Monday, November 17, 2008

Season Player Preview, Part III

This ends my countdown of each of the Hoyas' players, in order of their importance to the team's success this year. For Part I, click here. For Part II, here.

#3. DaJuan Summers.

While I’m sure there is some argument around the placement of prior players in this list, Summers at #3 is probably the one most people will have a disagreement with. After all, this is Summers’ “time”: Green and Hibbert are gone; he’s one of two upperclassmen; and he’s a bona fide NBA prospect who has not truly shown the production expected of one.

With Jeff Green gone to the NBA, Summers took many of his shots. Two years ago, he took about 22% of the shots while he was in the game. Last year he took 25%. The issue with this is that Summers simply was not a particularly efficient Hoya. His 102 Offensive Rating was one of the lowest on the team, meaning that perhaps other players should have taken those shots, if they could have found a quality shot. Summers’ 2 Pt FG % rose from 2006-07 and his turnover rate dropped. His FT% dropped as well, but stayed hovering around 70%. What was the issue?

As you can probably guess, Summers took many more threes. In fact, he took about the same number of two point shots and free throws as he did as a freshman. So all those shots he grabbed from Green went into shooting threes.

Summers shot 34% from three, which is the equivalent of shooting 51% from two. However, Summers himself shot 52% from two last year, plus 71% from the line (and most fouls occur on two point attempts). Furthermore, the team as a whole shot 56% from two and 66% from the line.

So taking Summers taking more shots from three shouldn’t be the first option in the offense. Of course, it isn’t that simple. Perhaps this additional shots were the next best shots. But from observation, Summers and team seemed to shoot his threes too early in the shot clock and before trying better options, whether it was him driving to the hoop or throwing it down into Roy.

So there is room for improvement. Either Summers needs to press the issue more inside, and finish stronger (something he definitely had issues with last year) or he needs to improve his shot selection and jump shooting. Doing either – or both – may be necessary to stay an elite offense as the team loses three of its top four most efficient scorers in Wallace, Hibbert and Ewing. (Freeman was the other).

On rebounding, Summers gets a bad rap, I think. He has not been a strong offensive rebounder, and that’s not surprising. But his defensive rebounding stats are reasonably average and frankly good for a true swingman. They aren’t any different than Jeff Adrien’s, and he’s put forward as the rough and tumble big man a Big East team needs.

What about Summers’ defense? Here are CO’s offensive and defensive efficiency for each player, based on +/- in BE’s games:
Player                 Off     Def    Total
Hibbert, Roy 122.3 90.2 32.1
Wallace, Jonathan 118.7 94.0 24.7
Freeman, Austin 115.4 95.8 19.6
Sapp, Jessie 108.9 89.8 19.1
Ewing, Patrick 106.1 90.5 15.6
Summers, DaJuan 105.6 90.6 15.0
Wattad, Omar 103.3 88.3 14.9
Wright, Chris 100.8 93.2 7.6
Crawford, Tyler 95.6 95.4 0.1
Rivers, Jeremiah 90.1 94.4 -4.3
Macklin, Vernon 94.4 100.0 -5.6

Summers had the lowest overall efficiency of the starters. But by this methodology, he isn’t a poor defender at all, at least in comparison to the rest of the Hoyas. Georgetown was a fantastic defensive team last year, so it seems unlikely Summers was a bad defender, and he was likely pretty good even when you factor in that Roy probably erased a few mistakes. His overall plus minus is lower than other starter due to his lack of relative offensive efficiency – too many threes.

You can look at DaJuan one of two ways. Either he’s an immensely talented player whose performance has not yet reached his potential, and therefore he has will improve and lead the Hoyas to a deep run in the NCAAs, or he’s an immensely talented player who performance hasn’t reflected his talent, and he’s not that likely to improve enough to be the most important player for us this year.

I’m splitting the difference here.

It’s hard to underestimate the value Summers would have if he improves as much as he could, but who could expect improvement along the lines of what Jeff Green did?

After all, Jeff was watching two senior starters and a talented sixth man leave the program as he entered his junior year…

#2. Chris Wright.

It’s not a surprise that most pundits are not as high on Wright as this ranking is. His full year numbers are not necessarily indicative of a player who will contend for the title of best point guard in the Big East:

eFG%Assist RateTurnover RateSteal Rate

Taking a closer look, we see a few things. One, his eFG% was actually pretty strong. His assist rate led the team, as did his steal rate. He also was a strong defensive rebounder and attempted more FTs per shot attempt than any guard on the roster. In fact, it was only his turnovers that kept him from being as effective as Jessie Sapp in his limited play.

But these were his full year numbers. Wright had two breaks in his play all year, forcing him to miss preseason practices and keeping him out of the complete Big East regular season. How did Wright perform at the end of the season, against top competition?

The answer is uneven. In short stints, he played well against Villanova, UMBC and Davidson. In games against Pitt and West Virginia, he played poorly.

The net numbers scream small sample size. He scored 23 points on about the same number of shots. He did this despite not scoring in two games and going one for six from the line. These kind of great yet unsustainable numbers speak to Chris’ ability to score in bunches.

He used a slightly higher percentage of possessions (22%), dished out a few less assists (16%*) and lowered his turnover rate a bit (22%). But that turnover rate was still high for an elite point guard.

In other words, the numbers don’t say much. Watching the games said something different.

There’s definitely a feel that Wright is more aggressive than many Hoyas of the Thompson era. Most criticism of the team falls around shots not taken and lanes not driven than vice versa. Whether it is the players we’ve recruited or simply the effect of stressing good shots and unselfish play, our offense has tended to err on the side of patience.

Wright will likely test that. I’m not talking extremes here. While Wright dominated his offense in high school, his 20% usage rate as a freshman wasn’t even above average, much less anywhere near the thirties, which is where you’ll find players like Luke Harangody.

