It has definitely been a rough start to the season, though this should really surprise no one. We started the year with an unfortunate combination of both lack of depth (due to the Parker suspension and Astroth injury) and inexperience. This is generally not a recipe for success, especially when you don’t have 4 or 5 H.S. All-Americans on your roster.
What has resulted is a general collapse of our offensive efficiency. Again, when you lose the likes of John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor, who were both uber-efficient while taking a ton of shots, your offense tends to suffer the next season. It suffers more when the only returning players who played any significant minutes were both inefficient and low usage players.
So what does this look like from a team level? Well, offensively we have not shot the ball well from any area of the floor, though we are not quite as bad as we have seemed overall. The main issues is that while we are below average from the floor and from three (though not significantly so), we are well below average from the line (and don’t get there very often) and are a very poor offensive rebounding team. Our turnovers are also about average, so we aren’t getting any great boost in the number of bites from the apple. The two areas where we are actually good at are avoiding steals and blocks. The former is an indication that our turnover issues are mainly of our own doing, and the latter is probably due in part to our avoiding shots inside the paint. All together not a pretty offensive picture.
Defensively, this team actually hasn’t been that bad considering the lack of any size inside. We have given up a good percentage inside, but have done an excellent job protecting our defensive glass (far exceeding anything seen from the 2010-2012 teams), have forced a decent number of turnovers, and have generally avoiding fouling (this is a trademark of CKS coached teams). It seem that we should be able to force a few more turnovers once DJP return, which will help continue to mitigate our height and size disadvantage inside.
Individually, two players have really stepped up their games. Kedren Johnson has increased his efficiency dramatically while also increasing his usage by 50% and almost doubling the number of shots he is taking. He has dropped his TO rate while likewise increasing his steal rate. Johnson has stepped up to a leadership role in a very big way, and would likely be even more impressive when his teammates start knocking down shots of their own. Kyle Fuller has also stepped up his game in a very similar fashion, increasing his efficiency while making huge jumps in usage. Fuller has also dramatically dropped his own TO rate (by over 1/3) and supplementing his offense with frequent trips to the line. Most impressively is that Johnson and Fuller are shooting 57% and 52% respectively from inside the three point line. If OGKF can manage to raise his three point shooting to 33% his stats are going to look even more impressive.
Rod Odom has struggled, and this is somewhat expected as he went from nearly invisible on offense to a significant contributor. His shooting struggles are disappointing, but he has made a better effort on the boards, cut down on his fouling, while drawing many more fouls. He can stand to do better on the offensive glass and knock down more of his shots, and that will get him to a decent place. Kevin Bright has been an intriguing player so far, mainly on the strength of his defensive rebounding. James Siakam caused a stir in the exhibition game by going crazy on the glass, but Bright has been amazing and consistent on the boards, grabbing an insane 27%(!!!) of available defensive boards. To put that into perspective, 27% is the same percentage as Al Horford brought down during his junior season. How a 6-5 freshman is able to do this is beyond me, and one would expect his numbers to come down to earth, though his knack for getting defensive rebound while playing almost completely below the rim is amazing. Bright has also been our most efficient player, and the one guy who could look to shoot a lot more. He could stand to cut down on his TO’s and make some more of his two point attempts, but otherwise we will see more of him and hopefully he takes on more offensive responsibilities.
Our post players are a bit of a mess, as nobody is really stepping up or being particularly efficient. Siakam is efficient, mainly because he never looks for his shot and is the only decent offensive rebounder on the team, so he gets a lot of looks inside. Henderson and Moats numbers are a bit ugly, though it seems as though Moats could look to shoot more inside and less from three. I really like what Shelton Jeter can become, but he hasn’t really determined what his role will be. All we are seeing right now are glimpses of his athleticism, where he gets after it on the defensive glass, a nice steal rate, and a good amount of fouling.
So the stats are ugly so far, but anybody who expected differently was being a bit overly optimistic. It is just very difficult for some many players to all simultaneously pick up both their efficiency while also dramatically increasing their usage, which is what we have asked of them so far this year. On a side note, John Jenkins would have definitely helped this season. The talks of double teams is pretty silly, in that he handled the ball relatively infrequently compared to how much he shot it, and nobody is going to double a guard who is playing off the ball. But besides drawing much of the attention of opposing defenses, he would have allowed players like Johnson, Odom and Fuller to take on not quite a big of a responsibility, which is a pretty big thing. Even had his efficiency dropped several point he would still be a far above average offensive player who was taking on a huge offensive load. Oh well.