In the weeks leading up to the season, this series will dive deep into the players we see making a push for time in the rotation for the 2022-2023 Missouri basketball squad. Some installments might be more in-depth than others, if only because of the data and film available. In addition, evaluating players with multiple years of experience is more straightforward than younger peers.
The pieces read like a birds-eye scouting report. They skew more toward the offensive end of the court for two reasons. First, a player’s offensive metrics are more reliable than defensive data and less team-dependent. Second, it’s considerably easier to describe a player’s qualities with more well-known offensive statistics. As always, we encourage interaction from our readers. Please drop us a comment or find me on Twitter @DataMizzou.
The Prince of Pounce. The Lord of Leap. The CEO of Springs.
Aidan Shaw is well known for his scintillating aeronautical abilities. Under the surface there may just be a basketball player blossoming with potential. The sophomore from the state to our west will seek to unveil those skills in his second year.
During his first year at Mizzou, Shaw often suffered from uneven playing time which was often a direct result of being a freshman. He broke double digits in minutes on the floor just 17 times in 35 contests, finishing eighth on the team in minutes played. While Shaw’s physical abilities are unquestionable, the size of the...jump...he makes this season will go a long way in determining his career trajectory in Columbia.
Shaw represents a unique piece on Mizzou’s roster, if not on anyone’s roster. 6’8” athletic phenoms don’t grow on trees. Smoothing out the skill components of his game and increasing defensive force are the next steps in his growth.
Aidan Shaw | 6’8” | Forward
While the numbers are important — they always are — with Aidan Shaw they need to be taken in context. Shaw was the lone freshman on a team of grizzled veterans. What the team lacked in size and interior athleticism it made up for with an identity founded on experience and skill. It’s a hard plot for a freshman to star in.
Shaw’s usage rating reflected that. Just 11.7% of possessions while he was on the court were absorbed by the talented youngster, second lowest on the team and bottom among semi-regulars. That considered, he was quite efficient in making the most of the touches he did use, accumulating a sterling offensive rating of 117.7 and a personal PPP of 1.073. The task in year two will be expanding the depth of his role, if not the breadth.
Over 90% of Shaw’s offensive production came in one of four ways: transition opportunities, spot-up chances, cuts and offensive rebound putbacks. Shaw, and the team, knew his strengths well. While Shaw will spend heavy time on the perimeter by virtue of Mizzou’s schematic preferences, his ballhandling abilities are still a work in progress. And that’s perfectly fine if he performs well in the areas that are considered his strong points. As a freshman he converted for an above-average 0.963 PPP on spot ups and an absurd 1.333 on cuts — a/k/a, Lob City.
He struggled a bit with his jumper, knocking down just 28.6% of three-point attempts and sported an adequate 1.000 PPP off of catch and shoot jumpers. He offset that weakness by converting 42 rim opportunities into 56 points, a 1.330 PPP. Offensively, feeling more comfortable on the catch and shooting with confidence — and efficiency — will be a big part of his growth.
The other area that absolutely must improve is his rebounding. Often challenged by the coaching staff to become a force on the glass, Shaw was never quite up to the task. His defensive rebound rate settled in at a paltry 12.3%, though his offensive rate of 7.1% is respectable. Limited, but efficient players on offense can work. But they must be defensive stalwarts to command playing time. Shaw has the makings of a plus defender and rebounder. Both of these things are skills. They take time and hard work to master. Shaw must do just that.
Shaw will once again be surrounded with a veteran roster with 9-10 potential contributors outpacing him in experience. To combat that, he must improve the touch on his jumper and make strides defensively. He has the ability to be elite in transition, on cuts and on the glass, but results must follow. Settling into his role will be paramount. The biggest jump for players often occurs between years one and two. As it stands, I see a moderate increase in playing time, upwards of 30% of minutes played and an increase in usage to 17%. Should that manifest, an expectation of five points per game is reasonable. Minutes and opportunities will be difficult to come by, however, so his improvement this summer is paramount. Without it, we may see a repeat of his freshman season.
There’s rhetoric and reality.
Let’s start with the first matter. Recruits have said Gates doesn’t refrain from candid assessments about the strides they have to make. Yet that frankness is paired with a presentation focused on player development unfolding in a close-knit environment.
Yet that case hasn’t met with a stress test in Columbia – yet.
Aidan Shaw’s sophomore season might be the first opportunity to evaluate it. Set aside Shaw’s recruiting ranking. If you classify him as a jumbo wing, he’s jostling with graduate transfer John Tonje for minutes. Call him a hybrid four, and the fellow candidates for floor time are fifth-year seniors Noah Carter and Jesus Carralero Martin, as well as freshman Trent Pierce. Next, look into the future. The program landed a pledge from top-60 wing Marcus Allen, and it’s in the thick of it for five-star Jayden Quaintance, whom the program projects as a four-man.
And while we’re unabashed in our enthusiasm for Shaw’s upside, it’s not implausible he gets caught in a minutes crunch. Right now, Tonje boasts a longer track record as a floor spacer. Carter is likely in line to inherit Kobe Brown’s role. And while Pierce’s athleticism is more run-of-the-mill, he’s built his game on being a knockdown shooter and reliable team defender.
A year ago, we noted that Shaw’s path to early minutes hinged on consistently knocking down shots and guarding. On balance, the shooting metrics are respectable. However, at the end of last season, we noted the obvious: Shaw has room to improve as a team defender, get on the glass, and steady his jumper to open up avenues as a cutter.
The tape on Shaw isn’t bad. In this batch of clips, the results on catch-and-shoots are what you’d expect. He’s spacing the weak side corner or holding the two-side of the floor, shot ready if the ball comes his way.
