To finish up this Season Study Hall series, I wanted to look at the last table that I include in each post-game Study Hall post. It involves more style than quality (though there’s certainly some quality mixed in).
Here’s your full-season style chart, then:
Obviously the usage numbers got weird when Michael Porter Jr. got involved again at the last second, but ignoring him for a moment, you see the personality of the team: Jeremiah Tilmon and Jontay Porter were the most high-usage guys, especially in SEC play.
Cuonzo Martin attempted to work the game through his freshman bigs when he had the chance, and because they were freshmen who often made freshman mistakes, Martin didn’t always have the chance.
Tilmon turned the ball over a lot, and Porter brought all the goods and bads of positionless play to the table.
Meanwhile, though Jordan Barnett ended up with the highest Adj. GS PPG average on the team, he wasn’t a creator — since there are five players on the court, and those five guys will use 100 percent of possessions, the average Usage Rate is 20% (100 / 5). Anybody under that is a lower-usage guy, and we see Barnett was at 19 percent.
Barnett was a great complement, but he was a complement.
Throughout the season, I kept tabs on how many Mizzou players hit 40% in Floor% (the percentage of your possessions that resulted in points). When three or more Tigers hit 40 percent, Mizzou almost never lost. As we see here, a lot of guys had the capability of hitting 40 percent or more. It was just whether the dice were friendly enough to produce three guys in a given evening.
Seriously, though, you’ll never see a team with that many guys hovering right around 38-40 percent. That is strange.
Okay, so that’s a decent amount to learn from one table. We can learn even more if we compare some of the stats on this table to other guys in recent Mizzou history.
We’ll look at three batches of noteworthy former Mizzou players: go-to guys, point guards, and bigs. Who were Mizzou’s most notable 2017-18 players most comparable to?
Mizzou go-to guys (1994-2018)
- Barnett was easily the most low-usage guy on this list. That he averaged nearly 14 points per game as a sub-20 percent guy is really odd, maybe the oddest single tidbit from a pretty damn odd season.
- Robertson was on the low-usage side of the equation, too. This was as balanced a team as we’ve seen in quite a while, at least until MPJ returned from injury. Among players on this list, Robertson most resembled a sophomore Clarence Gilbert (only slightly more efficient) or a junior Jason Sutherland (only used slightly more).
- Jontay Porter’s best comp? A senior Kelly Thames. Same Usage%, same Floor%. Take Thames, add four inches, and make him also the team’s best passer, and you’ve got a pretty close Jontay facsimile.
- All I want from the sports god is a second year of Jontay in black and gold. I am incredibly curious what a sophomore Jontay would produce. And I’m not sure we’re going to get the opportunity to see it. (The sports god doesn’t tend to return my calls.)
- The highest Usage% on this table, by the way? Kareem Rush from 2001. Remember all those possessions MPJ dictated in the last two games? He basically did that every game. Only with the smoothest-looking jumper you’ll ever see. (And a lot of turnovers.)
- The highest Floor%? A tie between 2013 Laurence Bowers, 2012 Mike Dixon, and 2009 DeMarre Carroll. Here’s your reminder that the 2012-13 Tigers thought they were going to have Dixon and didn’t, then lost Bowers to brief injury and had him come back rusty. We think about all the what-ifs of this year (especially in the injury category) and the 2012 season (Norf*** State), but ... with a non-creep Dixon (the most succinct way I can summarize his issues) and a healthy Bowers in 2013, that Mizzou team would have been absurdly good. For all of Frank Haith’s faults, he pulled off some roster magic that year. He just couldn’t keep everybody on the court.
Now to the point guards:
Notable Mizzou point guards (1994-2018)
Obviously one of the biggest issues for this team was the total lack of point guard options. As we see above, Blake Harris was taking the shape of the True Point Guard™ we felt this team needed, but he left. Instead, Jordan Geist became Mizzou’s de facto PG. And with this comps list, we see that his stats bear out what we already knew: he’s more combo than PG.
Mizzou hasn’t had that many true point guards in recent history — the best ones have also been go-to scorers at times. And hey, that works too. But of the names on this list, Geist most resembled a freshman Keyon Dooling: 64% pass vs. 61, 19% shoot vs. 21, 10% fouled vs. 11, and 6% TO vs. 12. Dooling averaged 8.1 points per game to Geist’s 7.3, serving mostly as a complement to shooters John Woods and Albert White.
Obviously Dooling was far more athletic, not to mention taller. He was more of a matchup issue, and it’s safe to say that his follow-up season (15 PPG, 4 APG, 3 RPG) was something that Geist probably will not match in 2018-19. But we’ll say this does nothing but reflect well on Geist all the same. He was asked to play a role no one expected him to play, and he ended up the starting PG for an NCAA Tournament team. There are worse legacies.
Finally, the bigs:
Notable Mizzou bigs (1994-2018)
Mizzou’s bigs were so incredibly loaded with potential but were also so clearly held back by specific flaws, especially Tilmon. I was excited and curious to compare them to some of Mizzou’s most noteworthy bigs.
First non-surprise of this exercise: there is no comp for Jontay. (I didn’t include Thames for this part because he was only 6’7, 220.) The closest you can get is DeMarre Carroll from 2008-09, only he passed way more than DeMarre.
We kind of knew Jontay was a unicorn, though. What about Tilmon?
First, no one turned the ball over nearly as frequently as Tilmon. That’s disconcerting. And the closest guy in that category — 1998 Monte Hardge — is not one you like seeing anyone compared to from a ball-handling perspective. Until Tilmon gets the TOs and fouls under control, his ceiling will not approach what we think it can approach.
Strip the turnovers away, though, and you see the makings of an Arthur Johnson-style game. Johnson’s career Usage% was right around 23-24 percent, and his career Floor% was around 42 percent or so, which Tilmon can easily attain if he cuts the TOs. He already draws an AJ-level of contact, and his %Pass figures aren’t that far away.
Perhaps most encouraging: compare Tilmon’s stats to AJ’s freshman stats.
Tilmon was asked to create far more (25 percent usage vs. 20), but he nearly matched AJ’s floor% (38 percent vs. 40) despite the turnovers. Johnson’s Floor% over the next three years: 43% as a sophomore, 40% as a junior (when he was asked to take on far more in Rush’s and Gilbert’s absence), and 44% as a senior.
Because of Tilmon’s potential, it’s doubtful we’ll see him for a full three more years (as long as he continues to develop, anyway), but blocked shots aside — Tilmon’s got a ways to go to catch AJ’s career record — that trajectory doesn’t feel particularly unattainable.