It benefits playmakers because they know how to manipulate defenses to set up their teammates. The exceptionally dangerous players are those who are capable of combining both worlds.
Here, George maneuvers himself into a bit of trouble and picks up his dribble in a less-than-ideal spot. As he does so, though, he sees that the weak side defenders are aggressively shading toward the lane and that his teammate is cutting from the wing. He may not even be able to see his teammate in the corner, but based on everyone else’s movement, George knows he’s there and sets up the three.
George not only has a brilliant understanding of floor spacing, but his passes are shockingly accurate. After the defense switches on the gamble, George plays a quick give-and-go with Thamba. As George gets the ball back, Thamba’s defender turns off for just a second. Without hesitation, George delivers a 30-foot pass through traffic to set up the easy layup.
Keyonte George was near the top of many preseason draft boards because of his scoring. So far this year, though, scoring has arguably been one of his most inconsistent traits. George has been a physical defender and shined as a playmaker. He is quickly proving that he can succeed in a myriad of ways while also elevating the play of those around him. With tremendous floor awareness and passing accuracy, George is developing into one of the most versatile guards in the 2023 NBA Draft.