ACC Team Preview: Clemson TigersPosted by KCarpenter on October 30th, 2013
Last season, Clemson went 5-13 in the ACC and 13-17 overall on the way to a first round ACC Tournament exit to Florida State. This season, Clemson will try to do the same thing while losing program cornerstones Devin Booker and Milton Jennings. While Booker was a steady if unspectacular presence and Jennings a maddeningly inconsistent riddle, both were senior veterans who held down the Clemson frontcourt. This didn’t translate to many wins last year, but the Seminoles’ strong interior defense did show up in the numbers: Clemson was third in the conference in opponent two-point percentage (45.3%) and block percentage (12.6%). It’s a slim silver lining, but it was a small comfort last season. This season? There are lots of clouds on the horizon. A team that failed to do much of anything else effectively has its last strength taken away from it. What’s left for the Tigers?
K.J. McDaniels is a still-underrated swingman with offensive and defensive savvy. His ability to block shots is freakish. At 6’6”, he had the second highest block percentage in the conference (8.32%), surpassed only by the 6’10” Julian Gamble. His shooting remains unspectacular, but he had the second highest offensive efficiency on the team while taking the greatest proportion of shots. He might not be a perfect-world first choice on offense, but he is capable of handling the role while also playing stout defense.
Beyond McDaniels, however, the Clemson frontcourt has few proven options. Sophomores Landry Nnoko and Josh Smith averaged 6.6 and 5.6 minutes per game, respectively, and in that limited time didn’t do much to earn themselves more run. Though Nnoko has some intriguing potential on the glass (12.8% offensive rebounding!), his super-small sample size can’t be overstated. The newcomers to the team offer a little depth and some promise, but it’s unclear whether they are ready to contribute immediately. Jaron Blossomgame was touted as a guy with a lot of potential before injuries derailed his Clemson debut. If he is healthy he might make a big difference for the Tigers. Likewise, junior college transfer Ibrahim Djambo and freshman Sidy Mohamed Djitte. Djitte, in particular, may be a big help to Clemson down the road, but early reports suggests that he is still very raw. As he develops, however, he will provide a strong cornerstone for the Tigers for years to come.
In the backcourt, the Tigers have a few proven options. Of course, with the mediocrity of Clemson’s backcourt last year, this is something of a mixed blessing. Rod Hall isn’t a true point guard, but he’s the closest thing the team has to one. He is a capable assist-man with good ball control, but he has little to no long-range game. Last season he attempted nine three-pointers and made only two. By contrast, Jordan Roper, an undersized shooting guard in the tradition of Andre Young, is a capable three-point shooter who nailed over 40% of his attempts, yet managed to make only 35.8% of his shots from inside the arc. Adonis Filer, Damarcus Harrison, and Devin Coleman (returning from injury) offer more balanced skill sets, but in this case, that mostly means that none of the three have shown that they are particularly good at anything. The freshman Austin Ajukwa is an intriguing prospect at shooting guard with good size (6’5”) but with the log jam at guard, it would probably take some sort of injury for him to see regular playing time.
The season looks rough for Clemson. Coach Brad Brownell’s teams have consistently played strong, solid defense, but this is the first year that Brownell will have to accomplish this feat without Devin Booker. A team that often struggled to score last season doesn’t seem to have particularly gained any potent new weapons. This year’s Tigers fit the profile of a classic lunch pail, grind-it-out team. Without any stars, the squad is going to have to rely on disciplined team defense and an opportunistic scoring-by-committee approach. Outside of McDaniels’ feats of athleticism, this team is going to be involved in a lot of really slow, ugly games. Some teams manage to latch onto this style and make it their identity — to turn this approach into something powerful. Truthfully, though, Clemson will be lucky to match its win total from last season. This is a rebuilding year and expectations should probably be low.