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Husky Basketball In-Depth Preview Part II- Sophomores & Juniors

Our preview continues with a look at Jaylen Nowell, Naz Carter, Hameir Wright, and Sam Timmins

NCAA Basketball: Washington at California John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

This is part 2 of an in-depth preview of each scholarship player for the 2018-19 Washington Huskies. Today we’ll look at the sophomores and juniors. You can check out part I when we looked at the new freshmen here.

Hameir Wright, So. 6’9, 215

2017-18 Statistics (per game): 14.9 minutes, 2.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 36.9% FG, 27% 3pt, 40.6% FT

Hameir Wright made a late decision to reclassify and then sign with Washington last summer. He was a top 100 recruit but in hindsight it was easy to tell that he could’ve used an extra year of seasoning despite coming in as the Gatorade’s New York state player of the year. Wright came in last season at 6’9 and under 200 pounds so he more closely resembled a twig than a basketball player. His 7’3 wingspan allowed him to recover but early in the year especially he got pushed around and compensated by fouling everything that moved. Wright committed 11 fouls in his first 40 minutes on the basketball court which is an astronomically high number. It got better as time went on and he settled in averaging 5.3 fouls committed per 40 minutes during conference play. Still higher than you’d like but about the same as Noah Dickerson in his freshman year.

The most valuable element of Wright’s game is his versatility. On defense he has both enough lateral quickness and long enough arms to play the corner of the zone as well as fill in at center. Last season he played more center as the year went on both because he became less foul prone on defense and he provided more spacing alongside Noah Dickerson on offense. It will be interesting to see whether Hameir’s minutes at center continue going forward now that there are 2 extra big men available off the bench. My guess is he may still play there when Noah is also on the court but otherwise will stay on the wing.

Hameir Wright also offers offensive versatility although it’s still theoretical. He had a 2 game stretch during the non-conference in which he went 5/6 from 3-point range and it looked like he was a legitimate stretch 4. But he was just 5/31 the rest of the year. Wright also struggled shooting free throws and had the worst percentage of anyone on the team. His fear of getting fouled and his struggles shooting meant that Wright went through periods on offense where he legitimately didn’t want to touch the ball. There were flashes of greatness. I recall a move where he got from outside the arc to past his guy and to the rim in about 2 steps for a layup. Per Synergy Sports, Wright averaged 0.51 points per possession in all situations where he wasn’t a spot up shooter (and 0.875 PPP in that situation). That was one of the worst marks in the country.

Hameir Wright 2017-18 Shot Chart
Synergy Sports

A lot of Wright’s struggles in year one appeared to be mental. On offense it didn’t appear he could deal with the problems at the free throw line which led to him not wanting to get fouled which completely threw him off his game. If he could get to 60% at the charity stripe I think it would unlock a lot of things for him. But Wright’s biggest impact will continue to be felt on defense. Wright was in the 71st percentile per Synergy Sports defending spot up shooters which is likely to be his primary role in the corner. His supreme length makes the corner 3 almost impossible and gives him a great opportunity to get blocks from behind if someone drives past.

2018-19 Predicted Stat Line (per game): 15.2 minutes, 3.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 36.9% FG, 31.1% 3pt, 45.7% FT

Nahziah Carter, So. 6’6, 205

2017-18 Statistics (per game): 14.2 minutes, 5.1 points, 1.7 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 46.9% FG, 40.9% 3pt, 61.8% FT

No Husky player appears more poised for a breakout season than Naz Carter. From day one Carter has been one of the best athletes the Huskies have ever had. Carter’s penchant for highlight reel dunks became well known throughout the conference by midseason but it is the rest of Carter’s game that will determine how successful he ends up with Washington.

Carter shot poorly from 3 point range his last year in high school and so expectations were low from him as a shooter. But he showed himself capable as a guy who could knock down 3-pointers when he’s open and has his feet set. Carter shot 47% in a spot up shooting situation when he didn’t take a dribble which was in the 91st percentile nationally per Synergy Sports. That number was second on the team behind Dominic Green who shot 50%. The key for Carter is going to be to continue to build on his maturity and realize that making an unguarded spot up 3 doesn’t mean he’s on fire and should start taking them off the dribble.

