A closer look at L.J. Peak

While L.J. Peak competes in the USA Under-19 trials in Colorado Springs this week, it provides a good chance to look back at his freshman season. After a stirring debut vs St. Francis (NY) and a strong showing against Kansas, Peak never fully displayed the scoring ability many had hoped for until the last games of the season against Utah. An injured ankle, the freshman wall and an increase in competition and scouting reports all contributed to a slow offensive start to his collegiate career. However, starting every game but one – it was evident JTIII’s trust in Peak did not waver.

The most apparent reason as to why Peak was a 25 minute per game starter was his defensive ability. I would argue (and I’m not sure it can be argued against) that Peak was the 2nd best perimeter defender on the Hoyas roster, only behind a senior year Jabril Trawick.

Peak offers a near total package defensively at the off-guard position.

a) Peak can fight through screens with his strength and possesses good enough lateral athleticism to not get caught on a ball screen. The ability to do so, limits the amount of switching the defense has to do. And the pick and roll coverage Georgetown has to employ with Peak on the ball is simple – a soft show and quick recovery. Along with a strong physical frame, Peak has an ability to slither around screens.

Even here, DePaul is able to get a slightly open look – but Peak’s ability to stay close makes it a shot that you’re more than willing to concede in the college game:

Off-ball, Peak stays connected as well:

There are times where switching is a necessity and the on ball defender has to take on a bigger defender, while it didn’t happen often – Peak’s strength holds up well:

b) Peak’s ability to laterally move his feet defensively was perhaps best on the team, even better than Trawick who sometimes struggled to keep his body in front of the ball.

Even on possessions where Peak is beat slightly, he keeps his body in position where the shot has to be finished over him – and Mikael Hopkins (who will be sorely missed defensively) helps out:

c) Peak also offers a physical profile that has length to go along with his strength and athleticism as a defender. The times that Peak does get beat off the dribble or on a screen he has the ability to trail an offensive player and make a play. You even see Peak size up an opponent while trailing – almost as if he’s a defensive back in football lulling a quarterback into a false sense of security.

Here, Peak gets around two screens and still is able to recover to strip the ball – one of the better examples of his overall defense:

d) Peak has, what I assume is an instinctive trait of making sure his hands are shown on defense. It’s a very minor thing, but it is a real thing. Peak shows his hands while on the ball, trying to disrupt the vision and passing openings of his man with the ball.

e) Off-ball, Peak does a good job of staying connected to his man but not deserting responsibility as a help-defender.

This isn’t to say it’s all positive on that side of the floor- Peak was prone from time to time to make rookie mistakes. Either with personnel:

You can’t lose James Blackmon out of a 2-3 zone

Losing his man:

Or sometimes you just get caught:

All totaled, Peak’s freshman season on the defensive end was an overwhelming success. In what is generally the most difficult transition for freshman – Peak displayed the physical attributes along with the discipline and understanding to be a plus defender out of the gate. With another year in a college program – working on his strength, quickness and overall athleticism – Peak should have a goal in mind to be on the of the handful of best defenders in the Big East.

Where Peak needs to make the most strides in his sophomore year is at the offensive end. I personally felt that Peak’s body and explosiveness was not the same in the dog days of the Big East season as it appeared to be in November. Perhaps it was the ankle injury or just running out of a steam as a freshman. A summer in the gym hopefully results in a better conditioned player, improved perimeter shooting – and a better understanding of when to attack the rim. Peak has a real ability to finish through contact but at times is a bit too confident to get the ball to the rim. What worked in high school didn’t quite net the same results. As seen in the graph below – there wasn’t much to work with outside of finishing at the rim- and while 51% isn’t a terrible number for a freshman guard – it became Peak’s only way of scoring the ball and it didn’t come at an efficient rate. According to Hoop-Math, 49.8% of Peak’s shot attempts came at the rim, compared to 29% for Isaac Copeland and 21% for Paul White.

ljpeakshotchart

This is an attempt over a 7′ defender- one Peak can get to go down occasionally, but the degree of difficult is high:

It would be nice to see a mid-range game show itself as Peak’s career moves forward – this is a tough, tough shot – but he has the right idea in pulling up:

Not in a hurry:

Here Peak did something that was rare for him as a FR, finding a teammate off of his drive:

While the offense that Georgetown employs does not lend itself to guards and wings collecting many assists – Peak only having 32 on the season is a reflection of the tunnel vision he sometimes has.

If he can add the elements of a pull-up game along with more composure on his drives, everything will come a little bit easier for him on the offensive end.

But make no mistake about it, Peak’s ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim is a real asset and something the Georgetown offense has often lacked. It may be just a matter of Peak picking his spots more effectively to become a more efficient finisher at the basket.

What you hope to see more often with an added year in the weight room:

Where Peak can really shine is in the open-floor. Via Hoop-Math, Peak had an eFG% of 56.8%, a mark good enough for 3rd on the team behind seniors Trawick and Aaron Bowen. He has a long stride and wastes little motion in trying to go around defenders, even his euro-step is a powerful take. He also offers an array of release points, scoop shots and angles off the glass:

An important part of the Georgetown offense is the ability or willingness to cut hard. It’s boring and repetitive for some of the guys at times, but it must be done. Peak did a good job for the most part – better than White or DSR, worse than Copeland and Bowen – somewhere in the middle. But with his athletic ability, an uptick in hard cuts would be a welcome sight.

Peak’s 3 point shot is something that will need major improvement. I don’t mind the release and mechanics, the ball does come out as a bit of a knuckle ball – but he keeps his balance for the most part (habit of fading away at times) and shoots the ball with confidence. It is a reasonable for Peak to evolve into a 33-35% shooter from 3, up from the 25% he shot last season. If he can do that, it will be enough for opponents to honor his shooting ability and not play off of him as much as say, an Aaron Bowen or even Jabril Trawick for most of his career. A positive sign is that Peak shot the ball best from the top of the key – and that is where most of Georgetown’s 3pt attempts open up through the offense.

I’m anxious to find out if Peak makes the U-19 Team USA. I believe compared to his counterparts that he should, given a good week of practice. A summer of commitment be it with the national team or back at Georgetown is going to go a long way in turning Peak from a promising freshman to one of the more complete guards in the Big East.

I didn’t understand why Peak played quite as much as he did, especially as the season wore on, but a review of the season gave me a better understanding. He’s proved to be a very valuable defender and I can’t fault JTIII for believing that his offense would find itself again. It never totally clicked and he had his struggles – but there is a lot to work with here. He should be to one of the most complete wing defenders in the Big East and a double digit scorer nightly – two things that I believe are well within reach.

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