Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Season Preview: Greg Monroe

Greg Monroe was the Hoyas' best player last year, and one of the very best in the country.

He led the team with a 57.6% eFG% and a 61.2% TS%. He hauled in 8.8% of the offensive rebounds, a figure topped only by Julian Vaughn in his limited minutes, and 16.7% of the rebounds on the defensive end, first on the team by a wide margin. He led the team in Stl% and had an excellent Block% as well (though Vaughn and Sims were both ahead of him in that in their limited minutes). He was second on the team in Assist Rate, though well behind Chris Wright.

There are really only two criticisms of Monroe:
  1. He's not an outside shooter - while he showed nice touch at times from the high post and hit 70% of his free throws, he only took 6 3-pointers all year.
  2. He turned the ball over a lot. While not as often as Jason Clark, he still turned the ball over on 23.8% of Hoya possessions he ended in conference, which was even more than Chris Wright did.

The question, then, is what Greg Monroe can do to perform better in what will likely be his final season wearing the Blue and Gray?

For an example of what he might be, I thought I'd look at the two final seasons on the Hilltop for the recent players he most resembles: Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert.

Of the two, Monroe more resembles Green, without the outside shot.
  • He played 76% of available minutes last season, which is 4 minutes more per game than Hibbert ever managed.
  • His rebounding stats look like Green's, not like Hibbert's.
  • He's a better shot-blocker than Green, though he's not nearly in Hibbert's class in that category.
  • He's a superlative thief of the basketball, with a steal rate double Green's but still closer to Green than Hibbert.
  • His turnover rate resembles Green's, and not Hibbert's. This confirms what we saw on the court, that stylistically Monroe is playing Green's role as a facilitator of the offense and not Hibbert's role of possession-ender.
  • He commits fouls at about Green's rate, though he draws them more at Hibbert's rate, a difference probably largely explainable by his taking more shots inside.
  • One other difference - Monroe's role in the offense, while still heavy, was more akin to Hibbert's junior year than it was to Green. Green was a high-use player from his freshman year, and slightly increased that his sophomore and junior levels.

The general topic of %Poss usage and player efficiency was discussed at length in the Freeman preview, and I won't repeat that here, but it's worth noting that between his sophomore and junior years while Green's %Poss remained fairly constant, his ORating saw a big increase, from a slightly above-average 102.7 to an excellent 114.4. This increase doesn't seem to be driven by any major changes in his player profile - he had roughly the same rebounding rates, assist rate, turnover rate (actually slightly more), steal rate and other stats, but was driven almost exclusively by major improvements in his shooting accuracy across the line:
  • from 62% to 78% on FTA
  • from 50% to 56% on 2FGA
  • from 32% to 38% on 3FGA

The question is whether or not Monroe could expect those same kind of improvements in shooting accuracy. The answer to that is: not likely.

We can further break out the shot selection in a typical season for each:
.                        2FGA
Player/Year    Dunks    Layups  Jumpers     3FGA
Green, Jeff    22/22    60/87    49/119     32/84
2006-7                  0.690    0.412      0.381

Hibbert, Roy   15/15    82/136   46/88      2 /2
2007-8                  0.603    0.523      1.000

Monroe, Greg   21/21    78/133   25/61      2 /6
2008-9                  0.586    0.410      0.333

Here we see the biggest problem with Monroe's usage - while his rate stats look like those of a Green-style facilitator, his shot selection betrays that he also served as a Hibbert-as-a-senior-style post presence.

Even if he improves his post moves and his jumper to Hibbert's level, that's still only 8-10 additional made buckets in a season based on last year's shot totals. That's definitely useful, but not the sort of change that by itself would have a major impact on the Hoyas' fortunes in 2009-10. Noticeable improvements will almost certainly not result from changes in his personal profile, but instead will be the result of the supporting cast around him being better, particularly the emergence of another post scoring threat.

[N.B. - I'm not trying to claim Greg won't better develop as an NBA prospect, or that he won't have additional skills, just that it's unlikely his level of offensive efficiency will significantly improve.]

One of the things Monroe got a bad rap for last season was an inability to hit clutch free throws. My impression is that rap largely results from the Cincinnati game, where the Bearcats hit all 6 of their free throws in overtime and Monroe missed 3 of 4 from the line, giving the Bearcats their margin of victory.

As I noted when I wrote about free throw defense after the season, the Hoyas were lucky from a free throw luck-oriented perspective to simply make it to overtime in the first place, as the Bearcats had a below-average shooting night from the line. While Monroe made a convenient scapegoat, it's not realistic to expect him to make all of his free throws. The one game where you could fairly criticize Monroe for having a poor free throw shooting night that seriously hurt his team was the loss at Notre Dame. That game, he hit only 3 of his 7 free throws, whereas he'd have made 5 on an average night. Keep this game in mind for a minute.

