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Missouri Hoops Player Review: Kevin Puryear

Puryear’s career had a somewhat disappointing ending, but the four-year senior still had moments of excellence.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Missouri Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

We’re almost finished with our individual postseason coverage of the 2018-2019 men’s basketball season, and it’s time to move on to the senior class of 2019. To catch up on the rest of our individual player reviews, see the links below.

We’ve got two seniors to cover, and we’re starting with the man who stuck with the black and gold through one of darkest moments in program history, only to taste the heights of what the program could be — Kevin Puryear.

Kevin Puryear - Regular Stats

2018-19 32 23.3 7.1 4.8 1.2 45.6 32.2 76.7
2017-18 33 25.3 8.6 4.3 0.8 50.3 26.0 81.4
2016-17 32 29.6 11.8 6.0 0.9 42.9 32.3 73.6
2015-16 31 24.7 11.5 4.6 0.4 49.3 31.7 83.6

Kevin Puryear - Advanced Stats

Season %MIN ORTG Adj GMSC POSS% Lineup O +/- Lineup D +/- eFG% TS%
Season %MIN ORTG Adj GMSC POSS% Lineup O +/- Lineup D +/- eFG% TS%
2018-19 57.9 102.2 7.4 18.7 1.02 (-0.02) 1.06 (+0.11) 46.4 50.8
2017-18 62.8 105.1 18.7 1.08 (+0.01) 1.05 (-0.12) 47.5 54.6
2016-17 73.3 96.3 22.3 0.96 (-0.03) 1.04 (-0.06) 44.0 49.2
2015-16 61.9 104.3 23.3 0.99 (0.0) 1.08 (-0.05) 49.0 56.2

Puryear had a rough senior year, but still had moments of, “brilliance.” When was the senior at his most effective this year?

Sam Snelling, Site Manager: Some of the hope for Puryear this season stemmed from moments and flashes over consistency. As a junior Puryear struggled offensively, but he was improved over his offensive numbers from his sophomore year, the load was just carried elsewhere, instead of on his shoulders. So when Jontay Porter went down I think the incorrect assumption was made that Puryear could possibly fill in the void for Mizzou. Only he was never able to shoot the ball consistently enough throughout his career to be an effective top option. But even while the preseason expectations for him might’ve been a bit lofty, I don’t think anyone expected him to struggle as mightily as he did.

Kevin is effective when he plays cleanup. He’s excellent on the offensive glass, finding opportunities for putbacks and being available for a corner three every now and again. He didn’t shoot many three’s and his percentage reflected why, but he was good enough to draw defense on his position and that was enough. I realize we were all disappointed for ourselves and Kevin with what happened down the stretch of his last year, but he did still have enough moments and was a key player in last years NCAA tournament revival that I think he’ll be remembered well.

Matt Harris, Basketball Editor: Last October, I wrote we needed to tone down expectations for Puryear’s farewell tour. Without fail, though, there seemed to be some confusion as to why his productivity didn’t spike once Jontay Porter was lost for the year. And to me, that lens warps how people assess Puryear’s season.

In a lot of ways, he kept doing what should have been expected of him. He exploited gaps by cutting off the ball, knocked down mid-range jumpers in the middle of a zone, scooped up loose balls for layups during broken-floor situations and every so often canned a 3-pointer in the corner. Now, there were some nights where he could capitalize on switches, use a crab dribble and back a smaller guard down from the wing.

But by and large, he still was miscast for the offense MU wanted to run. The scouting report was also easy to flesh out — setting up in the mid-post and working to a left-handed baby-hook.

Once you accept that Puryear’s game and physical tools didn’t entirely align with MU’s needs, it’s easier to appreciate what he brought to the table. Even if he wasn’t a primary option offensively and didn’t always have favorable matchups defensively, MU was seven points better over 100 possessions with him on the floor — a net rating that only trails Mark Smith.

The Tigers only allowed a 45.6 effective-field-goal percentage with Puryear seeing action, and Mizzou’s turnover rate — a good barometer of how a game was going — dipped to 18.8 percent, per Hoop Lens. Yet when you look at Puryear’s individual numbers, your jaw won’t be agape. His positional defense, rebounding and ball movement are what made him essential.

For me, Puryear’s brilliance is his ability to evolve from a figurehead under Kim Anderson into a conduit for Cuonzo Martin. You also had to feel for the guy, who started his career as a member of the SEC’s All-Freshman team to one who endured shooting slumps and struggled at times to finish around the cup. It’s what made his cathartic moments so great to see.

Properly calibrating expectations also helps us see the value and impact he brought to the floor each night.

