It’s the college basketball offseason, which is the perfect time to kick the can on some ideas/thoughts for next season. However, in lieu of generic hot take bloviation, we will keep things slightly more mild, more reasoned. Drawing inspiration from one of our regional delicacies — a hot sauce from Winston-Salem — welcome to a new ACC Analytics page segment: Texas Pete Takes!
The (Bow)Man of Campus
One of the ACC’s most exciting players over the last two seasons, Ky Bowman, decided to return to Boston College for his junior season. Bowman flirted with the NBA Draft, but ultimately, chose to return to Chestnut Hill.
This, of course, was significant news. BC had just celebrated its best season under Jim Christian, but with Jerome Robinson taking his silky-smooth game to the NBA, sustaining that success was in jeopardy. Robinson will be near-impossible to replace; he was just that good in 2017-18.
However, with Bowman back, along with an interesting cast of characters — Jordan Chatman, Steffon Mitchell and Nik Popovic — and a solid two-man recruiting haul, there’s plenty of hope for the Eagles. For that to happen, though, Bowman has to freak out — in the best way possible.
This brings me to my point: Ky Bowman will lead the ACC in scoring and usage rate in 2018-19.
Last season in the ACC, 21 players averaged 14 or more points per game (minimum 20 games) — led by Duke’s Marvin Bagley (21 points). Of that group, only nine return. All nine of those players posted usage rates north of 20 percent, too, per Sports Reference — bookended by Temple Gibbs (20.9 percent) and Tyus Battle (28.1 percent).
|Ky Bowman||Boston College||17.6||25.6%||0.91|
|Luke Maye||North Carolin||16.9||25.0%||0.98|
|Temple Gibbs||Notre Dame||15.3||20.9%||1.01|
|Justin Robinson||Virginia Tech||14.0||24.0%||0.98|
As the fulcrum of Syracuse’s milquetoast offense, Battle ranked third in the ACC in usage rate and tops in minutes — with 39 per game. According to Synergy Sports, Battle used 758 possessions in 2017-18; in terms of raw numbers, that too was far and away the highest number.
Frank Howard (Battle’s teammate), Jerome Robinson, Ky Bowman and Joel Berry rounded out the top five in that category.
The Other Names
Battle will put up silly numbers, once again; however, it’s hard to imagine him reproducing the same volume as a junior. He will play big minutes, but (hopefully) not as many as last season, and he will still have to split touches with Howard and Osahe Brissett, too. Unless he drastically jumps in efficiency, it feels like he’s maxing out.
Temple Gibbs is a super intriguing option for this hypothetical as well. With Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson on the way out in South Bend, Gibbs will be the central figure in Notre Dame’s motion attack. Under Mike Brey, the Irish know how to feature a player, too. Colson posted a usage rate north of 30 percent, in 21 games last season: 19.7 points, 27.6 FGA per 100 possessions.
It’s easy to visualize a world where Gibbs — the lone returning player to score in double-digits and have a usage rate above 20 percent — takes off. Although without the gravity of Colson and playmaking of Farrell, Gibbs will be asked to do a lot more in terms of shot creation. It seems like a safe bet that he usage rate will climb closer to 25 percent in 2018-19, but a dip in efficiency is on the horizon. This is a big offseason for him, too.
(An advantage for Bowman and Gibbs: they both love to chuck it from deep. For his career, over 40 percent of Bowman’s field goal attempts have been three-pointers; that number is 46 percent for Gibbs.)
Clemson’s Marquise Reed is another of the ACC’s dynamic perimeter scorers; he can create his own shot and work pick-and-roll (0.88 points per possession, 50 eFG%). Even with the departure of Gabe DeVoe, I still like Bowman’s chances of going bonkers more than Reed.
How about the rookies?
