It's summertime and for most college students the living is easy. For college basketball players, however, this is their chance to hone existing skills and come up with new and exciting ways to put the ball into the basket. Over the next few weeks I'm going to take a look at the returning Boilermakers, and the former Coach Schneider (J.V. girls basketball, baby) is going to be handing out summer school assignments.
Last week, I instructed Dakota to seal himself in a bubble when not practicing to remain healthy this offseason. If Dakota can stay healthy and put a full offseason into running, lifting, and shooting, he could be deadly for the Boilermaker offense next season. My final projected starter is PJ Thompson. He's going to have some serious competition from a couple incoming true point guards, and is going to have to work hard to hold onto his minutes.
First, here is what PJ does well:
Take Care of the Basketball:
2015-2016 Assists to Turnovers: 93:23
To put this in perspective, Vincent Edwards led Purdue with 100 assists, but also had 58 turnovers. PJ had 7 fewer assists, but also had 35 fewer turnovers. PJ put up the best single season assist to turnover ratio (4/1) in Purdue history.
FT %: 82
P.J. was 3rd best for the team at the free-throw line at 82%, and could be counted on to help ice a game in the waning moments with his poise from the line.
P.J. was Purdue's best 3-point shooter, by percentage, on last year's team. He took the shots given to him, and knocked them down on a regular basis, including a few clutch 3s.
This isn't quantifiable, but PJ tends to take charge of things on the court. He is generally talking, moving people around on offense and defense, etc. Last season PJ was probably the most vocal starter other than Ray Davis. With Ray gone, there is a leadership void and not many options to fill it, in my opinion. PJ is probably the best candidate for "team leader" in the 2016-2017 season.
Summer School Assignments:
This section is probably the hardest yet. Matt Painter wants his point guards to take care of the ball and shoot a high percentage, and PJ does both of those things. There are, however, a few areas he can shore up to stay on the floor a little more.
Break the Press:
PJ is at an inherent disadvantage against the zone press because he is 5'10 (on a tall day, straining his neck) and has a hard time seeing over the defense. He also lacks the ideal quickness to be a one-man press break with the ball in his hands. Breaking the press was Purdue's Achilles' heel last season, and the starting point guard has to take some of the blame for the deficiency. PJ needs to work on making quicker decisions against the press, and has to stay out of bad situations, while at the same time, keeping other players out of bad situations. Too often, Purdue acquiesced to the other teams' pressure, and voluntarily threw the ball to bad spots on floor because that was the easy pass (IT'S A TRAP! THEY ARE LETTING YOU THROW THE BALL INTO THE CORNER FOR A REASON!). PJ needs to help get the team together and lead when the other team increases the pressure, or he will find himself sitting at the end of games, watching someone else play.
PJ isn't quick. I mean, sure, he could blow by me on the drive, but I'm probably not the gold standard. Teams do not respect his ability to create off the dribble, and subsequently, try to cut off his space, making shooting and passing much more difficult. I would love to see PJ improve his handles enough to threaten a defender off the drive, creating more space for his passing and shooting. PJ is never going to be a downhill, drive to the basket point guard—and that's not what Purdue recruited him to be—but the threat of an occasional drive would take his game to the next level.
Defense / Lateral Quickness:
Again, PJ runs into trouble with his lack of height and quickness on defense. Generally, he makes up for those deficiencies by his tenacious work ethic and crafty play. PJ runs into problems when the other team has a quick, dribble dominant point guard. Last season, Purdue countered this by moving Ray Davis over to guard the point. I don't see moving Dakota or Cline to guard a point guard as an option this season, so PJ either handles the duty himself, or he watches while Spike and C. Edwards have a go at it. A small improvement in lateral quickness would help this cause immeasurably. PJ has the will and intelligence to be a tough defender, what he lacks is the feet. Luckily, this is something that can be improved. If PJ wants to hold off the newcomers, it's something that he is going to have to improve.
Purdue wants a point guard that can spread the floor and take care of the ball. PJ Thompson is excellent at both of those skills, making him a guy that is going to always find a place in Matt Painter's rotation. With the new point guards on the roster, however, he's going to need to improve some key areas or he will find his spot in the rotation significantly decreased from last season.