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Taran Armstrong: The New Wizard of Aus
The DraftFilmSchool of Basketball Wizardry honors it's newest member, Taran Armstrong. It may be early in the season, but there is no doubt that this kid is going to make the Honor (Pick n')Roll.
I have to be honest, when the season started I did not expect to be writing a profile on a prospect from California Baptist University, but here we are! Taran Armstrong is a 6’5” freshman PG from Australia (via Tasmania) leading the CBU Lancers to a 6-1 record while averaging 12.7p/7.4r/7.6a through 7 games so far this season (shoutout to Sam Vecenie for retweeting a passing clip that put him on my radar). For those of you who know me, you know I love prospects who are basketball geniuses that make incredible passes (i.e. see my many tweets about LaMelo, Sharife and Giddey). Taran Armstrong is now a member of this group. He is a legit wizard with the basketball and is the best passer in all of college basketball.
I know that may seem like an extremely hot take, but let me show you some of his film before you ridicule me. He can legitimately make every pass in the book, in every situation on the court. Hitting the roll man, skip passes to spot up shooters, transition dimes, hitting back door cutters, etc. You name a play type, and I probably have a clip showing Taran Armstrong making an incredible pass out of it. Don’t believe me? Let’s go to the tape! And by tape, I mean 70 clips of Taran Armstrong passing the basketball...I told you I had proof!
PNR Passes to Roll Man
The thing that immediately stands out with him when he’s operating in the PNR is his poise and patience to wait for the perfect window to make a pass. This will come up again later when we look at him hitting spot ups, but for this section let’s focus on him hitting the roll man. CBU scores 1.333 PPP (points per possession) when Taran Armstrong passes to the roll man out of PNR, which ranks in the 81st Percentile, via Synergy. This is a very good number and one that matches the eye test. Above is 2 minutes worth of clips for your viewing pleasure, but let’s breakdown a few specific examples below:
First, he takes a great angle around the screen to get downhill immediately. Second, once the big starts rolling to the basket he realizes there is no optimal pass to make so he continues to probe. Lastly, he waits until the opponent’s big fully commits to the ball and is off balance before dropping off the bounce pass to the roll man, leading to an easy layup (that should have been an and-1).
Similar story on this one as he immediately gets downhill after the screen and does a great job keeping his defender on his back. The opponent big does a good job in drop defending both Armstrong and the roll man so he continues driving until the big ultimately has to commit to the ball, leaving the roll man open. Armstrong delivers a nice wrap-around pass right on the money.
This is one of my favorite plays from Armstrong. There is no contact made on the screen so no real advantage created or pass option readily available at first. Without hesitation, Armstrong continues to drive past his man towards the basket which forces the big to rotate over, again leaving the roll man open for a wrap-around pass which is easily finished this go-around.
PNR Passes to Spot Up
I gave you a little over 2 minutes of clips of Taran Armstrong hitting the roll man, so here is just over 3 minutes of him hitting spot ups out of the PNR. Same story, different read. CBU scores 0.882 PPP (points per possession) when Taran Armstrong passes to the spot up shooters out of PNR, which ranks in the 48th Percentile, via Synergy. This is just an average number but one that is mainly due to the team shooting just 34% on these possessions. When you watch the tape, his ability to draw multiple defenders and wait until the best possible moment for a pass continues to be on display. The first read is typically to the roll man, but when that is covered up, Armstrong has no problem moving to his next read and finding open teammates with skip passes. Some of which are just completely absurd finds. Let’s breakdown a few specific examples below:
This play is just incredible. The defense plays great drop coverage so Armstrong has to think on his feet and rifles a bullet skip pass across court once he sees the weak side defender get just one toe into the paint, giving the shooter just enough space to get the shot off cleanly.
Here’s another one highlighting Armstrong’s patience. His man gets caught on the screen so the big stops the ball, making the weak side defender rotate over to cover the roll man. Armstrong recognizes this quickly and throws another nice skip pass to the open shooter spotting up.
Here is an identical play to the last one and again just shows the patience, poise, and vision that Taran Armstrong has. No one is open right after the screen is set but once that weak side defender rotates and is off balance, he finds the open shooter.
To this point I have only focused on Taran Armstrong’s passing within half-court PNR sets, but he’s also a wizard in transition too. He’s an incredible rebounder for his position which opens up a ton of grab & go opportunities. Just like in the halfcourt, he always has his head up scanning for open teammates out on the break. The above video has over a minute of passing clips but I’ll highlight three of my favorites below, none of which ended up being assists:
Nice grab & go opportunity with a perfectly weighted & perfectly placed pass leading to a foul
Here he runs the entire length of the court finding an open seam and makes a quick behind the back pass leading to a foul.
Another grab & go, this time freezing the defender with a perfect no-look pass that is unfortunately dropped.
Bonus Miscellaneous Passes
If you’ve made it this far in the article, CONGRATULATIONS! You have won the opportunity to watch 20 more Taran Armstrong passing clips! Here is a compilation of some that aren’t out of PNR but are still great. He shows off his ability to beat his man off the dribble without a screen for drive & kick opportunities, hitting backdoor cutters and passing after making his own backdoor cuts, and just overall ability to keep the ball moving on the perimeter.
I will leave you with one final clip. This is my favorite pass from Taran Armstrong, and it is absolutely absurd. Kind of reminds me of a certain 2020 NBA Draft prospect that also played basketball in Australia…Enjoy!