Jaime Jaquez Jr.: The Creed Bratton of College Basketball.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. has had an incredible four years in West Wood. Tap in to see why Garbage Time Ghim sees him starring in a role in the NBA.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. has been a consistent force for the UCLA Bruins for a couple of years. The thing about Jaquez’s game is that you have to pay attention to it to see its understated beauty. Due to the more modest nature of his game, many are quick to jump to players with flashier games, and more exciting outcomes. Like Michael Gary Scott, Regional Manager of the Scranton Branch of Dunder Mifflin in the hit TV show The Office, sometimes going for something flashy may leave you with gum in your hair and a piece of tin foil in your hands. Was the flash really worth the reward?
As you probably know by now, all of my pieces have some sort of theme. I like comparing prospects to some piece of entertainment or pop culture. Thinking about prospects in this way helps me to better understand why I like their game. In the case of Jaime Jaquez Jr., the more I watched his game, the more I thought it made no sense that he’s not being discussed in the first round conversation as much. Jaquez has been consistently good for a big basketball program for a couple of seasons now, he has excellent size, and he has gotten better year after year. The only real reason I could see scouts and evaluators being low on him was his age or his style of play. As I break down his game, I want to compare him to Creed Bratton, one of the funniest characters on The Office and someone who was always a hilarious character and deserved more love for how consistently awesome he was on that show.
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The Office is my favorite show of all time and is always playing in our home. My wife and I have probably watched all nine seasons at least 50+ times now, and I could probably rattle off lines from almost every episode. Of the nine seasons, I believe the absolute peak of the show was from seasons two through five, and I don’t think many would argue with me on that. After a slow first season where most of the cast had to find their voices as characters, the show hit the ground running in season two and started to fly.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. is a senior wing for the UCLA Bruins and has had an illustrious career in Westwood. He was named the 2022-2023 Pac-12 Player of the Year, was voted All Pac-12 three times, All Pac-12 Defense two times, and has improved his game every single year. Heading into last season, many, including myself, thought Jaquez would enter the draft after an excellent junior season. However, Jaquez decided to come back for his senior season, got even better, and led the Bruins to the Sweet Sixteen, and maybe even further. Jaquez put up really good stats in his senior year with averages of 17.5 PTS, 8.1 REB, 2.3 AST, and 1.5 STL per game on shooting splits of 48.1/31.7/76.3.
As we were evaluating his game last season and this season, I saw people on the Internet grossly misunderstanding his game and, in many ways looking at his game and his outlook through the wrong lens. If you’re expecting Jaquez to play the same role he’s playing now on the next level, then, of course, you may be lower on him. Currently, Jaquez is the number one option for the Bruins and a player that Head Coach Mick Cronin relies on to be the engine for the Bruins on both ends of the floor. Jaquez is the number one option on offense and is also expected to be a pillar on the defensive side of the ball as well.
As great as Jaquez has been for the Bruins and as much as he’s grown throughout his four years, Jaquez should not be expected to play the same role at the next level. The reason why I love Jaquez’s game so much is that he has all the tools of a high-level role player, with little sprinkles of first-option ability as well. My question to NBA front offices is this: why wouldn’t you want a guy that’s built to play a supporting role who also has the ability to do lead role types of things occasionally? Especially if you’re talking about a good team drafting in the late teens and in the early to mid-20s, why wouldn’t you take a flyer on a mature wing who competes on both ends of the floor? Before I get into the nitty-gritty of Jaquez’s game, I wanted to set my expectations of his game for you. I think Jaquez is going to be an incredible role player on the next level that coaches are going to love. I think he has so much to his game, and even if he isn’t a future superstar number one option, he still deserves a lot more love and attention for all the good stuff he does.
Of the many incredible episodes of The Office, an episode in season four titled “Dunder Mifflin Infinity” came to mind as I started writing out my notes on Jaime Jaquez Jr. In the episode, Ryan, who used to work in the Scranton office, comes back as Michael’s new boss. With the power dynamics all up in the air with Michael now being managed by a guy that used to be a temporary worker in his office, tensions are very high. One of the big changes that Ryan makes is he tries to implement a website to help streamline operations and make the way that they do business more efficient.
This doesn’t go over well with the office workers as most of them are older and are not the most technologically savvy people. There’s a hilarious scene where Stanley Hudson tries using a BlackBerry and has absolutely no idea what he’s doing. Of all the people struggling with the changes, Michael and Creed are hit the hardest by the news. One of the most iconic scenes of the episode is when Creed, because of his belief that Ryan is implementing all of these changes to get rid of the older members in the office, goes off by himself and dyes his hair black with ink from the printer.