What you don’t see is Shaw ripping through. He only did so five times last season. That’s a point of emphasis moving forward – assuming his catch-and-shoot proficiency improves from 34.8 percent beyond the arc. By comparison, Tonje’s around 38 percent for his career.
If MU wants a stationary threat holding gaps open, it also added Caleb Grill in the offseason. He sank 37.9 percent of these 3-balls last season in Ames.
Shaw posed a threat off the ball by working the baseline and cutting from the corner when low help rotated. Now, it’s about expanding his repertoire.
D’Moi Hodge left behind plenty of material to study. On pinch plays, Hodge might bolt backdoor on an angle cut against an overplay. When MU used its delay series, he might break off on a down screen, curling toward the rim to counter a defense switching. And sometimes, MU’s offense utilizes UCLA cuts to get a player divebombing to the rim.
Just two clips. The small supply is telling. Outside of Brown and Carter, MU’s offense didn’t rely heavily on two-man games. And when Brown and Carter did function as rollers, it came when the Tigers ran empty-side PNRs to get them prime post-up position.
If Shaw’s jumper improves, he could – theoretically – function as a dual threat in pick-and-pops. Applying rim pressure or flaring into open space might be a boon. But as we’ve noted before, Gates’ offense doesn’t rely on PNRs as a conduit for quality looks.
It’s an open question how expansive Shaw’s offensive role might be this season. We all know what work needs to get done this offseason. Soon enough, will see whether his sweat equity was worth it.
Judged solely as an on-ball defender, Shaw adapted rather quickly to the collegiate level. Last season, he only allowed 0.714 PPP, per Synergy. The bulk of those possessions saw him sitting down and guarding in isolation.
Queuing up clips showcases the trait that made him such a coveted prospect coming out of high school: seamless switching. You can’t hunt Shaw easily in middle or slot ball screens. His agility and hip flexibility make changing directions look smooth. And once he cuts off a line of attack, his length and vertical pop make it easy for him to contest shots.
It can also create deflections, a boon for an MU team that looks for any reason to burst into the open floor.
Shaw’s malleability also shows up as an ad hoc rim protector. Sometimes, he wound up as a backline anchor, and while he can’t jostle and bang, he’s quick enough to font the post and dissuade entry passes. His ample wingspan and explosiveness of the floor come in handy rotating toward the weak side, standing sentry at the top of the restricted area, or rotating down.
You’ll also see clips from MU’s tilt against Alabama, where Shaw trails Noah Clowney as he spaces out to a corner. Shaw’s reactive enough to stunt toward a slot gap and tie up a dribbler. And when engaged, he closes out under control and contests a Clowney 3-ball.
Lastly, his length and activity level still create havoc. Even if he doesn’t get a finger on the ball, the pressure he applies generates poor decisions and loose balls.
That said, Shaw’s not flawless. Sometimes, he opens his hips too soon, allowing a driver like Jalen Wilson to get downhill. And even he repels one foray into a gap, shiftier drivers like Alabama’s Jaden Bradley or Tennessee’s Zakai Zeigler wriggled loose.
Now we come to the cleanup work that might require more elbow grease.
Last season, Shaw conceded 1.316 PPP guarding spot-ups, grading out poorly in Synergy’s data. Sift a bit more, and you’ll learn that he allowed 52 percent shoot on spot-up jumpers, most of which were wide-open looks. From an efficiency perspective, those struggles wiped out Shaw’s quality work elsewhere.
Let’s assume Shaw’s off-ball defense was merely adequate. In that case, his overall efficiency would have ranked in the 63rd percentile nationally – and third-best on MU’s roster.
How much culpability rests with Shaw might also be up for debate. MU’s schematic choices exert some influence. The Tigers switched heavily, and some perimeter players were prone to gamble. Meanwhile, lacking size along the frontline meant compensating with aggressive rotations and help.
So, it’s not shocking there were possessions where Shaw might have been out of position, overhelping, and having to cover a ton of ground on closeouts. You’ll see Sean East compensating with an X-out in a couple of clips.
There were also occasional trips where Shaw’s rotation to cut off a driver was a tad slow. Or he might creep up the lane and create a pocket for an opposing big in the short corner.
The differences in these clips from our first batch are narrow, but we’ve tried to select ones that show Shaw being a tad slow in recovering to reversals within the shell. In several of them, his length goes a long way toward making up for the slight delay.
If you can’t tell, we’re trying to strike a balanced tone.
Shaw’s struggles are worth noting. There’s room for improvement. But a freshman hitting some turbulence defensively is not exactly new. We don’t know the scouting reports he was asked to execute, and to some degree evaluating defense is subjective.
We can’t ignore the environmental factors, either. Per Synergy, MU finished the season ranked 341st nationally for allowing spot-up jumpers, while its efficiency (1.009 PPP) checked in at No. 322. The entire team struggled to close down shooters.
The same could be said of defensive rebounding. Does Shaw have room to improve? Indeed. But the program he plays for also ranked dead last in the country at that task.
Typically, the most significant gains in offensive efficiency – and 3-point shooting percentage – occur in a player’s sophomore campaign. At the same time, MU’s front court scaled up this offseason, which might make it less likely that the Tigers overhelp as a principle, lowering the odds Shaw gets caught in a bind.
If those developments play out, Shaw should evolve into a 3-and-D wing that can, depending on the lineup, alternate between the wing and hybrid four spots. An even bigger boon would be Shaw growing as a cutter or assaulting the rim after catching and ripping through.
But again, other contenders are waiting in the wings. We knew Shaw would need time to develop. Yet reality could also be unkind if there are growing pains.