Defensively, Wright will help mitigate Hibbert’s loss by being an upgrade on Jon Wallace. He’s stronger, quicker and faster, which will translate to more turnovers caused and less drives to the basket. With no seven-footer back there to erase mistakes, the team needs an upgrade to its point defense. Wright should be able to provide that.

In the end, however, Wright holds the number two position on this list because he will be aggressive and take many of the shots and possessions that went to Wallace and Hibbert last year. With his ability to create, there’s a good chance he’ll leapfrog players like Sapp and Freeman in terms of using possessions. Wright’s performance in making good decisions, protecting the ball and creating good shots for himself and his teammates becomes extremely important.

The Hoyas’ offensive kryptonite over the past few years has been turnovers. Wright’s problem last year was turnovers. Wright is going to be handling the ball more this year. You can do the math.

#1. Greg Monroe.

The argument for Greg Monroe as the player who can make the most positive impact towards the team this year is simple.

By almost any objective or subjective method, Roy Hibbert was incredibly important to both the offense and the defense of the Hoyas last year. Roy was an incredibly efficient scorer who anchored one of the country’s best defenses last year. With the loss of Jeff Green, one could have expected the Hoyas to take a step back last year.

But they fundamentally didn’t, at least during the regular season. While the offense suffered from losing Green to the NBA, slipping from amazing to extremely good, the defense went from good to record setting.

Funneling the ball to Hibbert, the Hoyas simply didn’t give up two point baskets. But they also didn’t give up threes – as the safety net of Hibbert allowed the perimeter players to push the issue defending the three. This defense came together during Hibbert’s junior year, and paired with that year’s offense, took the team to a Final Four. Senior year was more of the same.

Can Monroe duplicate Hibbert’s defensive impact? It’s unlikely, simply based on him being a freshman. The last time the Hoyas started a freshman center, the defense was well behind the offense, and ranked 73rd in the country by Pomeroy.

We could hearken back to a couple of other freshman centers in Ewing and Mourning who presided over strong defenses, but Monroe is much more in the Jeff Green mode. Monroe will have stronger defensive players around him than Green did (Sapp and Wright versus Wallace and Cook, for example), but that defense was not good enough to even get to the tourney.

How can Monroe make up some of this production?

Hibbert, of course, was not the perfect player, so there are areas where Monroe can make up the difference. Defensively, Hibbert was not quick, so when he altered a shot, he often could not get into proper position for the defensive rebound. Since Summers and Ewing played most of the year at power forward, this was an issue. The loss at Memphis exemplified this issue as Dorsey repeatedly grabbed offensive boards and put them back.

Monroe can be a better defensive rebounder than Hibbert. He may not alter as many shots, but he can help limit our opponents to one shot.

Offensively, Hibbert struggled to get the ball. It’s been discussed ad nauseum amongst the Hoya Faithful, but he simply didn’t get the ball enough last year. It was not as bad as some would think: Hibbert still took 26% of the shots while he was in the game, and that’s more than anyone has under Thompson. He actually took a higher percentage of his team’s shots than Tyler Hansbrough.

But in pales in comparison to players like Luke Harangody. More importantly, it was obvious that there were many times when not getting Hibbert the ball was not the result of a balanced and unselfish gameplan, but simply inability (or unwillingness?) to get the ball into the big guy.

It wasn’t all that hard to defend the entry pass to Hibbert in the post. The Hoyas struggled when he was fronted – even if not double teamed – as he rarely had the quickness to beat weak side help to the ball thrown over the top. And the Hoyas guards rarely made a good entry pass when they had to try that.

Watching Darrell Arthur repeatedly get easy layups on balls thrown over fronting defenders illustrated the difference between the two players. Hibbert had a better game once he had the ball, back to the basket, close in, but Arthur simply had more options to get the ball.

Monroe is going to have more options to get the ball. He can catch on the perimeter and drive. He will quickly learn to seal his man off and receive the ball traditionally. And he is more than quick enough to handle grabbing a ball thrown over the top or an entry pass that requires him to get the ball.

Of course, he's going to have to get the ball. No current player on the team has any low post game to speak of, and niether Sims nor Vaughn are known for their proficiency down low.

Monroe is likely to have more help, on both offense and defense, than Hibbert did last year. He isn't going to need to have the offense run through him, for example. He'll have stronger perimeter defenders.

But how far the Hoyas go rests, more than any other player, on his shoulders. Can he provide a significant portion of Hibbert's interior intimidation? Can he be the primary defensive rebounder? Can he provide a low post game to balance the offense?

Monroe is an enigma to me. He's the highest rated player Thompson has recruited. His potential is off the charts. But people say not to expect a Durant or Beasley -- and we shouldn't. In most years, the team would be estatic with a player performing like Austin Freeman did last year. This year, the team needs more out of Monroe than that.


  1. Tony mentioned this over at, but with the change in the three-point line, there's going to be more incentive for Summers to take the midrange jumper. Hopefully guys like Wright, Sapp, and Clark can stretch the defense to give him that opportunity

  2. If Summers shot the equivalent of 51% from 3 and 52% from 2, that's not a big difference, is it? That's got to be within your margin of error. Is the difference in efficiency entirely due to the ability to get fouled when shooting a 2 then?

  3. Pretty much, Nick. A player like Summers might get fouled 30% of the time he takes a 2, and then shoot 70% from the line.

    That's taking his 2 pt shooting percent up to 60%.

    Or he could pass, which could lead to a better shot.

    In my opinion his incremental threes -- the bad shots -- are probably below 34% as well.

  4. Thanks. That totally makes sense, I just wanted to make sure I had the calculation right. Last night's 0-1 from 3 and 5-6 on FTs sounds like a better distribution of shots for him.