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Preseason Player Profile: Sam Timmins

Is this the year every Husky fan’s favorite Kiwi puts it all together?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 06 Oregon State at Washington Photo by Jesse Beals/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

You can find our first player profile on incoming freshman big man Isaiah Stewart here if you missed it. Now on to:

Sam Timmins; Senior; Dunedin, New Zealand

6’11, 265 lbs. Class of 2016: 3 stars, #158 overall (247 composite)

2019 Per Game Stats: 10.4 minutes, 1.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, 0.7 blocks, 62% FG, 36.4% FT

It’s been a long and winding road for Sam Timmins over the course of his Husky career. His first season in Seattle was alongside Markelle Fultz in what ended up as the depressing swan song of the Lorenzo Romar era. As essentially the only true center on the roster when Mike Hopkins arrived he was a consistent starter within the zone defense but displayed a propensity for fouling and little in the way of offensive sophistication. Eventually, Hopkins realized the combination of Sam Timmins/Noah Dickerson had too many flaws and last season as a junior Sam’s role was scaled back outside of a few select games.

As Sam enters his senior season will he see yet another playing time cut or is this the year he puts things together? Let’s find out.

Offensive Game

There are moments. Brief glimpses where you see Timmins make a play and say to yourself “where did that come from?” Unfortunately those moments are few and far between. Like the scene in Old School where Will Ferrell blacks out and becomes a master debater only to wake up with no memory of the event.

The defining characteristic of Sam Timmins is his size. He’s not just tall but also broad shouldered. If you were going to design an offensive play style for Timmins it would be for him to overwhelm the opponent with his sheer physicality and draw contact on every play. Unfortunately, that’s just not how Timmins is wired. Instead he reliably shies away from contact and tries a series of hook shots to go around or over the opponent rather than through them. Timmins finished below average per Synergy Sports in points per possession on put backs, post-ups, cuts, and as the P&R roll man. Not great.

There’s a good reason why Timmins wants to avoid contact. His free throw shooting has steadily deteriorated throughout the course of his career. During his sophomore year Sam was a 55.9% free throw shooter. Not great but not atrocious for a near 7-footer. Last year it got inside his head though and he finished the year just 8/22 for 36.4% from the line. And 7 of those 8 makes came in two games. Once he made one it gave him confidence to shoot well but his playing time was sporadic enough that he rarely got into a rhythm. I’m not expecting him to have enough opportunities to find his flow this year.

The other major problem for Timmins is his propensity for turnovers. While he managed to double his assist rate, it came at the cost of more turnovers. And that was not a good thing considering he already boasted an unacceptably high turnover rate. Timmins turned the ball over on 31% of possessions he was involved in. The issues are numerous. The combination of not great hands and not great footwork frequently gets Timmins into trouble. He’ll take an extra dribble on one possession allowing the ball to be swiped away by an off ball roamer only to come back the next time down the court and go straight into his guy’s chest for an obvious charge.

Defensive Game

Timmins was an abject defensive disaster during his freshman season playing a switching style of man-to-man defense under Coach Romar. It was fortunate for Sam then that Coach Hopkins brought in the Syracuse zone which aligns better with his strengths.

There’s no doubt that Timmins plays the 5 and only the 5 in the Huskies’ zone defense. He doesn’t have the kind of lateral agility necessary to play a corner spot even if there were a better option to put in at center. During his sophomore season when Timmins would start every half he was seen as the best rim protector the team had. And he has definitely progressed in that regard. Timmins’ block percentage has risen from 4.1% to 5.8% to 7.6% last season. And it was at 9.1% just in Pac-12 play which would’ve been a top-5 mark had he played enough minutes to qualify for the KenPom leader board.

The problem is that in order to get those blocks he has been committing a proportionate number of fouls. Timmins’ fouls drawn per 40 minutes has climbed at a similar rate as the block percentage from 4.1 to 5.8 to an astounding 6.7 last year. That means on average that Sam Timmins would’ve fouled out by the 10 minute mark of the 2nd half if he never came out of the game and had the requisite stamina to play that entire time. Committing that many fouls just leads to shorter playing stints which leads to not getting into a rhythm which leads to more fouls which leads to...

Even if the zone is a better fit for him it can’t be said that Timmins is an above average defender. It’s often tough to attribute possessions to individuals when they’re playing a zone but Synergy sports ranked Timmins in the 25th percentile defending post-ups by allowing opponents to shoot 47.2% with what is normally a fairly inefficient shot. And his overall defensive numbers (which weren’t good to begin with) were aided by a little luck as opponents shot just 20% on uncontested jumpers with Sam as the primary defender.

Expectations for 2019-20

Timmins was not eligible to play in the Italian exhibition tour because he had already taken part in one before his freshman season at UW. That means we didn’t see how he factored into the rotations. You might have figured it out in the midst of reading the profile but I’m not optimistic that we’ll be seeing much of Big Sammy this season.

Last year Timmins played just over 14 of the team’s minutes. You can essentially do a 1 for 1 swap of minutes between Noah Dickerson and Isaiah Stewart but now you’re also adding in a pair of talented redshirt freshmen in Bryan Penn-Johnson and Nate Roberts. Maybe Timmins made strides this offseason and is still better than the younger duo. But based on what I saw from them in Italy I don’t believe that’s the case.

There are still matchups where Timmins can be useful. If the other team has a hulking 280+ pound center then Timmins’ girth might come into play where some of the leaner, younger centers falter. But it’s hard for me to imagine that his playing time will be consistent. Instead, I expect it will look like the final 6 games of last year when Timmins never played more than 9 minutes per game. Maybe there’s the occasional 12-15 minute effort thrown in if there’s an injury or foul trouble in front of him.

We still love you, Sam! I promise. But the Huskies finally have the big man talent depth to take away Sam’s minutes and the program’s in a better place for it.

Per Game Projections: Not a regular part of the rotation.