With the 2021-22 Men’s Basketball season over we can look back at each of the players to see how different things ended up from what we thought might happen in the preseason. We’ll be going through the roster 2 at a time to review how each player performed and what to expect moving forward for those sticking around. The letter grades given out to each player are a combination of how they fared compared to expectations and how they played overall. If someone was much better than I expected but still not great then they cap out at a B+. If someone was really good but worse than I expected then their floor is a B-. You can find my prediction article referenced throughout from the preseason here.
We begin with the departing starting guards and specifically with someone who (spoiler alert) is going to do very well in this exercise.
Terrell Brown Jr.- Senior, 6’3, 185 lbs
Max’s Per Game Predictions: 9.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 42.5% FG, 32.4% 3pt, 78.9% FT
Actual Per Game Averages: 21.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 45.2% FG, 20.0% 3pt, 77.2 FT
Preseason Prediction Quote: “I’m expecting that to begin the year Brown will be a starting guard next to Davis but it wouldn’t shock me if he ends up moving to a 6th man role...I’m anticipating somewhat of a hybrid season for Brown as he’ll need to provide more of a scoring punch than he did at Arizona but also won’t need to carry the offense completely by himself like he did for Seattle.” [whoops]
Brown Jr. had a winding road to get to Washington starting out at Shoreline Community College and then walking on at Seattle U. He quickly made an impact for the Redhawks averaging 14, 7, and 5 per game and followed it up averaging 21, 6, and 5. That success as a 1st team All-WAC selection allowed him to transfer to Arizona...just in time for them to get a postseason ban. He played much more of a supporting role for the Wildcats averaging just 7.3 points and 3.5 assists per game off the ball alongside a group of talented freshmen. He decided though to come back home and play at UW as a grad transfer for his final year of eligibility.
From the opening tip this season it became apparent that this had become Terrell Brown Jr.’s team. The Huskies suffered an embarrassing loss to Northern Illinois in their first game but Brown had 22 points in that game. The common denominator throughout the entire season was that Brown was going to be able to get the ball through the basket. He ended up scoring at least 20 points in 21 of Washington’s 32 games. He scored in double digits in all of them.
That effort put Brown on the 1st team all-Pac-12 squad although he ended up losing out on Pac-12 Player of the Year to Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin. Brown became the first Pac-12 player in over a decade to lead the conference in both points and steals per game lest he be viewed entirely as an offensive weapon and not a defensive one as well.
After managing a better than 3:1 assist to turnover ratio at Arizona, Brown’s totals came down to just below 2:1 for Washington but that was in large part due to playing for a team that missed a lot of wide open shots. Still, Brown had 11 games with 5+ assists and only had 2 games with 5+ turnovers.
All of this happened despite Brown eschewing the 3-point shot. His shooting improved in a low sample size playing at Arizona but he ended up with a career worst 20% mark from beyond the arc this year. That included a stretch where he shot 1/22 from deep leading up into the final game where he was 2/5 against USC. Oddly enough UW was 0/2 when Brown made more than one 3-pointer. His astounding 509 2-point attempts seems like it has to be a UW record even if I can’t verify that.
Advanced Stats Breakdown
For the most part the traditional stats probably are better for Brown’s profile than the advanced ones. Brown was first in the Pac-12 in usage rate and % of shots taken at upwards of 33%. When he was on the floor he was going to be the one making the decision with the ball on more than 1/3rd of possessions. That’s not usually something you see on a power conference team. Hence why he went from a very similar season at Seattle U to playing off the ball as a role player at Arizona. Brown was the only power conference player to finish with a % of shots taken mark greater than 33%. Although right behind him was Purdue’s 7’4 center Zach Edey who didn’t play nearly as much as Brown but when on the court was the focal point of the offense until he got tired/fouled out.
Unsurprisingly, Brown was most effective as an isolation scorer looking at his play type profiles per Synergy Sports. He averaged 0.974 points per possession in isolation which was in the 79th percentile nationally. Brown was also one of only 3 power conference players in the country with at least 115 total isolation possessions along with Syracuse’s Buddy Boeheim and Duke’s Paolo Banchero (ouch).
It should come as no surprise that Washington was better with Brown on the floor than off it this year. The Huskies scored 101.8 points per 100 possessions with Brown playing and just 91.2 pts per 100 poss when he was on the bench. Despite Brown’s steals totals the defensive numbers got worse going from 104.4 pts per 100 possessions to 97.4. If you look at Pac-12 play only the gap gets even bigger as UW was -2.7 pts per 100 possessions with Brown playing and -10.0 when he sat. It got harder though to view that trend as Brown played at least 33 minutes in each of UW’s final 19 games, a clear indicator the coaching staff didn’t think the team could survive when Brown wasn’t in the game.
Coming into the year I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Brown. He went from ball-dominant volume scorer at Seattle to off the ball role player at Arizona. Moving to Washington he saw the talent around him go down but he was still going against Pac-12 competition. I hedged my bets in my preseason predictions and thought we’d see a mix of both where he could dominate the scoring with the bench unit and defer to Daejon Davis when playing with the starters to average around 10 points per game.
