As we approach the end of my Pro-Am series, I am reaching the point of analyzing some of the most intriguing underclassmen. In my last article, I discussed some of the improvements that sophomore forward Michael Young can make. Today, I'll be tackling what some presume to be his frontcourt partner in the starting lineup, fellow sophomore Jamel Artis.
Artis is someone who should shine in a summer league environment. His ability to shoot and put the ball on the floor can really make for some entertaining moments. Now, playing loose during summer league isn't always conducive of actual improvement, especially for a college forward, but those are honestly the types of things the Pittsburgh Panthers would like to Artis do more of.
One wouldn't think that there'd be a lot of hoopla surrounding a guy who posted 4.9 points per game and 2.9 rebounds per game in 36 games last season. To be fair, I find those numbers to be reasonable considering he only played 15.4 minutes per contest, and like Young, he didn't have a ton of plays called for him.
I am a firm believer that people buy into "what might be" as opposed to "what is" more often than not, and Artis has the former written all over him. That isn't to say he doesn't deserve the attention. In fact, it's the flashes of his potential that has fans clamoring for more.
In my opinion, Artis is a player with a high motor who is a consistent shooter from mid-range that can put the ball on the floor if needed. He isn't a traditional post player, but has no problems mixing it up in the paint and goes after rebounds with purpose.
Everyone knows what a stretch-4 is these days, and perhaps that's Artis's destiny, but perhaps there is more. Artis took a hefty 43.7% of his attempts on two-point jumpers last season, and connected on a very respectable 43.6%. It stands to reason he'll be slightly better from the floor this year and presumably more consistent. He's definitely the guy you want in the high post against the 2-3 zone, especially if he becomes a better passer.
That's the first thing I'd like to see Artis improve on - passing. His ability to draw opposing frontcourt players away from the hoop because of his jumper will open up cutting lanes for his teammates. Currently, this Pitt team lacks singular offensive talent, so easy baskets are going to be a must next year. Artis has shown the willingness to move the ball, but adding the ability to at least find cutters will be a big addition to his game.
Subsequently, he should have plenty of opportunities to showcase this during the Pro-Am because guys aren't as familiar with each other and cutting to the hoop is an easy way to create opportunities.
Second, it would help if Artis becomes livelier on the defensive end. The motor and aggressiveness was there, but he was often flat-footed during a lot of defensive possessions. As a freshman you live with those things, and there is almost no way that he doesn't improve on this under Dixon. That's not really something I expect to see from him at the Pro-Am, but it's definitely something he should be working on.
Lastly, teams will become wise to his ability to connect from mid-range, and will contest better. Adding the ability to consistently drive to the basket off one or two dribbles will keep the defense honest. Artis finished his attempts at the rim at a rate of 59.1%, which isn't spectacular, but not horrendous. It's something that former NC State forward T.J. Warren made a living out of and even former Syracuse forward Jerami Grant incorporated it.
Basically, Artis already has an intriguing skill set; it's all about adding a counter or two to become a more complete offensive player. His defense is a bigger issue than his offense, but given that I am primarily writing about the Pro-Am, coupled with the track record of what Dixon demands out of his players on that end, I didn't want to go into great detail. I think we're all anxious to see an even more polished version of Artis this upcoming season. He certainly has a lot of tools, the question is whether or not he'll refine them.
- Stats courtesy of Hoop-Math.