Theo Pinson was recently announced as Brooklyn’s second two-way contract. He was with the Nets during Las Vegas summer league and was arguably the best player. His best game was against the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he put up 16 points and shooting 3 of 5 from deep. Pinson’s do-it-all game made him an easy target for one of Brooklyn’s two-way contracts. But who is he? What does he do best? How does he fit into Brooklyn’s future?
Theo Pinson: The Four-Year Tar Heel
Pinson was a former five-star high school recruit, ranked as high as the tenth best prospect in his class that boasted the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, Justise Winslow, Devin Booker, and Myles Turner. He committed to the University of North Carolina and was eventually a big part of their 2017 National Championship team. He was a four-year college player that improved his game each year.
His statistics improved greatly each year as he got more and more of a role with the team. Just take a look at his year to year numbers:
- Freshman: 24 games played (1 game started), 12.5 minutes, 2.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.6 steals, 36.9 percent from the floor.
- Sophomore: 40 games played (7 games started), 18.7 minutes, 4.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.6 steals, 42.0 percent from the floor.
- Junior: 21 games played (13 started), 23.8 minutes, 6.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 38.1 percent from the floor.
- Senior: 37 games played (37 started), 29.7 minutes, 10.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 47.3 percent from the floor.
One thing he really improved on in college was his ball handling and passing. Pinson went into college as a small forward but left as a point guard prospect. He injured one foot as a freshman and an injury to his other foot forced him to miss 8-12 weeks slowed him down as a junior but that didn’t deter him or his development. He followed up the injury by becoming one of the most consistent and reliable players in college basketball as a senior. Theo Pinson routinely showed everyone what he was about as a player but despite all that he did right, he still went undrafted out of college.
What Does He Do Best?
There is a lot Theo Pinson does right as a player and we got a glimpse into that at Las Vegas Summer League. He is a surprisingly good facilitator, given that his natural position in college was small forward. He got most — if not all — of his minutes at guard for Brooklyn in Summer League and that showcased his ballhandling and passing. Pinson consistently made good decisions with the ball in his hands during Summer League and should continue to do so in camp and preseason.
Another thing that he showcased during both college and Summer League was his defense. Given that he is a long, 6’6″ player that is usually defending shorter guards, Theo Pinson was able to showcase his ability to play passing lanes. He came away with a few steals in Las Vegas and averaged 1.1 steals per game as a senior at UNC. Defense is going to be something that is put at a premium according to Kenny Atkinson, so Pinson could see some time in the rotation when he is in Brooklyn if he proves himself on both sides of the ball.
What I was most impressed with was his decision making. He didn’t take wild shots, he didn’t make crazy passes, and he didn’t gamble on defense. He looked like a veteran on the floor when he was in Summer League. I know it is just Summer League but Theo Pinson looked like a viable rotation facilitator.
What Can He Improve On?
The biggest reason Theo Pinson went undrafted was because of his lack of shot from deep. His year to year shooting percentage from deep in college wasn’t pretty:
- Freshman: 26.9 percent on 1.1 attempts per game
- Sophomore: 29.0 percent on 1.6 attempts per game
- Junior: 23.7 percent on 1.8 attempts per game
- Senior: 22.6 percent on 1.4 attempts per game
This was something that looked completely different in Summer League for Brooklyn however. Pinson shot well from deep, including going 3 of 5 against Oklahoma City. He attributed his newfound success to the coaching staff having complete confidence in his shot and giving him the green light:
“They encourage you to shoot here. If they don’t shoot it, you get yelled at,” Pinson told NetsDaily, “I think the biggest thing with everything is confidence. We have so many guys who are sort of similar to me, like Spencer (Dinwiddie). I’ve just been watching him a lot during this off-season, just how he plays the game and controls the game at his size, the way he handles the ball and makes plays.”
Pinson will need to prove a lot at the professional level if he wants to spend more time on the Brooklyn Nets bench instead of the Long Island Nets lineup but he has all the tools to make an impact in the NBA.
Why Should I Care About Theo Pinson in Brooklyn?
At 6’6, he fits the tall point guard mold that Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson like. Pinson might have gone undrafted, but he isn’t your average undrafted prospect. There is a good chance that Pinson could see some action in Brooklyn, especially if Spencer Dinwiddie gets traded. Much like Pinson, Dinwiddie was also a big recruit with high upside but an injury made him go under the radar. It wasn’t until Kenny Atkinson got his hands on Dinwiddie and Dinwiddie got a real spot in the rotation that he realized his full potential.
Theo Pinson has the same kind of potential that Dinwiddie had entering the league and even sees the similarities between the two. Pinson will have to work really hard to get to where Dinwiddie was when he cracked Brooklyn’s rotation, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Pinson could see a Dinwiddie-esque rise. There is a reason Theo Pinson is with this franchise and if there is an opening on the Brooklyn roster, he could really surprise people.