Carter’s largest opportunity for improvement is his isolation scoring ability. It was a small sample size but in 17 isolation possessions Carter shot 1 of 11 from the field with 6 turnovers. Between Carter’s shooting and dunking abilities he can absolutely destroy a defense when he is given the ball in the right situation. But if he gets the ball and isn’t immediately in a position to score then he still struggles. His turnover rate of 21.7% in conference play needs to come down to 15% for him to be a truly efficient player. Carter lit things up in the Crawsover during the summer but given the defense being played there it’s tough to judge whether those results are translatable.

Naz Carter 2017-18 Shot Chart
Synergy Sports

Synergy Sports’s defensive statistics sometimes have trouble deciphering who to attribute a defensive possession to in the zone but Carter’s advanced numbers were phenomenal. Opponents shot just 24.1% when he was identified as the primary defender which is good for the 97th percentile nationally. That doesn’t account for times when maybe Carter missed an assignment and so wasn’t guarding someone he was supposed to be but suggests that he at the least has a chance to be an elite defender. Opponents shot just 7/25 (28%) on catch and shoot opportunities when Carter was within guarding range. His supreme athleticism allows him to close on a shooter in a hurry and alter shooting angles.

Naz alternated between playing the front or the corner in the defense depending upon the rest of the lineup. That versatility was a big plus and allowed the Huskies to really mix and match to get an advantage against any opponent. This is a consistent issue with a team returning 95% of their minutes but I’m not sure where the increase in playing time comes from unless it’s at the expense of Dominic Green. It’s certainly possible that Green regresses heavily but throughout the preseason Hop has continued to praise him so I don’t see Carter seeing much more of the court although he may take a larger role when on it.

2018-19 Predicted Stat Line (per game): 13.6 minutes, 5.6 points, 1.8 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 46.9% FG, 34.9% 3pt, 72.7% FT

Jaylen Nowell, So. 6’4, 200

2017-18 Statistics (per game): 32.5 minutes, 16 points, 4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 45.1% FG, 35.1% 3pt, 80% FT

Jaylen Nowell burst onto the scene with his best performance of the season in the first game of his career. A spectacularly efficient 32 points on 15 shots display against Belmont where every basket was needed as he took over in the 2nd half. The biggest offensive concern going into last season was who was going to create shots? And Nowell answered it by taking on an incredibly heavy scoring burden and doing it efficiently enough to give UW a passable offense. In year 2 he’ll be required to improve his playmaking ability not for himself but for others for the Huskies to take the next step.

Jaylen Nowell 2017-18 Shot Chart
Synergy Sports

Nowell is a bit of an old school player. While he’s a good outside shooter and a good athlete, he doesn’t dominate either beyond the arc or at the rim. Instead he has embraced the forgotten art of the midrange game. In the chart above you can see the midrange circle in between “at the rim” and “long 2 jumper” range. Nowell took over half of Washington’s shots in that range over the entire season. That was a necessity because Nowell was the primary isolation score for the Huskies and had the ball on approximately half of UW’s isolation possessions.

Nowell took on an incredibly heavy load with his role in the Husky offense as he led the Pac-12 by taking 28.5% of Washington’s shots last year. The only other Husky freshmen to pull off that feat since the beginning of the Lorenzo Romar era are Markelle Fultz, Isaiah Thomas, and Nate Robinson. Pretty elite company. But that kind of usage took a toll on him as the year went on. Through the end of January Nowell was averaging 16.7 points per game while shooting 54.6% from 2-pt range. Over the final 13 games he averaged 14.9 ppg and shot just 38.6% from inside the arc. His outside shot picked up to compensate but those pull ups and shots at the rim just didn’t go in like they did in the first part of the year. Washington went 6-7 down the stretch and at least some of that was because Jaylen couldn’t keep up his remarkable efficiency.