Since I started doing full numerical projections I don’t think I’ve ever been as off from a pure points per game standpoint as for Brown. He more than doubled my points estimate while also averaging an extra assist per game more too (I nailed the rebounds though). I don’t feel that bad though since no one could’ve predicted that Brown would have a legitimate claim for Pac-12 Player of the Year at season’s end. That he was able to 2 years later dominate the Pac-12 at about the same level he did the WAC is a remarkable achievement. We’ll miss you Terrell and thank you for coming back home to give us such a tremendous season.
Final Season Grade: A+
Daejon Davis- Senior, 6’3, 190 lbs
Max’s Per Game Predictions: 11.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 46.5% FG, 34.4% 3pt, 70.5% FT
Actual Per Game Averages: 7.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 35.0% FG, 29.9% 3pt, 69.6 FT
Preseason Prediction Quote: “I don’t think it’s likely that Davis leads the team in points but he could absolutely end up as the team leader in assists and should provide leadership for a team that hasn’t found it in recent seasons.”
Davis was committed to Washington coming out of Garfield High until Lorenzo Romar was fired at which point he switched course to Stanford. He came out with a strong freshman year averaging 10.7 pts, 4.4 reb, and 4.8 ast. Despite playing a full 5 years, the rebounds and assists per game numbers were a career high and he barely eclipsed the points total as a sophomore at 11.4. Injuries derailed his senior year at Stanford as he lost his starting spot by year’s end and ended up transferring to Washington in the offseason as a grad student.
Defensively there’s no question that Davis lived up to expectations. He averaged 2.0 steals per game which was 2nd in the Pac-12 only behind his backcourt mate Brown. Not since the days of Matisse Thybulle were Husky fans treated to as many steals where Davis jumped the passing lane on the perimeter and took it the other way for an easy dunk or layup attempt. That Davis didn’t make even honorable mention for the Pac-12’s All-Defense team is a disgrace.
The lack of recognition though may have been tainted by a combination of injury and the performance on offense. Davis suffered a shoulder injury at Stanford which resulted in him missing 5 games. He came back to play 2 before re-injuring it and missing another game returning to take only 1 shot against Oregon State. There’s no question the injury clearly bothered his offense as he took just 4 total 3’s in the 5 games post-injury after averaging essentially 4 per game until that point. He also had 0 free throw attempts in his final 3 games as the aggression taking the ball into traffic wasn’t there for fear that he would get the shoulder banged up again.
Even before the injury though it was a down year for Davis on offense. He shot under 30% from 3-point range for the first time in his career and also shot under 45% on 2’s for the first time ever (40%). Davis early on in particular had trouble finishing on layups as he barely converted 50% while often trying to draw contact rather than focus on making the shot.
Davis also finished with a career low in assists per game which was partly due to playing more off the ball while trying to co-exist with Terrell Brown Jr. It also didn’t help that UW didn’t have many reliable 3-point shooters to kick it out to or a reliable post scorer to find down low.
Advanced Stats Breakdown
Those offensive numbers aren’t any kinder when looked at in more detail. Per Synergy Sports Davis’ offense finished in the 19th percentile nationally on a points per possession basis. His most common play type was also his worst as he finished in the 16th percentile scoring a putrid 0.532 points per possession running the pick and roll in 62 possessions. It certainly didn’t help that Washington doesn’t have many good roll targets on the roster but the lack of ability to get anything done in that situation was a big issue for Davis all season.
Synergy’s points per possession metrics don’t fully capture the impact Davis had on defense though. He ranked in the 62nd percentile nationally in part due to somehow finishing in the 1st percentile with opponents shooting 46% on mid-range jumpers (basically they all turned into Terrell Brown with Davis on them).
The +/- numbers though do show the difference. From the start of Pac-12 play on, Washington’s defense improved by 11.5 points per 100 possessions when Davis was on the court. It should be noted that Davis missed games largely against the toughest stretch of Washington’s schedule but the overall trend is there no matter what. Davis’ presence was the single biggest factor this season between Washington being a good defense or being a bad one. The offense got worse when Davis played but consistently it was by a lesser degree than the defense improved. It was close but Davis ended up the only Husky to finish with a +/- greater than 0 while on the court.
It’s clear that Davis did not contribute nearly as much as I’d hoped to the team’s offensive success this year. Even when taking into account the change in role he regressed on that end of the floor in just about every way compared to how he played at Stanford. It was unfortunate that he never really improved either in his year at UW or really since his freshman season as a playmaker and as a shooter.
The change he brought to the defense made up for it though. The intensity that he brought to the zone was night and day from how it looked with players of similar size like Erik Stevenson or Marcus Tsohonis on the perimeter in the post-Matisse Thybulle era. It’s not a surprise that Daejon had career highs in both block rate and steal rate (1.8% and 3.9%) as a Husky.
I’m not going to take off anything in the final grade for the shoulder injury which happened on a play that would’ve been a 15 yard penalty in football for an illegal blindside block. However, I would’ve loved to see whether UW could’ve competed more strongly in some of the games against premium competition late in the year if Davis had been healthy and part of the defense. We’ll also always wonder what could’ve been if Davis had stuck with his commitment to Washington when Hop took over. At least we finally got to see him unleashed as a part of Hop’s zone. Thank you Daejon and good luck wherever your professional career takes you.