It took all of one clip for Bucknell graduate transfer Nate Sestina to catch my attention.
With Sestina doing this, he also made me laugh because there’s no way in hell John Calipari won’t lose his mind if Sestina tried this in Lexington.
When have you ever seen a Calipari-coached big man try a shot like this in an actual game?
You see Karl-Anthony Towns take shots like this in the lane these days for the Minnesota Timberwolves and of course, Dirk Nowitzki, the man who perfected this shot and turned into an art form. (And how about that? Both with Kentucky connections because Big Blue Nation is everywhere.)
As good as those two were/should’ve been at Kentucky and as great as they are now, Sestina is like them for the fact that as a big man, he has a flexible offensive game to where you can put him in the middle of a 2-3 zone to score or pass, you can pick-and-pop him and you can post him up.
That’s when the thought of Sestina joining the long, long list of talented big man coach by Calipari hit me. He’s skilled, light on his feet and with his body frame, also had me thinking of a college Mitch McGary comparison, too.
McGary measured out at 6-foot-10 and 255 pounds during his sophomore year at Michigan. Sestina was listed at 6-foot-9 and 245 pounds for Bucknell last season. He may not be the exquisite passer that McGary was on those awesome Michigan teams, but considering that PJ Washington had an assist percentage of 11.9 last season while Sestina’s was not too far off at 10.5, that’s something you can work with.
Sestina was excellent for Bucknell during his senior season this year, averaging a career-high 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per contest, while also shooting 53.6 percent from the field and 38 percent from 3-point range on 3.5 attempts per game. He didn’t get to the line much last season (3.2 attempts per game), but he shot 80.8 percent from there.
(I know you were thinking about that last part because reasons, right?)
The advanced numbers were also friendly to Sestina, finishing with a .626 true shooting percentage and a 25.9 defensive rebounding percentage.
(To compare to Reid Travis’ senior season at Stanford before arriving last season in Lexington, Travis’ numbers went as followed: .579 TS%, 18.0 DREB%. Their usage rates were almost identical, too. Sestina’s USG% was 26.6. Travis’ at Stanford was 26.8%.)
It won’t take the Big Blue Nation long to see how impactful Sestina can be. Calipari will be able to use him in a variety of ways that will make him a dangerous weapon at times. His 3-pointer total has climbed from 24 in his sophomore season to 108 attempts this past season.
With his stroke, it’s not a sin for him to take some shots out there. (Right, PJ Washington?)
How PJ Washington-esque is this? Sestina comes down and posts up on the left block and throws a pretty skip pass to the opposite corner, popping out to the left corner and canning a wide-open 3. That’s good basketball from a seasoned big man (and appreciation for a good extra pass with the seal down low, too).
The nice thing with Sestina is, not only can he shoot the 3, he’s got some range with it.
This was absolutely a heat check, seeing as Sestina made four of his six attempts from 3 in this game against Boston University, but when you see a big man catch and shoot like this with such smoothness and a soft touch, it’s hard not to get excited about his potential wearing blue next season.
This is where you’ll see Sestina a lot next season and it’s because 1) a lot of basketball in the half-court these days uses some sort of a high pick-and-roll action and 2) Sestina is good as the roller or the popper with his catch-and-shoot abilities. (And also, 3) if they’re not posting up, this is where Calipari-coached bigs will likely be.)
Not only was this a great pass to a rolling Sestina, but imagine Ashton Hagans or Tyrese Maxey running this type of action next season with their burst. Big men will have a tough time with them if they switch over (like up above).
Along with that, if [insert Hagans/Maxey]’s man can’t recover quickly off the screens, then plays like this one where Sestina and [insert other UK big] will have lanes to roll with floor spacers/slashers like Keion Brooks Jr. Kahlil Whitney and potentially Dontaie Allen around them.
Next year’s bunch (pending some changes from last year’s bunch) of Cats should be pretty fun on the offensive end. Maxey was one of the more impressive players at the McDonald’s All-American Game practices, while Whitney and Brooks Jr. saw their games and stocks blossom over the last year or so.
Adding in another big man with college experience like Sestina is just a cherry on top of the sundae for Big Blue. He’s the “seasoned veteran” of the 2019-20 bunch and brings a more versatile offensive game than Reid Travis brought last season. He’s not an all-world defender, but he’s a player like Travis with a high IQ that finds himself on the right places on the floor where he’s comfortable and can contribute.