Here are Jo-Jo's player grades for the game against Stanford, which I've combined into one post and promoted to the front page. There's a lot of good stuff in here, so enjoy. -- Nuss
Aron Baynes - B+
I think that it is safe to say that Mt. Baynes is the foundation around which the Cougar frontcourt is built. We know that, the coaches know that, all of the Pac-10 knows that. Which is why it is going to be increasingly more difficult to get him shots in the remaining 15 games this season.
Saturday night Stanford did an excellent job of limiting Baynes to four shot attempts, and though he struggled from the field against Cal (2-9 from the field) he served as his usual efficient self on Saturday, making two baskets and hitting 3-4 from the line. But don't let his low scoring fool you -- the dude collected 9 rebounds, had a beautiful post move and was solid as a rock throughout the entire game. The only reason why I don't give him an A is because he did have a couple of ball handling miscues that cost the Cougs some buckets and botched the recieving end of a couple gorgeous DeAngelo Casto interior passes. But the B+ is nothing to be down about; defensively, he was always there and when paired with Casto created an interior defense that was all but impossible to break.
Caleb Forrest - C+
You know what you're going to get out of Caleb Forrest. And I'd say that is about all that the Cougs got out of Forrest against Stanford. He didn't do anything exceptional, either good or bad. It is interesting how the dynamics of the frontcourt personnel grouping work. When Daven Harmeling is in the game, the team runs a 4-1 motion; when Casto is in, they run a modified High-C. Bennett uses both sets when Forrest is in the game, and the truth is that Forrest does neither very well.
Forrest is a safety net. When he's in the game, he isn't going to kill you, but he won't win you the game either. And that is why I like him so much better as a spot contributor off the bench rather than a starter garnering a majority of minutes. A solid reserve can give you a spark off the bench, but at the highest priority serves to give your best players some relief without everything falling apart. That is what you get out of Forrest. After scoring all three of his points within the first two minutes of play and hitting the deck on "The Dunk" play, Forrest was little more than a stop gap.
Daven Harmeling - Incomplete
What to do with the Harmeling situation? Daven was the first "big" off the bench coming in for Baynes at the 14:40 mark. He played only eight minutes, all of them in the first half. That's right, he didn't play a single minute in that second half. So, to grade him on the time that he did play, I felt that he played fine. He didn't take a bad shot. But he didn't make any shots either. Based on the fact that he has been pigeonholed into the 4 position, and the upcoming player grade, I wonder if we are ever going to see the Daven Harmeling we know is in there.
DeAngelo Casto - A
As the second "big" off the bench, Casto came into the game as the fourth post player on the depth chart. I now wonder if he has moved up a bit. We'll have to wait and see. But to grade his performance the other night, I have to say that he was the difference in the win. Yes, Taylor Rochestie appears to be breaking out of his funk, leading the team in scoring and making the big basket, but in my opinion Casto was the difference maker.
He gave the Cougs the defensive lift that they needed to really get this team moving. He was fearless, which lead to some fouls, but by the end of the game the interior defense that he and Baynes combined to provide was so intimidating that the Cardinal were flat out missing shots within 5 feet of the basket. And, believe it or not, he actually created some positive things on offense as well. He drew fouls, got to the line, made a couple of incredible interior passes that should have gone for assists, and was assertive and confident with the basketball. Would you believe zero turnovers in 21 minutes? This from a guy who, alledgedly, hasn't gotten the minutes because he is an offensive liability.
There are only two reasons why I couldn't give him an A+. The first is that he got caught overextending a few times on defense. This is a good mistake to make at this point in his development. It comes from working a little too hard. The second is making his free throws. This should come with time, but it's good that he is able to create a look that get's him to the line. Now he just needs to finish from there.
Just as food for thought, I applied the +/- stat from hockey to the game against Stanford. I wanted to see who was on the floor when the team was successful. Take a guess at who had the highest grade.
Baynes -- Minus-3
Forrest -- Minus-4
Harmeling -- Minus-1
Casto -- Plus-10
I don't know if that really means anything, but I thought it would be interesting to look at. I wouldn't put much weight behind it, however it was obvious while watching live that good things were happening when Casto was on the floor.
Klay Thompson - B/B+
This was a tough player grade to come to. Of course the emotion behind "The Dunk" makes me want to take my clothes off and run around yelling "A+! A+!" But, I'm trying to be objective here.
In reality Thompson had a wonderful game. The only thing keeping him from an A+ grade was his shooting percentage (4/12 - ouch). But the four shots he did hit were huge. He nailed back-to-back 3's in the first half to keep the game from getting away from the Cougs too early, and the backdoor cut and "The Dunk" came on back-to-back plays at a pivotal time as well. Other than that, he forced a couple shots, but hey, if two of those jumpers fall then he's shooting 50%. The really impressive part of his game however was his steady defensive performance throughout the entire night. Thompson was asked to guard Stanford's point player all night long, and he did it for 35 minutes. Great defense starts on the ball, and Thompson kept the Stanford offense under control all night long.
