Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rising Juniors -- 10 to Watch

After the Rush
Looking at the rising juniors makes me a bit nervous. How many times am I going to have to write "X" is going to have a breakout season...this time...honest before he actually does? Like other "10 to Watch" postings, I am not going to note the 1st or 2nd All Big East Teamers, I want to look at the guys who have fair-to-good (or better) scoring efficiencies, but are stuck in the "role player" category. They might be on the threshold of a breakout (or more likely solid starter/regular-level) season. The suddenly a stud player doesn't develop every season. Particularly for the four year players, just making progress every season can spell "star" status by the senior season. Villanova's Dante Cunningham is a great example of the constantly progressing player who was good coming in, but became great by his senior season. I am not going to include transfers/JUCOs who enter with upper classmen status (I covered a few of them in a previous post), but rather will look only at those players who have 1-2 Big East seasons under their belts.

On Offense...

By all accounts Jimmy Butler will pick up more time and possessions. Pomeroy's growth curve suggests the window (to 95% confidence) should be just shy of 20% of possessions next season (or down to about 10%, which would suggest he was benched in favor of someone else...). Butler helped himself with good offensive rebounding (how many of his FGMs were putbacks?) and benefited from playing in a rotation with 4 others who no doubt drew much more defensive attention than he. Like Butler, Louisville's Preston Knowles and Villanova's Corey Stokes start on the low side (16.9 and 17.5 respectively) for possessions, but each is extremely efficient (see their ORtgs) and has an upper edge in their "growth windows" of around 24%. And given the attrition suffered by Louisville and Villanove, each should have an opportunity to get more possessions (and shots).

On Defense...
Jimmy ButlerMU48.96.610.02.51.410.8
Corey StokesNova56.
Austin FreemanGTown72.514.613.90.61.811.3
Preston KnowlesVille41.710.813.
Marshon BrooksPC52.512.515.03.12.610.9
Rick JacksonCuse53.47.921.67.32.316.9
D.J. KennedyJohn's86.217.717.41.32.616.9
Brad WanamakerPitt47.418.
Mac KoshwalDPU77.712.721.51.42.520.8
Sean EvansJohn's68.

UConn big men typically take most of the oxygen out of a discussion of Big East shot blockers. Next season may be Rick Jackson's (and Syracuse's) turn. Brad Wanamaker's %Shot is light (13.9), suggesting he was way down on the priority list in the team's offensive scheme, but he did log 47.4% of the minutes at a guard/forward spot and had a relatively efficient 103.8 ORtg, with a shooting efficiency of 54.2...way too high actually, given his offensive rating. If Wanamaker gets his turnovers under control he will contribute in 2010. With the loss of Blair, Fields and Young, there will be chances for Wanamaker to shoot and score. Given his assist rate, steal rate and (especially) defensive rebounding, Wanamaker is too useful in too many wing spots to leave on the bench. With the loss of Dar Tucker, DePaul's Mac Koshwal will get a lot of touches next season as the Blue Demons will look around for scorers to pick up Tucker's %Poss and %Shot. Koshwal is already among the best in the conference for his rebounding, offensive and defensive. Ready or not he will have to take a larger than 20.0% role (a "major contributor" according to Ken Pomeroy's DePaul Team Report) for scoring too next seaon.

And Then There's...
Jeremy Hazell (All Big East 3rd Team), Dominique Jones (All Big East Honorable Mention) and Corey Fisher (All Big East 6th Man) drew honors last season and will have some visibility (and expectations) going into next season. I struggled with the last three or four spots on the list, leaving off Paris Horne (St. John's), Dion Dixon (Cincinnati) and Antonio Pena (Villanova) in favor of Sean Evans (St. John's), Jimmy Butler (Marquette), Brad Wanamaker (Pittsburgh) and Preston Knowles (Louisville). I am operating under the assumption that incoming recruit Lance Stephenson will clear the NCAA (academics and amateur status) and displace Dixon, if not 5 minutes into Fall practice, then earlier. Given the Villanova staff's preference for playing upper classmen over freshmen, Pena ought to get a long look at #4/#5, as Yarou gets up to speed.

