Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell does a ton of positive things on the court and it showed in the team’s win-loss record over his two years in Spokane. The Zags went 65-9 over Norvell’s two seasons on the roster. In his senior season of high school, he lead the Simeon Wolverines to a 30-4 record, and has consistently proven to be a winning player throughout his career.
Norvell’s hard-working attitude has helped him this far and he has made improvements in all facets of his game over his two seasons working with Mark Few and staff. From year one to year two at Gonzaga, his defensive rating improved from 98 to 94 points allowed per 100 possessions, his offensive rating from 120.6 to 126.7 and he improved his assist and turnover ratings despite taking on a slightly larger role on offense.
The biggest part of his appeal is ability as a floor spacer. Norvell is a skilled scorer and averaged 27.1 points per 100 possessions for his career at Gonzaga.
In the 2018-19 season he shot 37.8 percent on 2-point jumpers, 37 percent on 3-pointers (per Hoop-Math.com) and 42.1 percent on short midrange shots per The Stepien. He shot over 80 percent from the free throw line in both seasons, including a career-best 86.7 percent from the FT line in ‘18-’19. His career true shooting percentage of 59.2 percent would be above average for an NBA wing player and he figures to be a solid NBA scorer, even his 2-point shooting efficiency suffers against more athletic NBA defenders.
Despite having an average wingspan for his height, Norvell will succeed as a shooter in the league because of his ability to create separation from defenders with stepbacks and hard dribble pull ups.
Zach Norvell Jr. @ZachN_23 will be good selection for a team that needs a shooter in the draft 🔥 he has unlimited range and had 18pts in one of the games in the NBA Draft Combine 🎯 here are the season highlights mixed with his NBA combine footage @pensacksports pic.twitter.com/anb481SbOM— Swish Cultures (@swishcultures_) May 28, 2019
Grabbing Zach Norvell in the second round would be a huge net positive for a Bulls roster that is very thin on bench scoring. His college numbers compare favorably to those of Klay Thompson. He also possesses the Thompson-esque ability to score with ease from the low post when he gets a smaller guard on him via a switch.
Norvell is not quite the shooter Thompson was in college in terms of accuracy but he was slightly ahead of college Klay in terms of volume. Norvell attempted a whopping 60.9 percent of his shots from 3-point range for his career, compared to 43.8 percent of Thompson’s shots being 3-pointers at Washington State.
This lack of diversity in Norvell’s shot profile is why he projects as a strong role player, rather than an primary initiator on offense. But Norvell is a fine player even without a spectacular dribble-drive game. He has shown the ability to shoot off the dribble, in the post and has strong flashes of developing into a crafty finisher when attacking closeouts.
He is a decent decision-maker and has a solid feel for the game. In 2018-19 he averaged 3.1 assists and 1.4 turnovers per game while functioning as the primary scoring guard on offense.
As with many prospects that will be projected to go in the second round, a lack of elite burst/athleticism lowers Norvell’s stock a bit. He has the shiftiness/handle to get past the first line of defense, but he will struggle to finish over NBA centers. Per Hoop-Math.com, Norvell actually shot worse at the rim in his sophomore year despite having more of those attempts assisted by his teammates.
Without the ability to get to the rim and finish consistently, Norvell will have to develop into a good mid range scorer to reach his ceiling. His shooting numbers indicate that he has the touch to do so. The issue for Norvell is he will be trying to develop this touch while adjusting to the speed of the NBA.
Norvell didn’t get to the free throw line much in college, averaging 2.6 free throw attempts per game over his two years in college. In the NBA he will likely get to showcase parts of his game that we didn’t see at Gonzaga, but an inability to get to the free throw line will carry over. He got to the line even less in conference play and it’s safe to say NBA defenses will be tougher to crack than those of the Western Coast Conference, even for a high-IQ player like Norvell.
Long term outlook:
If Norvell competes on the defensive end of the floor and continues to shoot the 3-point shot at a high level, he will have a spot in an NBA rotation. But if Norvell works on his floater game and finishing through contact, he could end up being an extremely valuable player at one of the league’s thinner position groups (shooting guard).
Taking a chance on Norvell at No. 38 would be extremely smart for the Bulls, and not just because of the hometown connection. As mentioned earlier in the article, the Bulls’ bench unit could use more scoring after ranking in 24th in bench points in the 2018-19 season. Norvell—who scored 1,023 points over his two year Gonzaga career—has proven to be a capable scorer. But the fact that so much of Norvell’s value comes from jump shots make him much more suited to a 6th or 7th man role. Norvell has a great step-back jumper out to 3-point range and while it isn’t a consistent weapon now, it is the type of skill move that makes him such an intriguing prospect.
If you buy that he will become an increasingly engaged defender at the NBA level, Norvell is a solid enough prospect to rise into first round territory as we inch closer to the draft. But based off of how past NBA drafts have went, it is more likely that Norvell's average measurements make him a high second round pick.
I believe that Norvell will stick in an NBA rotation next season. Whether he is playing decent minutes or serving as a 9th or 10th man, Norvell’s shooting will shine. His rookie season should mirror something near Landry Shamet, though he doesn’t need to make All-Rookie team for the year to be considered a success.
A continued show of aggressiveness from 3-point range, attention to detail on defense and great decision making will keep Zach Norvell in the NBA for a very long time.