File under: “Bonus snow day statistical analysis.”
With Michigan State’s start to this season failing to live up to preseason expectations, some observers are asking whether Kalin Lucas is partly to blame. With the graduation of Drew Neitzel, Lucas has become the team’s clear offensive leader. He’s struggled to shoot the ball early in the season, leading to concerns he hasn’t adapted well to that role.
Let’s step back and see what the stats have to say about Lucas’ offensive performance to date:
2007-08 2008-09 Change Mins/G 25.1 29.6 4.5 Pts/G 10.3 11.0 0.7 Ast/G 3.8 6.8 3.0 Off Rat 103.4 111.8 8.4 2pt% 44.5 34.8 (9.7) 3pt% 36.4 26.3 (10.1) FT Rt 29.7 48.2 18.5 FT% 76.8 75.6 (1.2) PPWS 1.07 0.90 (0.17) %Shots 25.8 23.4 (2.4) Ast Rt 30.0 36.1 6.1 TO Rt 19.8 8.1 (11.7)
The stats confirm what he already knew: Lucas is struggling with his perimeter shot. Both his 2-point and 3-point shooting percentages are down by about 10 points. Lucas has made a 3-pointer in only 4 of MSU’s first 9 games, and he’s converted mid-range floaters off the dribble much less frequently than he did last season–particularly at the end of last season, when he became the clear go-to option with the clock running down.
With regard to 3-point shooting, I think you can only chalk the decline up to a plain-old shooting slump and hope he emerges from it sooner, rather than later. He has made 3 of his last 6 attempts from 3-point range, so maybe that’s in the process of happening.
Two-point shooting will be a tougher problem to overcome. Neitzel is gone, putting even more pressure on Lucas to manufacture baskets when the shot clock is running down. And, earlier in the shot clock, MSU has numerous options to score: Morgan, Allen, Summers, Roe, and now Suton. So a high percentage of Lucas’ 2-point attempts are likely to be difficult shots. (Note that, despite Neitzel’s departure, Lucas is taking a slightly lower % of the team’s shots when he’s on the floor when than he did last year.) He showed a remarkable propensity to convert those kinds of shots last season, but his 2-point percentage may not get much above 40% this year.
Now to the positives:
- Lucas is getting to the free throw line more often, which is helping to keep his points-per-weighted-shot figure within shouting distance of 1.00, despite the abysmal shooting stats from the floor.
- He’s racking up assists at a very high level.
- He’s cut his turnover rate by roughly 60%. (Note: The individual TO% figures posted by Kenpom account for how often a player touches the ball can be interpreted on the same scale as team TO%. 8.1% is phenomenal.) Lucas has turned the ball over more than once in only one of MSU’s 9 games (3 against Wichita State).
Lucas is doing the primary thing a point guard is expected to do–distribute the ball to scorers without turning the ball over–extremely well. And he’s using his quickness and strength to get to the free throw line more often. The net impact of Lucas’ negatives and positives this season is that his offensive rating is actually higher than it was last season.
There’s no doubt, though, that his field goal shooting numbers have to improve significantly if MSU is to contend for the Big Ten title (and if a certain blogger’s single preseason prediction is to pan out). Raymar Morgan gets most of the attention from the national media as MSU’s star player. But, ultimately, Lucas is the guy who makes this team go–both in transition and in the half-court game.