Ken Pomeroy (formerly of kenpom.com) has an article up at Basketball Prospectus sizing up the top candidates for the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, which apparently (this is all news to me) is given each year to the nation’s top senior player who’s 6’0″ or shorter. Drew Neitzel is #2 on his list, behind only Sean Singletary of Virginia.
Mr. Pomeroy describes Mr. Neitzel’s candidacy thusly:
2. Drew Neitzel, Michigan State. Neitzel is shooting less and making more early on in his senior season. So far that hasn’t hurt the Spartan offense; they’ve broken a point per possession in each of their five games, and with the exception of the UCLA game, easily in every one. Much of Neitzel’s discretion can be traced to the lack of it by freshman guard Chris Allen, who by current estimates has taken an unfathomable 44% of his team’s shots while on the floor. (Last season, McCalebb’s 39.9% figure in this category was the second-highest in the country.) As Allen gets reigned in against better competition, Neitzel’s involvement in the offense will increase, though probably not returning to last season’s level. In 2007, he took more than 30% of his team’s shots, making 54.8% in eFG terms and averaging 18 points per game. He’ll probably need those kinds of numbers to topple the early favorite.
The guys over at the RCMB picked up on the Allen stat and discussed it for a bit. I thought I’d go ahead and run the %-of-shots-while-on-the-floor, along with effective field goal %, for everyone–or, more precisely, everyone who’s played at least 20 minutes. Keep in mind that the average of this stat is 20% (100% divided by the five players on the floor at any moment) and that it’s an estimate (based on minutes played).
% of Shots EFG% Chris Allen 44.0% 43.2% Raymar Morgan 28.8% 63.0% Drew Neitzel 24.4% 58.9% Durrell Summers 18.8% 71.1% Goran Suton 18.7% 48.5% Kalin Lucas 17.5% 30.0% Marquise Gray 13.7% 81.3% Drew Naymick 10.4% 66.7% Travis Walton 7.2% 55.6% Idong Ibok 6.9% 50.0%
So Allen is shooting a lot more frequently than his teammates, while not scoring all that efficiently. A couple possible defenses of his liberal use of shooting opportunities:
(1) He was recruited because he’s supposed to a true scorer. Izzo has no doubt told him to shoot when he has the opportunity to do so. From what I’ve seen, it just looks like he hasn’t found his rhythm and has forced a few shots to try to get things going. My only real concern is that he’s the kind of scorer who can’t find his rhythm in only 15 minutes/game, which is what he’s likely to see this year barring injuries.
(2) It’s possible he’s seeing more minutes with Walton and the back-up big men on the floor and fewer minutes with Neitzel and Morgan on the floor, in which case he probably does need to shoot more.
Neither of those defenses justifies taking nearly half of the shots when he’s on the floor, though. And that number will certainly go down over time.
As for the rest of the list, it doesn’t look too far out of whack. The next three guys on the list–Morgan, Neitzel, and Summers–are all scoring efficiently.
Gray and Naymick are scoring efficiently but not taking many shots. Both are fairly limited scorers (although I do recall Naymick hitting a couple nice jumpshots vs. UCLA), so their scoring is going to be mainly a function of other players creating opportunities for them.
The two players I’d like to see move toward each other on this list are Lucas and Walton. Lucas needs to force fewer shots and let the game come to him a bit more. Allen’s effective FG% of 43.2% is actually pretty good next to Allen’s 30.0%.
And Walton needs to not pass up shots. He’s only taking 7.2% of the shots while he’s on the floor, despite an effective FG% of 55.6%. Walton is not a scorer by nature, but he’s also not a bad shooter. He has sound shooting form, as evidenced by his 77.8 free-throw percentage last season. His main asset will be his lock-down defensive abilities, but for MSU’s offense to hit on all cylinders he needs to play with confidence on the offensive end, too.