Jean Montero: The Little (Offensive) Engine That Could
When you are undersized in the NBA, it’s incredibly difficult to become a successful offensive engine, however it’s not impossible. Here is my reasoning for why I think Jean can I think Jean can...
What Jean Montero lacks in size (6’2” 170 something lbs), he more than makes up for with his creativity and craft. Coming into this season, Montero was atop my list of fun prospects to watch, which is why when he decided to take his talents to Overtime Elite (“OTE”), I was a bit wary just given the unknown about the new venture. However, after a handful of games, he has continued to dazzle me and actually looks more poised and comfortable than he did last season. Now, don’t get me wrong, the level of competition is questionable and the overall play style of OTE is pretty unstructured, but Jean Montero has thrived in this environment that allows him more freedom with the ball in his hands. Which has me asking the question: Can Jean Montero become a primary offensive engine in the NBA? I myself do not think it’s a likely outcome, but entertain me for a second as I try to explain why he may have a chance.
When you are undersized in the NBA, it’s incredibly difficult to become a successful offensive engine, however it’s not impossible. Guys like Trae Young & Donovan Mitchell (yes I know Mitchell has a 6’10” wingspan but I’m taller than him so he still counts as undersized) come to mind as two smaller guys who recently came into the league and were immediately successful handling primary duties for their teams. That is extremely rare and I do not foresee Jean Montero following their path, but can he follow the path of other small guards, like Kemba Walker for example? Kemba came into the league as a great scorer but was incredibly inefficient during his first few seasons on some bad Charlotte Bobcats teams. However, he continued to develop and eventually got to All-Star and All-NBA status with an improved shot and playmaking skills. I think Jean Montero could be poised for a similar trajectory, and he might even be ahead of the curve coming in just due to age and the fact that he’s already a better shooter. I am not saying Jean Montero is destined to become as great of a player as Kemba Walker, but he already flashes the shooting, driving, and passing ability that it takes to get there. Let’s have a look at each of these skills during his time thus far with OTE:
Coming into the season, Jean Montero was most known for his shooting. In 2019-2020 he shot 43.5% on 4.18 3PA per game with CB Gran Canaria II (per Real GM) but those numbers went down drastically in 2020-2021 when he shot just 30.1% on 6.08 3PA per game. This dip wasn’t due to Montero forgetting how to shoot a basketball, it was because he was HEAVILY leaned on to create offense for his team last season and took a ton of difficult shots (at least during the handful of games I watched). He is in a very similar role/situation with OTE and the shooting numbers have gone up as my back of the napkin calculations have him at 34.5% on 5.8 3PA through the 5 games I could find box scores for (huge shout out to Jacob Polacheck on Twitter for posting them). As you can see in the clips above, a lot of these shots are still deep pull ups which of course helps space the floor, but also can lead to less efficient shooting numbers. Overall, I do not have many concerns with Montero’s shot overall, it’s more of a shot selection/difficulty issue bringing his percentages down.
As an undersized guard, it is always going to be an uphill battle to be a great finisher at the rim, however Montero has show the craft to make tough floaters that have allowed him to be pretty efficient from inside the arc (shot over 50% from inside the arc over the past two seasons with CB Gran Canaria II to my calculations per Real GM data). This has translated early on during his time with OTE as you can see in these clips. He can blow by defenders with his speed and then either uses the floater or crafty scoop layups to finish around defenders. He still doesn’t seem too comfortable taking contact yet, but hopefully that comes as he adds to his frame.
This is the number 1 improvement area that I have seen from Montero this season and is why I think he might reach primary initiator status at some point in his career. Having said that, I am trying to wind down my expectations when watching him with OTE because it’s just different...but he is so damn fun! Look at some of these passes. No look, hit aheads, backdoors, PNR, PNP, lobs. He has shown flashes of them all in this more open and free flowing playstyle of OTE. The big question is how much of it translates to the NBA with a more structured half-court setting and big increase in competition.
At the end of the day, one thing is for certain: I want the ball in Jean Montero’s hands as much as possible.