Three Pac-12 Returnees Who Should Expand Their Games This Season

Posted by Adam Butler on October 26th, 2018

Former UCLA guard Jordan Adams had a fantastic freshman season. You may recall that as a pup in 2012-13 he recorded a 115.0 offensive rating, efficiently posting 15 points per game. A year later, he expanded on that scoring skill set, improving his efficiency five points (120.0 ORtg) and scoring output (17.0 PPG). He also moved his game closer to the rim, taking nearly twice as many shots there as he did during his freshman campaign. Following this change in his offensive philosophy, Adams became an NBA first round draft pick. I’ve long found this fascinating as the whole of basketball seems to be moving to the edges. Particularly as we consider the college game and its general propensity to force longer-range shots (zone defenses; lesser skilled talent; individually impactful bigs). Furthermore, Adams is an intriguing starting point as college players often make their most significant leaps from their freshman to sophomore years.

Jaylen Nowell is Poised to Break Out(USA Today Images)

So who in this year’s Pac might resemble a modern-day Jordan Adams? The answer may reside with players that took the lion’s share of their attempts (not specifically as a freshman) in the mid-range. Here are the Pac’s top-10 returning mid-range shooters (by % of their total shots coming neither at the rim or beyond the arc):

Player Team FGA % shots 2pt J FG% 2pt Jumpers
Jaylen Nowell Washington 450 53.8% 38.4%
Roman Davis California 53 49.1% 19.2%
Dallas Walton Colorado 152 45.4% 30.4%
Brandon Randolph Arizona 107 42.1% 40.0%
Ira Lee Arizona 52 40.4% 33.3%
Remy Martin Arizona State 236 39.0% 40.2%
Noah Dickerson Washington 313 38.3% 40.0%
Emmanuel Akot Arizona 54 37.0% 25.0%
Tyler Bey Colorado 145 36.6% 39.6%
Gligorije Rakocevic Oregon State 57 35.1% 60.0%

A list offering plenty to digest, but the most intriguing players appear to be Washington’s Jaylen Nowell, Arizona’s Brandon Randolph and Arizona State’s Remy Martin. I note these three as they’re all sophomores (continuing our Adams narrative) and poised to make a big leap in year two. Their mid-range prowess suggests scoring ability with room (positioning) to grow. Nowell clearly took the most mid-range shots among this lot, but he also has enough size to bully his way to the rim. As a more seasoned guard (read: sophomore), he should accompany that rim-focused energy with an increase in free throws. Both Nowell and Randolph had free throw rates below 27 percent, suggesting an element of their mid-range volume stemmed from a lack of aggressiveness. As their seasons and games progress, watch for Nowell and Randolph to take fewer mid-range shots and increase their rim and free throw attempts.

Conversely, Martin would seem to have a three-point opportunity. Filling the shoes of Shannon Evans and Tra Holder in the Sun Devils’ lineup with an emphasis on athletic wings, Martin should expand his game out of the mid-range and beyond the arc. As a 37 percent three-point shooter (and “just” 57 percent at the rim) means Bobby Hurley should emphasize his shooting and ability to space for the athletes around him. Having already asserted his shooting acumen, the conference should fear an increase in his three-point volume.

Adam Butler (47 Posts)

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