Player Analysis – Stephen Zimmerman

Player Analysis – Stephen Zimmerman by Amit Tailor

This article was originally featured on

Let me take a moment to preface this post with the definition of an outlier. According to Wikipedia (I know, not the best place to find accurate information, but this will do), an outlier is an observation point that is distant from other observations. It may be due to variability in the measurement or it may indicate experimental error; the latter are sometimes excluded from the data set.

So let’s go ahead and explore some parts of this definition. Firstly – ‘an observation point that is distant from other observations.I think most of the guys covered on this blog are exactly that in a few ways. The fine young men that are the subjects of this blog are observation points distant from other observations. The Power 5 schools get so much attention in the media, to the point where their data and player tracking is far more advanced at places like CBS Sports and ESPN. Go ahead, look up some games of Power 5 schools on ESPN and you’ll see something that looks like this:

Nice isn’t it? Also makes mining this data so easy when the shot locations are embedded in there. Must be nice to have all that money and all those resources where you don’t just have a few old folks who manually enter play by play and box score information manually during the game. Now let’s contrast this with some of the guys who are represented on this blog.

Not as much information there. So not only is an outlier an observation point distant from others, but maybe it’s also a point where not much attention has been paid, which is where the next part comes into play.

The second part of Wikipedia’s definition says ‘It may be due to variability in the measurement or it may indicate experimental error; the latter are sometimes excluded from the data set.’ So if we take the variability in measurement and experimental error parts, it sounds like that is exactly a lack of attention paid to these places and players, and they are definitely excluded from the data set.

Sorry for the long introduction here, but I wanted to get that out of the way before I introduce today’s post on UNLV center, Stephen Zimmerman. Now it’s arguable that this guy is an outlier. His pre-college resume looks something like this:

– McDonald’s All American
– Jordan Brand Classic participant
– 2014 USA U18 team member and gold medalist
Hardly the look of an outlier, right? Well, Stephen, being a Las Vegas native, decided to attend UNLV for college, which is in the Mountain West Conference. For most of us that love basketball, we already knew who this kid was from before his UNLV days, but for that group of people on the east coast (or even the midwest) who don’t see a ton of Mountain West basketball on TV, maybe Stephen Zimmerman isn’t a household name. I’d take you through another round of looking at play by play and summary pages to show you there isn’t a whole lot of information on him there, but hopefully by this point you’ll take my word for it.
UNLV clearly had a lot of things going on internally this season, as we witnessed the program relieve Coach Dave Rice of his duties midway. So Zimmerman, with all the accolades he came to UNLV with, must have had some high expectations internally and externally, but regardless of what went on, we learned a ton about him as a basketball player (learning about him as a person is a different story, one which people way above my pay grade get to do as their jobs!). A couple of things stand out right away. He is a physical specimen, listed at 7’0″, 240 lbs, and according toDraftexpress, he has a 7’3″ wingspand and a 9’1″ standing reach. Impressive, indeed!
Though he hit 5 3’s on the season, it’s clear that NBA 3’s will be tougher, but he showed the ability to knock down shots from just a few feet in at the top of the arc, especially out of pick and pops. 
– Makes an impact at both ends of the floor when engaged
– The kind of kid who plays with some nasty in him!
– Great rim roller, especially on transition drag screens
– Intimidating defensive presence – challenges and alters shots in the paint when near the rim
– Positional versatility – can guard 1-5 in college, and can switch in pick and roll situations
– Showed flashes of impressive post footwork
– Can be a respectable pick and pop threat from inside 3 point line (out to about 18 feet)
– Inconsistent motor and effort
– Disappointing touch near the rim
– Has a tendency to settle for tougher shots
– Very left handed – finishes with left hand on right side of the rim
– Plays with high center of gravity and doesn’t punish post defenders
It will be interesting to see if he decides to make the leap to the NBA or play another season for a new coach at UNLV. Stay tuned! In the meantime, enjoy his shot chart and some film from 2015-16!

One final note – Yes, I realize there is a book by Malcolm Gladwell called Outliers and his case studies were a major inspiration for the name. One of the things he covers, that this blog doesn’t is how these kids grew up, their cultures, environments, experiences, and so on. I cannot speak to those things for these guys, but I do know they are outliers in the sense that the attention and exposure of the world to them is low. Maybe not for long though.


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