Nico vs. Nico

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For observers of this year’s NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, a familiar face has re-emerged, quietly leading the Milwaukee Bucks in assists while playing with poise and confidence in the team’s first four games.

Former Arizona Wildcat Nico Mannion, who will be playing in the Euroleague this upcoming season with Baskonia of the ACB, has performed well, displaying the maturity of his game after spending the last two seasons with Virtus Segafredo Bologna in Serie A.

At just 22 years old, what is Nico’s true potential?

Viaggio di Basket

Basketball Journey

Dueling Nicos

In his first season with Bologna, Mannion started slow, playing just 15 minutes per game in Serie A

However, with the Italian national team, during the same calendar year, he would suit up for 8 games during the World Cup Qualifiers and produce much more impressive numbers: 15 Pts, 2.0 Rebs, 3.9 Asts

Then, back in Serie A this past season, Nico averaged 9.9 Pts, 1.7 Rebs, and 3.1 Asts in 20 minutes per game, and when competing in the Euroleague, although he less time on the court (14 MPG), Mannion produced just 5.9 Pts, 1.4 Rebs, 2.6 Asts

So why the difference in performance?

Stats & Facts

The most glaring reason was limited minutes with Bologna, which reduced his field goal attempts: 5 per game in Euroleague, and 7 in Serie A, compared to 10.7 with the National team.

Let’s dig deeper.

In Serie A, his shot selection was more balanced between 2s and 3s (99 2s | 104 3s), compared to his performance in the Euroleague (40 2s | 55 3s), so what accounts for the difference?

His pick and roll, spot up and jump shot metrics are consistent in both professional competitions, but there are differences in how he is utilized:

Looking Ahead

In Bologna, the roster was crowded with high-quality guards (Teodosic, Belinelli) and Mannion became more of a role player in the Euroleague, spending less time in hand-off situations, isolations, and not attacking the rim as much.

In Serie A and on the National team, he was featured more, getting downhill with the ball, allowing him to create.

Interestingly enough, Nico shot more and better off the dribble in the Euroleague (69.8% of his jumpers, 43.2% FG) when compared to his games in Serie A (53.2% of his jumpers, 36.4%).

If Baskonia can exploit his ability to get downhill, create scoring opportunities, make tough shots off the dribble, and allow him to earn more playing time, coach Joan Peñarroya, competing in the Euroleague and ACB, can unlock the real Nico.