As the boys prepare for their trip to Spain, we were able to get a first glimpse of what this team could be in the form of an intrasquad scrimmage yesterday after the alumni game. While the team you see in early August is hardly be the same team sent off to the tournament in March, we were able to get a look at new physiques, get a sense of the style the Boilers will play with this year, and see the two newcomers in black and gold for the first time.
The Point Guards
I fully expected P.J. Thompson to lose time on the court this year because of his two new back court mates. Thompson had the fourth highest player efficiency rating last year, and seemed to have maxed out his potential. He was demonstrably the best point guard of the three. He came out and controlled the offense. This is now his third year in Painter’s motion offense and that’s generally the year everything clicks according to the coach and that seems to be happening with P. J. But also, he was aggressive attacking the hoop, getting of his shot, and running the break. He connected from deep and finished at the rim.
But holy shit, Carsen Edwards is special. We just haven’t had a guard like him since E’twaun. He’s more explosive than Moore, but brings the same kind of ball skills and ability to shoot and get to the hoop. He still doesn’t know where to be in the flow of the offense and forced up some rushed shots, but there’s no denying he has the highest ceiling of the three and probably on the team as a whole. He’s very comfortable rising up off the dribble and with catch and shoot threes. He had the sequence of the game when he curled off a screen on an in bounds to nail a rise up corner 3. On the following inbound, he just took Spike’s cookies and got himself an easy layup. He has the potential to be a full court press, but got caught on screens too much and will be foul prone until he learns to anticipate and get in better position. All these are freshman things that he’ll get better at. On an aside, Carsen is an intuitive dump off passer in the paint, feeding Haas perfectly on a drive for an easy lay up. This showed up in his youtube highlights as well.
Spike’s creativity off the pass is the one plus for him. A couple of his passes were too ahead of the rotation for even his teammates to see them in time to catch them. He also seems to have gotten rid of the hitch in his shot. But he’s out of shape and struggled against Carsen’s explosive. He’s a defensive liability and he’s gonna have to find his basketball rhythm again to get many minutes.
Woah, that’s a lot of Basil
Want to know what was most shocking? At times, a lot of times really, Basil looked like the best player on the floor for Purdue. He started off the game nailing two threes and looked confident taking them. His form never looked broken, but if he now has the confidence to take them and he’s knocking them down, that’s a game change. Basil is the best athlete on the team and if he provides spacing, he’ll figure into a two-headed monster with Vincent that’s going to be all length and able to switch everything.
What’s most impressive is the pace in his game. He doesn’t just rely on his athleticism, he has some nice moves, pausing and then attacking. He finished at the rim with touch and patience. At times, he looked undeniable, finishing around Haas and consistently getting into the lane.
This wasn’t their best day
Cline and Mathias both struggled. They both look more in shape, and you could tell a point of emphasis for the coaching staff was for both of them to instigate more of the offense and be aggressive with the ball. It resulted in a lot of long, difficult pull-ups that weren’t really falling for either of them. They might both be a half-step quicker on defense but they both struggled to contain Purdue’s better athletes.
Biggie is still all about the 3
Caleb is continuing his quest to be a stretch-4. I get how you could feel a thousand different ways about this. I think he made two on the day, but it’s obvious he’s put in work on the shot. (Obvious as in I saw him constantly shooting from distance at the Co-Rec this summer with the ball-retrieving assistant of Rosey Barnes.) He’s lost another 20 pounds or so this summer and is quicker, but the truth is he’s going to share a lot of time with Haas on the floor. He has to be a viable threat from 3 to offer the big man enough space to take advantage of whatever unfortunate soul has to try and guard Haas.
Holy hell, Haas - 4 out 1 in
He started off hot with hook shots and getting position and one on one opportunities in the post before experimenting with some turnarounds that only found air, but good God. It doesn’t matter how many times you see him in person, this fella is just a monster. He looked quicker on the defensive end. Got up to absolutely own a Vincent dunk attempt - a horrible foul called on him - and he’s moving as well as he has. What you have to like is how we are going to be both ancient and modern in our offense. While Haas will absolutely be a focal point in our offense, we’re also going to run and shoot a ton of 3’s. We’re gonna play a motion offense still, but it looks like instead of last year where we often had two players in the post, we’re gonna just leave Haas on an island and take advantage of the plethora of shooters we have at guard and wing. Look at our roster and we’re loaded with shooters. The worst shooter on our team is probably Caleb Swanigan or Basil Smotherman and both have improved their jumpers.
If you’re worried about Coach Painter’s creativity, don’t. This isn’t something new to him. We’ve seen this before. Think of the last Hummel team in particular, the one that nearly knocked Kansas out of the tournament. They did that by playing a 4 out 1 in system because they had a big man that could shoot and surrounded him with even more shooting. Just now instead of only relying on 3 point shooting, we’ll have the best offensive post player in the country to throw it into and draw fouls and chaos and pain from the opponents.
We’re gonna play fast. We’re gonna score, a lot. We have the shooters and athletes to move in transition now, and we have a big man who can create a half-court offense on his own. We lost our best two defenders last year, but what we’ve gained on offense should be enough to make up for it. It might be hard for Painter to stomach but who cares if we give up 80 points when we’re routinely scoring 90?
Oh, and btw. Vincent Edwards is still our best player and I never mentioned his play once. I’m not sure he missed a 3 the entire day. He still makes the right play, waits his turn, and picks his spot.
As I said on twitter yesterday, there’s a feeling starting to stir in me. This team is gonna be awesome.