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Kevin Puryear’s rebounding has improved in 2017. His shooting? Not so much.

The sophomore has had a rather confusing second season at Mizzou.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Mizzou’s 2016-17 season isn’t quite over yet, but with only three regular season games to go, not much is going to change statistically at this point. I thought it would be interesting to begin looking at how the Tigers’ returning players have (or haven’t) developed this year.

We’ll start with maybe the most confounding player from this season: Kevin Puryear. The sophomore from Blue Springs led Mizzou with 11.5 points per game as a freshman. He shot 49% on 2-pointers and 84% from the free throw line, and he pitched in 4.6 rebounds per game.

Puryear's strengths and limitations have been obvious from the start. He is 6'7, 243 pounds -- too big to play primarily on the perimeter but smaller than basically every guy he faces on the interior. His athleticism isn't world class, but he has an interesting skill set and, in my mind, could easily serve as a nice, complementary piece on a solid team.

There's no question that his shooting has regressed this year, though. Other aspects of his game are improving, but he’s not putting the ball in the basket as well.

Here’s a look at some key advanced stats from the last two years. (For definitions, check out College Basketball Reference and scroll down to the Advanced portion of the page.)

Kevin Puryear

Stat Category 2015-16 2016-17 Change
Stat Category 2015-16 2016-17 Change
PER Overall 17.1 12.9 -4.2
Off Rtg Overall 104.3 95.5 -8.8
Win Shares/40 Overall 0.102 0.079 -0.023
Box Score +/- Overall -0.8 -0.9 -0.1
Usage Rt Overall 23.3% 21.4% -1.9%
eFG% Shooting 49.0% 44.3% -4.7%
TS% Shooting 56.2% 48.9% -7.3%
2PT% Shooting 49.3% 44.9% -4.4%
3PT% Shooting 31.7% 27.7% -4.0%
FT% Shooting 83.6% 71.9% -11.7%
Off Reb % Other 5.9% 6.4% 0.5%
Def Reb % Other 14.5% 16.3% 1.8%
Assist Rt Other 3.9% 6.0% 2.1%
TO Rt Other 15.8% 15.4% -0.4%
FTA/FGA Shooting 47.3% 36.5% -10.8%
3PA/FGA Shooting 15.9% 17.9% 2.0%

Some quick reactions:

  • The Overall stats have gotten worse, mostly because of shooting.
  • The shooting has gotten worse across the board — 2PT, 3PT, and FT. Still, Puryear has been playing away from his strengths (getting to the line) and toward his weaknesses (3-point shooting). He is getting to the line far less and making a lower percentage of his free throws when he gets there.
  • This development has been magnified in conference play, where he’s made only 42% of his 2s and a full 22% of his FGAs have been 3-pointers.
  • This suggests someone who’s roaming around on the perimeter too much, but at the same time, Puryear’s rebounding figures have improved. They aren’t immensely better, but they’re better. And a higher offensive rebounding rate tends to suggest more trips to the line as well. So these shifts are a bit confusing, especially when you consider that his OR% has remained the same in SEC play.
  • Ball-handling, though not a massive portion of Puryear’s game, has also improved. His assist rate is more than 1.5x better, and his turnovers are less frequent.

It’s pretty easy to assume Missouri will be playing with a new head basketball coach next season, and I’m really curious what the new guy might do with Puryear. He’s always going to be a ‘tweener, someone who shouldn’t be used only as a banger on the inside and someone who can theoretically help the offense by drawing defenders out of the paint.

At the same time, he’s taken too many 3s this year and probably hasn’t spent enough time attacking the rim.

There’s a tough balance here, and Puryear has missed the mark. Still, he’s got two years left and quite a bit to offer.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Tennessee Knoxville News Sentinel-USA TODAY Sports