2022-2023 Player Preview: Efton Reid

When the foregone conclusion occurred and Chet Holmgren announced his plans to enter the NBA draft, Gonzaga fans began reeling at the potential of a complete evacuation of the frontcourt dominance the Zags have seen over the last few years.

Forget Holmgren for a moment; the Zags didn’t even think Drew Timme was coming back. This was fresh off of the lost opportunity for a back-to-back final four basketball to the team that then flipped the Bulldogs’ prized recruit at the eleventh hour. March was brutal to say the least.

And in typical fashion, Gonzaga took their time evaluating solutions to their roster construction problem. We saw eventual NBA talent like Kenneth Lofton Jr. actively texting the coaching staff expressing his interest. Other players quickly referenced Gonzaga contacting them to amplify their potential to power-five schools. Those guys then went on to sign to those other schools, largely because it was clear the Bulldogs coaching staff would continue doing their due diligence to find their guy.

And then they found him. After an under-wraps on-campus visit, a competitive final push where assistant coach Roger Powell flew cross country to make an at-home pitch amid his busy recruiting campaigning, a former five-star recruit and LSU Tiger appeared out of nowhere to many to sign and announce his commitment to Gonzaga through The Athletic‘s Tobias Bass.

The 7-footer, for whatever reason, did not make the national splash you would consider for a recruit that was ranked as the third-ranked center in his class and 27th nationally according to 24/7 Recruiting‘s composite rankings. Perhaps it was because of the raw stat line Reid had during his freshman campaign. He averaged 6.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and .5 assists in less than 20 minutes per game.

But as is often the case, the numbers don’t capture the entire story. Reid was asked to do a lot for a 7-foot freshman that played alongside two other bigs and lackluster guard play. While future Houston Rocket Tari Eason can play 3-5, head coach Will Wade had him largely be the rim protector. Darius Day was another big that made spacing hell for Reid on both ends.

Did I mention guard play? LSU ranked 315th in turnover possession according to KenPom last season at 20.7% (Gonzaga ranked 34th in the nation at 15.6%). Their shooting was only marginally better, shooting 31% from outside good enough for 277th in the nation. With that poor ball control and shooting, the offense was a mess and Reid was subsequently lost in the fold.

Reid had the fifth-highest usage rate on the Tigers last season with the sixth most field goal attempts. Of those with 150 field goal attempts or more, Reid had the highest make rate at the rim, shooting 65%. In the half-court offense, he was the best offensive weapon after Eason.

But what makes Reid incredibly interesting is extrapolating his shooting statistics within Gonzaga’s spacing and offense. Not only will he see more reliable guard play, but he will simply get better looks. The DMV product was the best midrange shooter on LSU, shooting 45.8% on his jumpers, which is particularly impressive considering that over half of his attempts on the season came from the midrange, which was significantly higher than the rest of the Tigers’ offense.

Reid averaged 1.2 points per possession when shooting 17 feet to 22 feet out, finishing in the 98th percentile of all players. He was labeled as a three-level scorer coming out of high school, something we didn’t fully see in his one collegiate season. He shot just 25% in 2021-2022, but considering LSU’s half-court spacing and inconsistent ball control, it’s difficult to see much to make out of just 20 attempts.

You saw glimpses of what made Reid a prized prospect out of high school. He’s ambidextrous, providing a soft touch around the basket and rebounding on both ends. He has a pure stroke and high release from multiple levels, with a remarkable ability to step out over 15 feet and be respected as a shooting big.

Enticing to the Zags was Reid’s ability in the pick-and-roll, the bread and butter of Mark Few’s system. That jumper was beneficial when he picked-and-popped in those sets, averaging 1 point per possession. Additionally, he averaged 1,148 points per possession as the roller in high screens.

Reid could actualize the offensive potential many saw during his recruiting when playing alongside the greatest post scorer in college basketball Drew Timme and lethal perimeter shooters in Rasir Bolton, Julian Strawther and Malachi Smith. On defense, he has the opportunity to play at a more comfortable placement within the scheme and is simply asked to protect the rim rather than be drawn out to the perimeter constantly.

Reid is just a sophomore, with the ability to grow into a player that not only contributes night-in-and-night-out for this season’s team with championship expectations but also to be the heir apparent as the focal point of the best offense in all of college basketball. He’ll be asked to learn on the job a bit, but he’s proven to have the tools to get the job done

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