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Purdue Basketball: Matt Painter Doesn’t Care About Your Silly Player Ranking - Ryan Cline Edition

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Drew takes a look at how Matt Painter beats the ranking system.

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Purdue Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

I’m getting tired of the “Purdue does more with less” narrative. It feels like every time I watch an “expert” on the idiot box talk about Purdue, it sounds like Matt Painter is winning games with players he found wandering around the streets of West Lafayette and molded them into one of the best teams in the nation.

“Matt Painter found this kid at the county fair clearing out the prize wall on the basketball shoot and now he’s tearing up the Big10!”

“Painter saw this kid nail a 20 footer at McDonalds with his Hamburger wrapper and now he’s one of the best shooters in the nation!”

“Believe it or not, Painter found this tall kid working down at the loading docks and now he’s a beast down low!”

“This player didn’t start for his J.V. as a senior, but Matt Painter knew he had the skill set to thrive in the Big10!”

*Note: These are not actual quotes, but they could be.

I’ve been critical of Painter’s recruiting before, and I would still love to see Matt close on at least one upper echelon player a year, but his current recruiting strategy has Purdue as a favorite to at least take home a share of the Big10 title a year after losing 4 starters.

This is how he’s doing it.

In general, the recruiting services value physical attributes above skills. They’ll give the benefit of the doubt to a big, athletic looking kid with the basketball acumen of a fire hydrant and bury a kid that doesn’t quite look the part, but knows how to play the game.

Matt Painter thrives on that inefficiency in the system.

He finds players with at least 1 elite skill, and generally speaking that skill isn’t “looks like he should be good at basketball” and then pieces those skills together to form a coherent team. Each players skill actually fills a specific need. As the players develop in the Purdue system, their overall game improves, but that original elite skill makes the player valuable throughout their careers.

Getting players on the court in actual games is key to their development, and Painter is able to get guys on the court early because they can come in and fill a specific but limited role.

I break down current team like this:

Starters

PG - Nojel Eastern - Defense

SG - Carsen Edwards - Scoring

SF - Ryan Cline - Perimeter Shooting

PF - Grady Eifert - Intangibles (hard to quantify this skill)

C - Matt Haarms - Shot Blocking

Reserves

PG - Eric Hunter - Defense

SG/SF - Sasha Stefanovic - Shooting

C - Trevion Williams - Rebounding

PF - Aaron Wheeler - Shooting

PF/C - Evan Boudreux - Intangibles (I guess, Evan is the one player that doesn’t really fit)

C - Emmanuel Dowuona - Shot Blocking (Redshirting to bring around the rest of his game)

How It Works

The Purdue roster fits together and as pieces move off the roster, a player with a similar skill set moves up to replace him. For instance, next year, Sasha Stefanovic should be able to move seamlessly into the Ryan Cline role.

Painter doesn’t end up with a bunch of players with duplicate skill sets. There is a clear progression on the roster. Every player has a role to play.

You can also see the holes that need to be filled (or that aren’t quite filled) on the roster. Rebounding can be a concern for the Boilermakers because they lack an elite rebounder in the starting lineup. Ball handling is a concern because they lack an elite ball handler in the starting lineup (and on the roster in general)

It’s interesting, because you see the holes at the two positions Painter has missed on in recruiting recently. He’s missed on true point guards (like Tyger Cambell) and a rebounding power forward (like Francis Okoro). Even with his misses, however, the roster makes sense, and other players are versatile enough to fill the empty roles.

How Painter Beats the Recruiting Ranking System

I’ll start with Ryan Cline. In the dark period of Purdue basketball where Painter recruited too many drivers and no shooters and the team bottomed out, he promised to recruit one elite shooter in every class.

Ryan Cline was the elite shooter in the 2015 class, and Painter nailed the evaluation. Don’t get me wrong, there are significantly better basketball players on the list below, but as you’ll see, in terms of pure shooting ability, Cline is amongst the best shooters in the 2015 shooting guard class.

I’ve taken a brief look at other players on the roster (I’ll get to them later), and this holds true for their “elite” skill as well. Matt may not recruit the best overall players, but he finds players that are incredible at one skill, and then fits that skill into specific roles in the roster.

Key for the list

Name - position ranking - overall ranking - star ranking

I’ve limited it to top 100 players overall, because those are the guys Painter struggles to consistently land, but recruiting specific skills is how he has managed to beat the ranking system.

* Note: I’m using the 247 Composite ratings.

Ryan Cline - 45 - 159 - 3*

Elite Skill - 3 Point Shooting

Career 3 Point % - .404

Current 3 Point % - .437

Jamal Murray - Kentucky - 1 - 10 - 5*

Career 3 Point % - .408

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .408

Where Are They Now? - NBA - (1 season at Kentucky)

Advantage - Cline

Alonzo Trier - Arizona - 2 - 13 - 5*

Career 3 Point % - .378

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .380

Where Are They Now? - NBA - (3 seasons at Arizona)

Advantage - Cline

Antonio Blakeney - LSU - 3 -16 - 5*

Career 3 Point % - .347

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .358

Where Are They Now? - NBA (2 seasons at LSU)

Advantage - Cline

Dwayne Bacon - Florida State - 4 - 17 - 5*

Career 3 Point % - .312

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .333

Where Are They Now? - NBA (2 seasons at FSU)

Advantage - Cline

Luke Kennard - Duke - 5 - 21 - 5*

Career 3 Point % - .383

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .438

Where Are They Now? - NBA (2 seasons at Duke)