This scene came to mind as I was watching Jaquez’s game just because of how I saw his game being described by people on Twitter. I remember seeing things on Twitter last season about Jaquez being a glorified post-up player and not having the skills for the modern NBA. As I jumped into his offense, I found some things to be true. First, there are elements of Jaquez’s game that hearken back to the past. Jaquez is a good post-player, and we’ll get into all his skills. Second, although Jaquez has some retro vibes to his game, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have modern NBA wing skills in his arsenal. In the same way that Creed felt like he was being targeted for being old, I was worried that people were also portraying Jaquez’s game as old. My argument for Jaquez’s game is that the mix of his retro vibes with the modern elements of his game makes him an enticing prospect.
I won’t sugar-coat it: Jaquez is outstanding in the post. He is a legit 6’7” and has a great frame. He has a powerful physique that really helps him get to his spots and even creates separation to get off his shots. When I saw Jaquez live in Vegas last season and in Westwood this season, his broad shoulders and strong upper body reminded me a lot of Gordan Hayward.
Jaquez will never be mistaken for Amen Thompson as an athlete. His athleticism is functional, not flashy. That’s okay, though, because Jaquez doesn’t rely on his athleticism to get his points. Jaquez pairs his physical brand of offense with a nasty head fake, ballerina-like feet, and a good handle. In the compilation I posted below, you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Jaquez is a really interesting player to watch on the offensive side of the ball because of how good his feet are. Jaquez does a great job of using his light feet to manipulate defenders and keep them constantly guessing. When Jaquez catches in the post or mid-post, he does a great job of attacking bigger defenders with his deceptive quickness, spin moves to get them going in different directions, and then has an awesome head fake to get them in the air. Once he gets them in the air, he does a great job of either ducking under, drawing fouls, or fading away to show off his nice touch from the mid-range. If you watch Jaquez posting up, it’s hard not to think back to guys like Jamal Mashburn back in the day or T J Warren if you want someone more recent. As the great Walt Clyde Frazier would say, he plays with bulldozer-like finesse.
Jaquez can do it all in the post. As I mentioned above, he does a great job of using fakes and quickness against bigger guys, and when he gets a smaller guy on him off a switch, he’s great at using his frame to bully his way down to the hoop. He can either back them down and go middle for a baby hook or short jumper or fake middle and spin baseline for a nice fall-away jumper. He’s such a tough guard for smaller guys because he’s so strong and is so patient when he gets down there. Defenders must also be wary of his interior passing; Jaquez has done a great job of finding his bigs at the dunker's spot and cutters flashing in the lane off of his post-ups. He also does a great job of sealing his man to get to his comfort zone and setting up an easy angle for an entry pass.
I know this may sound pretty basic, but it’s the finer details that make a huge difference, and I do think this is going to be a part of his game on the next level because coaches are going to use him as a screener in pick-and-roll sets. Jaquez has shown the ability to set good screens and can offer many options as a screener. Because of his passing ability and general offensive arsenal, he’ll be a threat in the short roll, and if the defense chooses to switch off the screen, he’ll be able to go to work against a smaller guard and exploit that match-up. Although a good post-game may be perceived as an antiquated skill, you can see how having that skillset in his bag makes sense due to his ability as a screener. On the NBA level, that type of versatility and matchup advantage is something coaches will look to utilize.
In the mid-post, Jaquez can face up and attack his man off the dribble. Jaquez has a tight handle for a guy his size and does a good job of using it to get to his spots. Jaquez doesn’t have a ton of shake, but he has enough to pair with his strength to create the separation he needs. And ultimately, even if he isn’t an elite ball-handler, his strong handle is enough to add another layer of concern for a defender. He’s not Jim Halpert cruising by Roy for an easy layup in the warehouse, but he’s also not Stanley Hudson, hunched over and counting every dribble.
I think his outside shooting is where I’d like to see more growth. I won’t shy away from the fact that I don’t love that he only took 2.8 three-point attempts per game this season. I wish the volume was a bit higher because I think he’s a good shooter. As much as I don’t love the volume, I can’t ignore the context either. Jaquez is a guy that likes to shoot from the mid-range and the post; that’s just where he’s comfortable right now. A lot of that comes from the role he’s playing as well. As I highlighted earlier, Jaquez is the number one option for the Bruins; that type of volume, scoring burden, and expectation won’t be there when he gets to the NBA. Of the 30 teams in the NBA, I can’t imagine one of them expecting him to come in and take charge of the offense.
Naturally, due to his new role, Jaquez must learn to shoot from the corners, be a play-finisher, and make the most of his lower offensive usage and role. I believe he can do it because even as the number one option for the Bruins, he is an incredibly selfless player who does not look to hog the ball and jack up shots all game long. As he continues to work on his outside shooting and increase the volume from there, I think we can look to his shooting touch in the mid-range and his good free throw shooting numbers (76.3%). Mechanically, I thought his base looked good, not too narrow or too wide; I thought the shot looked natural, smooth, and repeatable. I did wonder if he was shooting the ball from in front of his face a little too much, but I think that’s a minor fix.
