At 6-10, possesses terrific size for a small forward.
Offensively, his calling card in the NBA and easily his biggest strength lie in his shooting ability. Novak has been one of the best 3-point shooters in the country over the last four years, hitting 293 of his 640 attempts or 46% from behind the arc in his career as of the time of this report midway through the season.
His shooting mechanics are picture perfect; featuring a solid release point, an ultra quick release, and decent elevation on his jump shot. That, combined with his outstanding height, makes him a difficult player to fully contain on the perimeter, as he gets his shot off with very little space and is a threat from well beyond the NBA three point arc thanks to his deep range. His mechanics remain the same regardless of the nature of his attempt, whether its off the catch and shoot, fading away off-balance with a man in his face, or either elevating or stepping back off the dribble from mid-range or beyond the arc. Novak catches the ball with great poise, squares his shoulders immediately and gets his shot off with the utmost confidence.
While he is not going to get to the line much in the NBA, Novak is about as close as you can get to being automatic from the stripe. At the time of this report Novak had only missed 14 free throws in his entire college career, shooting 93% over that span, and is currently working on a streak of 65 consecutive free throws which started almost a year ago.
Mostly a one-dimensional spot-up shooter as an underclassmen, Novak has put in the necessary work over the past few years to expand his offensive arsenal and make himself more of a diverse threat. He is now fully capable of putting the ball on the floor for short dribbles to create the inch or two of daylight that he needs to get his shot off, maybe with the combination of a head or shot fake to get his man in the air first. His terrific footwork and balance help him greatly in this area.
Although its not as easy to see this skill translate to the NBA, he is also capable of punishing shorter matchups at the college level by catching the ball with his back to the basket and shooting over the top of them with a turnaround jumper (a move Nowitzki uses often at 7-1).
Generally being a smart player, as you would expect from a coachs son, he shows extremely good shot selection, even too good considering what an outstanding shooter he is. He is a fine passer and decision maker to boot, quite unselfish and always looking to make the extra pass; again, to a fault at times. Novak moves extremely well off the ball and appears to have a very good understanding of his teams half-court offense and how to maximize himself within it. He is excellent coming off screens and will make his defender work very hard to try and stop him with how crafty he is.
In terms of intangibles, Novak is reportedly a hard worker with an outstanding work ethic who is constantly looking to improve as a basketball player. He is also reportedly an excellent teammate, which is evidenced by his unselfish play. Off the court he often defers praise from himself from the media and instead prefers to talk about the team effort and his young teammates instead.
As noted in the competition section, Novak made a name for himself already as a freshman with his clutch shooting in the NCAA tournament, so you could say that he is experienced and no stranger to big games.
While he is not a terrible athlete considering that he is 6-10, he is certainly not a speed demon in the open floor or a jumping jack type that explodes off the floor for put-back dunks. It wouldnt be a stretch to say that he is a below average athlete for the NBA level, and this fact hurts his potential in certain facets of the game.
Defensively would be the main one. Novak will likely struggle staying in front of his man on the perimeter at the NBA level, although not for lack of effort. His lack of lateral quickness would probably put him in the doghouse of many NBA coaches who expect more from their role players. He gets lost off screens at times, struggling to fight through them, and generally does not display the same type of awareness defensively that he does on the other end of the floor.
Novaks weight at 218 and frame is thin enough to let you know that small forward is likely his only realistic position at the NBA level. This is obvious since he plays mostly power forward in college and gets pushed around badly in the paint battling for rebounds and trying to stop his man defensively. Its not so much that he is soft, its more that he is just not capable of holding his ground from a physical standpoint.
As much as he is a mismatch on the offensive end, often being guarded by post players who struggle to chase him around the three point arc, he suffers just as much on the other end of the floor. Its unclear whether he is such a dynamic offensive threat because of the fact that most teams do not have a matchup for him, and whether long and athletic 6-8 or 6-9 small forwards will be able to shut him down at the next level. To his credit, he was guarded by exactly that type of player in Rudy Gay against Connecticut and still did plenty of damage on him on his way to scoring 41 points.
Being somewhat on the one-dimensional side, when his 3-point shot is not falling for him, there are not many other ways that Novak can make his presence felt on the game. Over 72% of his career field goal attempts (at the time of this report) came from behind the arc. Not being much of a slashing threat because of his lack of strength and first step, his ball-handling is mostly limited to one or two short dribbles before pulling up for a jump shot.
Possibly most concerning is the fact that he has a tendency to disappear from games all too often. His fantastic shooting percentages are undoubtedly a feather in his cap, but you often have to wonder why he doesnt take more shots, especially when his team really needs him to? Novak has trouble being assertive night in and night out and finishes too many games in single digit field goal attempts, something that really hurts Marquette at times. He is not a very vocal player out on the floor and doesnt seem to demand the ball as you would expect a senior player with his type of talent. Novak certainly needs to play next to a playmaking guard or two that is willing to create shots for him and a coach that will run plays to take advantage of his shooting ability.
Novak played an important role as a freshman in helping a Dwyane Wade led Marquette to the Final Four in 2003, hitting 14 of his 25 shots from behind the arc in the NCAA tournament.
Marquette regressed after losing Wade, with the team only making the NIT over the next two seasons despite having plenty of talent on the roster, including current Orlando Magic point guard Travis Diener. Novak scored 12.5 and 13.5 points per game in those two seasons, improving as a player but never really taking that leap to stardom that many expected from him. This year with the team moving to the Big East its unclear what to expect from them, as they are led by a freshman point guard in Dominic James who is incredibly talented but will likely be prone to inconsistency in the tough conference schedule. Whats certain is that Novak will be challenged every single game. A massive win over UConn in the conference game opener (thanks to a career high 41 points and 16 rebounds from Novak) will help their resume tremendously.
Shooters havent fared as well as the often repeated the NBA always needs shooters manta would lead you to believe. Steve Kerr and Kyle Korver were drafted in the 50s in their respective drafts, one of the best shooters in NCAA history in Salim Stoudamire went in the 2nd round, players like Matt Walsh and Matt Freije only had a cup of coffee in the NBA, and the list goes on and on.
That makes Novaks draft stock hard to project, as on top of that he doesnt play for a sure-fire NCAA tournament team and can be a fairly inconsistent player that does not project very well to the NBA draft camp settings.
A team considering drafting him absolutely must know what they have on their hands, as he is a player that needs plays run for him as well as a point guard and teammates that are willing to get him the ball in a position to do what he does best: shoot. Defensive minded coaches who look for hustle, defense and rebounding from the small forward position should certainly look elsewhere. Playing with a big man who draws double teams, an athletic and unselfish slashing guard who loves to drive and dish or a perimeter oriented team that loves to move the ball around are the type of settings that could see him excel.
Novak is no surefire thing as his career will mostly depend on the type of system he is put in, the coach he plays for and the teammates he is next to, as well as his willingness to assert himself in the NBA.
Comes from a basketball family. His father Mike was his high school basketball coach at Brown Deer High School, and both his brother and sister played college basketball.