What’s behind the dip in Thomas Bryant’s efficiency?

  • 01/17/2017 10:51 am in

One of our offseason storylines posts back in July focused on the efficiency of Thomas Bryant as a freshman. Coming into the season, Bryant was the most efficient post player returning in the Big Ten.

Our hypothesis prior to the season was that Bryant would be able maintain his efficiency and overcome the losses of Yogi Ferrell, Max Bielfeldt, Nick Zeisloft and Troy Williams. Why? Because the Hoosiers would again have a talented stable of players to surround him with.

Here’s what we wrote in late July:

As Bryant enters his sophomore season, the challenge for Crean and his staff will be to figure out a way to utilize him more without experiencing too much of a dip in efficiency.

The Hoosiers lost plenty in terms of perimeter firepower with Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams, Nick Zeisloft and Max Bielfeldt all moving on, but the remaining mix of talent should allow Bryant to continue operating with space in the post.

One of the keys in both Zeller’s 2012-2013 season and Bryant’s 2015-2016 was Indiana’s ability to surround each player with an efficient four-man. In Zeller’s case, it was Christian Watford, who splashed in 48.4 percent of his 3s as a senior.

And with Bryant last season, it was often Troy Williams, a great slasher and finisher who could also knock down the occasional 3 despite some erratic decision making. And even when the Hoosiers went to the bench, there was Collin Hartman, OG Anunoby and Juwan Morgan, all of whom could keep opposing defenses honest.

This year’s Indiana team returns Hartman, Anunoby and Morgan and also adds De’Ron Davis, who has a reliable mid-range game that makes him less likely to clog the paint if he plays alongside Bryant.

Provided the Hoosiers don’t fall off too much with their perimeter shooting, a more mature Bryant should take another step forward and solidify himself as the Big Ten’s best post player as a sophomore.

Eighteen games into the season, Bryant’s efficiency numbers have taken a dip from his exceptional freshman campaign. After shooting 70.7 percent on 2s last season, he’s down to 54.1 percent this season.

Unlike the Cody Zeller-Christian Watford tandem in 2012-2013 and last season’s stable at the four which included a mix of Williams, Bielfeldt, OG Anunoby and Juwan Morgan, Indiana is getting poor perimeter shooting from the four position.

Anunoby is hitting just 31.8 percent of his 3s and Morgan is hitting just 23.5 percent. De’Ron Davis, who has played alongside Bryant at times, hasn’t attempted a 3-pointer. And Hartman is out indefinitely (and likely for the season) with a knee injury.

But this doesn’t tell the entire story.

According to Synergy Sports, Bryant is actually handling double teams in the post more effectively this season than he did as a freshman. Last season, Bryant scored just .84 points per possession (25 possessions all season) on hard double teams in the post. This season, he’s at 1.04 points per possession (23 possessions). So the pressure is coming more often and Bryant is handling it fine.

And when the pressure comes and Bryant is forced to look out of the post, there hasn’t been a huge dip in efficiency, either. Indiana is scoring 1.19 points per possession when Bryant catches the ball in the post and is then forced to get it back out to a teammate. That’s down from 1.41 last season, but still ranks in the 62nd percentile nationally.

So what’s the issue?

Bryant’s overall post-up numbers have taken a major dip, which says he’s finishing far less effectively. The charts below, via Synergy, show Bryant’s numbers by possession type (six most common) for 2015-16 and 2016-17:

There are a few notable takeaways here: Bryant is posting up less and is less efficient scoring in those situations. He’s getting less action off of cuts and is less efficient in those situations (the lack of a playmaking point guard is surely a factor here). And his usage in spot up situations is up with some solid results.

But the post up drop off is the story here.

A deeper dive into the numbers shows that Bryant is posting up more often on the left block this season than he did a season ago. And the results haven’t been good:

Bryant’s efficiency on the right block is nearly identical to last season. The large drop off is on the left block, where he’s scoring 20 percent less of the time on his opportunities. He’s also flashing to the middle far less and when he does, has been less efficient.

Indiana’s potential in 2016-17 was largely predicated on Bryant maintaining his efficiency and finding a suitable replacement for Ferrell. Neither has happened consistently and, combined with a suspect defense, the Hoosiers are 12-6 and facing an uphill battle the rest of the way.

