"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Friday, August 24, 2012

Otule vs. Gardner line-by-line comparison: could Gardner be best player on team but not start?

What do you do when your best offensive player and your best defensive player are both centers?

In what looks like one of the deepest and most balanced teams in the country - but without any player expected to dominate like DJO and Jae Crowder did last year - Buzz Williams will have to balance out the minutes at the center position.

When going to www.valueaddbasketball.com and putting in "BE" under conference and "2013" under year, you get the following results.  When you sort by the Offensive Value Add D'Angelo Harrison comes in as the best offensive player in the conference at 6.64% offensive value add, and Davante Gardner comes in as Marquette's best offensive player and 16th overall at 3.74%.  That means if Marquette would have tied a game 70-70 in regulation without either player, then having Davante's offense should give MU a 73-70 win.

When you sort by Defensive Value Add, Gordui Dieng is the best defensive player and Chris Otule is the 12th best defensive player, meaning he changes that same 70-70 game into a 70-68 win over someone else filling in at center.

I know fans always think an individual player impacts games by 10 or 15 points, but they just don't.  Being just a few points better than the good backup right down the bench is tough at the high level that all BCS-level players play.

Best BE offensive playerschoolHeightOffenseRnkBest BE defensive playersTeamHeightDefense
Harrison, D'AngeloSt. John's6-foot-36.641Dieng, GorguiLouisville6-foot-10-5.09
Henton, LaDontaeProvidence6-foot-66.32Edwin, FuquanSeton Hall6-foot-6-4.04
Porter, OttoGeorgetown6-foot-86.223Smith, RussLouisville6-foot-0-3.34
Cotton, BryceProvidence6-foot-15.924Marra, MikeLouisville6-foot-4-3.12
Cooley, JackNotre Dame6-foot-95.745Porter, OttoGeorgetown6-foot-8-2.86
Grant, JerianNotre Dame6-foot-55.466Miller, DaneRutgers6-foot-6-2.8
Napier, ShabazzConnecticut6-foot-05.167Fitzpatrick, ToarlynSouth Florida6-foot-8-2.8
Patterson, LamarPittsburgh6-foot-55.038Behanan, ChaneLouisville6-foot-7-2.48
Adams, StevenPittsburgh6-foot-104.489Siva, PeytonLouisville5-foot-11-2.41
Crockett, JameeDePaul6-foot-44.4110Wright, CashmereCincinnati6-foot-0-2.33
Connaughton, PatNotre Dame6-foot-54.3111Cooley, JackNotre Dame6-foot-9-2.08
Fair, CJSyracuse6-foot-84.1212Otule, ChrisMarquette6-foot-11-2.08
Boatright, RyanConnecticut6-foot-04.0213Southerland, JamesSyracuse6-foot-8-2.07
Behanan, ChaneLouisville6-foot-73.9614Fair, CJSyracuse6-foot-8-2.04
Ledo, RicardoProvidence6-foot-53.7815Jackson, JustinCincinnati6-foot-8-1.94
Gardner, DavanteMarquette6-foot-83.7416Adams, StevenPittsburgh6-foot-10-1.92

As you can see from Value Add, Otto Porter looks like the clear Big East Player of the Year as the 3rd best offensive player and 5th best defensive player in the conference, for a combined 9.08% Value Add that is just above the traditional 9.0% mark that indicates an All-American season.  He projects as the 4th best player in the country.

When we look closer at the numbers by averaging together the two seasons for both at www.kenpom.com, we are reminded that due to injuries both players have only averaged 11 minutes per game played by Marquette.  That means both have tremendous upside beyond the Value Add projection (Value Add doesn't know when you are injured, so it treats both as only being able to produce at their level for 11 minutes a game, whereas when heathly both have sustained that level for much longer).  So if we run through the key Pomeroy stats and how each player would compare to the top players in the country or the average player in the country we get the following:

ave. 2 seasonsOtuleGardnerWould rank nationally
Minutes1111Will go way up
OffensiveOtuleGardnerWould rank nationally
Off Rating95.9118.2G 3rd in country
% possessions16.423.5Average 20%
Off Rebound%10.514.9G 26th in country
Assist Rate1.47.49.0% average
Turnover rate26.216.120.2% average
FT Rate65.266.9G 40th, O 48th
FT%557569.2% average
FG%57.756.9O 15, G 20th
DefensiveOtuleGardnerWould rank nationally
Block%9.11.4O 35th in Country
Def Rebound%14.914.913.6% average
Steal% average

On offense, if Gardner were to maintain his 118.2 overall offensive rating (the average number of points MU would score on a trip when Davante gets the ball), then he would rate as the 3rd best overall offensive player in the country when he has the ball.  He is that good if he has conditioned himself well enough to put in 25 or 30 minutes, so you see why Pomeroy loves him.

