Tuesday, February 2, 2016

SEC Player Development

This is part 2 of a series. As with the Big 12, the goal of this column is to look at which players are performing above or below what we would expect. I am focusing on players that have played at least 20% of their teams minutes when active.

SEC Freshmen

PPG, Min%, Poss%, ORtg, Player, Team

19.5, 85%, 28%, 118.3, *+Ben Simmons, LSU

17.4, 85%, 25%, 109.3, *+Jamal Murray, Kentucky

13.7, 74%, 22%, 108.3, *+Malik Newman, Mississippi St.

11.9, 63%, 21%, 117.4, *Kevaughn Allen, Florida

11.5, 54%, 23%, 118.5, *Tyler Davis, Texas A&M

11.0, 60%, 23%, 104.7, Kevin Puryear, Missouri

10.8, 62%, 22%, 111.6, *Quinndary Weatherspoon, Mississippi St.

10.3, 80%, 21%, 96.4, *+Isaiah Briscoe, Kentucky

9.8, 70%, 15%, 111.3, *+Antonio Blakeney, LSU

8.7, 56%, 18%, 101.7, Bryce Brown, Auburn

8.0, 65%, 21%, 91.6, Terrence Phillips, Missouri

7.5, 42%, 21%, 107.7, *+Skal Labissiere, Kentucky

7.3, 48%, 27%, 81.4, *+P.J. Dozier, South Carolina

Players marked with a * were consensus Top 100 recruits. Players marked with a + were players we picked as instant impact freshmen at SI.com.

Too many words have already been written about Ben Simmons for me to provide any new insights. Among Kentucky's trio of Top 15 recruits, Jamal Murray has been brilliant, while Skal Labissiere's efficient shooting masks his lack of strength and low rebounding totals. Isaiah Briscoe has been great at getting to the line, but terrible at converting at the charity stripe, which makes for an inefficient player.

Top 10 recruit Malik Newman got off to a slow start due to injury, but he has been performing well. In fact, Mississippi St.'s offense has improved substantially from 255th last season to 58th this season. The problem is the Mississippi St. defense has somehow gotten worse. Defense is supposed to be Ben Howland's specialty, but the lack of quality post players has prevented him from fielding a quality defensive team.

As for the other Top 25 recruits, Antonio Blakeney rarely touches the ball which has kept his turnover numbers down and boosted his efficiency. But since Blakeney rarely touches the ball, it is hard to rate his overall game at this point. And PJ Dozier's size has helped him become effective at feeding the post and creating turnovers, but he is still a little too turnover prone for South Carolina to truly be an elite team.

Sometimes a player's performance is a little bit about opportunity. Missouri's Terrence Phillips has been lucky enough to play for a bad team where minutes were available right away. But that doesn't mean Phillips has been efficient. But do not knock Kevin Puryear. Puryear has been Missouri's most efficient starter and a real bright spot on a struggling team. Puryear was not considered to be an elite prospect by any of the recruiting services.

Because of his injury, Alabama's Dazon Ingram is not listed in the table, but he was playing significant minutes early in the season.

PPG, Min%, Poss%, ORtg, Player, Team

6.9, 43%, 18%, 116.0, Admiral Schofield, Tennessee

6.8, 45%, 18%, 108.1, *D.J. Hogg, Texas A&M

6.7, 48%, 19%, 103.7, *Admon Gilder, Texas A&M

6.2, 46%, 21%, 87.9, *+Jimmy Whitt, Arkansas

5.8, 34%, 23%, 102.4, Chris Silva, South Carolina

5.5, 35%, 22%, 105.4, K.J. Walton, Missouri

5.4, 40%, 18%, 98.1, *Brandon Sampson, LSU

4.3, 42%, 19%, 84.5, *Horace Spencer, Auburn

4.3, 31%, 18%, 112.8, Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey, Mississippi

Admiral Schofield has been a total surprise for Tennessee. None of the scouting services expected anything significant from him. But what is crazy is there have actually been times when the 6'5" Schofield has been used at center by the Volunteers. That makes me wonder if his skill set will really translate when the Volunteers have a better team, but kudos to the freshman for making it work.

