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Taking Out the Trash Volume 3
In this week's installment of Taking Out the Trash, Garbage Time Ghim compares Julian Strawther, of the Gonzaga Bulldogs to one of the most underrated Marvel characters.
Volume 3 is here, and it’s time to get weird again. In this week’s column, I wanna dive into the Sophomore Sniper for the Gonzaga Bulldogs, Julian Strawther. When you think Gonzaga, your brain probably goes to Chet Holmgren, Drew Timme, or Andrew Nembhard. Those dudes grab most of the headlines, and deservedly so. They’re the best players on one of the best college basketball teams in the country. Truth be told, Strawther may not even be on some people’s radars yet; he definitely wasn’t on mine before I got to Vegas and got to see the Bulldogs play live. In November, Tyler Rucker and I made a trip to Vegas to see Gonzaga play against UCLA. We spent the first 24 hours just gushing over Chet Holmgren and wondering what Drew Timme would look like on the Warriors as their backup Center next year.
As I left Vegas to step back into my reality and my really exciting desk job, I found myself thinking about Julian Strawther for the whole duration of my 45-minute flight back to Los Angeles. Chet was ridiculous against UCLA, Andrew Nembhard maybe had his best game as a Bulldog, and for whatever reason, Strawther was the one that I couldn’t stop thinking about.
I’m going to go into a breakdown of his game, but before I do that, I realized the perfect comp for Strawther. On The Draftdaq NBA Podcast, I love comparing guys to players from the ’90s. It’s a weird quirk that I have, but I haven’t heard any complaints yet, so I won’t be stopping anytime soon. But when I was thinking about Strawther, I thought about what his role would look like on the next level. What type of role could he play for a contending NBA team and the answer was simple, he could play the exact role he’s playing now for Gonzaga.
Currently, Strawther is pretty much a 4th or 5th option for the Bulldogs. He’s asked to be a floor-spacing wing who can occasionally attack closeouts and provide stable perimeter defense. In my eyes, at least, he’s the quintessential modern-day 3 and D wing. When you look at the Phoenix Suns, most of their success last year was accredited to the growth of Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton under the tutelage of the Pointgod Chris Paul. As great as that trio was, they would not have made it as far as they did without their stable of wings in Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, and Jae Crowder. Most top-tier contending teams need solid wings who can shoot the three and defend at a decent to high level. Having one or more of these wings is not the most important thing, but it’s pretty damn important if you’re trying to contend.
Strawther has all the ability to be one of those wings for a contender one day. What intrigued me the most with Strawther was his demeanor and presence on the court. On our first night in Vegas, the Bulldogs faced a not-so-great Central Michigan team. After the game, Tyler Rucker and I were going over the boxscore and were shocked to see that Strawther had 15 points in the game. We knew he was out there, and we definitely saw him hit a couple of 3’s, but we had no idea that he had scored that much. The next night against UCLA, he had our attention big time. We started to notice his floor game and all the little things he was doing that we hadn’t noticed the first night due to Chet just flooring us every other possession.
After the game, I started thinking about how pivotal he is to that team and how little of the attention he receives for all that he does, and that’s when it clicked in my head, and I realized Starwther is Hawkeye from the Avengers. I know most of you will laugh and say that this connection is lazy. The guy can shoot; he’s a sniper, very clever Albert. But it’s not that simple for me. I think the Hawkeye comparison goes a little deeper than the outside shooting. The reason why I thought of Hawkeye was because of the role that he played for the Avengers. Hawkeye was one of the few heroes who had no supernatural ability. His biggest headline skill was shooting arrows and being good (?) at hand-to-hand combat. That’s not so impressive next to a guy that can transform into a green monster or the God of Thunder. But every Avengers movie they put out there, he’s a part of the group, everyone seems to love him, and he does at least 2-3 good things per movie that keep the ball rolling for the Avengers.
In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Hawkeye randomly becomes a mentor/father figure to Wanda Maximoff. In the middle of a wild battle, Hawkeye gives Wanda a pivotal pep talk to help her get her head back in the game, and she goes on to become a huge asset to the Avengers. That relationship and that moment don’t get talked about much, but it was a sneaky important turning point for Wanda and shows the value of a Hawkeye to a team of super-powered individuals. You need some boring guys in the mix who’ll do some dirty work that the main guys don’t have the bandwidth for.
Julian Strawther is that dude for Gonzaga, and I want to break down for you some of the beautiful little things he does for this super-powered Gonzaga team.
I’m sure most of you thought I would start off with his shooting, but his rebounding is one of the underappreciated aspects of his game. One might assume that Strawther wouldn’t need to rebound on a team with giants like Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren. The truth is Gonzaga relies on his rebounding a ton. With teams trying to pull the Gonzaga bigs out to the perimeter, guys like Strawther are often called upon to crash the boards and box people out. Strawther has been excellent at that. Currently, Strawther is averaging close to 7 rebounds per game, and he’s averaging 2.2 offensive boards per game. Those are some outstanding and unexpected numbers from your 6’7” wing playing amongst a pair of monsters.
