Before there was Biggie, there was the biggest.
Isaac Haas - So
Hokes Bluff, AL
7'2", 297 lbs
2015- 16 Projection: Backup Center
Isaac Haas was the original big man who took the long way to West Lafayette. He was thought to be headed to Wake Forest before settling for a different gold and black. He is, to be gentle, ginormous. It's not usual that you look onto a court of near seven-foot people and see one person who dwarfs even them. That's Isaac Haas.
Haas shot over 50% from the field and displayed a soft touch with both hands, for the most part. He averaged over 4 rebounds a game in less than fifteen minutes of action, and would have played big minutes for most teams across the country. Freshman year is tough for any collegiate player, but especially big men who are supposed to anchor their defense and be a focal point on offense. It's hard to be disappointed with a freshman who scored that well while grabbing boards and generally being tall enough to block the sun and rim.
But last season was not like the one we're about to have, our front court was not loaded with three tall humans who are good at multiple basketball related things. Last year, there was just Hammons and Haas, and by the time the Boilers got into Big Ten play, Haas was averaging only 12.4 minutes a game compared to the 17.8 minutes a game he was averaging in the non-conference. In those thirteen non-conference games, Haas averaged 11.5 points per game, and even started ahead of Hammons. In Big Ten play, that number dropped all the way to 5.05 points per game with him mostly coming off the bench.
The drop off in raw numbers are scary enough, but the efficiency with which he dropped that orange thing into the rim was even more concerning. He shot 62.5% in non-conference games before falling all the way to 43.2% shooting in Big-Ten games.
This sounds pretty damning, but it's not. This is to be expected from any true freshman. For the first time in his life on a night-to-night basis he was not able to just dominate the game by being the biggest person on the floor. You don't have to be a genius, or an insider at Purdue, to know that he's been working on being quicker this entire off season. He'll get better. He'll score, and he'll do it more efficiently. Again, it is so rare to see anyone that big with that much touch. Those little hooks will fall, and no one is going to block them.
The part of Haas's game that is a problem, and is the real reason he couldn't get off the bench for more than twelve minutes a game against better competition, is his passing or lack there of. If the ball went into Haas in the post there were only two outcomes to expect: he'd put up a shot or he'd turn into a double, sometimes a triple, team and cough up the ball as he seemed to look surprised to realize he wasn't actually playing a game of one on one. He had nine assists on the season. Nine. He had 54 turnovers. You'll notice when you do the math at home, that leads to a 1:6 assist to turnover ratio.
Let's just focus on that for a second. For every one of his passes that led to a teammate's basket, he gave the ball up to the other team six times. That's why his usage rate is so high, and why it was so hard to keep him on the court. That's what he needs to work most on in the off season to improve himself and this team.
This all sounds very negative, but the best part about being really bad at something is that it's usually not as hard to get significantly better. Haas doesn't need to become Marc Gasol over night. He just needs to use his tall frame to see over the defense and make the easy pass. With a year under his belt, he should be much better at anticipating the defense and where it will be coming from because he is a beast down low and will draw double teams constantly. The only guy that stands a chance guarding him one on one in the Big Ten is probably the guy he'll be backing up. If Haas can come off the bench, lead bench-heavy units, and learn the easy pass outs of doubles and even anticipate them ahead of time our offense will start to flow in a way we haven't seen since Moore and Hummel days.
With more shooters than last year, and another post behemoth added to the team, Haas will have to improve his awareness and IQ on offense. With Swanigan capable of playing the four or five, Jacquil Taylor coming off of a medical redshirt, Edwards ability to play the four - even playing the five at moments last year - and Smotherman likely to see some run at four, if Haas wants consistent playing time he's going to have to be able to facilitate on offense. It should be easier. With Cline coming on and internal improvement, there should be more shooting and spacing than last year.
It's amazing to think that a talent like Haas might be stuck on the bench more often than not for a second straight year, but that is the case. This is a good problem. It'll be interesting to see how Painter deals with Haas, but even more interesting to see if the sophomore can make the strides in his game to make it impossible to keep him out of the game.
It's strange to say, but Purdue Basketball 2015-16 seems to be filled problems - good problems - and none of them are bigger than Haas.