Film Room: Johni Broome's all-around offensive excellence at Ole Miss
Broome is playing some of the best basketball in the country, and there's no better proof than how the Tigers used him in Oxford.
C Johni Broome (Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers)
You probably don’t remember what happened on Auburn basketball’s second offensive possession against Ole Miss on Saturday.
And that’s OK. It was early in a first half that did not go the Tigers’ way. It also didn’t end with points on the board for Auburn.
But, even though it came up empty, that trip down the floor turned out to be quite the tone-setter for how Auburn was going to unleash All-SEC center Johni Broome — and how he would eventually help the Tigers pull off a huge comeback road win.
The possession started with one of Auburn’s go-to offensive actions this season: A high ball screen for the point guard (Tre Donaldson) by the center (Broome).
Instead of just rolling to the basket off of the ball screen or “popping” to the outside for a perimeter look, though, Broome rolled and then posted up on the low block. This action is called “roll to post” or, according to some coaches, “roast.”
Instead of getting the ball straight into Broome, Donaldson passed it out to Denver Jones on the wing. This is known as a “kickback” entry, and it can often be more effective than just a direct pass to the posted-up big man.
Down low, Broome played 1-on-1 with Ole Miss center Moussa Cisse. However, Ole Miss had help defenders in the area, waiting to assist Cisse or potentially double-team Broome if he tried a certain move.
That extra attention naturally puts backside defenders in no man’s land, leaving Chris Moore wide-open on the inside of the nearest Rebel.
Broome hit Moore with a slick, almost no-look bounce pass right into the slot. Moore rose for the dunk, but Ole Miss power forward Jaemyn Brakefield recovered quick enough to block it at the rim.
Again, in the moment, it was an empty — and perhaps frustratingly so — possession for Auburn’s offense.
But it was an early showcase of the Tigers’ strategy of attacking an Ole Miss team that was without backup big man and elite rim protector Jamarion Sharp.
Broome was a traditional back-to-the-basket center during his first two seasons of college ball at Morehead State. In his first year at Auburn, he showcased flashes of a confident face-up game and a stronger ball-handling ability, particularly toward the end of the season.
During a strong NBA Draft process in which he got an invitation to the main combine for his performance in the G League showcase, Broome looked even more like a modern center.
Broome’s progress was part of what compelled Bruce Pearl to study the European pro game over the offseason. He emerged with an updated offense that utilized more 5-out sets and “zoom” actions in a high-scoring opener against Baylor.
Over the course of what has been a strong season so far, Auburn has leaned in even more to its Euro flavor on offense. The Tigers have used some continuity ball-screen offense, not being afraid to use their bigs as playmakers and even perimeter weapons.
Broome has thrived with this change. He’s currently No. 3 in KenPom’s National Player of the Year ratings and even has an edge over Purdue giant Zach Edey in box plus/minus on T-Rank. His PER leads the SEC and is a career-high — meaning he’s playing better all-around basketball now than he ever did at the mid-major level.
Additionally, Broome’s assist percentage is a career-best 18.3%, which ranks inside the top three percent for centers nationally. In SEC games alone, that assist rate skyrockets to 24.1%, which only trails Donaldson for the team lead. He’s also playing with a career-low turnover percentage of 10.9%, meaning he’s distributing the ball and taking care of it at an extremely high level.
And the trip to Ole Miss was, perhaps, Broome’s best offensive masterpiece to date.