We pegged Jimmy Whitt as an instant impact player because Anton Beard's legal situation was not resolved at the start of the season and it wasn't clear when Beard would play. Moreover, Jabirl Durham has always been a little too turnover prone, and Whitt had some ball-handling skills. But players ranked in the 50-100 range like Whitt aren't always ready for a large role right away, and his situation tells a bit about Arkansas' season. Whitt started early, the team struggled, and Arkansas fell out of the Top 100. But when Beard came back, Whitt saw his minutes shrink, and Arkansas is now projected by Kenpom.com to win 10 games in the SEC.

The point of this isn't to knock Whitt. His profile (playing early but making some mistakes) points to the exact type of player you would expect to make a big sophomore leap next season. But the point is to highlight what Florida's Kevaughn Allen has done. (Allen was in the first table.) Allen and Whitt were almost ranked identically by the scouting services, but Allen has become a super-efficient, super effective scorer in his first year. For someone outside the Top 50, that is very impressive.

Texas A&M had a trio of prospects ranked in the 30-50 range where it was very difficult to project how good they would be. As it turned out, the results were across the board. Tyler Davis has been phenomenal, DJ Hogg has been a solid back-of-the-rotation player, and Elijah Thomas struggled with turnovers and free throw shooting before electing to transfer. Admon Gilder, RSCI #85 has also been a solid reserve.

PPG, Min%, Poss%, ORtg, Player, Team

3.8, 40%, 14%, 95.8, Cullen VanLeer, Missouri

3.6, 31%, 21%, 87.0, Derek Ogbeide, Georgia

3.5, 21%, 20%, 107.3, Joe Toye, Vanderbilt

3.5, 28%, 16%, 97.5, Camron Justice, Vanderbilt

3.2, 24%, 19%, 91.3, Shembari Phillips, Tennessee

2.9, 41%, 14%, 79.6, Mike Edwards, Georgia

2.7, 27%, 14%, 105.1, Donta Hall, Alabama

2.3, 28%, 14%, 97.1, *Kevarrius Hayes, Florida

2.2, 30%, 14%, 92.7, *Charles Matthews, Kentucky

2.2, 29%, 16%, 67.8, *+Brandone Francis-Ramirez, Florida

1.6, 24%, 11%, 94.1, E'Torrion Wilridge, Georgia

1.5, 21%, 14%, 67.6, Brandon Austin, Alabama

1.5, 20%, 17%, 78.7, Will Jackson, Georgia

1.4, 26%, 9%, 109.0, Kyle Alexander, Tennessee

1.1, 21%, 15%, 60.5, Aric Holman, Mississippi St.

How many freshmen are playing meaningful minutes? In the Big 12 there were 1.5 freshman per team, in the SEC, the number is 2.6 per team. I really feel like the SEC is in the best shape it has been at in several years. But sometimes, to get better, you have to play young players in the rotation, and that isn't always a painless process. A number of the players in this last group have been flat out ineffective, despite earning minutes at the back of the rotation.

Florida St.'s Xavier Rathan-Mayes was an elite prospect who was ineligible, sat out a year, and debuted at 15 PPG. Florida's Brandon Francis-Ramirez was an elite prospect who was ineligible, sat out a year, and is now scoring 2 PPG.

Francis-Ramirez struggles are even more surprising given that the team was expecting to give him the ball early and often. Florida was a dreadful offensive team last year and an outsider shooter was sorely needed. Unfortunately, Francis-Ramirez shot has broken this year. He had made 1 of his last 23 three point attempts heading into Saturday's game against West Virginia, and had made only 5 of 40 threes on the season. So of course he was 3 of 3 from deep in the Gator's win over the Mountaineers. I have no idea if that turns his season around, but Florida should be thankful that Kevaughn Allen has played so well, because Francis-Ramirez has not.

I am not listing Kentucky's Isaac Humphries in the table, though he was viewed as a Top 100 level recruit. Humphries played major minutes in exactly one game this year.

SEC Jucos

PPG, Min%, Poss%, ORtg, Player, Team

8.9, 71%, 16%, 109.4, Rasheed Brooks, Mississippi

4.9, 31%, 17%, 113.9, Justin Leon, Florida

3.5, 39%, 14%, 102.6, Russell Woods, Missouri

If JUCOs are lottery tickets, no one in the SEC won the Powerball. Mychal Mulder was considered the Top JUCO player joining the SEC this year and he isn't playing for Kentucky. TJ Dunans was probably the next highest rated JUCO recruit, but he got hurt. And Tennessee's Ray Kasongo isn't playing either.

