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Husky Basketball In-Depth Preview Part III- Seniors

Our preview concludes with write-ups on Dominic Green, David Crisp, Matisse Thybulle, and Noah Dickerson

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

This is the finale of the 3 part in-depth preview of each scholarship player for the 2018-19 Washington Huskies. Today we’ll conclude with the seniors. You can check out part I when we looked at the new freshmen here, and part II when we examined the sophomores/juniors here.

Dominic Green, Sr. 6’6, 190

2017-18 Statistics (per game): 20.7 minutes, 5.4 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 41.5% FG, 43.2% 3pt, 67.6% FT

Before last season I wrote that Dominic Green had been the worst offensive player in the Pac-12 during his sophomore campaign. And I wasn’t exaggerating. He was literally the least efficient scorer in the conference among anyone with more than a few shot attempts. Once Hop took over we heard that Green was shooting the lights out in practice but it was hard to take those comments seriously. I was seemingly validated when Green was benched for the Loyola Marymount game and at that point was shooting just 26.1% from 3-point range. But then Green came in at the end of a blowout against Bethune-Cookman and hit 6/9 from deep almost exclusively in the 2nd half while wide open. That game magically transformed Green and including that game he shot 47.9% from beyond the arc the rest of the way.

Dominic Green 2017-18 Shot Chart
Synergy Sports

Last season Green embraced his role as a sharpshooter and it made him one of the most efficient players in the country. He played very similar total minutes numbers the last 2 seasons and yet cut his number of 2-pt shots down from 80 to 35. Green’s sophomore year it really seemed like he tried to prove people wrong for calling him just a shooter and drove the ball more with disastrous results. Last season the results were just as bad inside the arc but he stopped doing it so often which greatly helped the team.

I looked at the history of players seeing such a dramatic improvement in shooting as an upperclassman and in general they continued as about 40% shooters the rest of their college careers. Green shot 4/5 from deep against Nevada starting in place of Noah Dickerson so it certainly seems he’ll be able to pick up right where he left off.

Green’s spacing is a huge boost but he also has made great strides on the defensive end. It’s still a stretch to call him average but the journey from terrible to usually passable is pretty large. Under Lorenzo Romar, Green looked lost when trying to pursue a player across the court and was extremely susceptible to ball watching and letting his guy get open. That issue is dissipated in the zone since you don’t have to follow your man more than a few feet and a back cut means entering the center’s zone rather than a sure layup. On the defensive end Green’s long arms allow him to recover and help to block passing lanes.

Green was used as essentially the 6th starter during conference play and entered the game early for Sam Timmins while generally playing in crunch time. It certainly seems reasonable to expect that trend to continue. The Nevada exhibition was one game that didn’t count but Green got the start for Dickerson and played almost the whole game. He has Coach Hop’s trust and his presence really spaces the floor for everyone else even if he doesn’t touch the ball all that often.

2018-19 Predicted Stat Line (per game): 20.7 minutes, 5.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 40.9% FG, 40.5% 3pt, 71.4% FT

David Crisp, Sr. 6’0, 195

2017-18 Statistics (per game): 34.6 minutes, 11.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 38% FG, 28.6% 3pt, 66.4% FT

With Markelle Fultz’s ascendance to the NBA and Daejon Davis’s decision to head to Stanford following Lorenzo Romar’s dismissal it fell upon David Crisp to be the starting PG for last year’s UW team. Even though it was a role that he had never played before. Crisp was effective in 2017 playing as the off ball SG alongside Markelle Fultz when he knocked down almost 37% of 3-pointers. But the shooting numbers plummeted last year as his three-point percentage dropped 8 full percentage points and his offensive rating fell back to where it was during his freshman season.

David Crisp 2017-18 Shot Chart
Synergy Sports

The hope was that even if he shot worse as the primary ball handler that at least he would be able to improve as a playmaker for others. But Crisp’s assist rate actually fell slightly from 17.2% to 16.7% once taking over as the full-time PG and his turnover rate barely rose from 19.3% to 19.4%. It’s not clear which is 1a and which is 1b as a priority for Crisp this season but he absolutely has to shoot better and absolutely has to create for teammates better for this team to reach their full potential.

The big difference for Crisp’s shooting was that his 3-point attempts changed by virtue of having the ball more often. In 2016 Crisp only shot about 1/5th of his jump shots off the dribble playing off ball and made just 21% of them. Last season Crisp improved the percentage he made to 28% but just over half of his attempts came off the dribble.