Advantage - Cline

PJ Dozier - South Carolina - 6 - 25 - 5*

Career 3 Point % - .277

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .298

Where Are They Now? - NBA (2 seasons at South Carolina)

Advantage - Cline

Donovan Mitchell - Louisville - 7 - 29 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .329

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .354

Where Are They Now? - NBA (2 seasons at Louisville)

Advantage - Cline

Malik Beasley - Florida State - 8 - 39 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .387

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .387

Where Are They Now? - NBA (1 season at FSU)

Advantage - Cline

Jaquan Lyle - Ohio State - 9 - 40 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .252

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .407

Where Are They Now? - New Mexico (out for season with injury) (2 seasons at OSU)

Advantage - Cline

Prince Ali - UCLA - 10 - 41 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .341

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .339

Where Are They Now? - UCLA (Starter)

Advantage - Cline

Kerwin Roach - Texas - 11 - 45 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .336

Current 3 Point % - .344

Where Are They Now? - Texas (Starter)

Advantage - Cline

Dejounte Murray - Washington - 12 - 49 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .288

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .288

Where Are They Now? - NBA - (1 season at Washington)

Advantage - Cline

Eric Davis - Texas - 13 - 52 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .323

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .348

Where Are They Now? - German B League (3 Seasons at Texas)

Advantage - Cline

Austin Grandstaff - Ohio State - 14 - 55 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .257

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .184

Where Are They Now? - Pursuing Rap Career (1 Season O.S.U., 1 Season DePaul)

Advantage - Cline

Brandon Sampson - LSU - 15 - 56 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .324

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .350

Where Are They Now? - NBA (3 Seasons at LSU)

Advantage - Cline

Charles Matthews - Kentucky - 16 - 60 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .318

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .321

Where Are They Now? - Michigan (Starting SG) - (1 Year at Kentucky)

Advantage - Cline

Stephen Thompson Jr - Washington State - 17 - 61 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .349

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .340

Where Are They Now? - Washington State (Starting SG)

Advantage - Cline

Chris Clarke - Virginia Tech - 18 - 62 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .333

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .424 (only attempted 1 per game)

Where Are They Now? - No Clue (3 Seasons at Virginia Tech - Kicked Off Team)

Advantage - Cline

KeVaughn Allen - Florida - 19 - 64 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .341

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .344

Where Are They Now? - Florida (Starting SG)

Advantage - Cline

Jimmy Whitt - Arkansas - 20 - 68 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .246

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .143

Where Are They Now? - SMU (Starting SG) - (1 year at Arkansas)

Advantage - Cline

King McClure - Baylor - 21 - 69 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .370

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .392

Where Are They Now? -Baylor (Starting SG)

Advantage - Cline

Matt McQuaid - Michigan State - 22 - 71 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .395

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .440

Where Are They Now? - Michigan State (Starting SG)

Advantage - Cline (Close, but Cline averages 3 3 pointer per game, McQuaid averages 2)

Jeremy Hemsley - San Diego State - 23 - 74 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .342

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .338

Where Are They Now? - San Diego State (Starter)

Advantage - Cline

Hannif Cheatham - Marquette - 24 - 75 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .367

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .364

Where Are They Now? - Florida Gulf Coast (Out with season ending injury) (2 seasons at Marquette)

Advantage - Cline

Frank Howard - Syracuse - 25 - 79 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .311

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .315

Where Are They Now? - Syracuse (Starter)

Advantage - Cline

LaGerald Vick - Kansas - 26 - 81 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .405

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .455

Where Are They Now? - Kansas (Out Indefinitely - Personal Reasons)

Advantage - Cline (Hard to put Vick over Cline when Vick isn’t playing anymore)

Admon Gilder - Texas A&M - 27 - 88 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .374

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .395

Where Are They Now? - Texas A&M (Out for season with blood clot issue)

Advantage - Cline

Shake Milton - SMU - 28 - 90 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .427

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .434

Where Are They Now? - NBA - (3 seasons at SMU)

Advantage - Milton (Purdue, however, is getting 4 years of Cline shooting)

Brevin Pritzl - Wisconsin - 29 - 94 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .362

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .419

Where Are They Now? - Wisconsin (Reserve)

Advantage - Cline (Pritzl is averaging less than 1 3 a game)

Kenny Williams - UNC - 30 - 96 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .346

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .295

Where Are They Now? - UNC (Starter)

Advantage - Cline

Terrance Mann - FSU - 31 - 100 - 4*

Career 3 Point % - .343

Current (or final season) 3 Point % - .455

Where Are They Now? - FSU (Starter)

Advantage - Cline (Mann’s current shooting is misleading. He hits less than 1 a game)

Summary

Out of the 31 shooting guards ranked in the top 100, only 3 have a career 3 point shooting percentage over 40%.

Shake Milton - .427

Jamal Murray - .408

LeGerald Vick - .405

None of those three players are currently contributing in college.

Matt Painter said he was looking for the best shooter in the 2015 class, and he almost found that in 3* Ryan Cline. Again, while Cline is obviously not the overall player some of these players are (or were) in college, he is one of the best shooters.

Cline fills his specific role on the Purdue team better than 29 of the 31 shooting guards in the top 100 of his class (I discount Vick because he’s sitting in the club house on his absurdly high .455% this season. I doubt he maintains that if he continued playing).

Furthermore, Cline is giving Purdue his shooting for 4 seasons, instead of Murray’s 1 season or Milton’s 3 seasons.