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G League

Two-Way Preview: Nico Mannion, Golden State Warriors

In preparation for the upcoming 2020-21 NBA season, teams have been filling their rosters with talent, including two-way players. With the Golden State Warriors signing their 48th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, Nico Mannion, to such a deal.

A five-star recruit coming out of high-school, Mannion was a one-and-done prospect with the Arizona Wildcats. He had an up-and-down season at the collegiate level, which cost his draft stock dearly and led to him becoming a second-round draft selection.

Players signed to a two-way deal spend the majority of the season in the G League. Normally two-way players are eligible to be called up to their parent team in the NBA for a maximum of 45 days per season.

With the 2020-21 season being shortened, two-way players can be active for up to 50 of the NBA’s 72-game schedule. Travel days and practices will not be included, as they have previously.

Arizona Basketball: Could Nico Mannion really return for 2020-21 season?
(Image/Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Pinnacle High School:

Mannion had a stellar freshman season at Pinnacle High School, under Head Coach Charlie Wilde. In 28 games, he averaged 20.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 2.4 steals per game. While leading Pinnacle to a 22–6 record.

His level of play during the season led to a Sports Illustrated article dubbing Mannion a “Sorta-Maybe” basketball prodigy. The fiery-headed point guard then stepped up his level of play during his sophomore year. Averaging 23.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 5.8 assists.

Overall, during the course of his high school career, Mannion gained notoriety on social media and gained a following due to his impressive handles and dunking ability. This led to considerable interest from numerous elite college programs. Such as Duke, Villanova, Marquette, and Arizona.

Mannion averaged 30.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 6.2 assists in his final season at Pinnacle. But ultimately, he opted to stay in-state and committed to the University of Arizona.

During his high-school career, he was named Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year award twice and was recognized as the National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) Senior Athlete of the Year (2018-19). As well as being named a McDonalds All-American in 2019.

Staying Home With the Arizona Wildcats:

A highly touted prospect, Nico Mannion had an underwhelming time with the Arizona Wildcats. Although, the young point guard did shine early on. As he claimed MVP honors in the Wooden Legacy pre-season competition.

However, the step-up in competition and playing alongside other top prospects in Josh Green (Dallas Mavericks) and Zeke Nnaji (Denver Nuggets) exposed Mannion’s readiness for the next level.

While he wasn’t bad, he simply wasn’t the finished product. Through 32 games, the 6-foot-3 prospect averaged 14 points, 5.3 assists, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.2 steals in the 2019-20 campaign. He shot poorly across the board. 39.2% from the field, 32.7% from 3-point land, and 79.7% from the free-throw line.

He did get his NBA opportunity though. As the Golden State Warriors drafted him with the 48th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft and signed him to a two-way contract.

Nico Mannion signs two-way contract with Golden State Warriors - Arizona  Desert Swarm
(Image/Santiago Mejia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

Player Profile:

Nico Mannion is a well-rounded prospect who is a jack of all trades. Despite his struggles at the college level, he plays beyond his age and will be an above-average pick and roll facilitator right off the bat.

He is comfortable with the ball in his hands and is adept at reading what opposing defenses are giving him. Making reads in order to either get his teammates an easy basket in the paint, to fire the ball out to a teammate on the perimeter, or to simply pull up from range himself.

While he’s not an explosive or lightening quick athlete, Mannion has decent speed and burst that allows him to put opposing defenders on the back foot. This might be effective in college, but against the best of the best in the NBA, he may struggle to beat his opponent in a footrace to the rim.

Where the young point guard might get caught out is in his poor shot selection. As with many social media famous players, such as LaMelo Ball and Julian Newman, Mannion has developed a bit of a reputation as a below-average shot taker. Regularly settling for highly contested shots and playing a significant amount of hero ball.

That will not fly in Golden State. A team that is built on moving the ball, passing up a good shot for a great shot, and a team that is famous for unselfish play. Mannion may have to cut his teeth and develop in the G League for a couple of seasons.

It is the hope of the Warriors that they can develop Mannion’s well-rounded skill-set and have him mature a handful of those traits into potentially impactful ones. In Stephen Curry, Mannion will have an ideal mentor. One who can show him what it takes to play at the highest level.

Overall, as a second-round selection, the Warriors got themselves a good prospect. It was a low-risk, high-upside acquisition. Mannion does not project to be an outstanding professional. But he will absolutely fill a role, with the potential of being a key rotational piece.


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