I don’t know if we expected much from Reed Nikko this season, but we certainly got what I hoped for at least:
Nikko is big enough he could defend and rebound and maybe get a drop off dunk here and there...
Nikko is big. His struggle to recover his full range of mobility from dual hip surgery in the offseason, coupled with a fairly nasty high-ankle sprain midway through the season hampered even the most limited of expectations.
#14 Reed Nikko
6'10" 250 lbs
From a production standpoint, Nikko didn’t produce big numbers, but there’s still an air of optimism around his growth because of how he carried himself even with those injuries. Even with limited mobility Nikko flashed enough to think he could be a productive big man over the course of his career.
He’s not the most athletic guy, and I don’t think I’ll upset Reed by saying that. But he’s more athletic than he’s showed, and considering he’s throwing around 250 pounds he’s showed out pretty well.
If Nikko comes in healthy after an offseason of work, and he works well with new assistant coach Chris Hollender (who’s known for working with bigs), I can see a path where he becomes more than just a serviceable guy who can give a competitive team 8-10 minutes per game and a few fouls.
He’s got that work ahead of him, though. He needs to learn how to position his body better for the catch. He still needs to work on quicker, more effective moves without putting the ball on the floor. His hands are decent enough that he should learn how to get into a position when the ball is in the air so his move is right to the rim.
Nikko has one advantage on almost any post player he goes up against, and that’s his natural strength. He should be better at using it. This offseason he should be able to take steps to get there.
For a guy coming off of multiple hip surgeries and an ankle issue, Nikko’s first season in the black and gold wasn’t too shabby. Freshman big men seem to have the biggest learning curve, and that seemed to be the case in Nikko’s freshman season. However, he did show flashes in a league where, if you’re playing the five, you’ve got to be able to hold your own against some of the toughest competition in the post in the country.
In his limited time on the court, he rarely got in foul trouble, but his rebounding numbers on an already bad rebounding team were far too low. Hopefully this off season he can work on getting himself in position under the basket and of course, getting healthy. Ice, Heat, Foam Rolling, Surgery, do it all young fella. If Mizzou is to take the big step that we think they can with the talent potentially coming in, having a healthy Nikko on the floor for around 10 minutes a game will be a necessity.
Sometimes the stats back up what the eyeballs are telling you. I felt like Nikko was showing signs of becoming a strong big man when healthy, and the advanced stats suggested the same. He was fourth on the team in PER (Player Efficiency Rating), third in Win Shares Per 40 Minutes, and second in Box Score Plus-Minus.
You don’t have to believe those stats (or even understand them) if you don’t want to, but know that his offensive rebound rate was second-best on the team (behind Russell Woods), his block rate was easily the highest, and in an athletic league, he made 51 percent of his 2-pointers. None of these are amazing stats, but when you combine it with the fact that he probably wasn't for one minute at full strength, I'll take it.
There's also this: over his first five games of the year, when he was only dealing with coming back from hip surgery but hadn't yet injured his ankle, he averaged 5.2 points (on 67 percent shooting) and 2.4 boards in just 14 minutes per game. Again, those are far from amazing, and only two of those five games were against teams in the top 200. (And yes, Frankie Hughes looked like Next Clarence Gilbert in those games before crashing back down to earth.) But it was a promising start. And then he hurt his ankle and played only 92 minutes and scored 14 points over the next 15 games.
With some good injuries luck and a nice offseason, I think Nikko can become a guy who averages 15-20 minutes per game on a decent team next year. That’s not the most dynamic praise, but it’s something. I’m happy he seems to be sticking around.