Like most players Crisp is a much better shooter with his feet set and his propensity to just pull up behind the perimeter without initiating the offense was infuriating. The downturn in shooting isn’t fully explained by that shift though. Crisp shot just 28% on unguarded catch and shoot 3’s last season despite hitting them at a rate of 44% in 2016-17. It will definitely help if Crisp stops jacking up 3’s off the dribble but he still has to rediscover his catch and shoot stroke as well.

The second part of Crisp’s efficiency comes as mentioned as a ball handler. When Crisp passed the ball in the pick and roll last season good things generally happened. Crisp was in the 63rd percentile nationally in points per possession when he gave up the ball while running the P&R. That was a huge improvement from just the 10th percentile the year before. Unfortunately, Crisp was in the 28th percentile when he kept the ball including a turnover rate that doubled from his over dribbling. That number was slightly worse from the previous year.

There’s no question that on the defensive end that Crisp’s frame isn’t ideal for the zone. At 6 feet tall without long arms Crisp is not ideal at getting into passing lanes. He makes up for this by doing a lot of jumping whenever it appears that an opponent is attempting to make an entry pass to the post. Opposing ball handlers can take advantage of this by dribbling past him while in the air but generally there are enough other arms nearby that it didn’t happen very often. The weakest part of his defensive skill set in 2016-17 was getting around screens. Crisp almost always gives up rather than trying to fight through them. However, that flaw gets covered up in the zone where you aren’t following guys all over the court.

Coach Hopkins has stated that he really want Crisp to average 5-6 assists per game this season. After 3 years of evidence I find it difficult to believe that Crisp is finally going to be able to put everything together and become a true point guard. The only real precedent for it is Andrew Andrews who doubled his assist rate in his senior season while keeping his turnover rate almost constant. While that’s theoretically possible, I consider it unlikely so instead I think we’ll see improvements across the board but not great enough for Crisp to dodge criticism from his detractors.

2018-19 Predicted Stat Line (per game): 30.3 minutes, 11.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 41.7% FG, 32.2% 3pt, 68.2% FT

Matisse Thybulle, Sr. 6’5, 195

2017-18 Statistics (per game): 32.3 minutes, 11.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 3.0 steals, 44.5% FG, 36.5% 3pt, 71.4% FT

During the preseason last year Jaylen Nowell was out front in the zone alongside David Crisp. And the Huskies were apparently destroyed by Boise State in a “secret” scrimmage. This led to Thybulle suggesting that he play at the top of the zone and swap spots with Jaylen. The rest is history, as Matisse had one of the most dominant defensive seasons by a non-rim protector that I can remember. And he was rewarded for it with a well deserved Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award.

Thybulle had a history of using his elite length (nearly a 7’0 wingspan at 6’5) and above average athleticism to get steals. His steal percentage of 3.9% in 2016-17 was good for 30th in the country and 3rd in the conference. However, he was absolutely unleashed in the zone. Thybulle ended the season 4th in the country and 1st in the conference in steal percentage and just has an innate ability to always get his hands on the ball.

And that doesn’t just refer to steals. He was also one of the best wing players in the country at blocking shots as well. Matisse had a block percentage of 4.8% which was 11th in the Pac-12 and all the players with a better percentage were 6’9 or taller.

We know the defense will be there with Matisse but the hope is that he’s able to take his offensive game to the next level. Thybulle was a very good if not elite shooter in his sophomore campaign but really struggled early in the season from deep. After 19 games he was hitting just 27.2% of his shots from beyond the arc but in the final 15 games he shot a blistering 49.3%. Making almost half of his 3’s isn’t a realistic expectation but if he could shoot something like the 42% he shot over all of conference play last year through the entire season it’d be worth a few extra points per game.

Matisse Thybulle 2017-18 Shot Chart
Synergy Sports

The biggest problem for Matisse has been his playmaking capabilities. Without a true PG on the roster last season Thybulle definitely passed the ball more often but a smaller percentage of those passes than the coaching staff would have liked ended up in the hands of a fellow Husky. Matisse’s assist rate went up by about 50% and his turnover rate went down slightly but he still coughed up over 2 turnovers per game. This team can survive if Thybulle doesn’t pass like Magic Johnson but they need to get the turnovers down below 2 per game.

The other area of Thybulle’s game that has clear room for improvement is his rebounding. Matisse is an elite athlete that will be one of the better performers at the NBA combine this upcoming spring. For him to average less than 3 rebounds per game is borderline criminal.