SEC D1 Transfers

PPG, Min%, Poss%, ORtg, Player, Team, LastPPG, LastTeam

18.5, 86%, 28%, 108.2, Kareem Canty, Auburn, 16.3, Marshall

17.0, 65%, 25%, 118.8, Dusty Hannahs, Arkansas, 7.7, Texas Tech

15.3, 72%, 28%, 102.0, Tyler Harris, Auburn, 9.9, Providence

13.0, 68%, 24%, 100.9, Craig Victor, LSU, 3.1, Arizona

10.5, 60%, 23%, 104.3, John Egbunu, Florida, 7.4, South Florida

9.8, 70%, 18%, 103.4, Arthur Edwards, Alabama, 3.9, New Mexico

7.9, 61%, 19%, 97.9, Tomasz Gielo, Mississippi, 12.0, Liberty

5.4, 33%, 24%, 90.0, Sam Finley, Mississippi, 12.5, UC Riverside

4.8, 68%, 12%, 116.4, Anthony Collins, Texas A&M, 7.1, South Florida

4.7, 35%, 19%, 95.6, Nolan Cressler, Vanderbilt, 16.8, Cornell

3.6, 31%, 15%, 104.1, Johnny Zuppardo, Mississippi St., 1.3, Arkansas St.

2.6, 23%, 13%, 111.2, Willy Kouassi, Arkansas, 4.6, Kennesaw St.

The biggest surprise to me is Anthony Collins of Texas A&M. Though he still isn't a major scorer, the fifth year senior has never been efficient before this season. His ORtg has been 99, 97, 88 (injury year), and 96. This year he's achieved unparalleled levels of efficiency by never shooting. His shot percentage of 8% is the lowest of his career. And even adding in assists, his overall usage rate of 12% is also a career low. I honestly did not think Collins could be the PG of an elite team, but Texas A&M is proving me wrong.

Dusty Hannahs, Tyler Harris, Craig Victor, and John Egbunu were all expected to be key players for their new teams, so it is not a surprise they would be playing a lot of minutes. But what is surprising is that all four have become much more aggressive scorers with their new teams, all while maintaining solid levels of efficiency.

Auburn's Kareem Canty has improved his efficiency this season by shooting much better than he did at Marshall. (Auburn has been slightly disappointing this year. Daniel Purifoy's ineligibility and TJ Dunans injury are a part of that, but Canty has more than done his part.)

The only transfer on this list who is trending below expectations is probably Sam Finely of Ole Miss. Finley is a very aggressive player on the floor and at UC Riverside he wasn't very efficient. But with a year of JUCO in between, it seemed plausible he might have found his shot. He hasn't and as a result Andy Kennedy is reluctant to play him.
Finally Playing

PPG, Min%, Poss%, ORtg, Player, Team

6.8, 42%, 17%, 125.9, Derek Willis, Kentucky

6.1, 44%, 19%, 108.4, Marcanvis Hymon, Mississippi

4.5, 26%, 19%, 109.8, Aaron Epps, LSU

3.8, 29%, 20%, 100.3, Josh Henderson, Vanderbilt

3.5, 39%, 19%, 77.8, Keaton Miles, Arkansas

3.2, 42%, 13%, 98.0, Trey Thompson, Arkansas

2.8, 24%, 19%, 84.6, Elbert Robinson III, LSU

2.7, 46%, 12%, 84.3, Houston Kessler, Georgia

I didn't do the above table in the Big 12 column, but I probably should have. There are a handful of returning players that have played so few minutes last season, that we should probably view their presence in the rotation as a debut.
Because of the one-and-done nature of the program, Kentucky fans get to cheer for fewer players who develop over the course of their career. But Derek Willis is the classic player who has worked hard and is finally earning playing time.
Elbert Robinson was a former Top 100 recruit, and while big men sometimes develop later, he is clearly still behind the curve.

Josh Henderson played more minutes in 2013 (his first full season) then he has in the next three seasons combined. That is a weird statistical profile.

