Providence Offense is Too Reliant on Kyron Cartwright

Posted by Justin Kundrat on February 21st, 2018

As mentioned in Rush the Court‘s season preview on Providence, the key question for Ed Cooley‘s group was whether it could break into the Big East’s upper echelon. The optimistic stance was that a senior-laden group coming off of three consecutive NCAA Tournaments with one of the best point guards in the nation in Kyron Cartwright was bound to turn the corner and take up residence in the Top 25. And yet the Friars, plagued by inconsistency this season, have fallen short. With a 17-10 (8-6 Big East) record heading into tonight’s game against Seton Hall, a fourth straight trip to the Dance seems likely despite a sputtering offense that has frustrated everyone associated with the program. The search for an offensive solution extends in a number of different directions, but it ultimately stops with the play of the Providence seniors. A look under the hood — especially at Cartwright’s offensive production — reveals a team that struggles to effectively score against quality competition. The senior’s shooting figures, in particular, are at a career-high mark, but his performance against top 50 opponents drops considerably.

The above table compares the difference in Cartwright’s KenPom Offensive Rating, effective field goal percentage, and assist rate against top 50 opponents versus the entire regular season. In other words, his junior year Offensive Rating was two percent better in top 50 match-ups (104.9) than throughout the full season (102.6). Player performance should naturally decline against better competition, but Cartwright performed slightly better against those outfits during his junior season. The troubling trend here, however, is the noticeable drop-off that his offensive efficiency has suffered this year against good competition — a 17 percent drop in Offensive Rating, six percent drop in effective field goal percentage and a nominal drop in assist rate. Because of its league-best defense, Providence doesn’t need 20 points per game from Cartwright to be successful, but it desperately needs additional sources of efficient scoring in those key top 50 match-ups.

Adding to Providence’s offensive woes, senior forward Rodney Bullock has not fully developed into the imposing stretch four that Cooley desired. With sufficient athleticism to finish around the rim and a shooting stroke that is good enough to keep defenses honest, it was expected that he would assume an alpha dog role in the scoring department. And yet, while Bullock is not facing the same problem as Cartwright against elite competition, his offensive performance has marginally slumped this season — from 15.7 PPG last season to 14.3 PPG. The fact of the matter is that Bullock remains an inconsistent player. His scoring comes in spurts and often supplements an already-clicking Friars’ offense, but he has yet to show that he can consistently generate offense on his own. In lineups where Bullock plays and Cartwright sits, Providence is generating a paltry 0.95 points per possession, compared with a much stronger 1.09 PPP on the season, per HoopLens. Compounding all of this is a declining usage rate for the senior, per barttorvik.com:

The last piece of the puzzle is senior wing Jalen Lindsey, who fits the mold of a prototypical “3 and D” guy. He is a stout wing defender who is connecting on 44 percent of his shots from beyond the arc, but in a year when the offense needs an extra dose of shot generation, Lindsey has not risen to the occasion — 86 percent of his made baskets this year have been of the catch-and-shoot variety.

Combining the above components into the Providence offense has resulted in a roller coaster of a season, where on one night the Friars are bad enough to stumble at home to DePaul and then, on another night, good enough to topple Villanova. The fact of the matter is that the Friars rely too heavily on Cartwright to generate shots. While 76 percent of his own baskets are unassisted, his assist rate of 39 percent ranks ninth nationally. This results in situations when the offense produces 12 fewer points per 100 possessions when its senior leader is on the bench, the largest such differential on the team. If Cartwright cannot score efficiently against top-tier competition and his teammates rely on his ball movement for their own scoring chances, these up-and-down performances will continue. It’s certainly a scary recipe for success come tournament time.

Justin Kundrat (142 Posts)

Villanova grad, patiently waiting another 10 years for season tickets. Follow Justin on twitter @JustinKundrat or email him at justin.kundrat@gmail.com


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