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Season Report Card: Jamal Bey & Emmitt Matthews Jr.

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We go in-depth on Washington’s starting wing duo’s performance from this season

NCAA Basketball: Utah at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

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-.

Previous Additions: Terrell Brown Jr. and Daejon Davis

Jamal Bey- Senior, 6’6, 210 lbs

Max’s Per Game Predictions: 13.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 47.2% FG, 37.8% 3pt, 70.5% FT

Actual Per Game Averages: 9.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 33.6% FG, 31.5% 3pt, 72.4% FT

Preseason Prediction Quote: “New Husky assistant coach Quincy Pondexter is the poster child of players taking giant leaps in year 4 and the hope is that he can help inspire Bey to fully tap into his potential. I’m going to hedge my bets a little and expect that we see progress but that Bey is going to fall short of being a true all-conference performer.”

Prior Seasons

Bey entered the UW as a 4-star recruit having won the Nevada Gatorade State Player of the Year award as a senior at Bishop Gorman. He didn’t see a lot of time immediately on a veteran UW squad that went to the NCAA tournament but broke into the rotation right at the end of the year which led to increased expectations for a breakout season once Thybulle and Green graduated. That didn’t materialize as Bey’s confidence cratered and he shot just over 25% on 3’s. As a junior the shooting completely turned around as Bey shot 50.7% on 3-pointers among the top in the nation. The aggressiveness wasn’t there though and the hope was in his senior year that Bey would take charge and put it all together.

Season Summary

At this point it’s fair to say the fault lays with us for continuing to place grand expectations on Bey. Once again he continued his roller coaster career at Washington as the 3-point shooting hovered around 30% almost the entire season and he failed to average double digit points per game. In slightly reduced minutes Bey averaged slightly more steals, blocks, and rebounds per game but the scoring came down due to a disastrous drop in his shooting percentages.

Bey struggled to score the ball from just about everywhere on the court. He shot 28.7% on 2-point attempts outside the paint. He shot 31.5% on 3-point shots. He made just 1 out of 3 dunk attempts! During Bey’s sophomore season it was clear that he was inside his own head which led him to consistently miss or just pass up open looks. The same thing happened this year as it seemed like you could predict whether a Bey shot was going to go in based on the approach. If Bey had time to think about the shot it almost invariably missed and sometimes badly. If instead he let his talent and muscle memory take over and went with a quick release or off of a broken play then it nearly always swished home.

The mental block often seemed to carry over to the defensive end. Bey’s primary responsibility in the corner of the zone is to prevent the ball from getting swung to that side and allow a wide open 3-pointer. Bey always made an attempt to close out on the shooter but way too often there were lapses either due to freelancing or lack of concentration that gave teams open looks.

Advanced Stats Breakdown

The numbers from Synergy largely back up my thoughts on Bey’s offensive performance. He averaged 0.786 points per possession on offense which ranked in the 29th percentile nationally. The catch and shoot numbers were actually better than I expected. As a spot up shooter Bey ranked in the 59th percentile which was his most common play type. He also ranked better than that on both guarded and unguarded catch and shoot opportunities. His biggest problem was dribbling into midrange jumpers where he graded out well below average.

The struggles on defense also were borne out by the advanced stats as Bey finished in the 14th percentile in points per possession which was the worst of any Husky defender. Opponents shot 33% on 3-point attempts with Bey as the nearest defender which is mostly acceptable but they shot better than 60% on midrange jumpers which is likely at least in part bad luck. Even Terrell Brown Jr. doesn’t make midrange shots with that kind of consistency.

The Plus/Minus numbers back up the sentiment that the Huskies were generally better off with Bey on the bench. Over the course of the season Washington was about 6.5 points per 100 possessions better when Bey was off the court versus when he was on it. That was true on both ends as the team improved by about 2.5 points on offense and 4 points on defense in the 2 situations.

The trends were even more stark against premium competition. Versus Q1 and Q2 opponents the Huskies were an astounding 17.2 points per 100 possessions better when Bey wasn’t playing. There’s some sample size questions there since Bey played about 70% of those minutes but I think it’s still a large enough grouping to say that’s fairly definitive. Against the best of the best the defense was only slightly worse overall but the offense fell into a black hole when Bey played, getting 15 points per 100 possessions worse.

Conclusion

Now that we’re 4 years into the Jamal Bey experience I feel fairly confident that we know who Bey is as a player. He has all of the physical gifts necessarily to be an all-conference caliber wing in the Pac-12. When everything is going right he’s capable of being an elite shooter and he has the agility and athleticism necessary to get to the basket or at least get off an open midrange jumper. He just doesn’t have the aggressive instinct necessary to take over a basketball game and thinks too much when he’s on the basketball court.

If he wants it, Bey still has one more year of eligibility remaining due to the pandemic mulligan. He has yet to announce what his plans are for next season. Presumably he will finish up his degree this year and could choose to move ahead with a professional overseas basketball career since the NBA seems out of his reach even with another season in college. That’s the path Nate Roberts has already chosen.

Bey could also come back to college either at Washington or somewhere else. If he chooses to come back I’m sure Hop won’t be upset at getting a back a talented veteran who knows the system. There’s also an argument to be made that the Huskies may be better off if Bey and UW mutually decide to go their separate ways and open up a potential spot for an impact player in the transfer portal. We’ll find out in the coming days or weeks which way it’s going to go. Barring a significant turn around and a happy ending we’re unfortunately likely to look back on Jamal Bey’s tenure with Washington asking the question “what if?”