Josh Matejka, Editor: Truth be told, Puryear is most effective when he’s in the role he had last year, not the top three scoring role he was asked to inhabit this year. The Jontay Porter injury may have been curtains for seeing another year of Puryear at his most effective, mostly because its unfair to ask Puryear to fill Porter’s shoes. Puryear is best when he’s crashing the glass, cleaning up missed shots, exploiting mismatches and generally creating chaos. Unlike Xavier Pinson, though, Puryear’s chaos comes naturally within the flow of a game when things tend to break down. That’s when Puryear shines, because his high IQ allows him to see things developing and attack. It would be unfair to call him a scrapper, but it’s probably closer to what defines his game than the star fans thought they were going to get after his freshman season.

How will — and how should — Missouri fans remember Puryear?

Sam Snelling: I probably shouldn’t have finished my thoughts above talking about how Puryear will be remembered... but here we are.

I see no reason whatsoever why fans will remember Puryear any other way than fondly. Puryear signed on after one of Mizzou’s most historically bad seasons, and followed it up with two awful years where he soldiered on and remained devoted to the program. He was rewarded and played a key role in some huge wins as a junior, and provided the building blocks of the Cuonzo Martin rebuild.

We have no idea where the Martin rebuild will head from here but if it ends with a Cuonzo Martin team cutting down any kind of nets (like he’s talked about) I think you can look at Puryear as one of the reasons why they were able to do it all. Not everyone gets to snap their fingers and get to a final four like Texas Tech, everyone else has to build it up.

Matt Harris: Hey, I also touched on this issue midseason: Puryear was a binding agent, and for all the reasons I discussed above. In these reviews, I keep hitting on the theme of culture, because Mizzou hasn’t had a healthy one since the late days of Mike Anderson’s time stalking the sidelines. Once Martin arrived, Puryear could have been aloof or frustrated. Instead, he warmed to the changes asked of him. That’s all you can hope for from players who bridge coaching staffs. The results may not seem successful, but veterans like Puryear, Jordan Geist, Mitchell Smith and Reed Nikko all found ways to fit the new paradigm. Having Puryear buy in lent that process an air of credibility. When we use that as a measuring stick, there’s no question he should be remembered fondly if MU gets where Martin wants it to go.

Josh Matejka: Puryear’s legacy is complicated, mostly because he hit his, “ceiling” so quickly. After making the All SEC Freshman team in his first year, I think fans expected that he would be more than a solid rotational guy over the next four years. In reality, Puryear was at his most effective in his junior year, when he wasn’t being asked to fill in for anyone or play the role of primary offensive threat. Junior year Puryear was able to use the threat of Kassius Robertson, Jordan Barnett or Jontay Porter and exploit mismatches at a rate unlike his freshman, sophomore or senior years. Think back on the Tennessee victory in 2018 — that doesn’t happen without Puryear, who went off on a team that was too worried about everyone else and ended up being the one piece that the Volunteers couldn’t account for.

When all is said and done, I hope people remember that Puryear was a foundational piece of what could become the next great era of Mizzou hoops. He was often asked to do too much on teams that weren’t taking him anywhere, but stuck through it all to provide something Missouri desperately needed the whole time — continuity. If he wasn’t always the biggest star, he was certainly the best leader — there’s a whole lot of value in that.

*Advanced Stats explainer:

%MIN — The number of minutes played in comparison to the total number of minutes available to be played. E.g. 30 minutes played in a 40 minute game would be 75%

ORtg — Individual offensive rating or points scored based upon a player accounting for the ending of 100 possessions (through shot attempts not offensive rebounded, assists, turnovers). This number comes from KenPom and it weighted to adjust for pace and opponent.

Adj GmSc — Adjusted GameScore, from Study Hall the accumulation of the players game score throughout the season

Poss% — Also referred to as Usage, it’s the number of possessions a player ends (via shot attempts not offensive rebounded, assists, turnovers) while on the court.

Lineup O/D +/- — This is the offensive and defensive points per possession when the player is on the court, the parenthesis reflects if lineups were better or worse with them on the floor (+ is if lineups were better with them on the floor, - is if lineups were worse)

eFG% — Effective Field Goal Percentage Adjusts shooting percentage for three point attempts. The formula is FGM + (.5 x 3PM) / FGA

TS% — True Shooting Percentage adjusts for both shooting percentage divided by total points scored. Traditionally the formula is (Points / 2 x (FGA + (0.44 x FTA)) x 100. We used KenPomeroy’s FT modifier of 0.475 instead of the NBA modifier of 0.44.