Offensively we saw the emergence of some new things in the second half; as stated in my earlier post, the Cougs were pushing the ball a bit more when the opportunity was there and Thompson was a major contributor in that regard. But what I loved the most was what I saw him doing in the half-court offense. Two of Rochestie's catch-n-shoot baskets were assisted by Thompson, and for a stretch he was basically running the offense from a point forward position in the half-court (think Scottie Pippen to Steve Kerr). If this is something that we are going to see more of, then some of those offensive issues we've been ranting about might start to work themselves out.
Nik Koprivica - C+/B-
You know, I felt really bad for Nik in that first half. Many of our friends here have had just about enough of Nik, and though I've defended him for years, he really hasn't been playing well. But he was just fine in the first half; both of those offensive fouls were bogus, that's four points and we can assume that he would have made at least one of the subsequent foul shots. He made a beautiful pick and roll pass to Casto that Rochestie either can't or just won't execute. The guy just flat out got jobbed for his efforts in the first half.
Nik was a relative non-factor in the second half; he fell asleep on defense a couple times, dribbled the ball off his leg a couple times, but I have to say he might be the best player on the team at making the entry pass into the post (two of them lead to the post baskets by Casto and Baynes). I liken his contributions to that of Caleb Forrest; he didn't really hurt the team, but he didn't do a whole lot to help either. If he hadn't been screwed by the refs in the first half he would have had a nice little game for a roll player, but definately not the contribution that you are looking for from a starter.
Taylor Rochestie - A-
As someone who has been bashing on Taylor for a few weeks now, I can honestly say that it feels good to eat some crow. But just because he made some of his shots doesn't not mean that I'm okay with all of the shots he took. In fact, I didn't really like the game winner at all. I think that is a low percentage shot, and if he had missed it I would have been throwing things at the TV. But he made it. And Praise the Lord for that.
A few shots I did like came in the second half where it was obvious that Tony had his players "looking" for Rochestie off the screens. The three sideline jumpers that he banged home were vintage Derrick Low, and as I've said several times here, that is one aspect of this offense that has been missing. It is true that Rochestie is the best ball handler on the team, and he should be running the point, but getting the ball out of his hands in the half court and allowing him to move without the ball serves as the best way to get quality shots out of him. Thompson and Capers can serve this role in the half court for Rochestie, and it will get him more quality looks. We've been calling for it for weeks, we saw it in the second half against Stanford and hopefully we see a lot of it in the weeks to come.
I will say this; I really want him to start making the pass on the pick and roll. It gets irritating to see a wide open roll man floating around. And he needs to make better passes on his kick outs. He cost Harmeling a good look on one penetration by flipping a little backhanded YMCA pass that Daven intelligently gathered off the floor and rotated to Thompson who hit the three, but that should have been a shot attempt for Harmeling. In my opinion, Rochestie made his biggest contribution by getting to the line and converting. Rather than avoiding contact he embraced it and converted 8-of-9 from the stripe. That is another thing this team has been missing.
Abe Lodwick - B-
First, let me start by saying congratulations to Abe for making the first meaningful shot of his college career. That being said, I'm not going to get all romantic over Abe because he made that shot. The bottom line is that he is still 2-of-19 from 3-point range, and while that ONE shot was huge and tied the game midway through the second half, he finished the night 1-3, which really isn't any better than what this team gets out of Koprivica most nights. Yeah, he made a big shot, and that's great, but it's not like I'm ready to see him go Pacman Jones on us by "makin' it rain" from three all the time.
Defensively he was servicable, but not spectacular (it's going to take something spectacular to get the taste of LaceDarius Dunn out of my mouth), and offensively he spent most of his first half minutes standing around and watching. On his second shot attempt I was impressed with his ability to use the screen, something we haven't seen much of out of Harmeling and Koprivica, to get his shot. He looked quick, read the screen well, was wide open, and flat out bricked the shot. And maybe I'm nitpicking a bit, but it was his man that got that second Stanford offensive rebound with 1:00 to go, he didn't box out.
Marcus Capers - Incomplete
I don't know why I like this kid so much, but I do. And for the life of me I don't understand why he doesn't get more minutes. His minutes on Saturday I'm sure were a result of Koprivica getting hosed for offensive foul calls and he might not have seen the floor otherwise. In the second half he assisted on one of Rochestie's jumpers. And I don't care if that was a goal tend or not, that was awesome. Not the part where he got sealed off and beat baseline, but the part where he recovered and said "hell no. I ain't givin' you no easy bucket." (Okay, he didn't really SAY anything, but I think you get my point). When he was in the game he brought energy, much like Casto did, and I wonder how much of an impact he could make if he played more minutes.
+/- scores for the backcourt grade out like this:
Klay Thompson -1
Nik Koprivica +2
Taylor Rochestie +3
Abe Lodwick -6 (ouch)
Marcus Capers +4
Again, I don't know if this really means anything, but I find it very curious that Casto and Capers had the two highest +/- scores in the game.