Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What You Wish For

There's been a shift in how the Hoyas are running the offense this year versus, well, every other year:

.                   2008-09                2009-10
Player          Usage    ORating       Usage    ORating
Monroe           23%       111          31%       101
Wright           22%       107          21%       109    
Freeman          19%       116          21%       114
Sapp/Clark       16%       100          17%       124
Summers/Vaughn   24%       104          22%        96

There's some small samples here in the current year, and there's certainly a difference in average competition, but the large shift in offensive style has been getting it in to the big man.

Greg Monroe is ending the Hoyas' possessions 31% of the time and shooting nearly as much. There's been no self internal jealousy here. The guards are getting the ball inside (and to Vaughn as well) and Monroe is creating a shot for himself or someone else.

Hoya fans, you got what you wanted.  Don't say we didn't warn you.

Brian's preview on Austin Freeman (linked above) noted Monroe's drop-off in offensive efficiency in high usage games last year. Most players see a decline in efficiency when they take more shots and use more possessions. In games where his usage was 30% or over last year, he had an ORating under 100 -- not strong, especially for a Hoya.

The same is true this season. He's creating about a point a possession, which won't necessarily get it done in the Big East, and that's before we adjust for the competition the Hoyas have been playing. Greg's improved rebounding and defense are reason for accolades; but, for example, his 24 points on essentially 24 shots (including missed shots with a foul) against Butler was not the incredible offensive game people made it out to be.

That's not to say that Greg doesn't have offensive value. Specifically::
  • Focus on Monroe is definitely a contributing factor to the high Offensive Ratings of our more opportunistic players like Austin Freeman and Jason Clark. He not only actively facilitates the offense through the highest assist rate on the team, but the attention he garners generates open looks even when he doesn't get the assist.
  • Someone needs to use the possessions and take the shots. Virtually all players see a decline in efficiency as they take on a greater load. Perhaps the rate of decline would be higher for players like Wright, Clark and Freeman. Monroe has certainly lifted much of the offensive requirements off less experienced players like Sims and Thompson. Said another way, there's real value in being a "possessions eater."

The concern here is a repeat of last year.

Greg's inefficiency is caused by a variety of factors including his mediocre free throw shooting and his lack of go-to post moves. As the season wore on last year, opposing coaches began to frustrate Monroe with either help defenders coming down to strip the ball or by playing him straight up and daring him to beat them. Against taller and more athletic defenders than he's facing now, he couldn't beat them enough to carry the team. As it is, the rate at which he's scoring (one point per possession) isn't good enough for the Big East. How about when he's being bullied by Yancy Gates instead of Matt Howard?

That's not to say a complete repeat of last year is in the works. For one, the team is currently light years ahead in the areas of rebounding and defending. For another, almost every player on the team seems improved from last year.

But Monroe's mediocre shooting will continue to drag this offense towards the middle of the pack. And that could prevent the team from reaching its full potential.

Do I have a solution? Not particularly. It isn't as simple as taking shots and possessions away from Monroe. So here's a couple of thoughts:
  • Monroe simply improves. If he cuts down on his turnovers, shoots a little better from the line, and finishes stronger over the course of the season, the offense could be fairly awesome. In-season improvement isn't unheard of; just remember Jeff Green his junior year, for example.
  • He lowers his shot % a little by reducing the number of non-layup/dunks he takes. Monroe was 23-35 on layups/dunks and 9-35 on everything else before the Butler game. He can't simply turn every shot into a layup or dunk, but he probably could take a few of those and turn them into shots by Clark, Freeman, etc.
The ideal scenario would probably be a little bit of both. Each of the Hoyas' other offensive players have shown some ability to create, but Monroe is still the best at it. If he can increase his personal conversion rate and the team can take a page from the prior Thompson teams (which had fewer perimeter creators but still generated open looks), the offense could be very, very good. If not, the Hoyas could be riding their defense all year.

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