Occasionally this season, we’ll take a brief spin around the conference and take a look at some players, teams and trends that have caught our eye over the course of recent games.
Jordan Bachynski – Let’s get right to what he does really well: blocking shots. The 7’2” junior is currently second in the nation with 53 blocked shots this season and he’s currently swatting roughly 18% of all of his opponents’ two-pointers. Before you explain away all of those blocked shots with his height, understand that there are more than a couple of seven-footers around the nation with no such luck. Washington’s Aziz N’Diaye, for example, is a seven-footer, with inarguably more athleticism than Bachynski, and he’s only blocking about 4% of opponents’ two-pointers. No, Bachynski has plenty of the tools that make a great shot-blocker, aside from just the obvious physical traits: He’s got great timing, keeps plenty of space between offensive players and himself, and, when he recognizes a shot, closes quickly. Sure, the majority of his early swats are against smaller players from lesser conferences (against Arkansas, Creighton and DePaul, the three most talented teams ASU has played, he’s blocked just six combined shots; he’s blocked at least six in five other games), but he’ll likely still lead the Pac-12 in swats in conference play. Even better news for the Sun Devils is that they are regularly gaining possession of the ball after Bachynski’s blocked shots; per ASU, only six of his 53 blocks have gone out of bounds and 32 times the Sun Devils have been able to secure the ball after the block. Normally, a prolific shot-blocker gets himself out of position on the defensive glass by going after the swats, but Bachynski has done a good job of not only blocking shots but recovering in time to grab better than 21% of all defensive rebound opportunities, although that number, too, has dipped against quality competition and will dip again come conference play.
Offensively, he’s still a work in progress, but he is continually improving. He’s got a solid jump hook around the rim, he runs the floor pretty well in transition, and he does a halfway decent job of getting on the offensive glass, especially for a team that doesn’t spend a lot of energy trying to rebound on that end. His biggest problem offensively, and one that is likely to persist, is the fact that he’s a little soft. Against Sacramento State, there was one sequence where he was rejected not once, but twice, by a smaller guy inside the semi-circle. Now, I’m not sure who that Sac State player was who made that play, but looking up and down their roster, I don’t see a guy who is within a half-foot in height of Bachynski. That’s a relatively unforgivable sin. The other issue he is continuing to have is his free throw shooting. Last year he finished the season well from the line, hitting better than 70% in the last 10 games. This year, his free throw shooting has dropped back down under 60%. It’s still an improvement over the 55% he shot over the course of last year (and that was including that 70% run down the stretch), but his struggles there allow opponents to be physical with him and risk sending him to the line. All told, Bachynski has made great strides over his career and is still going to be an effective player for the Sun Devils in conference play, but don’t expect triple-doubles once the level of competition spikes.