Coming into this season, we thought MSU might have finally beaten the turnover bug. They had ended the 2007-08 season by posting sub-20% turnover percentages in nine of their final 11 games.
To date, though, turnovers continue to be the team’s weak point on offense this season. Their turnover percentage of 21.0% ranks 163rd in the nation, dragging their offensive efficiency down to a ranking of 83rd nationally. They haven’t had a turnover blow-up of Iowa-on-the-road-in-2008 proportions, but they did put up a fairly ugly 25.3% TO% in the loss to North Carolina.
We’ve talked before about how hard it is to diagnose turnover problems using statistics. One fairly straightforward method is to look at which players are responsible for the turnovers statistically. This isn’t perfect, since multiple players can actually be at fault for a given turnover, but it provides a rough sense of where the problems are.
Below are the turnover rates and minutes-played percentages for Spartan players getting significant PT for both last season and this season. These are the old Wonk-style turnover percentages–turnovers per 100 possession on the floor–not the Kenpom version, which accounts for how involved a player is in the team’s offense. (The Kenpom individual stats aren’t up yet.) Players are sorted by their current-season turnover rates, highest to lowest.
In retrospect, we might have expected MSU to struggle with turnovers following the graduation of Drew Neitzel, who put up a sub-3.0 turnover percentage last season despite handling the ball as much as any MSU player. Drew Naymick also played turnover-free ball, although that’s to some extent a function of the fact he was rarely an integral part of the offense.
Offsetting Neitzel’s departure has been Kalin Lucas’ stellar ball-handling efficiency to date. He’s reduced his TO% from 5.1% to 2.1% despite being the primary ball-handler every possession he’s on the floor. His back-up, Korie Lucious, on the other hand, has struggled with turnovers in his limited minutes.
Looking at the front court, this is another area where Goran Suton’s injury has hurt. Despite Suton’s reputation for making bone-headed plays with the ball, he actually turns the ball over at a low rate (3.9% last season) relative to other big men who handle the ball frequently. Three of the players who have played more minutes due to his absence–Idong Ibok, Durrell Summers, and Marquise Gray–are all players who turn the ball over at a 5.0%+ rate. (Gray has at least reduced his TO rate from last year, even as he’s been more involved in the offense this season.) Draymond Green has been the exception among the frontcourt players filling in for Suton, as he’s turnover it over only 2 times in 75 minutes.
The other frontcourt player who’s turned it over with frequency is Delvon Roe. This seems to largely be a case of Roe trying to make moves on offense he’s not really ready to make as he recovers from the knee surgeries. And he’s probably been asked to handle the ball in the paint more than he would be if Suton were on the court.
So, like our overall hopes, improvement in this team’s propensity to hold on to the ball may hinge on (1) getting Suton back and (2) Roe continuing to get healthier. Korie Lucious settling down and playing within the structure of the offense is a third key.
Final note: While there’ve been fewer traveling issues for Raymar Morgan this season, his turnover rate has only gone down a smidge. It seems like offensive fouls have been the bigger problem this season. We may have to accept that Morgan’s offensive game is going to cost the team a few possessions per game. The key is for Morgan to make up for those possessions by scoring efficiently on a more consistent basis when his offensive moves don’t end in a turnover.
What say the rest of you? Have any particular types of turnovers stood out to you so far this season? My own intuition is that the team is making fewer brain-lock turnovers this season; more of them seem to be coming on plays in which the players are at least attacking the basket.