Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Season Preview: Hollis Thompson

Hollis Thompson isn’t likely to be the best player on the Hoyas. He isn’t likely to be the most important player, either, if you are one of those folks who separate “best” from “most valuable.” However, to an outsider at least, Hollis Thompson is likely the Hoya with the widest range of reasonable expectations for performance this year.

The green-shirt freshman was originally slated to graduate from high school at the end of the 2008-09 school year. A lanky, 6’8” small forward out of Southern California, Thompson was ranked 27th in the RSCI [Recruiting Service Consensus Index] heading into his senior season of high school and was particularly known for his ability to shoot and score.

Due to personal circumstances, Hollis decided to graduate from high school in December and enroll early at Georgetown. Despite the fact that this could only help Thompson – getting college coaching early – his recruiting ranking slipped and he ended up at 76 in the RSCI, due mainly to some recruiting experts dropping him off their Top 100 lists completely, presumably because they no longer considered him a recruit.

Two major contributors from last year, DaJuan Summers and Jessie Sapp, are gone from this year’s team. The Hoyas also played a three guard lineup last year primarily because the team’s power forwards were ineffective. This lineup was not always effective, especially on defense. Summers was the team’s only above average "true" small forward, and he is in the NBA.

There’s room in the rotation for Hollis Thompson.

What are the chances that Thompson is a significant contributor this year? What can the Hoyas expect in terms of production?

We can get an idea of the answer to both those questions by looking at freshmen under John Thompson III at Georgetown.

Playing Time
.                                 # (%) played   # (%) played
Player Group total >10 mpg >20 mpg

All recruited frosh 17 9 (53%) 6 (35%)
RSCI-ranked freshmen 6 4 (67%) 3 (50%)
*The data set excludes Chris Wright, who was injured much of his freshman year, and Nikita Mescheriakov, who red-shirted.

Coach Thompson has had 17 freshmen who were able to play for the majority of their freshman year, and about half of them contributed at a backup level at the minimum. About a third played over 20 mpg, about starter level or strong sixth man.

The fact that Hollis Thomspon is a highly recruited player makes his chances of being a contributor even stronger – 2/3 of RSCI freshmen contribute and half have seized major rotation minutes during their freshman year.

Of course, we know more about Hollis than the average freshman. Between Kenner League performances and JTIII’s commentary, it seems safe to say that his chances of breaking 10 mpg barrier are stronger than 67%.

With this year's short roster, we can also take a fairly educated guess about the Hoyas’ likely rotation this year. Don’t pay too much attention to any one player’s estimate. The takeaway is that, once you exclude Thompson from playing power forward or center and account for a healthy increase in playing time for Jason Clark, there’s about 30 minutes available at either guard or small forward.
Player         Est mpg     Min. Left
. 200
Monroe 32 168
Wright 31 137
Freeman 30 107
Clark 27 80
Sims 23 57
Vaughn 23 34
Benimon as PF 4 30

Mesch. as SF ?
Sanford ?
Thompson ?

So there’s potential for Hollis to take a very significant role. The RSCI-ranked Hoya freshmen play 20 mpg or more about 50% of the time, and that seem about right for Thompson. There are thirty minutes available, but Sanford has been drawing strong review and Mescheriakov played 17 mpg in conference play last year. In other words, Thompson is simply going to have to be better than the competition. That’s been something of a mixed bag, even with ranked freshmen.

If he does get playing time, how good is Thompson likely to be? Will Hollis be able to match or improve upon the player whose minutes and possessions he will be asked to take?

Below is a table comparing DaJuan Summers’ junior year, and three possible bases for projection:
  • DaJuan Summers’ freshman year (the most obvious single player comparison for Thompson)
  • the weighted average of all Hoya freshman years under JTIII
  • the weighted average years of those freshmen who were ranked in the RSCI.

Year mpg %Poss %Shot ORat FG% TS% 3FG% OReb% DReb% ARate TORate

DaJuan Summers, 08-09 29 25 25 104 47 60 39 5 12 10 22
Jessie Sapp, 08-09 25 16 18 101 37 51 38 6 11 13 22
N. Mescheriakov, 08-09 14 15 16 83 34 45 26 5 8 8 28

DaJuan Summers, 06-07 26 22 22 102 41 54 33 9 9 8 24

All Recruited Hoya
Freshmen 24 19 18 103 47 56 30 7 12 13 24
RSCI Ranked Frosh 24 20 19 108 51 59 31 8 12 12 23
*Stats weighted by minutes per game in order to get an approximation of what Hollis Thomspon might produce if he is good enough to get substantial minutes.

While Hollis is a small forward and thus, from a positional perspective, will be the receipient of Sapp's and potentially Mescheriakov's minutes, his offensive role will be much more like Summers'. In addition, neither of Summers' positional replacements had a possession % north of 15% last year, meaning that from an offensive standpoint, they simply will not use anything close to Summers' number of possessions.

What this means is that I'm mostly comparing Hollis' potential contribution to Summers.

The Encouraging
  • The average Hoya Freshman’s offensive rating is not all that different than Summers’ as a junior, and Summers was the most effective offensive player of the three listed above. RSCI-ranked freshmen were substantially better on a per-possession basis.

  • Freshmen generally don’t take as significant a role in the offense as Summers did. Normally this is not necessarily a good thing; this year it is. Those 3% - 7% of shots and possessions that Hollis is unlikely to take will hopefully go to Monroe, Wright or Freeman.

  • While estimating rebounding by averaging a slew of different positions may be a bit suspect here (are the freshman years of Greg Monroe or Jon Wallace really useful for projecting Hollis Thompson?), I’m inclined to let the projection stand as Hollis is playing the “middle” position at a “middle height” with a half year of college practice under his belt. The “good” here isn’t those projected rebounding numbers. It’s that replacing the two departed upperclassmen or Mescheriakov on the boards won’t be difficult to do.

The Discouraging
  • Summers’ major contribution to the offense last year was his three-point shooting. With both he and Sapp departing, the Hoyas lose their top two three point shooters on the year. History shows: freshmen can’t shoot threes.

  • There’s not a lot of hope on the turnover front. Freshmen can’t hold onto the ball.

The Thing Not Mentioned In That Chart

  • I only have net points for last year in order to statistically evaluate defense, and the freshmen are a mixed bag. But from my eyes and general common knowledge, freshmen just aren’t very good. Just like rebounding, we have a bit of good news: according to net points, the defense was worse when Summers was on the floor. Of course, it also ranked Sapp strongly above average. I’m not sure if this says much about whether Hollis Thompson will make the defense better or worse than last year.

The Big East
  • One might expect freshman to decline in effectiveness once the Big East season gets going. But they don’t seem to do so, at least not anymore than other players. Freshmen see their ORating decline from a 103 to 101 with their poss % stable. RSCI freshman see their poss % drop 1% and their ORating drop a point. It could be that the rapid improvement disguises the increase in competition. Regardless, Hoya freshmen do not see a significant decline in effectiveness in Big East play.

What’s the sum total? Hollis Thompson is not likely to fix the Hoyas’ three point, rebounding or turnover issues. Yes, some freshmen have performed at a very high level. But it simply more likely that Thompson will perform similarly to Summers, while taking less possessions. Like in the Greg Monroe preview, look for your year over year improvement elsewhere.

What Hollis will hopefully do is put in 15-25 good minutes, play efficiently by hitting shots inside the arc, and generally replicate Summers’ efficiency, if not his usage or minutes. This is no small feat for a freshman. And, if the Hoyas take that, and then distribute the remainder of the possessions between the Big Three, the offense should improve.

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