Vanderbilt has some question marks heading into 2016-17, but shooting isn’t really one of them.
Last year, the Commodores shot 38.2 percent on three-pointers, 28th in the country. And one of the main reasons for that is back this year. So can Vanderbilt repeat that lights-out shooting this year with a new coach and a new system? Will we see the streak extend another thirty-plus games?
Yes, and yes.
Here is an interesting number. Last year, Valparaiso’s shooting guard (Darien Walker) attempted 132 two-pointers and 115 three-pointers.
Last year, Matthew Fisher-Davis attempted 59 two-pointers and 177 three-pointers.
Of course, given that Fisher-Davis shot 44.6 percent on threes, you’re going to have a hard time convincing me that he should be shooting less from out there. But he also shot 39 percent on two-pointers (bad!) and only got to the foul line 36 times as a sophomore.
To a significant degree, Fisher-Davis has spent his first two years at Vanderbilt being something like the basketball equivalent of a one-tool slugger: he’s a really, really good shooter, but it’s hard to think of too many other skills he has that have even been above average. He did grab 11 rebounds against Wofford, and grabbed 8 against both Tennessee and Texas, but for the season he averaged 9.7 ppg and 3.6 rpg. In SEC play he boosted his average to 10.4 ppg, but there weren’t too many nights when he “went off” — it was more of a consistent 10 points a night than anything else.
So now, with Wade Baldwin IV and Damian Jones in the NBA, Fisher-Davis is probably going to play a bigger role in the offense. And that’s probably going to mean doing more than just being a lights-out three-point shooter. Can Fisher-Davis become a more dynamic player, and add some drives to the basket to his lights out shooting? Can he maybe get to the foul line more? It’s one thing to be an efficient scorer while using 15 percent of your team’s possessions (which is what Fisher-Davis did last year), and quite another to be a featured scorer. Vanderbilt doesn’t necessarily have to get that out of Fisher-Davis specifically, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Through six games last season, Justice was averaging 17 minutes per game and about 6 ppg, and shooting 44 percent from three-point range. Then Justice injured his groin and wasn’t really the same for the rest of the season. Obligatory:
Justice devolved into a relatively little-used bench player the rest of the way, playing more than 10 minutes just four times in SEC play. Of course, even with the groin injury he still shot 38.9 percent on threes for the season, and with a healthy groin he could be even better than that.
It’s still not clear how much defense Justice will provide, though, and that will determine whether he’s capable of being a starter or if he’s just going to be an instant offense guy off the bench. But so long as Fisher-Davis is around, either one is fine.