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Revisiting Preseason MBB Player Projections: Part I

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Going back over my predictions starting with everyone on the team 6’9 and above

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Tournament-Washington vs Arizona Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The vast majority of the country had their seasons cut short due to the COVID-19 cancellations but that wasn’t the case for the Huskies. Even in a completely normal world their season would be over right now after getting bounced in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament to finish with a losing record.

That means I feel no pretense to hope that things blow over and games continue a month from now. We can go ahead and commence with reviewing some of my preseason projections.

Before the season in each of my player profiles I put forth my projected stat line for every member of the team as well as described what I expected in terms of their role. Let’s go back over each one now and see how well I did.

Sam Timmins

My Player Projections: Not Part of the Regular Rotation

Actual Stats: 31 games, 7.9 mpg, 2.0 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 0.4 bpg, 62.5/37.5/58.8% FG/3pt/FT%

Best Quote: “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.”

Worst Quote: “Maybe Timmins made strides this offseason and is still better than [Nate Roberts and Bryan Penn-Johnson]. But based on what I saw from them in Italy I don’t believe that’s the case.”

If you really want to take my worst quote it should be from watching warm ups during one of the early home games where I laughed as Sam Timmins was attempting 3-pt shots. Instead he finished the season making nearly 40% of those shots (on only 8 attempts but still).

I said that I didn’t think Timmins would be part of the regular rotation and his usage wasn’t dramatically different than I expected. There were only 9 games where Sammy played 11+ minutes and only one of them was the final score in single digits. What I was most wrong about was I would’ve expected Timmins’ playing time to trail off as the season went along. Instead Nate Roberts completely faded out of the rotation.

Isaiah Stewart

My Player Projections: 28 mpg, 16.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 63.1 / 30.6 / 65.1% FG/3pt/FT%

Actual Stats: 32.2 mpg, 17.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg, 57.0 / 25.0 / 77.4% FG/3pt/FT%

Best Quote: “If Stewart doesn’t end up as 1st-team all conference by year’s end it will mean something went terribly wrong.”

Worst Quote: “A number of preseason publications have dubbed Stewart as a legitimate All-American candidate and that’s to be expected given his pedigree.”

I think it’s reasonable to say that I came close to nailing my projections for Stewart. It’s clear that I expected him to be a little more efficient than what we actually saw. But I think the majority of that is attributable to the fact that he was constantly double or triple teamed during the back half of the season. Stewart was shooting 65% on 2-pt attempts at the end of the non-conference season and he almost certainly finishes above 60% for the year if Quade Green doesn’t become ineligible.

Coming into the season Stewart was perhaps the surest thing in college basketball that’s exactly how things played out. He finished his UW career with exactly one game with fewer than 9 points and it came under severe foul trouble in the first game without Quade Green in the lineup. The only thing inconsistent related to Isaiah Stewart was the ability of the rest of the team to get him the ball. Otherwise he was a man among boys despite being younger than most of the men.

Isaiah saved his best for last in a Herculean effort to keep UW’s season alive even if it turns out there wouldn’t have been another game should they have beaten Arizona twice in a row. He had 29 point and 12 rebounds working against the player that ridiculously won freshman of the year over him. I closed out my projections by saying “He’s just flat out special. Enjoy him this year while you can.” I hope you did.

Bryan Penn-Johnson

My Player Projections: 10 mpg, 2.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 62.0 / 50.0% FG/FT%

Actual Stats: 6 games, 5.7 mpg, 1.8 ppg, 0.8 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 80.0 / 100.0% FG/FT%

Best Quote: “There’s plenty of upside here but we won’t see most of it until next season once Stewart is in the NBA.”

Worst Quote: “I think the season long numbers for BPJ, at least from a playing time standpoint, will be in the same neighborhood of last season’s Sam Timmins. However, BPJ clearly has a higher defensive upside than Timmins does.”

My thoughts that we would see BPJ be a staple in the rotation were influenced by two things. The first was that we didn’t see Sam Timmins in Italy which means there wasn’t a way to tell who was ahead of whom in the pecking order. And I thought the risk of the young big men transferring was too high if they weren’t regularly playing.

Instead Penn-Johnson was effectively the last man off the bench and saw playing time in exactly one game that had a final margin of fewer than 14 points. When he was on the floor we saw mostly what I expected. His block percentage would’ve led the country if he played enough minutes to qualify. But of course that number would undoubtedly have come down playing against starters in close games.

And even if he had started he wouldn’t have played many more minutes due to an astronomically high 10.6 fouls committed per 40 minutes. That means on average he would’ve fouled out after 19 minutes of playing time every game. With both Timmins and Stewart leaving it frees up essentially one full spot at the center position and BPJ is going to need to figure out how to keep up his shot blocking without fouling so much over the summer if he wants to take a significant amount of that time.