The St. John's rising junior cohort -- there are six players total among the 22 (rising juniors) I began with -- is well balanced. They share the ball and shooting responsibilities pretty well, with possessions ranging from 23 (Rob Thomas) down to 17 (Malik Boothe), 4 had right around 20% of the possessions. The shot distribution is wider (25.9 down to 13.9), but again there are 4 who take about 20% of the shots when they are on the floor -- balanced enough to make defense a headache. I included DJ Kennedy and Sean Evans in my Ten to Watch. Paris Horne took 26% of the shots in 2009 when he was on the floor. Lack of other options, may have been one reason for his prolific shooting, though his ability to hit 51% of his FGAs inside the arc was most likely the other. If Horne can significantly improve on his 33% conversion rate from beyond the arc (while maintaining his 26% share of the shooting), he will make one of the All-Big East (not to mention my ooops list) teams next March. As of now however I am looking for candidates on the Red Storm squad who are most likely to "grow" their role in the offense, and Horne already takes a large share of it. Justin Burrell and Malik Boothe share a few of the same problems. They both logged a good number of minutes, but each has problems converting their FGAs into FGMs. Combined with high turnover rates (23.7 & 31.8 respectively -- see Pomeroy's St. John's Team Report), that leaves each with low (<100.0) offensive ratings (ORtg). For Burrell there is the additional problem of playing in the low post. St. John's under Norm Roberts has become known for physical play in the paint, and Burrell, with 4.7 fouls per 40 minutes (which goes with his 4.7 fouled per 40 minutes), continues the tradition. Villanova's Dante Cunningham had problems with being effective until he managed to control his fouling problem. The same may hold for Burrell. The "other forward" playing in tandem with Burrell, Sean Evans, made my list largely because he logged better numbers than Burrell. Whether shot efficiency, rebounding, even fouling, Evans posted more efficient numbers. Opponents may foul him less next season if he makes his free throws more consistently (51% is terrible, and very correctable). And if those opponents are less inclined to foul, Evans may convert more of his FGAs. Rob Thomas is the last of the Johnnies I considered. His numbers are good (%Poss -- 23.0; %Shot -- 25.4; ORtg -- 108.8; eFG% -- 51.1), but his minutes are low, especially relative to the other St. John's players in the rotation. Thomas, coming off a red shirt freshman season, logged far more minutes in 2009 than he did in 2008. He will get more in 2010. His numbers, very promising at 28.9% of the time at his position, will will really help the Johnnies if they stand up when his PT is doubled. Dele Coker, St. John's 7th rising junior, logged a modest 22.7% of the playing time at the #5. If the Burrell-Evans tandem continues to improve, Coker may see even less time next season.


Pico said...

A note, though - all conversation about St. John's juniors and an estimate of the possessions they will take has to start with a guess as to what Anthony Mason Jr. will look like on the floor. He was a high possession guy (26.9 in 07-08, and nearly 31% of the shots).

I think that was out of necessity, but we won't know until at least the preseason games.

greyCat said...

Thanks for the note Pico. I suspect one of things the Canadian Tour should do is give fans a sense of where Mason will fit with the 2010 St. John's team. Carleton is generally recognized as the best of the Canadian (CIS -- Canada's equivalent of the NCAA) teams, and they will most likely give the Red Storm their most competitive game. But the Ravens are essentially a mid-major (middling A10/MVC team), so the staff will have a chance to run a bunch of different players through the game to see what combination works well together (and exceutes the staff's game plan...).

I don't know how much the fans should expect from Mason. I can think of only 4 Big East players who sat for two season (or the better part of 2 seasons) recently -- AJ Price out of Connecticut, Juan Palacios and David Padgett from Louisville and Curt Sumpter from Villanova. The results were mixed, while Price, Padgett and Sumpter were productive, none really performed at their pre-injury level. I would want to see how mobile (particularly side-to-side) he is.

Thanks for the CIS link, Carleton should put the box scores up, and if I have the time I will try to crunch the numbers.