Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for the Hawgs Sports Network. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas and previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was the 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
2020-21 season review: JD Notae
Arkansas' JD Notae (1) dribbles during the second half of a first round game against Colgate at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Friday, March 19, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
The fifth in a nine-part series reviewing Arkansas basketball in 2020-21.
Class: Redshirt junior
Weight: 195 pounds
Stats: 12.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 2.1 turnovers
38.2% FG, 42.6% two-point FG, 33.5% three-point FG, 76.0% free throws
Per 40: 22.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.5 steals, 3.7 turnovers
SEC stats: 12.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.6 steals, 2.0 turnovers
36.8% FG, 38.4% two-point FG, 34.7% three-point FG, 77.1% free throws
Best month: December — 15.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.7 turnovers
42.2% FG, 56.8% two-point FG, 30.4% three-point FG, 84.6% free throws
Worst month: February — 9.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.3 turnovers
32.7% FG, 33.3% two-point FG, 31.6% three-point FG, 66.7% free throws
• Microwave scorer. Arkansas fans got their first glimpse of the gunner mentality of JD Notae in the Razorbacks’ Red-White game prior to the start of the 2020-21 season. He scored 30 points in the glorified scrimmage and took 20 shots in getting there, 18 from beyond the three-point line. Eric Musselman took the good with the bad with Notae, knowing that the 6-1 guard could put points up on the board in a hurry and alter the complexion of a game. But a few gray hairs may come of it given his shot selection. In his first two college seasons at Jacksonville, Notae recorded a shot rate of at least 29.1%, and that did not change last season. His shot percentage of 29.6 ranked 92nd nationally and was far and away the highest on the team. Moses Moody was No. 2 at 22.2%.
We saw instances in which Notae’s lack of a conscious on the offensive end paid off in a big way. One example that is likely burned into the mind of many is his play at the end of the first half against Alabama in Bud Walton Arena. He misfired on a left-corner three, it was rebounded by Ethan Henderson, who kicked the ball back out to Notae, who seconds later buried a left-wing three. In Arkansas’ win over Missouri in the SEC Tournament, he was a catalyst, scoring 27 points in what might have been his most efficient shooting performance of the season. In the Elite Eight it was more of the same. The Razorbacks needed a spark on offense, and he provided that with 14 points on 5 of 6 shooting in 15 minutes. According to HoopLens analytics, Arkansas scored 1.31 points per possession in Notae’s 26 possessions vs. the eventual national champions (0.90 PPP when he sat). It also had an effective field goal percentage of 92.9 in that span.
The Texas Tech game is kind of the epitome of Notae, the SEC’s sixth man of the year. He finished with seven points and was 2 of 11 from the floor, but he hit back-to-back threes in the first half with the Razorbacks down 10 and made it a brand new game. He scored in double figures in 21 of 32 games. Notae led the Razorbacks in threes made and attempted from the left wing (24 of 69), top of the key (14 of 34) and the right wing (15 of 45).
• Made great strides defensively. During Arkansas’ winning streak in SEC play, Musselman said he essentially came to an agreement with his players that he would allow them freedom on the offensive end as long as they gave great effort defensively. Not known as much of a defender in the early stages of the season, Notae flipped a switch during the team’s big run. Even when things weren’t going well for the Razorbacks in early January, you could see glimpses of play on that end from Notae that you wish he could bottle up and showcase on a more consistent basis. By the end of the year, he was a solid on-ball defender capable of coming up with steals after jabbing at ballhandlers and slipping into passing lanes. Notae tallied quite a few deflections as well, which kicked off open-floor opportunities.
For the season, he finished with a steal percentage of 3.4%, according to KenPom data. That ranked 82nd nationally. In SEC-only games, that figure was 4.0, which placed him No. 3 in the league. From Feb. 24 through March 19, Notae recorded 19 steals over seven games and matched a career-high with five steals at South Carolina. And although this did not come into play much down the stretch, he had a bit of a knack for blocking jumpshots at 6-1. He had three in the first meeting with Oral Roberts and two in the SEC opener at Auburn.
• Solid rebounder at his size. Aside from the electric moments when Notae stretched his legs in the open floor, this is perhaps my favorite part of Notae’s game. He is far from the biggest guard on the floor, but when engaged he could be a huge help on the defensive glass. Notae finished with four-plus defensive rebounds in 10 games, including eight after the start of conference play, and he could kickstart a run-out opportunity the moment the ball touched his hands.