Nate Roberts

My Player Projections: 20 mpg, 4.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 0.6 bpg, 52.2 / 30.0 / 56.3% FG/3pt/FT%

Actual Stats: 19 games, 7.9 mpg, 1.4 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 0.2 bpg, 52.6 / 37.5% FG/FT%

Best Quote: “He’s not going to play more minutes than Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels so there’s a bit of a cap on his ceiling for this season. ”

Worst Quote: “Expect Roberts to come off the bench for heavy minutes and maybe even be a part of some finishing lineups depending on what is needed against certain opponents.”

This might be my worst call this season. On a per minute basis the stats we saw from Roberts are pretty close to what I predicted outside of the ghastly free throw shooting. I was just vastly off estimating how much he was going to see the court. Roberts looked like he was ready to be a starter during the exhibition tour in Italy and I bought in hook, link, and sinker.

Instead he played 27 minutes in the team’s first 13 games including a stretch of just 2 minutes over 6 games. Then he averaged 11 minutes per game over the next 6 contests and it appeared Hopkins had decided to make him an integral part of the rotation finally. Then it abruptly stopped and Roberts played 6 minutes over the final 6 games.

Nate showed that he’s in fact a plus rebounder just as he displayed in Italy with offensive and defensive rebounding rates in the neighborhood of Isaiah Stewart despite rarely playing center. I still have high expectations for Roberts in the long term but it’s still unclear if he didn’t develop over the course of the season or he just looked much better against sub-par competition over the summer in Italy.

Hameir Wright

My Player Projections: 18 mpg, 3.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 35.2 / 32.3 / 60.0% FG/3pt/FT%

Actual Stats: 26.1 mpg, 5.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 34.9 / 33.6 / 63.0% FG/3pt/FT%

Best Quote: “With Stewart, BPJ, Timmins, and Roberts also available as options at the center spot it means that Wright will mostly be used as one of the forwards guarding the corner of the zone. ”

Worst Quote: “That inconsistency means Wright will be on the court plenty but closer to half of the game than the 34 that the rest of the starters will play.”

The projected reduced playing time by Wright was a direct reflection of the faith I had in Nate Roberts coming out of the summer. There was no question that Hameir would play at least as much as he did the year before but the frontcourt was only becoming more crowded, not less despite an Wright being among the most experienced of the bunch. Instead Wright started all but 2 games and was a key cog in the machine.

I thought Wright’s offense would rebound a little bit in year 3 and you can see I almost exactly nailed his shooting splits. Hameir finished last season on a bit of a tear from 3pt range and he did the same thing this season except over a greater stretch of time. Wright shot 40.4% from deep during conference play which was 8th in the conference. During a 10-game stretch preceding the last 2 games against Arizona he was a combined 18/36 from deep. You’d like to see a little bit more consistency rather than such discrepancies between hot and cold streaks but Wright proved he can shoot the ball this season.

There was never a question about Wright’s defense and he continued to put it on display this season. His blocks per game were definitely down this season but so too were his fouls committed. The one area where there wasn’t much in the way of improvement was finishing around the rim and turnovers. Wright doubled his assists per game but his turnovers per game rose at nearly the same rate. Next season it’s clear Wright will play a major role but it’s tough to justify giving him many more minutes than he got this year unless he shores up those weaknesses.

Jaden McDaniels

My Player Projections: 24 mpg, 12.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, 50.0 / 34.4 / 65.0% FG/3pt/FT%

Actual Stats: 31.1 mpg, 13.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, 40.5 / 33.9 / 76.3% FG/3pt/FT%

Best Quote: “Jaden McDaniels was named to the preseason Pac-12 1st team which means the expectations are that he’s going to live up to his 5-star ranking and immediately be one of the best players in the conference. That is absolutely possible and perhaps even likely. As you’ll see below this, my projections for Jaden don’t quite live up to that level. ”

Worst Quote: “But regardless I’m excited to see how this team looks with the addition of a cheat code type player like McDaniels.”

We finish up this first part with the last of the 6’9 and up crowd. Not that I get overly proud about my projections but I think I came pretty darn close on my write-up about McDaniels. I noted that Jaden in high school took a lot of inefficient shots and speculated whether that was part of his make up or a result of not being surrounded by enough talent. This year we learned that it was the former.

My per game totals were in line with Jaden’s final stats but he was a much less efficient player from inside the arc than I was expecting. He took 91 jump shots on 2-pt attempts (basically 3 per game) and made just under one-third of those shots. Doing almost anything else on those possessions would’ve had a higher yield and Jaden’s shot selection almost certainly reduced the team’s overall points per game.

I thought that Jaden would be an immediate plus on the defensive end and he certainly was that. He finished 5th in the conference in block percentage for qualified finishers. He also finished in the the top-25 for the Pac-12 in offensive and defensive rebounding rate, assist rate, fouls drawn per 40, and free throw percentage. That suggests a really good year on everything except the shooting numbers. But the combination of the shot selection issues and the constant technical fouls will ultimately be the lasting legacy for many of his time at UW.