Returning Players

As noted in the Big 12 column, when interpreting changes in scoring, we should consider the difference in defenses faced and the differences in pace year to year. While South Carolina has played a much easier slate of defenses relative to the full year last year, Vanderbilt's schedule is almost on par with last year. Thus we should discount any improvements in ORtg for South Carolina players slightly.

ChDef, Team, ChRawPace

3.5, South Carolina, 7.7

2.7, Missouri, 5.4

2.3, Alabama, 4.3

2.3, Mississippi, 2.9

2.2, Kentucky, 5.9

1.9, Georgia, 3.6

1.6, Auburn, 5.2

1.4, Texas A&M, 5.9

1.4, Arkansas, 1.9

1.3, Florida, 7.5

1.1, Mississippi St., 6.2

0.9, LSU, 4.0

0.9, Tennessee, 11.9

0.8, Vanderbilt, 6.6

Similarly, even the  team with the biggest drop in pace in the SEC (Arkansas) is currently tracking about two more possessions per game than they did over the full season last year. (Games slow down later in the year.) So when we compare this year's PPG numbers to last year's numbers, keep that in mind.

Here are the players with the largest changes in PPG this year, with the current PPG on the far right:

ChPPG, ChMin, ChPoss, ChORtg, Player, Team, Class, CurrentPPG

12.8, 45%, 6%, 15.4, +Moses Kingsley, Arkansas, Jr, 16.5

12.7, 9%, 8%, 14.1, Kevin Punter, Tennessee, Sr, 23.0

10.8, 29%, 9%, 13.7, +Yante Maten, Georgia, So, 15.8

10.4, 30%, 8%, 2.8, Tyler Ulis, Kentucky, So, 16.1

9.4, 35%, 7%, 5.5, +Retin Obasohan, Alabama, Sr, 15.6

8.5, 25%, 2%, 11.9, Anthlon Bell, Arkansas, Sr, 16.4

7.0, 7%, 7%, 6.0, J.J. Frazier, Georgia, Jr, 16.5

7.0, 11%, 3%, 3.0, Stefan Moody, Mississippi, Sr, 23.6

6.8, 17%, 3%, 17.0, Michael Carrera, South Carolina, Sr, 14.0

5.7, 3%, 3%, 20.6, Gavin Ware, Mississippi St., Sr, 15.7

5.5, 23%, 5%, 37.3, Tonny Trocha-Morelos, Texas A&M, So, 7.0

5.1, 3%, 5%, -5.1, Sebastian Saiz, Mississippi, Jr, 12.8

5.0, 17%, 1%, 17.7, Detrick Mostella, Tennessee, So, 8.3

4.9, 0%, 7%, -6.5, Wade Baldwin IV, Vanderbilt, So, 14.3

4.6, 4%, 3%, 0.5, +Robert Hubbs III, Tennessee, Jr, 11.8

Players we projected as breakout scorers at SI.com are marked with a +. We projected eight SEC players in this category. Three of our breakout players (Kingsley, Maten, and Obasohan) have clearly delivered. I'll discuss the failures below.

First, Robert Hubbs is scoring at a higher clip, but much of that jump in scoring is pace-related. After averaging 61 possessions per game last year, Tennessee is up to 73 possessions per game this year. Hubbs isn't really any more efficient. You can say Hubbs is shooting a little more, but his is probably the least impressive jump from 7.2 PPG to 11.8 PPG that you are going to find.

Kevin Punter on the other hand really has gotten better. Yante Maten has seen the largest jump in usage rate in the SEC, but Punter is a close second. To use 8% more possessions and see your efficiency jump substantially is amazing. And Punter has improved in every area. He has a higher assist rate, lower turnover rate, and better shooting percentage in FTs, twos, and threes.

Tyler Ulis has seen his usage rate increase substantially too. Ken Pomeroy always used to show these graphs about how players rarely shoot more. I think he used it to argue that Patric Young was likely to stay a role player for Florida. But here is the thing, when a player goes from being the 5th or 6th best player on his team to the first or second best, the coach is going to draw up a lot more plays to get him the ball. Ulis driving the basketball is now a much more important option for Kentucky and he has delivered.

It was fair to ask before the season if Tony Trocha-Morelos was even going to play. Texas A&M had a great recruiting class coming in, and after he made just 30% of his two point attempts last season, he seemed like the odd man out. But Trocha-Morelos has had the biggest jump in efficiency in the SEC. And he did that while raising his usage rate as well. He still isn't a star, but he is no longer an offensive liability for the Aggies.

