Georgetown in Bad Shape Without Joshua SmithPosted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on January 22nd, 2014
Back in December, I wrote how Joshua Smith’s inability to play full starter minutes is an opportunity cost to Georgetown. Now a month later, John Thompson III and the rest of his staff are just wishing they could get those partial minutes back from their big man. The junior center has missed the last five games due to academic issues, which has — in addition to the indefinite loss of Jabril Trawick (broken jaw) — caused the Hoyas to go 1-4 in Big East play including Monday night’s 80-72 overtime loss to Marquette. Without Smith available, Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera are the only viable scoring options for the Hoyas and teams have adjusted by clamping down on both players. To their credit, each has stepped up his efforts by scoring more than half of the team’s points in nearly full-time minutes during this five-game stretch. But it is this over-reliance that has caused Georgetown to give up leads at the end of games and why the Hoyas find themselves in their current troublesome state.
First, let’s look at the impact Smith’s absence has had on the Hoyas. Basketball numbers man Dan Hanner has an article at realgm.com where he splits the advanced metrics of team performance for Georgetown both with and without Smith. (note: these numbers do not take into account Georgetown’s game against Marquette). The numbers are staggering. The team’s Pythagorean Winning Percentage went from 0.899 with Smith to 0.435 without him — in other words, given a middle-of-the-road schedule, the Hoyas with Smith in the lineup would win around 90 percent of their games, while the same schedule played without Smith would win only 44 percent of their games. In my previous post examining Smith’s impact, I believed his contribution was more significant on offense rather than defense. What Hanner’s analysis shows is that the Hoyas have felt the sting of his loss on both ends of the court. Without him, the offense scores 11.4 fewer points per 100 possessions and the defense allows 10.5 more points per 100 possessions. As a result, the Hoyas face a structural deficit where they are allowing 2.3 points per 100 possessions more than they are scoring. Before Smith’s benching, this difference was an offensive advantage of 19.6 points per 100 possessions (a 21.9-point swing). What Hanner’s analysis shows is that the loss of Smith has had a much bigger impact on the outcomes of the Hoyas than I previously thought it would.
During Smith’s absence, Starks and Smith-Rivera are averaging approximately seven more shots while simultaneously receiving more attention from defenses. During the last five games, Smith-Rivera has managed to keep his field goal percentage fairly steady (48 percent), but Starks has seen his shooting decline eight points to 35 percent. But the most visible evidence of Smith’s absence has been the duo’s diminished performances when they are reaching 40 minutes played at the end of games. Against Xavier and Seton Hall, Georgetown had a lead or was tied with fewer than 10 minutes left when its offense stalled. This played itself out against Marquette earlier this week when the Hoyas held a seven-point lead with 3:43 remaining in the game. As usual, the Georgetown players looked to Starks or Smith-Rivera to put the game away, but the Golden Eagles blanketed the exhausted pair defensively. At one point, Mikael Hopkins gave up an open look to return the ball to Starks, a play which ended in a blocked shot as he tried to drive to the basket with the shot clock dwindling. Marquette managed enough defensive stops to come all the way back and send the game to overtime, and once in the extra period, a spent Georgetown was outscored 15-7.
There seems to be no easy remedy for Georgetown’s problems this season until Smith returns from his suspension, and then the question may be whether it’s too little too late. Without him in the lineup, things could go from bad to worse because the Hoyas’ next three opponents are Creighton, Villanova, and Michigan State. With no reprieve anywhere in sight, Georgetown’s NCAA Tournament hopes are quickly diminishing.