This was supposed to be Svi Mykhailiuk’s breakout season. The third-year forward had already shown himself to be one of the more dangerous high-volume 3-point threats in the NBA, and now he was going to cement his status as an NBA rotational piece, dangerous 3-point shooter, and, most importantly, he was about to get paid.
Things haven’t really gone according to plan. His minutes are down by one-third compared to a season ago, and his 3-point shot has abandoned him in his sporadic minutes. The hot shooting of Wayne Ellington has meant it is more and more difficult to find time for Svi to right the ship. It’s a shame because beyond the 3-point shooting, which everyone hopes returns to form, Mykhailiuk really was showing growth in all the other areas of his game.
In the beginning, a catch-and-shoot specialist
Svi Mykhailiuk started his NBA career in very promising way. Coming out of college, he was seen mostly as a shooter. However, already in his first Summer League performance he showed that he could make plays.
Later in his first pro season, he also showed that he can be a lethal scorer when he collected 47 points in a G-League game.
In his second year, Svi took advantage of the opportunity given to him by Luke Kennard’s health issues and proved his shooting prowess was NBA-ready. That year, he attempted 5.1 shots from beyond the arc, making 2.1 of them, good for whooping 40.4 3P%.
Becoming More Than a Shooter
This season, we expected the young Ukrainian to progress further. At the moment, though, he’s having trouble getting off the bench. Svi is playing fewer minutes per contest than last year: 13,7 to 22,6. His scoring average also deteriorated: 6,4 to 9 PPG (though, he has better per 36 numbers: 16,4 to 14,3). And, yes, this efficiency of his, it just like it fall from a cliff: 37.3 FG% (in comparison to 41 last year, OK, here the cliff wasn’t too high because it itself was in a depression area) and 32.2 3P%.
However, we still found something good to report about him from time to time. And this is not a coincidence. Beneath the disheartening numbers, the former Jayhawk apparently is progressing in some important aspects of the game.
On offense, it all starts with him being more aggressive with the ball. The difference is already shown in his triples. This season he’s making almost three times more off the dribble threes than last year: 17.9% to 6.1%. And look how smooth he looks on them.
But it’s not only threes. On the next film, you can see how smooth and creative Svi can be while being run from the three-point line.
He can either go himself for a pull-up or all the way for a bucket and he can hit an open teammate as well.
But it’s still not all. Mykhailiuk now also looks smooth in P&Rs.
According to www.nba.com/stats, this year he upped his production off of this type of play by 0.27 PPP (from 0.62 to 0.89). Although he still has some way to go, he’s doing a step in the right direction. Also in this case he can pass the ball if a teammate is in better position to score.
Due to increased aggression with the ball, Svi is able to create himself better looks at the rim. Thus, he’s blocked less (0.2 in comparison to 0.4 last year), and he has been able to increase significantly his FG% at the rim (73.3 compared to 53.7 a year ago), becoming an extremely good finisher. He also has been able to up notably his FTr (21.8 compared to 17.3 a year ago).
But Svi’s aggressiveness with the ball is a controlled one. According to Basketball Reference, his TOV% fell from 12.3 in 2019-20 to 7.7 this year while his USG% grew by 2.3 percentage points. Now, that he’s more confident with the ball, he finds better passing lanes – hence his AST% went up from 12.3 to 13.7 – and use them more infallibly (2.5 AST/TO in comparison to 1.74 last year).
Mykhailiuk’s progress has also a track record on defensive end of the floor. We’re used to descriptions calling him at most an adequate team defender. But this year he keeps showing that he can be more. He’s very active in passing lanes.
Svi is in the first half of entire League as regards deflections, with 2,1 of them per 36 minutes.
But this figure is almost the same for him as it was last year (2.2). Therefore, his bigger activity in passing lanes is reflected instead in more effective defensive category, in steals. His STL% grew from 1.6 last season to 2 in current season.
He also looks more disturbing as on ball defender.
As we can see, he’s moving very quickly and fluidly on his feet, he has a good stance and active hands, which altogether make it tough for opposing playmakers to make something happen.
Svi is showing progress in blocked shots too.
He upped his BLK% to 1 from 0.3 a season ago. He also shows more palpably the ability to yield difference making rotations. His quickness and good technique on closeouts thwarts opponents intentions effectively on perimeter.
And his good awareness do the damage inside.
All of these matters contribute to a significant improvement he has made in contesting shots.
As we remember, a stick arm defense against shooters is one of the cornerstones of Dwayne Casey defensive philosophy. Svi’s figures in this department went from 5.7 a season ago to 7.0 this year (though his DFG% of 51.2 which is even worst by 2.3 percentage points from last season figure, needs to get better).
Thus, out of the public eye, quietly, the young Ukrainian wing is becoming a well-rounded, versatile on both ends player. None of these developments might be thought of as a giant leap (and the sample size might be suboptimal), but put together they constitute a significant step forward. The only things that are missing are those better shooting numbers. If Svi would do all this while being on last year efficiency, he’d be on everyone’s lips. There’s still plenty of games to be played in this season, and the evident collapse of Ellio-centric recent Pistons offense should provide playing time within games for Svi. So he should be able to become one of the talks of the season moving forward.