Earlier this week, our good friend Whitey Reid over at the Daily Progress issued a "mid-season report card" for this year's Wahoo squad, assigning a grade to each player. Professor Whitey's article spurred some debate, as anything involving grades is prone to do at Virginia. And, just like any college course you or I took, two particular issues came to the surface:
1) How harshly do we grade? An A at Harvard (where an A- is the median grade) or North Carolina (where 4th to 8th grade is the median athlete's reading level) should be interpreted differently than an A at a serious academic institution. Similarly, the grading distribution of your upper-level math class may not look the same as that of the first-year ENWR (English) course next door. I'll try to split the difference, but I recognize that there may be some inflation at work.
2) How do we treat improvement over the course of the semester? Just like most professors will probably consider a student who finished strong for a higher grade, I'll do the same, while still recognizing that the months of November and December did happen, regardless of how much we'd like to believe otherwise.
Note that where this process differs from the above extended analogy is that these grades also reflect expectations. (For example, we are holding returning all-ACC senior Joe Harris to a higher standard than freshman London Perrantes).
Note that all stats are current as of Wednesday, 2/5. They do not include the win over BC.
With all of this year's depth, Anderson has found a place for himself in a sixth man role. He's a defensive stopper and an energy player on both sides of the ball. He hasn't been the kind of impact player that we expect him to be yet, but has done a nice job finding the balance of playing within the flow of the offense, while still taking the time to do Justin Anderson things.
Strengths: High-flying blocks off fast breaks, getting to the rim through contact (second to Anthony Gill with 4.5 fouls drawn per 40 minutes)
Room for improvement: Make three-pointers or stop shooting so many (30% on the season). Turnovers (3 TOs in each of three of the last five games).
It wasn't going to be possible for all four big-men to be in the team's regular rotation, and Atkins has been the odd man out. When he does get to the rim, his 62% FG% is second to only Anthony Gill. However, he hasn't developed the kind of offensive game to do so consistently. A full 45% of his shot attempts are jumpers, and he is making those at a 19% clip.
Strengths: Defense, where Tony Bennett constantly praises his activity. Has the best chance to attempt to fill Akil's shoes next season.
Room for improvement: Development of some more interior moves to get to the basket more regularly.
Malcom has quickly developed from question-mark to all-ACC candidate. His game-winning three at Pittsburgh capped the coming-out party that was the first half of his conference season. Brogdon used the offseason to really diversify his offensive game, where he is breaking down the defense with regularity and making 48% of his threes during conference play (compared to 32% his freshman year, and 36% during the out-of-conference).
Strengths: Game-winning shots, three-point shooting. An underrated defender.
Room for improvement: Ball-handling - that PG experiment was a failure, and he still needs to work on dribbling the ball in front, rather than out to the side. He is occasionally slow to contest threes (or leaves his hands down).
While he hasn't been the Mike Scott replacement we've all hoped for, Gill has shown flashes of the developed offensive game he is capable of. He just isn't there yet. Gill is actually the team leader in eFG%, while also drawing the most fouls. (He actually leads in FG% at the rim, FG% on 2-pt jumpers, and FTA/FGA) These are signs that could emerge as the team's go-to guy in a year or two when he gets some more opportunities.
Strengths: Getting to the FT line, mid-range jump shooting.
Room for improvement: FT shooting - there's no sense in shooting so many free throws if you are going to make under 60% of them! Defense, where he is still a bit lost
How can you improve on a season where you were arguably the conference's most valuable player? Well, you pretty much can't, and the increase of weapons around him means Harris's "per-game" stats won't touch last season's. But Harris is playing even more efficiently than last year. His 3-pt shooting is static (42.5% to 42.2%), but his 2 point shooting improved from 50.2% to 52.2%, and he's taking more shots from behind the arc (exactly half, compared to 44% last year).
The real change that happened from last year to this year is that he plays fewer minutes (81% of min. last season to 67% this year), and shoots less when he is in the game (28% of shots last season, 24% now). With the weapons around him, is that really so unexpected? The guy's a leader and a great defender too.
I may have been a bit generous in this grade...but Joe Harris doesn't have to be the volume scorer on this team, and his recognition of that has really helped the squad. I'm not going to fault him for that.
Strengths: Good looks, everything.
Room for improvement: FT shooting - he's improved from his early season #swoon, but still has to knock these down with more consistency.