The Hoyas themselves were actually pretty consistent from the line. There were two games where they made as many as 3 more free throws than you would have expected (Drexel and Seton Hall), and none where they made three fewer than you'd expect. Without more complete data, it's difficult to say for sure, but this suggests Georgetown would have won more games had opponents' free throw shooting not been unusually inconsistent. This includes both St. John's games. This is straight-up luck, pure and simple.

As I did for Hoya opponents, I also did a comparison to see which teams, if any, fouled Hoyas that were good free throw shooters and those that were worse free throw shooters. This comparison wasn't very instructive, because every Hoya who had 25 FTA on the year shot at least 70% from the line. Clark was the only Hoya who shot over 80%, which held back the Hoyas' overall team FT%, but there wasn't a single player who averaged >1 FTA/game who was bad from the line.

The bad news for 2009-10, though, is two players who the Hoyas will be looking for bigger contributions from were mediocre free throw shooters in 2009. Julian Vaughn shot 54.5% (12-22) and Henry Sims shot 58.8% (10-17). If Henry and Julian do play more minutes in 2009, Georgetown's free throw shooting may look more inconsistent than it was the previous season, simply because more non-good free throw shooters are getting shots.

And inconsistent free throw shooting can lead to some bad losses.

For the curious, here's how the Hoyas looked in each game last year in terms of offensive made free throws versus expected. Positive numbers mean the Hoyas made more free throws than their season-long average would lead you to expect, while negative numbers indicate fewer made free throws. As a reminder, the first column is calculated simply from the Hoyas' team FT%, while the second column is from the individual player FT%. The second column should be more accurate (but a lot more tedious to compute):

Opponent Team Players Jacksonville -0.0 +0.4 Drexel +3.4 +3.3 Wichita St. +1.5 +1.7 Tennessee +0.3 +0.4 Maryland +0.7 +0.3 American +1.3 +1.4 Savannah St. +0.4 +0.4 Memphis +0.8 +1.3 Mt St Marys -2.3 -2.2 Fla Int'l +2.3 +1.7 UConn +2.6 +3.0 Pitt -0.3 -0.1 Notre Dame -3.0 -2.7 Providence -1.0 -0.7 Syracuse -0.3 -0.9 Duke -2.3 -2.9 West Va. -2.1 -1.9 Seton Hall +3.7 +3.7 Cincinnati +0.7 +0.9 Marquette -1.4 -1.3 Rutgers -2.3 -2.7 Cincinnati +0.3 +0.3 Syracuse -1.9 -2.1 South Fl. +0.3 +0.4 Marquette +0.1 +0.1 Louisville -1.5 -1.4 Villanova +1.1 +0.9 St. John's -2.1 -2.4 DePaul -1.4 -1.4 SJU (BET) +0.3 +0.7 Baylor +2.1 +1.9 Total 0.0 0.1
Each column should total 0 (less any rounding errors), which they do.

Finally, here are the cumulative numbers for Hoyas and opponents combined (again, see the original discussion of FT defense for the opponents' numbers). Positive numbers represent a Hoya luck advantage, negative ones Hoya bad luck.

Opponent Team Players Game Margin Jacksonville +0.1 -0.2 +9 Drexel -1.1 -1.3 +28 Wichita St. +0.9 +0.8 +8 Tennessee -0.7 -0.2 -12 Maryland +0.8 +0.4 +27 American -0.2 +0.8 +24 Savannah St. +0.3 +1.0 +62 Memphis +0.2 +0.4 +9 (OT) Mt St Marys -0.6 -0.8 +11 Fla Int'l +4.2 +2.5 +38 UConn +1.5 +1.9 +9 Pitt +1.1 +0.9 -16 Notre Dame -6.6 -5.5 -6 Providence +0.2 -0.7 +7 Syracuse +4.6 +3.2 +14 Duke -4.8 -5.0 -9 West Va. -2.1 -2.0 -18 Seton Hall +4.0 +4.2 -5 Cincinnati -0.5 +0.7 -8 Marquette -3.7 -3.9 -12 Rutgers -3.6 -3.8 +7 Cincinnati -0.2 +0.2 -4 (OT) Syracuse -5.9 -5.9 -4 (OT) South Fl. +5.1 +5.7 +25 Marquette +1.2 +0.4 -6 Louisville -1.0 -2.0 -18 Villanova +0.4 +0.7 +2 St. John's -6.1 -7.0 -3 (OT) DePaul +0.3 +0.6 +8 SJU (BET) -4.9 -4.0 -5 Baylor +2.0 +2.3 -2 Total -15.1 -15.6

Those 4 bolded games?

Those are the Hoyas' only games of the year where free throw luck disparity played a role in the outcome of the game, and the all ended up on the Hoyas' bad side. If not for cruel fate, the Hoyas may have had two more quality road wins and avoided two bad losses. Better luck from the charity stripe alone could be the difference between another trip to the NIT and a return to the NCAA tournament in 2010.

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