ChPPG, ChMin, ChPoss, ChORtg, Player, Team, Class, CurrentPPG

4.6, 21%, 0%, 2.1, Mindaugas Kacinas, South Carolina, Sr, 10.6

4.4, 43%, 3%, 13.9, Jabril Durham, Arkansas, Sr, 6.2

4.4, 23%, 3%, -0.5, Marcus Lee, Kentucky, Jr, 7.0

4.3, 36%, -1%, 13.5, Anthony Perez-Cortesia, Mississippi, Sr, 7.0

4.3, 36%, -1%, -8.3, Devon Baulkman, Tennessee, Sr, 9.0

4.1, 17%, -1%, 24.3, Jeff Roberson, Vanderbilt, So, 8.8

4.0, 15%, 0%, 10.9, +Alex Poythress, Kentucky, Sr, 9.9

3.6, 29%, -1%, 36.1, T.J. Lang, Auburn, So, 6.1

3.2, 16%, 4%, 11.5, Manuale Watkins, Arkansas, Jr, 5.8

3.1, 2%, 5%, 13.7, Chris Chiozza, Florida, So, 7.0

3.1, -12%, 2%, 3.8, Jalen Jones, Texas A&M, Sr, 16.8

3.1, 16%, -1%, -7.8, Shannon Hale, Alabama, Jr, 11.3

3.1, 12%, 1%, 10.5, Riley Norris, Alabama, So, 7.8

3.0, 19%, 3%, 5.1, +Justin Coleman, Alabama, So, 7.3

The quickest way to a big jump in efficiency is usually outside shooting. Auburn's TJ Lang raised his three point percentage from 34% to 44% and saw a big efficiency rise. He still rarely shoots so he is still not a major scorer, but that was the second biggest jump in efficiency in the SEC this year. The third biggest jump belong to Vanderbilt's Jeff Roberson. Roberson's jump in efficiency is largely due to a decrease in turnover rate.

But jumps in efficiency for role players are usually less interesting. That is why the jump in efficiency for Buddy Hield was so phenomenal. He is shooting much better and he is no role player. Probably the best the SEC can say about a major scorer upping his efficiency is Gavin Ware upping his shooting percentage from 50% to 62% this season which led to that 21 point jump in efficiency in the previous table.

Justin Coleman was the #72 recruit in 2015. We pegged him as a breakout candidate this year because he almost certainly had to shoot better than the 27% he shot on twos and 23% on threes that he shot as a freshman. His free throw percentage suggested he could work hard and become a good shooter. But that has not happened. The best thing you can say is Coleman has raised his percentage on twos to 39%, but that isn't good enough. (Coleman seems stuck on Kasey Hill’s trajectory and that isn’t necessarily a good thing.)

I am showing the numbers for Kentucky's Alex Poythress and DeVon Walker (below) relative to two years ago as both players missed most of last season due to injury. Poythress hasn't been a total disappointment, but with Labissierre struggling, he hasn't taken advantage and become the dominant low-post option Kentucky needs. 

ChPPG, ChMin, ChPoss, ChORtg, Player, Team, Class, CurrentPPG

2.7, 6%, -2%, 20.3, Devin Robinson, Florida, So, 9.1

2.3, -16%, 2%, -0.6, Anton Beard, Arkansas, So, 7.9

2.0, 15%, 0%, 8.0, I.J. Ready, Mississippi St., Jr, 10.2

1.9, 16%, 2%, -1.6, +Namon Wright, Missouri, So, 8.7

1.8, 5%, -3%, 18.2, Matthew Fisher-Davis, Vanderbilt, So, 9.1

1.8, 0%, 2%, 2.7, Kenny Gaines, Georgia, Sr, 13.5

1.7, 17%, -3%, 7.8, Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida, Sr, 14.8