Whitey gave Teven an "Incomplete," and it's tough to disagree. Teven hasn't done anything wrong, it's just that London Perrantes has done so much right. Stats aren't too useful here, since he has mainly hoisted shots in garbage time, playing 10+ minutes just once in ACC play (and twice prior). He plays hard, he cheers his team on, and has embraced his diminished role as well as we can hope. You never know when we'll need him to contribute more!
After last year's third-team all-ACC season, Akil Mitchell's offensive production has dropped off a cliff, as his role has evolved from "go-to guy" to that of a role player. He hasn't had the room to operate around the basket that he did before, and his suddenly incompetent free-throw shooting has hurt his aggressiveness as well. Offensively, Akil gets a C.
However, Mitchell's defensive and rebounding have been incredibly valuable to the team. We're going to miss his ability to hedge a screen to half-court, then teleport immediately underneath the hoop next season. Akil often plays alongside 7-foot Mike Tobey and grabs twice as many offensive rebounds. He is a force around the basket. His defense gets an A+
Strengths: On-ball defense, defensive rebounding.
Room for improvement: Akil has lost his ability to shoot FTs, and occasionally to finish layups too. It'd be nice if he were able to do the easy things again down the stretch.
After Taylor Barnette's transfer, Evan Nolte has basically taken on his role as three-point specialist, taking 81% of his shots from behind the arc. He's made a good but not great 35% (Barnette was at 43%), and I'll grade him on that, even if it's not completely fair
Strengths: Three-point shooting.
Room for improvement: Nolte's a pure catch-and-shoot guy, but could get some more playing time if he could develop a "second move." He's shown the capacity, but hasn't had the chance to do anything consistently.
In early November, the Hoos had no clue who would play point guard this season. Well, we got our man. Perrantes is the perfect player to run this offense; an assist machine who takes care of the ball. Virginia is 3rd in the ACC in TO% during conference play, turning the ball over on 14.4% of possessions. That number was above 20% for the non-conference, and I am pinning much of the improvement on London. His ability to run the point has also allowed Brogdon to slide over to the 2, where he has excelled.
It'd be nice if London would start converting the rare opportunities when he does take shots (29% of 2s, 31% of 3s), but that part of his game should come down the road. It's holding him back from an A+ season.
Strengths: Taking care of the ball, seeing into the future to see when his teammates may be open.
Room for improvement: Shooting. Defense (which is solid, but unspectacular, especially following the big shoes of Jontel Evans)
I know Tobey's going to put everything together in the next year or two, as most big men need time to develop, but he's been a bit of a disappointment to me. He is the highest usage player on the team, but has been unimpressive offensively. He has made 46% of his 2s (including 51% at the rim), which is worse than Mitchell's maligned 50% mark, and far too low for somebody who shoots so much. The Notre Dame game, in which he made 7 of 10 from the field, was a bright spot; in fact, he's shown many bright spots. He's going to be a great player. But he just can't seem to put it all together consistently.
I'm going to grade him harshly, because I know he could be better. He'll get there, but it hasn't happened yet.
Strengths: Offensive rebounding (inflated by his own misses, but 14th in the nation in OR%), offensive capabilities.
Room for improvement: Defensive rebounding. Tobey has gone 2 ACC games with ZERO defensive boards. He's 7 feet tall. How does that happen! His "motor" seems to shut off far too often on both sides of the ball.
I love Tony Bennett. So I want to give him an A+++++. Unfortunately, you can't just give your students A's because you love them. (I don't think. Maybe you can).
The OOC season was almost a disaster. It proves that Tony Bennett isn't completely all-knowing, because it took him a while to figure out how to put everything together. But he did put everything together, and this team is humming through conference play as well as any of us could have wished. So that proves he is still a genius. I'll dock him a bit for the slow start, but he should still be the ACC Coach of the Year, hands down.
But PLEASE, Tony, PLEASE consider taking the two-for-one when it's there. PLEASE.
Comparing my grades with Whitey's, I was harsher on Tobey and Bennett, and nicer on Atkins, Brogdon, Gill, Harris, Mitchell, Nolte, and Perrantes. We agreed on Anderson, and I gave Teven Jones a grade for some reason. I guess I am a bit of a pushover. My grades are also decently close to this report card from Embrace the Pace.
What say you guys - how'd I do? What would you have graded differently?