I like Jaquez’s offensive game, and I don’t think he needs to try too hard to be something he’s not on the next level. His strengths reduced to a smaller role with an increase in his long-range shooting will translate to the next level. Unlike Creed Bratton, who decided to dye his hair, change how he talked, and even untuck his shirt. I don’t believe Jaquez has to change who he is as a player. Selflessness and high basketball IQ always translate as long as there isn’t a massive gulf in athletic ability.
The more I think about prospects and future projections, the more I realize we’re looking for who has the most tools in their bags and the quality. You can either be a guy with one or two really good quality tools, someone with a ton of average tools, or a superstar that has a ton of high-end tools. I think all three types of players have a place in the NBA; I’d stay away from the guys who only have one tool but think that one tool is more than enough to compensate for the lack of every other tool. If a guy shows up to your team with a rusty hammer and talks like he’s the best man for any job, you should probably let him go; he sucks.
In season seven of the Office, the show had to say goodbye to Steve Carrell as he moved on to do bigger and better things. This was an incredible shift for the show and a huge transition for everyone involved. The cast had become extremely close, and his leaving the show was an emotional experience that viewers could feel from watching his final couple of episodes. I wanted to give a special shoutout to The Office Ladies Podcast, hosted by Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey. If you didn’t know, they played Pam and Angela on the show and host a re-watch podcast where they break down every episode of The Office. It’s an awesome podcast, and they do a great job of revealing all the behind-the-scenes stuff of every episode.
After Steve left, there was a massive void in who would be the next Regional Manager of the show. In one of the filler episodes to get to the end of the season, Creed was asked to take over the branch after the new manager, Deangelo Vickers, played by Will Ferrel, lost his mind and had to resign from the position. In one of the funniest cold opens ever, Creed takes on the reigns as manager, and it’s absolute chaos. Watch the video below and try not to laugh; not humanly possible. Creed randomly running a meeting on the sales floor with no one paying attention was easily one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. His standing there like a ghoul just yelling, “BOBODDY, BOBODDY!” gets me every single time, even after seeing it a million times.
I’m not trying to say that Jaquez is going to be a freak like Creed, but I do want to highlight how hilarious that cold open was and how for one episode, he was able to carry that cold open pretty much by himself and was an absolute star.
Jaquez on the defensive end is a lot like this. He’s not going to be your best defender, but as a wing defender with strength and IQ, he will have some moments where you will be ridiculously impressed with what you’re watching. He may not be the guy you rely on every night to be the spearhead of your defense, but he will be involved every night and, on some nights, does even more.
First, when it comes to his on-ball defense, it’s clear that he has some limitations regarding his lateral quickness. Jaquez tries hard to stay in front of his man with good positioning, reading the hips of his man and using his strength to bump his man off his line. Jaquez also has good length, which helps him compensate when recovering and contesting shots. The issue is when it comes to guarding down to quicker point guards, Jaquez can have a tough time changing directions and recovering to his man at times. Of course, guarding a Dame Lillard, Kyrie Irving, or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will be hard for any wing to guard, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t highlight it. Although Jaquez may have some trouble guarding smaller, quicker guards, it doesn’t mean he can’t do it, and I also like that he can guard up and hold his own against bigs in a pinch. Due to his strong base and discipline as a defender, he can definitely go chest-to-chest with bigs and make their lives difficult.
Jaquez isn’t a savant when navigating screens, but the effort is always there. Give me the guy who tries hard and lacks some athletic ability over the guy with an all-world type of athleticism that likes loafing around on defense every single time.
As an off-ball defender, he does a good job of denying when he has to and always seems to have his head on a swivel. He was asked to help a lot down low whenever Adem Bona was injured or out of the game. UCLA’s backup bigs were not so great, which meant Mick Cronin heavily relied on Jaquez to help down there in terms of rim protection and rebounding. Jaquez didn’t have high block numbers or a high block percentage, but if you watch the film, you can see he really did try his best; it just isn't his specialty.
I love the rebounding; seeing how hard he’s fighting on the boards is always great. He upped his averages up to 8.1 REB per game, and 2.6 of them came on the offensive glass. Jaquez is easily one of the best rebounding wings in his class, and yes, rebounding is still an important skill.
Jaquez, as a Mexican-American, is an inspiration to so many. I saw a video he posted on his Twitter profile, where he talked about his grandparents and how they came over from Mexico to build a family in the States. As he outlined in the video, one of the core things he learned from his parents and grandparents is hard work. Jaquez has proven that throughout his four-year career in Westwood, and that is why he has all the tools and ability to have a fantastic career in the NBA as well.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. may not be Michael Scott or Jim Halpert in the NBA. Still, he can be Creed Bratton, a guy who lasted all nine seasons, could sometimes carry the comedic load on his own, and was ultimately remembered as a critical member of one of the greatest TV shows ever. Jaime, if you’re reading this, don’t hate me for comparing you to an old man; love me for comparing you to a star role player.
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