It's summertime, and for most college students the living is easy. However, for college basketball players this is their chance to hone existing skills and develop new skills. Over the next few weeks I'm going to take a look at the returning Boilermakers, and the former Coach Schneider is going to give them summer school assignments, so they are prepared to take the Big10 by storm next season.
First up is Caleb Swanigan, probably one of the more controversial players on the Purdue roster. Purdue's first Mr. Indiana Basketball, 5*, McDonald's All-American, top 20 recruit since Glenn Robinson, received mix reviews for his freshman campaign, mostly because expectations were ridiculously high for a guy that graduated high school a year early.
Let me get this out of the way right now. There were a few readers during the Swannigan draft watch that said Purdue would be better off if Biggie declared for the draft. That was some of the dumbest shit I've read on a Purdue message board. Losing a rebounding demon who never takes a possession off, and is just scratching the surface of his offensive potential after spending his first ever full season not playing center, is never a positive. Yes, he turned the ball over way too much; and yes, he did take some ill advised shots; but again, he was a freshman who skipped a year of high school. I'm going to guess if you put 99.99% of high school seniors in the Big10 they would have significantly more struggles than Biggie. The only hope I have is that the readers who were wishing him gone were just breaking up with him before he broke up with them, because it was looking like Biggie was going to stay in the draft until the last moment. Now with that out of the way, let's get onto Biggie's assignments.
First, it's important to mention what Biggie does well, before we talk about areas he needs to improve.
Last season, Biggie was an elite rebounder, not just for a freshman, but for any classification of player. His totals and advanced rebounding statistics were incredible:
Total Defensive Rebounds - 228 - 1st in the Big10
Total Rebounds - 282 - 2nd in the Big10
Total Rebounds Per Game - 8.3 - 1st in the Big10
Densive Rebound Percentage - 27.3 - 1st in the Big10
Total Rebound Percentage - 18.1 - 3rd in the Big10
When you look at these stats, keep in mind Biggie spent a good bit of his time on the court with A.J. Hammons and Vince Edwards, both of whom are excellent rebounders in their own right. Also keep in mind that without A.J., Purdue is going to need help on the boards, because Issac Haas is a surprisingly mediocre rebounding center. I look for Biggie to improve his rebounding stats significantly next season, simply because A.J. won't be gobbling up rebounds.
Summer School Assignements:
3 point shooting:
21/79 - 29%
Biggie's 3 poing shot was streaky last season. His shooting against Butler (3/4) kept Purdue in the game, his shooting in the first Maryland game (0/5) helped shoot Purdue out of the game. Caleb's overall 3 point shooting performance wasn't that much different than Vince Edwards' his freshman year. Vince was 29/89 from beyond the arc in his inaugural campaign, for 32% (and yet cries that Vince shot too many 3's and should just stop were never made.) Biggie spent most of his high school career on the low block, bullying his opponents into submission. Basically shooting 30% as a freshman isn't terrible, and points to his ability to hit the shot.
Why he needs to improve:
Caleb is going to play the 4 for both Purdue (most of the time) and in the NBA. The days of 4's just playing defense and rebounding are a thing of the past. If Caleb wants to make his mark in the NBA, he's going to need to consistently hit the open 3. If Caleb and Isaac Haas are going to play significant minutes together, Biggie is going to need to consistently hit outside shots, because there isn't much room to post up with Haas on the low block, and Haas is probably going to face a few big man doubles, freeing Biggie up from the outside.
35-40% from 3 next season
90 tunrovers - 4th in the Big10
2.6 turnovers per game
This is another stat that shouldn't be completely surprising. Yes, Biggie turned the ball over way to much last year. However, keep in mind that he was playing a totally new position, and was asked to do more than most freshmen. In high school, Biggie was a low post finisher, who was fairly adept at finding the open man out of double teams. For Purdue, he was aked to play at the free throw line, making high/low entry passes probably for the first time in his life. He also spend a significant amount of time outside the paint, probably for the first time in his life. Many of Caleb's turnovers occurred because he was trying to force the game instead of letting the game come to him.
Why he needs to improve:
Turnovers is the first thing Biggie haters will point to, and for good reason. For Caleb to take his game to the next level, he needs to figure out where he fits into the offense, and stop forcing things. I'm hoping that comes with experience. If he can perfect the high/low post lob from the free throw line, the Biggie/Haas combination will shred zone defenses. Caleb is a skilled basketball player, and you have to think that a year of playing the 4 in the Big10 will provide him with enough experience to cut down on turnovers significantly.
Defensive Rating: 93.8 - 4th in the Big10
Defensive Win Shares: 1.9 - 9th in the Big10
Defensive Box Plus/Minus - 4.1 - 9th in the Big10
Let's clear up some misconceptions on Biggie's defense last season. If you think he was a poor defender, the stats above should clear things up for you. Caleb is a dominating post defender with the strength to push players off the block, and his surprisingly long arms help him contest shots. Biggie was also Purdue's best pick-and-roll defender. Point guards had a hard time turning the corner when Purdue switched the high pick-and-roll. His quick feet and long arms often times dissuaded opposing point guards from even attempting to attack off the pick. While his defense was solid, he really struggled against stretch 4's. He was much better defending the pick-and-roll as opposed to the pick-and-pop. When teams ran him off picks to free up his man, he would occasionally get lost. Again, this should have been expected for a guy playing outside the paint for the first time in his career. As a high school center, I doubt he was chasing very many opponents outside the 3 point line.
Why he needs to improve:
Caleb can't let his man light him up from the outside. Good/Great teams are going to have 4's that can shoot. This is true for both the NBA and college game. From all reports, Caleb has dropped another 10-15 pounds from the end of last season. A lighter Caleb should be more adept at getting outside and using his extendo-arms to challenge 3 point shooters. The experience he gained playing the 4 last year should also help in that area.
His svelter frame should also help his pick-and-roll defense, and he's going to need it next season. I expect opponents to put Isaac Haas in the pick-and-roll over and over again next season. It wouldn't surprise me to see Biggie switch a good bit with Haas to keep him out of that situation, and being a few pounds lighter should help with his lateral mobility and conditioning.
Stop letting opposing 4 men light you up from outside (ahem, Zac Irving and Robert Carter)
Improve already solid pick-and-roll defense.
I expect a big jump from Caleb next season. It would not shock me if he lands on the first team All-Big10. Without Biggie, Purdue would have been a decent squad, probably in the top 5 of the Big10, with Sweet 16 aspirations. With Biggie (thank God) Purdue should challenge for the Big10 championship, and if he improves the way I think he will, Purdue will have legitimate Final 4 aspirations. One thing I know for sure: Biggie is going to put in the work to better his game and help the team. Now who doesn't want that type of player on their squad?