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  • John D Murphy

    I was just tooling around the ESPN stats page. all 4 of our bigs do well in blocks. TB actually has the most pg and p40. JBJ and RJ both shoot +60% from 2 and both are high volume 3pt shooters ranked in the top 14 (conference) by pct. Confirming what is wrong in my mind. Our bigs cannot score, no one can hang onto the ball, and JN just doesn’t need to be on the court.

  • ForeverIU

    Maybe I prefer IULore because his posts are generally short (though insulting), and are thus easier to ignore. You also feel sorry for him, because he sounds pouty and injured all the time. Not so with Jameson. I switched my whiskey because of him. No, just kidding, never liked Jameson, the whiskey. LOL.

  • vicbert caladipo

    hahahahahahahaha…Social media and whiskey are great combinations

  • ForeverIU

    Only smart people end up in DC, LOL. Thanks for a brilliant post.

  • John D Murphy

    For the love of all that is candy striped, put a shoulder into the defenders chest and then upwards to the chin. If they don’t get at least one offensive foul a game they don’t get to shoot their precious 3’s in practice for a week.

  • John D Murphy

    Not many, but it usually looks good. My college son was watching with me over break and said “both your centers are better passers than your guards”. He wasn’t wrong.

  • John D Murphy

    I think the story of this year is TC not coaching the team he has but the team he dreamed of them being. At the end of last year, we were a tough, defensive minded team. He let that defense rot before he tried to tend it.

  • John D Murphy

    I watched Zach Randolph torch my Jazz a week or so ago. He has a similar size and body type to TB. Zebo went to work on Rudy Gobert and Derek Favors who are both high level NBA shot-blockers. It wasn’t even fair what Zebo did to them. It is called technique and it requires practice. Not guard practice (which is what we run at IU), but low post practice.

  • vicbert caladipo

    Go younger and still in college and a guy we should have landed. CALEB SWANIGAN

  • unclekerfuffle

    That and pointing this way or that way as he crossed the 10-second line. A buddy of mine always call Joe the “point” guard.

    I should say I liked how Joe played as an upperclassman.

  • John D Murphy

    It still counts as a shot and his percent from 2 is 57% per the iu site. He also likely to be fouled (4th highest rate on team) where he shoots 83% from the stripe. He’s accounted for 12.5% of our turnovers while accounting for 20.6% of our points. JBJ’s offense is one of the few things NOT wrong with this team.

  • John D Murphy

    No doubt. That guy may have saved Painter’s job.

  • vicbert caladipo

    Good point cuz I thought if we are tired of CTC then Peeyoo fans have to really be tired of Painter. I wish I knew why Swanny didn’t choose us but he did just like Gary Harris and chose MSU then backed out to go to the land of stink and pink. What was he thinking. If he chose us, he’d have one bigten championship and maybe a banner this year.

  • DcHoosier

    I’m no genius but if you watch college basketball enough, you tend to observe patterns of programs that are consistent and inconsistent. I liked your observations.

  • John D Murphy

    Or TC would have him soft around the rim and shooting 3s

  • Old_Time_Hoosier

    Mark, who do we have that you trust to make a correct entry pass to our bigs? Hint; it ain’t who Crean is starting.

  • Old_Time_Hoosier

    I’m with you there! How about 5 cupcakes, 5 decent teams, and 3 good teams. By decent I mean middle of the pack from major conferences or top third teams from mid major. Think Depaul, Western Kentucky, Seton Hall, Wichita St. You get my drift.

  • HoosierStuckInKY

    I agree that TB looks small but I think part of that has to do with his age (he’s actually younger than Davis). There’s not a lot of talented ‘beefy’ centers in the NBA nowadays. Lean and athletic is trending. Today’s centers are more likely to jump over Bryant rather than move him out of the way lol

  • calbert40 – AC000000

    I have no problem with the “position-less” offense. As we’ve seen for years, it works. We are always among the top teams in the nation in offensive efficiency. That said, if there is one position where I believe it helps and is preferable to have a dedicated player for that position, it is the point.

    I don’t think our PGs are bad this year. I just think they aren’t great. Newkirk would be a great backup. Green may be really good eventually, but right now, he’s a backup.

  • Conrad Schlegel

    TB has NO viable post moves. He simply just throw up junk runners or pounds the ball into the ground 20 times before he crouches down to than get blocked by smaller and weaker defenders. Think about the IPFW game where their big man blocked TB to often. Imagine if TB had the post moves that Max Bielfeltd had.