1.6, -3%, 2%, 6.5, Laimonas Chatkevicius, South Carolina, Sr, 10.2

1.5, 3%, 1%, 1.6, Tramaine Isabell, Missouri, So, 5.6

1.3, -1%, 0%, -6.5, Armani Moore, Tennessee, Sr, 11.7

1.3, 16%, 0%, -3.3, Craig Sword, Mississippi St., Sr, 12.7

1.3, 33%, 1%, -0.9, Kenny Paul Geno, Georgia, Jr, 2.9

1.2, 1%, 0%, 12.7, Ryan Rosburg, Missouri, Sr, 4.5

1.1, -16%, 4%, -2.2, Kasey Hill, Florida, Jr, 8.3

1.1, 7%, 2%, 2.4, Danuel House, Texas A&M, Sr, 15.9

0.8, 8%, 0%, -9.1, Martavious Newby, Mississippi, Sr, 4.8

0.7, 1%, -2%, 9.1, Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina, Jr, 11.9

0.4, -14%, 2%, 8.1, Tim Quarterman, LSU, Jr, 11.9

0.2, 3%, -6%, 19.9, Travis Daniels, Mississippi St., Sr, 6.3

0.1, -5%, 2%, -15.0, Luke Kornet, Vanderbilt, Jr, 8.8

0.1, 9%, 1%, 4.4, Wes Clark, Missouri, Jr, 10.1

I realize that Vanderbilt's Luke Kornet has had a knee injury this season and that probably accounts for some of his loss of efficiency. But the truth is, Kornet's hot three point shooting last year is starting to look like a fluke. He shot 24% from deep as a freshman, 41% last season, and is now shooting 23% this season. Even when Vanderbilt was winning early in the year before Kornet had to miss a few games, he started the year 0-13 from deep.

ChPPG, ChMin, ChPoss, ChORtg, Player, Team, Class, CurrentPPG

-0.2, 13%, 0%, -7.5, +Jakeenan Gant, Missouri, So, 4.7

-0.2, 0%, 1%, -17.7, DeVon Walker, Florida, Jr, 2.2

-0.2, -5%, 1%, -11.2, Jimmie Taylor, Alabama, Jr, 5.4

-0.3, 6%, 0%, -14.1, Tavario Miller, Texas A&M, Jr, 2.4

-0.3, -13%, -2%, 14.4, Duane Notice, South Carolina, Jr, 11.4

-0.5, -36%, -1%, 8.6, Keith Hornsby, LSU, Sr, 12.9

-0.7, -16%, 0%, 7.9, Josh Gray, LSU, Sr, 6.5

-0.7, -3%, -2%, -0.6, Charles Mann, Georgia, Sr, 10.5

-0.8, -9%, 1%, -0.6, Damian Jones, Vanderbilt, Jr, 13.6

-0.8, -8%, -4%, 22.6, Jordon Granger, Auburn, Sr, 4.1

-1.1, -23%, 2%, -6.4, D'Angelo Allen, Missouri, So, 2.2

-1.3, -10%, -3%, 11.7, Alex Caruso, Texas A&M, Sr, 7.8

-1.4, -6%, -4%, -2.1, Cinmeon Bowers, Auburn, Sr, 10.7

-1.5, -13%, -1%, -11.4, Jalyn Patterson, LSU, So, 5.3

-1.6, -7%, -6%, 18.3, Michael Kessens, Alabama, Jr, 4.3

-1.8, -5%, -7%, -0.5, Marcus Stroman, South Carolina, So, 2.5

-1.9, -6%, -1%, -12.2, Justin McKie, South Carolina, Jr, 1.3

-3.0, -13%, -6%, 8.4, Derek Reese, Tennessee, Sr, 3.0

-3.5, -9%, -2%, -14.1, Riley LaChance, Vanderbilt, So, 8.8

-4.4, -6%, -9%, 1.5, Fred Thomas, Mississippi St., Sr, 4.7

Riley LaChance's decline is one reason that Vanderbilt is trending below expectations on the season.

Missouri has lost a lot of talent in recent years, but the team was not devoid of elite recruits. Namon Wright and Jakeenan Gant were top 100 recruits heading into their sophomore campaign. With good effort, the coaching staff would certainly consider using them more. Instead, both have gotten lost and the Missouri offense is broken. Both Gant and Wright have seen their shooting percentages plummet since last season and Missouri is now definitively the worst team in the SEC.

The tables do not show Auburn's Tahj Shamsid-Deen or Florida's Alex Murphy who have barely played due to injuries. Tennessee's Jabari McGhee and Mississippi St.'s Fallou Ndiaye and Demetrius Houston have also transferred or been kicked off their respective teams.