Charlotte transfer may be NC State’s biggest surprise


NC State was not a very good basketball team a season ago. This is news to essentially no one. The Wolfpack, for the first time during Mark Gottfried’s tenure in Raleigh, posted a losing record (16-17) and missed the NCAA Tournament. The Wolfpack finished with a positive scoring differential (+26), but this was easily their slimmest margin over the last five seasons. According to Ken Pomeroy: in ACC games, NC State finished last in the league in defensive efficiency 113.9 points per 100 possessions, which is light-your-hair-on-fire bad.

A major weakness for the Wolfpack was the lack of a secondary wing scorer. Abdul-Malik Abu was an excellent post finisher, and Maverick Rowan had moments of shooting proficiency, but after Terry Henderson’s season-ending injury, which occurred in their first game, far too much of the offense fell on Cat Barber. “Here’s the ball, please go make something — anything — happen.” Cat would drive and collapse a defense around him, but have no one to kick the ball to who could then attack a defense mid-rotation. Barber was spectacular last season, but this is why he posted a usage rate of 30 percent, which was second in the ACC (average is around 20 percent). That’s asking a lot out of one player.

Barber is now playing for the Philadelphia 76ers on a non-guaranteed contract, which means his job status could fluctuate at any point of the day; Dennis Smith Jr. is now the team’s point guard. Henderson is back from injury, and Torin Dorn — who sat out last season after transferring from Charlotte — is eligible to play this season. Dorn has been in Raleigh for over a year now, so he’s a known commodity at this point, but as a refresher, here’s a look into the redshirt sophomore’s game, and how he could boost State’s perimeter offense.

During his lone season as a 49ers, Dorn was rather productive: 12 points, 50.5 percent shooting from the floor and a true shooting percentage of 57.0. For his efforts, he was named Conference USA Freshman of the Year. While he was at Charlotte, Dorn played in 32 games, making 16 starts. Dorn scored double figure points 22 times, and twice had 22 or more points in a game; his career-high was a 26-point outing on 16 shots against Western Kentucky. According to Ken Pom, Dorn posted an offensive rating of 105.5 points per 100 possessions, which is pretty good.

The 6-5 wing shot 34.2 percent on 3-pointers, and 56.6 percent (No. 277 in the nation, per Ken Pom) on two-point field goals — both of which are good numbers. In 17 of his games, Dorn shot 50 percent or better. His most efficient outing came against the College of Charleston, when Dorn scored 19 points on just nine field goal attempts. This computes to a ridiculous true shooting number of 105.6 percent. Seems efficient, yes?

Dorn isn’t just a standstill shooter, though. He has off-the-bounce juice; he can break a defender down, and get from the arc all the way to the rim. Dorn attempted three free throws per game at Charlotte, and had multiple games with at least nine attempts from the stripe. Like a wrote yesterday, Justin Jackson has never attempted more than eight free throws in a game at North Carolina. That, by the way, is a very promising development for the Wolfpack. Getting to the free throw line is an easy and efficient way to score points.

Dorn spent some time at Charlotte functioning as a nominal small-ball four, which is interesting. While he’s likely to spend most of his time at State on the wing, Gottfried mentioned after practice earlier this month that Dorn could be used at the four in some stretchier lineups. He has the strength to defend bigger players, and in turn create mismatches on the offensive end of the floor. The Wolfpack have generally played with two bigs at the same time under Gottfried, but State could create a formidable offensive if they play three shooters around spread pick-and-rolls with Smith and Abu. There’s no real defense for that, other than rotating as hard as possible, and hoping guys miss good looks.

Gottfried hasn’t yet stated who his starting five will be, but it’s a lock that Abu and Smith will be in there. Omer Yurtseven’s eligibility is still up in the air, but if he gets cleared by the NCAA, then he has a strong chance to push for heavy minutes, too. The Wolfpack have 80 minutes per game to divvy up among their two wing spots. Rowan, Henderson and Dorn should get the vast majority of those minutes, but Shaun Kirk could theoretically compete for playing time, too.

If two or more of these guys emerge as scorers — capable of drilling long balls, driving on bended defenses — then State could really put together a fearsome perimeter trio along with Smith — a projected lottery pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Gottfried could also toy with some dual-point guard lineups, Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin-style, that feature Smith and Markell Johnson. Basically, State has a lot more flexibility at these positions than they did a season ago, when both Barber and Rowan had to play more than 33 minutes per game. Barber averaged 38.7 minutes per game, which led the league.

Dorn couldn’t play last season, but this is his second trip around the sun learning the intricacies of Gottfried’s UCLA high-post offense — so much of which is predicated on rhythm, reads and chemistry. The more comfortable a player is with his teammates in this offense, the better and more advanced their actions can be. Dorn should to use both parts of his skill set in those 1-4 high and low looks: side pick-and-rolls (using his dribble to attack, create looks and angles for teammates), and plenty of pin-downs and staggered screens that will open up catch-and-shoot opportunities.

It will be interesting to see who Gottfried starts at the two and three to begin this season; however, what will be more important going forward will be who the coaching staff starts to trust in crunch time. Dorn has as good of a chance as anyone on the roster as becoming a go-to secondary scorer in high-leverage minutes.