When MU has the ball, Davante has had it 23.5% of the time - above the 20% average, so he has had to put up these numbers despite handling the ball a lot more than Chris (16.4%).

Davante's ability to grab 14.9% of all MU misses makes him the 26th best offensive rebounder in the country, though Chris is strong as well at 10.5%.  Davante is also a very nice passer, assisting on 7.4% of MU baskets while he is on the floor, which is an outstanding number for a center and almost average for all players.  Chris almost never provides as assist, with a very low 1.4%.

Davante also protects the ball pretty well (16.1% of possessions are turnovers to 20.2% average and Chris' 26.2%).  Both would be one of the top 50 players in the country at getting to the line at a very good clip (FT Rate), but the difference is Gardner hits 75% of his free throws once there to only 55% for Chris, so when Davante gets sent to the line for two shots MU comes away with an average of 1.5 points, whereas when Chris goes MU comes away with 1.1 points.

In raw field goal percentage, both players would be in the top 20 in the country.  So Chris does get to the hoop and draw a foul a few times a game, even though overall he is an offensive liability, while Davante could truly be one of the top few offensive players in the country if he can play near the level he has been at for 11 minutes per MU game over the course of 25 minutes a game.

Chris must add defensive rebounding to defensive dominance

While college defensive stats are insufficient for an overall objective evaluation, one thing that is clear is that we do need either player to grab more defensive rebounds this year with Crowder gone.  They have both grabbed 14.9% of all opponents misses between the two years, which is barely above average for any player and way below average for a center.  After losing one of the top defensive rebounding forwards in the country in Jae Crowder and our second best non-center defensive rebounder in Jamail Jones (14%), MU was probably left with perhaps the worst defensive rebounding returning team in the country.  The only good news is that transfers Trent Lockett and Jake Thomas are phenomenal defensive rebounding guards - in fact Lockett is better than Otule or Gardner:

1. Trent Lockett 15.7% of opponents misses rebounded
2. Chris Otule 14.9%
3. Davante Gardner 14.9%
4. Jake Thomas 14.0%
National Average 13.6%
5. Vander Blue 11.7%
6. Jamil Wilson 10.8%
7. Derrick Wilson 9.5%
8. Todd Mayo 9.4%
9. Junior Cadougan 6.6%

That's dreadful, so first and foremost on defense we have to hope the combination of Otule and Gardner grabbing more defensive rebounds this year and getting wide bodies on players so that Jamil can improve dramatically and Lockett and Blue can crash the boards will keep defensive rebounding from sinking the season.

Certainly Otule looked like a great box out guy, while Gardner was out of position often though at least he gave us some muscle, so this is the number one concern for the 2012-13 season.

Otule's defensive dominance

Other than that you can see that both players are very good at steals for a center.  Otule has averaged stealing the ball 1.9% of all trips down the court, which is exactly average for all players but way above average for centers.  Davante is not far behind at 1.6%, also excellent for a center.

Then you get to the huge benefit Chris brings on defense - defending the rim to back up our three guard sets.  If Chris can maintain his rate of blocking 9.1% of all opponent's 2-point shots, that would rank him as the 35th best shot blockers in the country, or one of the top 1% of all players.  Davante rarely blocks a shot, as his 1.4% rate is well below the 1.8% for all players and terrible for a center.

Final conclusion: Start Chris, but play Davante 25 minutes a game

Subjectively, we can all see that Chris has just turned into a great defensive center, and his ability to rotate, alter shots, box out, and allow guards to release down the court on breaks gives him a huge edge on defense.

Overall though, I just believe Davante has the potential to be so dominant on offense this year that you have to try to get him 25 minutes even if it is off the bench.  Certainly it will depend on the opponent, the style of play and other factors.

This is really a strange year.  I believe that overall Gardner will be Marquette's best player in 2012-13, BUT I am not even sure he is our best center.  That's how balanced the team is this year.

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