The base issue tends to be the lack of physicality that Thybulle exhibits in gameplay. When Thybulle drives to the hoop he usually tries to maneuver his long arms to stretch around the defender and lays the ball in from a variety of angles. When Naz Carter, who is a similar level athlete, drives the ball he does so like a freight train and tries to dunk the ball with supreme authority. There are moments for each approach but I’d like to see Matisse do the 2nd a little more often. Similarly, I’d like to see him box out and be more aggressive going for rebounds without simply trying to reach over and around others.

Matisse Thybulle isn’t going to get the press headlines that better scorers like Noah Dickerson or Jaylen Nowell do but he might be more important than either for the success of the team. I don’t expect to see any dramatic changes in Thybulle’s approach to the game this season but if he could show up 5-10% better in a couple of areas it could be a major boost for the program. And if he is able to regularly contribute anything close to his box score numbers against Nevada a few weeks ago (17 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals, 3 blocks, and 0 turnovers) then we’ll be talking about possibly the most well rounded player in the country.

2018-19 Predicted Stat Line (per game): 32.0 minutes, 11.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 3.2 steals, 47.1% FG, 38.9% 3pt, 79.1% FT

Noah Dickerson, Sr. 6’8, 245

2017-18 Statistics (per game): 26.9 minutes, 15.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 56.9% FG, 78.6% FT

After Coach Hop’s hire it certainly looked like Noah Dickerson was going to transfer as he took a few official visits to schools closer to his hometown of Atlanta. And last April Dickerson waited until the very last day to withdraw his name from the NBA draft. The entire trajectory of the Hopkins era likely changes had Dickerson gone through with either decision to leave as he was a beast for the Huskies last season and will be again this year.

Noah was named an All-Pac-12 1st Team selection last season as he shouldered additional burdens for the Huskies on the offensive side of the ball. Dickerson is an artist in the paint with a variety of spin moves and up and unders that allow him to score against anyone despite a size disadvantage. The biggest feather in his cap was the 25 point, 7 rebound performance in a win over Arizona and eventual #1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton.

Noah Dickerson 2017-18 Shot Chart
Synergy Sports

The biggest difference for Noah last season was the uptick in his free throw shooting. He reworked his shot with the new coaching staff and it did wonders to improve his consistency. It resulted in Noah improving his percentage by better than 10%. And given that he also increased his fouls drawn per 40 minutes from 5.3 to 7.0 it resulted in an extra 75 made free throws over the entire season.

Dickerson led the Pac-12 and was 19th nationally in free throw rate which is how many free throws someone takes per field goal attempt. It can’t be overstated how important it is in crunch time to throw out a lineup where your big guy is one of your best free throw shooters. Opponents can’t go with a hack-a-Noah strategy to try to slow him down. He had multiple games of 10+ FTAs and only one miss from the line last year.

Coach Hopkins has said that Noah is imploring him to let him shoot 3-pointers this season. It’s going to be necessary for him as he moves forward in his professional career since 6’8 post men who can’t shoot are a dying breed. But as UW’s best rebounder and best inside scorer it’s probably in the team’s best interest if he doesn’t drift out to the perimeter very often. But it’s possible that we’ll see more than the 5 attempts he shot last season.

The problem for Noah has always been on the defensive end of the floor. Coach Hopkins tried his best to cover for that weakness in 2017-18. Dickerson starts out the game in the corner of the zone while Sam Timmins mans the middle despite the awkward spacing it causes on offense. He also tries to go offense for defense whenever possible to avoid playing Dickerson at center in the zone.

And there’s a good reason for that. Opponents last year made 2/3rds of their shots when posting up Noah. That’s not great... Now that the Huskies have added two more potential freshmen rim protectors we may see even less of Noah there which is a good thing. Noah has significantly slimmed down this season and we’ll have to see how the potential improvements to his quickness and athleticism may be outweighed by a potential downgrade to his strength when it comes to defending in the post.

There’s no question that Dickerson is one of the best players in the conference. His strengths absolutely outweigh the negatives but it’s the truth that Hopkins has to coach around Noah’s defensive liabilities. That he is still such a pivotal player on this Husky team goes to show just how tremendous his scoring and rebounding prowess are. As long as Dickerson puts up numbers that are somewhat comparable to last season then he’ll go down as the best Husky big man since the Brockness Monster himself.

2018-19 Predicted Stat Line (per game): 27.5 minutes, 15.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 56.0% FG, 79.5% FT

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