Yesterday we discussed P.J. Thompson, who quietly had one of the best statistical seasons for Purdue in 2015-16 and he enters next year primed to make the team his own by seizing the reins of the offense. Today we move on to one of his classmates who has already played a large role in two years, but he will play an even larger role going forward.
9.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.8 bpg
Haas is one of the most efficient players in America. As Matt Painter said during the Big Ten Tournament, if he played Isaac 25-30 minutes per night he would be an all-Big Ten selection. As it was, his minutes actually dropped from 14.6 to 14.3 per game (and that is skewed with a handful of games where A.J. Hammons did not play) but his scoring increased from 7.6 to 9.8.
And that is Haas' biggest asset. He is a very large 7'2" man that stands close to the basket and we can give him the ball there. Once he has it, it is incredibly difficult to stop him from scoring. He led Purdue in field goal percentage at 59.4% and his 342 points was fourth on the team.
Those numbers will only go up next season as Hammons will be gone. We're going to see Haas on the floor probably 25 minutes per night (Hammons was on 24.6 minutes per game) as long as he can avoid foul trouble, and that means a huge increase in scoring. Averaging 15-16 points per game is not outside the realm of possibility, especially if he becomes more assertive and starts attacking the basket as opposed to fading away. Already his offensive game is so solid that if you get him the ball within 4 feet of the basket his sheer length means you can put the two points on the boards and start going back the other way. His free throw percentage of 71.4% is also much improved, and that is critical since he was second on the team in attempts with 126 (one behind Hammons).
Haas has scored an even 600 points in his career and it is in play that he reaches 1,000 by the end of the 2016-17 season. I am not worried at all about him offensively. He physically cannot be stopped within four feet of the basket and he is good enough to convert at the free throw line when officials actually call fouls. I say actually call fouls because officials have tended to swallow their whistles as Haas basically gets assaulted.
Where we need Haas to make improvement is on the defensive end. He can fill in for Hammons' offensive production without missing a beat. He is nowhere nearly as good of a defensive player or a rebounder. This season Haas' rebounding dropped from 4.1 to 3.7 per game. The guy is a very poor rebounder for as big as he is, and that must improve. He is also not the shot blocker Hammons was. As I mentioned on the podcast last night, Haas needs to get his hands up and protect the rim. He is the definition of hand down/man down defensively, as he does not have the quickness to get his hands up and block shots. He constantly leaves them down, letting shoot over him. This also contributes to his poor rebounding numbers.
Overall though, we're losing an NBA caliber center and replacing him with an experienced guy who is even bigger and possibly more unstoppable than Hammons. It is never a bad thing to return a guy who scores 60% of the time he shoots the ball, and defensively I know he can get better. If he becomes even half the defender Hammons was we will be fine.