Final Season Grade: C-

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Emmitt Matthews Jr.- Senior, 6’7, 215 lbs

Max’s Per Game Predictions: 8.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 41.2% FG, 30.8% 3pt, 74.5% FT

Actual Per Game Averages: 11.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 43.4% FG, 33.6% 3pt, 75.5% FT

Preseason Prediction Quote: “Matthews should be a valuable swiss army knife for Washington this season capable of playing either the 3 or the 4 depending on who else is on the floor. I’m expecting that Matthews will be the de facto power forward in the starting lineup but given how many options the Dawgs have at that spot he’ll often shift up when UW wants to go big.”

Prior Seasons

Coming out of high school in Tacoma, Matthews originally committed to a different Huskies team (Connecticut) but after a coaching change ended up at West Virginia. He started 12 games as a true freshman and had a coming out party averaging 16.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game over the final 4 contests of the year including against a pair of top-20 teams. It didn’t quite carry over though as Matthews’ production went up only slightly over the next 2 years but always in line with an increase in minutes. After putting up 8 points and 4 rebounds for Bob Huggins as a junior Matthews transferred back home to Washington.

Season Summary

Matthews did indeed start every game for which he was healthy as the de facto power forward in the Washington lineup but he also ended up playing plenty of center in small ball lineups. Particularly early on in the season the Huskies had Matthews battle as best he could down low and hoped the floor spacing with 5 potential shooters on the other end would pay off and that was mostly correct. 2 of the 3 most successful lineups UW played more than 25 minutes per game featured Matthews at center.

For the 3rd consecutive season Matthews saw an increase in his minutes, points, and rebounds per game. The scoring increase this year wasn’t just due to more playing time as his points per minute over his career has gone from 0.33 to 0.3 to 0.3 to 0.37 this year. A big part of that was more consistency shooting the ball from deep. He shot almost exactly 30% on 3-point attempts each of the past 2 seasons but this year that number increased to 33.6%. Down the stretch it was even better as he shot 40% during Pac-12 play which is about where he was all season except for an 0/10 stretch in the middle of the non-conference.

In addition to the shooting Matthews also brought some attitude to UW’s offense and led the team in dunks with 26. Sometimes they got a little ambitious and didn’t land but he had a knack for trying to put an exclamation point on a play particularly in transition. On the defensive end the steals and blocks numbers were nothing special but he definitely competed and showed the toughness typical of West Virginia basketball.

Advanced Stats Breakdown

On a points per possession basis Matthews was the most efficient Husky player on offense this season finishing in the 72nd percentile nationally. He finished with a career high offensive rating despite playing more minutes and ending up with a (just barely) career high usage rate as well. When Matthews got the ball in a catch and shoot situation he was clearly above average. He actually shot better on guarded jump shots than wide open ones but the end result was a 64th percentile mark on those attempts. The problem was that Matthews shot just 20% off the dribble which ranked in the 6th percentile nationally. If he doesn’t take the initial 3-point attempt then he has to either pass it or drive all the way to the rim.

It was also no surprise that Matthews was a dynamite transition finisher and ranked in the 81st percentile nationally in his 2nd most common play type which was 1st on the team. His biggest struggle area was trying to run the pick and roll as the roll man. Matthews shot 20% as the pick and pop option in those scenarios and again showed he was most effective either shooting from deep or getting to the basket.

Synergy liked Matthews’ defense as well as he was also tops on the team in points per possession on that end of the floor finishing in the 67th percentile. Opponents shot a combined 27% either trying to post-up on Matthews or take him in isolation scenarios. Even when Matthews was playing undersized at the 5 he almost never got overwhelmed by bigger opponents backing him down. Additionally, opposing shooters made just 18% of their jump shots in catch and shoot situations with Matthews closing out which ranked in the 93rd percentile nationally.

Given all of that it’s pretty clear that the plus/minus metrics also thought Matthews was a key piece of the puzzle. Washington was 10.3 points per 100 possessions better with Matthews on the court over the entire season. That was the best mark on the team and Daejon Davis was the only Husky even close. The same was true against tough opponents as in Q1 and Q2 games Washington was 9 points per 100 possessions better with Matthews playing versus on the bench. The offensive numbers were almost identical for the on/off splits but the defense was tremendously improved whenever Matthews was in the game.

Conclusion

Just like Bey, Matthews has the opportunity to turn pro or grad transfer if he so chooses. Unlike Bey though I desperately want Matthews to return. There was a reasonable argument to be made that Matthews deserved to be honorable mention all-conference. He finished in the top-25 in the conference in both scoring and rebounding while playing above average defense. He didn’t excel strongly enough in any one area to merit consideration but it isn’t difficult to make the argument.

If Matthews does indeed return next year then depending on the rest of the roster he will have a chance to work his way into a 2nd team all-conference type of player. I have some slight concern that where Matthews is best on offense is suited to playing with a good distributor at the guard spot and at this very moment that’s a gaping hole on the roster. If Matthews ends up having to be a creator as one of the lone competent offensive players next year it will really hurt his efficiency. But if he can be your 3rd best player then you’re looking at a team capable of going far in the NCAA tournament.

Final Season Grade: A