Pac-12 Burning Questions: Favorite Newcomer?Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 17th, 2014
It’s been a while since we last did this, so it is now time for another round of Pac-12 Burning Questions, where we ask our panelists all to take a crack at one key question. This time, right to the point:
Of all the new players around the conference, who is your favorite?
Kevin Danna: For me it’s gotta be Utah’s Jakob Poeltl. Maybe it’s from spending too much time around Brian Scalabrine when he was demoted to Santa Cruz last year, but all I want out of a big man is someone who defends the paint, rebounds, and finishes well at the rim. The Amazing Austrian does all three of those things wonderfully, averaging 10.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game while shooting 69 percent from the floor, mostly on shots in the paint. Sure, there’s plenty of other stuff he can work on – starting with his free-throw shooting (44.9%) – but he patrols the paint on defense and doesn’t mess around with the rock when he gets it inside. Dunk, defend and rebound… just like God intended from his big men.
Adam Butler: Gary Payton II. Let me know if it seems I exhaust this narrative, but Oregon State was projected to be the worst major conference team. I’m not talking about pundits, either. We’re talking 10K simulations run by Winn and Hanner. So the fact that Oregon State isn’t in the cellar, is playing impressive ball, and is being led by the spawn of Gary Payton – I’m paying attention. GP2 put up a triple-double this week, which puts him in rare Pac-12 air. His numbers speak for themselves but the important part is that he’s leading a team that was desperate for leadership.
Andrew Murawa: First, I love both of the above answers. But the Danna Man’s point about a big man that defends, rebounds and scores in the paint? I’m fully on board with that. But since he already took Poeltl, I’m gonna take UCLA freshman Kevon Looney. Rebounding? He’s the Pac-12’s second-leading offensive rebounder (behind Poeltl), and nearly as adept on the defensive end. Scoring inside? He’s taking 58 percent of his shots at the rim and converting on 61 percent of those. Defending? He’s blocking 5.8 percent of his opponents’ two-point field goals while he’s on the floor. Now, let’s be clear: All of those numbers pale in comparison to Poeltl’s, and the Utah center has played against better competition. But here’s where Looney has the edge. He’s a holy terror in transition. He’s an athletic freak who can rebound with the big boys, or step out and check the wings. He’s capable of putting the ball on the floor and wreaking havoc, often getting to the line. In short, he’s a jump shot away from being nearly unstoppable; and believe me, that jumpshot is coming.