Some players have the ability to properly read the trajectory of a shot out of the hand and react to a ball off the rim much quicker than others, and I think Notae has it. His defensive rebound rate of 12.4%, according to KenPom, probably doesn’t jump off the page, but I find it to be an underrated part of his game as a whole.
• Shot selection and decision making. Musselman said in the preseason and even during Notae’s development year that the guard was the type of playmaker that could essentially get any shot he wanted whenever he wanted it and against any defense. That turned out to be true for the most part, but the shot Notae put up wasn’t always ideal. He had a tendency to take quick shots and could at times put a damper on the Razorbacks’ offensive momentum. Notae also liked the pick-and-roll off-the-dribble three-pointer, which, according to ShotQuality.com, was one of Arkansas’ lowest percentage and least efficient looks.
Ill-advised attempts around the rim in which he over-drove the ball came fairly frequently, too. Overall, Notae finished 59 of 116 (50.9%) attempts at the rim, and he was 3 of 16 on all other attempts in the lane. He was 62 of 132 in the painted area. That 47% mark was the lowest among the Razorbacks’ regulars. His final play of the season vs. Baylor kind of sums it all up. Playing with the hot hand but four fouls strapped to him, he over-penetrated and picked up his fifth foul less than midway through the second half. Albeit the call looked to be wrong on replay, that is a chance you cannot take. Coming to a jumpstop and shooting a floater off glass was the right move there.
Turnovers were an issue at times, too. Per 40 minutes played, Notae averaged a team-high 3.7. Losing the ball at the end of the LSU game in the SEC Tournament stands out. Arkansas had a chance make things interesting and possibly force overtime, but Notae was so eager to make a play out of the Razorbacks’ timeout that he lost control on his own and the Tigers sealed the game on a careless turnover.
• Could get lost on the defensive end. This happened far more often early on in the season when it appeared Notae was less than engaged on the defensive end of the floor. When he was in the lineup, teams targeted him a bit because guards could take advantage of his gambling and also shoot over him. Rotations weren’t always sound and he would react to perimeter shooters a second too late.
I vividly remember, too, how upset Musselman became in one game after Notae lost track of his assignment on a pair of baseline out of bounds plays and gave up easy scores. The coach mentioned those moments in his postgame press conference following a win. He made strong strides defensively down the stretch of the season in terms of being a help defender and on-ball defender. If he can continue to grow off the ball, Notae can be a big help defensively. He has the ability.
• Did not always activate his teammates. Something Arkansas’ coaching staff preached to Notae throughout the season was that his shot selection impacted those he shared the floor with. If he was pulling quick, inefficient shots and the ball was not moving to the second and third side of the floor, it negated his teammates’ talents — maybe aside from Justin Smith, who could grab an offensive rebound almost at will. Musselman urged Notae to activate his teammates on a more consistent basis.
He posted an assist rate, according to KenPom, of 15.6% for the season, and it was 13.5% in SEC play. Notae improved a bit in setting up others for scores in March, finishing with nine potential assists at South Carolina and 13 in Arkansas’ two SEC Tournament games. From Dec. 30 through the Elite Eight, he totaled 89 potential assists and teammates converted 33 of those shots. They were 16 of 29 (55.2%) on two-point attempts he created and 17 of 60 (28.3%) from three-point range.
On floor: Offense (1,327 poss.) - 1.02 PPP, 16.1% TO rate; Defense (1,316 poss.) - 0.92 PPP, 20.4% TO rate
Off floor: Offense (1,091 poss.) - 1.09 PPP, 17.1% TO rate; Defense (1,099 poss.) - 0.91 PPP, 18.3% TO rate
Best Notae quote: “I'm not sure. It was a good win, so that's all I really care about.” — Notae when asked where his 27-point game vs. Missouri in the SEC Tournament ranked for him
Best quote on Notae: "The beauty in some players is the freedom you allow them. Like, JD, he’s just playing ball, man. His attitude when he walks out there is no different than if he was playing at a park somewhere, shirts and skins. You’re going to live with an airball from three, then the next time down he’s going to hit a Steph Curry stepback three from 35 feet." — Eric Musselman
Season review series
Part 1: Justin Smith
Part 2: Davonte Davis
Part 3: Jalen Tate
Part 4: Moses Moody
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