While Elijah Hardy is in the system and available to take some of the backup point guard minutes it appears that once again Jaylen will be playing that role in most games. Nowell’s Assist to Turnover ratio was barely above 1 last year but the team would be much better served if it creeps closer to 1.5. It’s great that Nowell feels comfortable being the hero and taking the last shot but sometimes it isn’t the correct basketball play. Washington got lucky last year that DeAndre Ayton’s block went straight out to Dominic Green at the end of the Arizona game or else Nowell might’ve been the scapegoat for rushing headlong into the defense without a plan.

While Nowell didn’t make many mistakes on defense as a freshman, it was hard to point to many spectacular plays that he made either. Nowell almost exclusively played in the corner of the zone last season. The primary objective of that role is to deny passes to the corner for a 3-point shot and if you do allow a pass to get behind you then to close quickly and prevent either a drive to the basket or an uncontested 3-pointer. It’s the position in Hop’s zone that gives the fewest opportunities for either blocks or steals. And with Nowell’s relatively short reach (compared to Carter, Dickerson, or Wright who also play that role) he isn’t much of a threat to make a sensational play to get on the stat sheet.

The original plan was to have Nowell play at the front of the zone alongside David Crisp but after some experimenting they realized that putting Matisse Thybulle there instead would wreak havoc. If Nowell comes back for his junior season after Thybulle graduates he may switch to the front but I fully expect him to play in the same spot again this year.

The expectation should be for Jaylen to lead the team in scoring once again this season and he’ll be the one with the ball if the Huskies are down by 1 with 10 seconds to play. If Nowell can sustain his play from the first 2/3rds of last season then that should be a thought that very much encourages Husky fans.

2018-19 Predicted Stat Line (per game): 17.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 47.7% FG, 36.4% 3pt, 78.7% FT

Sam Timmins, Jr. 6’11, 265

2017-18 Statistics (per game): 18 minutes, 4.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, 57.7% FG, 55.9% FT

The New Zealand big man has been much maligned over the first half of his Husky career but he showed incremental signs of progress last season. Timmins has clear weaknesses but also has clear strengths and it will be up to the coaching staff to yet again put him in positions to succeed.

When Sam Timmins goes up to the basket strong to dunk it with authority he looks really good. When he shies away for a jump hook or attempts to dribble he looks miserable. It’s been pretty much the same story each of the last two seasons. When Timmins is the roll man in a pick and roll he either misses the shot or turns the ball over on 2/3rds of those possessions. That’s not great. Here’s what it looks like on the 1/3rd of successful attempts though:

(If you’re wondering why I’m not showing a shot chart for Timmins it’s because every shot he took last year was within a few feet of the basket.)

With Noah Dickerson in the fold for another year the coaching staff will continue to care more about Sam’s defense than his offense. Late in games the standard move for Coach Hop was to substitute back and forth so that Dickerson was playing on offense and Timmins on defense as much as possible. While Timmins is a better rim protector than Dickerson the hope is that either Bryan Penn-Johnson or Nate Roberts plays that role in the future. Playing in the zone Timmins’ block percentage went up from 4.1% his freshman year to 5.8% last year which is equivalent to the mark of Marquese Chriss in his only Husky season. Unfortunately, Timmins also fouled more often and committed 5.8 per 40 minutes which was tied with Carlos Johnson for the most on the team.

The big problem for Timmins has always been his foot speed. Sam looked like a lumbering giant when asked to cover someone in the pick and roll. If an opponent went small and played a big man with some ball skills at center then Timmins was absolutely toast. The zone hides those flaws and allows him to focus solely on protecting the rim which he is generally well equipped to do with his size. Opponents shot 44% in the paint with Timmins defending them which is an above average number but not an earth shattering one.

Last season the Huskies had only 3 players capable of playing center on defense. This year they have 5 so it’s possible that Coach Hop will have a much shorter leash for Sam than he did last season. At least for the beginning of the year though I expect the substitution patterns to be similar to last year. Sam and Noah will start alongside one another, Sam will be one of the first players to sit, and then he will come back to replace Noah and they’ll alternate for the rest of the game.

2018-19 Predicted Stat Line (per game): 15.2 minutes, 3.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 0.8 blocks, 53.2% FG, 58.7% FT

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