It’s well-documented: Marvin Bagley got his fair share of touches on the court during his one-year campaign at Duke. Bagley led the league in scoring, and finished seventh in usage rate (26.3 percent); despite missing four games, the southpaw still used more possessions (604, nearly 20 percent of Duke’s total possessions) than anyone else on Duke’s roster, per Synergy. (Grayson Allen was second with 568.)
Another impressive class of freshmen will descend upon the ACC before next season. It could certainly happen again: another rookie could lead the league in scoring.
Duke brings in the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, which includes the top two forward prospects in America: Cameron Reddish and Zion Williamson. Of course, the one to watch here is R.J. Barrett, the top overall prospect in the class that will be getting ready for the NBA Draft this time next year. Barrett is a wing, therefore different from Bagley, but he maybe the offense will flow through him in a similar manner, in terms of volume.
Eight miles south in Chapel Hill, another likely one-and-done stud Nassir Little is ready to stake his claim for the throne, too. However, in an offense surrounded by veteran bucket-getters — like Maye, Kenny Williams and Cameron Johnson — it seems like UNC would take a more egalitarian approach to offense.
One more intriguing rookie possibility: Wake Forest’s Jaylen Hoard. The highest-rated incoming ACC freshman not going to Duke or UNC, Hoard joins a program that just lost its top three scorers from 2017-18. In terms of usage rate on the roster: Bryant Crawford, Keyshawn Woods and Doral Moore ranked first, second and fourth, respectively.
In fact, Crawford ranked second in the entire league in usage: 28.7 percent. Basically, Hoard will have his opportunities to shine offensively.
The pieces around Ky Bowman: Why they fit
Back to the topic of this piece, though: I like how the pieces of Boston College’s roster fit around Ky Bowman.
Perhaps watching too much Charlotte Hornets basketball has warped my brain (it has), but the Hornets build their offense around the screen-roll game of one pick-and-roll maestro: All-Star guard Kemba Walker. The Eagles could try to replicate that, to some extent.
According to Synergy, nearly 25 percent of Boston College’s possessions last season were of the spot-up variety — the team’s most used possession type. That’s a good number. In terms of pick-and-roll efficiency, the Eagles ranked No. 61 nationally (No. 2 in the ACC): 0.86 points per possession (48 eFG%).
Led by Robinson and Bowman, 12 percent of BC’s possessions were used by a pick-and-roll ball handler, per Synergy. In terms of frequency, that ranked just ninth in the ACC, though. I’d be willing to bet with Bowman — and likely no other ball-dominant guard — that number jumps this season. With it, so too will Bowman’s usage and scoring.
Sans Robinson, defenses will be able to load up to some extent on Bowman; however, Boston College has counters, and pieces to utilize around the red-dipped dynamo.
For instance, teams may look to trap Bowman off ball screens, but veteran sniper Jordan Chatman can function as a remedy. Chatman is a floor-spacer, one of the most dangerous three-point shooters in America. He shot just under 40 percent from deep — on 10 attempts per 100 possessions.
According to Synergy, Chatman shot 42.1 percent and scored 1.16 points per possession (59 eFG%) on spot-up possessions last season. Amongst players with at least 150 possessions, this ranked 27th in Division I and No. 2 in the ACC. Simply put: it’s tough to trap a great ball-handler when they’re surrounded by elite shooting; help off Chatman at your own risk.
Boston College also has a trio of young bigs that can work into the screen-roll game. I wouldn’t expect Nik Popovic, Steffon Mitchell or Johncarlos Reyes to become elite rim-runners; however, if they set and hold good screens, they can help free up Bowman.
For whatever it’s worth, Reyes and Mitchell both shot 60 percent — in a limited sample — as roll men last season. Popovic was more active, but less efficient: 0.83 points per possession (42.4 FG%).
According to Adrian Atkinson, Popvic had 27 dunks last season — a top-15 number in the ACC. Reyes and Mitchell combined for 12 more. All three of those numbers should increase, too.
(Amazingly: Ky Bowman recorded 14 dunks, which is a lot for 6-foot-1 guard.)