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Clemson’s offense blossoms despite its best player’s perimeter shooting slump

 

Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson’s star senior forward, was viewed by many as a potential conference player of the year candidate heading into the 2016-17 season. Blossomgame has no doubt been very good — he leads Clemson in scoring (16.9 points) while shooting 59 percent on 2-point field goals (an improvement from a year ago); however, one thing is missing from his electrifying junior season: long-range accuracy. If he’s going to get his name make among the candidates for the coveted ACC Player of the Year award, he’ll need to start hitting a few more threes.

Last year, Blossomgame attempted and made more 3-pointers than ever before in his college career: 45-of-102 (44.1 percent) — a major boon for the Tigers, and one of the reasons they posted the most efficient offense of coach Brad Brownell’s tenure. Blossomgame finished fourth in the ACC in scoring (18.7 points), second in player efficiency rating (27.1) and fifth in true shooting (61.3 percent). The 6-7 forward also ended the season on a tear — scoring better than 22 points per game while shooting above 48 percent from deep over his final 13 games.

The long ball, however, has failed Blossomgame, at least up until this point of the season. He’s still shooting more than three per game, which is promising, but thus far Blossomgame is only 3-of-25 (12 percent) on 3-pointers.

It hasn’t slowed down Clemson’s offense, though, which has feasted on mostly marginal competition the last three weeks. Gabe DeVoe, Donte Grantham, Marcquise Reed and Avry Holmes have carried the perimeter shooting load for the Tigers; all four of players are making more than one 3-pointer per game, and shooting better than 37.5 percent from outside the arc.

Thus, Clemson’s offense actually ranks No. 25 in the nation in terms of offensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy, despite their best player existing in a slump from deep. Grantham and DeVoe, especially, have found meaningful supporting roles in the suddenly comfy confines of an electric Tigers offense. Big man Sidy Djitte has been a real revelation as a senior, too. He’s protecting the rim, and cleaning the glass for Clemson — with a block rate of five percent and an offensive rebounding rate of 19.4 percent, which ranks fourth nationally.

Blossomgame has also found other ways to improve his game. He’s turning the ball over at a career low rate (6.6 percent), and his assist numbers have jumped, too. The senior is averaging 2.5 assists per game, a career high, and has registered an assist rate of 13.6 percent, also a career high. It’s only a matter of time before Blossomgame heats up from deep, though, and when that happen, look out — he could be an even more efficient player than a season ago.