The clip above is from late in the second half of Gonzaga’s game against Alabama last week. Strawther sees Hickman take a three from the opposite wing, dives into the paint, and reads the ball off the rim. When you watch Strawther play, he does a great job of finding a body to box out and reading the ball’s trajectory. In this play, he didn’t get to the ball, but because of how he read the ball off the rim and how he hustled over, he was able to draw the loose ball foul. These are winning plays that can go unnoticed.
Considering the fact that he’s averaging over 2 offensive boards per game, he’s clearly not just sitting in a corner somewhere hoping someone will throw him the ball. Strawther likes to mix it up with the bigs and fight for second and third chances.
In Gonzaga’s game against Duke last month, there was a possession in the second half where Drew Timme was backing down Mark Williams in the paint. Strawther was standing on the wing as an option for a Timme kick out, but as soon as he saw Timme going up with the shot, he darted into the paint. Timme’s hook shot was blocked by Mark Williams, but because Strawther was there, he was able to pick it up and drop in a beautiful floater off the miss. I loved this play because it’s emblematic of the type of player that Strawther is. He’s not looking to stand around and take a back seat in the corner. Strawther is a cerebral player that’s constantly reading and reacting to what’s going on around him.
Touch around the rim
One of the prettiest aspects of Strawther’s game is his inch-perfect floaters. When you talk about elite shooters, most of them have beautiful floaters. Strawther’s floaters look extra awesome cause he throws them up so high, and they just drop in perfectly.
As I mentioned previously, this guy is a terrific shooter. He’s currently shooting 42% from 3 on over 5 attempts per game. That’s a high percentage on good volume. And it’s not just the numbers, but when you watch him shoot, it looks beautiful. The footwork is consistent, and the stroke looks fluid and natural. He always seems to be balanced, even when shooting off of movement. The clip above shows how Strawther does a great job of getting set after running to the corner. This may not look like much, but it’s a lot harder than it seems to get set like that and have your shot look the same.
While people talk about his shooting from deep, I’ve been as impressed with his touch around the rim. In the play I mentioned before against Duke, the floater he throws up there just drops in the basket; it’s so damn satisfying to watch.
Here’s another one from Strawther, and you can just see how soft that touch is and how lethal it can be when you consider how good of a shooter he is. With defenders closing out hard to him due to his shot, this type of touch around the basket will be huge for him. Continuously adding little wrinkles like this is why I get so excited about his potential on the next level. If he can keep shooting the ball the way he is now, defenders on the next level will eventually show him respect, and he’s going to have to do a little more than just shoot it from outside. The fact that he’s doing this now in college will only set him up for success on the next level. Till this point, I haven’t seen him do much play-making from these types of situations, and that’s something I’d like to see a little bit more of. The threat of his shot will pull defenders towards him, and the floater will help as well. But I’d like to see him leverage his scoring abilities into some passing opportunities as well moving forward.
I will say, as much as I love the floaters, I’d also like to see him take the ball all the way to the rack a little bit more. He’s currently taking less than 3 free throws per game. I’d like to see him take it inside a little bit more, pick up some more fouls, and show off that pretty stroke from the line where he’s shooting 76% so far. Immanuel Quickley definitely had this issue in his rookie season for the Knicks. He has such a good floater that he fell in love with it and spammed it a little too hard whenever he attacked close-outs. I hope Strawther learns to mix things up and gains the savvy to draw a couple more fouls per game, which could get him 4-8 more points per game.
When you combine the rebounding and touch around the rim with his elite outside shooting, there’s a lot to love about Strawther. You throw in the reliable on-ball and off-ball defense to go with all that, and you can start to see why I’m falling in love. He’s not going to be the first player you talk about when it comes to the Bulldogs. He’s not going to be a guy you draft to lead your offense or defense, but he is someone you want if you’re building a winning team. Strawther is a winning player and does so much more than he gets credit for. As we get closer to draft season, I don’t see why a contending team picking at the back end of the first round wouldn’t give him a hard look.
Hawkeye was in 8 Marvel movies and got his own Disney Plus Spinoff show. That’s pretty damn good for a character that people usually forget to mention when listing off Avengers characters. I hope you don’t take me comparing Strawther to Hawkeye as a slight. Strawther will be really good on the next level and should have a nice and lengthy career doing it. Being a fourth or 5th option on a winning team is never a bad thing. Guys like Mikal Bridges ($90M/4 years) and Davis Bertans ($80M/5 years)have collected huge contracts in the last couple of years. I could definitely see Strawther and his nuanced game collecting a big check as well someday.