Faisal Aden sat out WSU's game against Eastern yesterday, as he continues a prolonged battle with recurring concussions. On the surface, the casual fan may say, "Oh noes! Our leading scorer is out! We're in trouble!" Others, who have become frustrated with the defensive lapses and questionable offensive decisions that Aden brings to the table were excited to see how the team performed without him.
First, a bit of a surprise is that the Cougs didn't actually take care of the ball any better without Aden in the lineup. Faisal has turned the ball over at a 25.0% clip. His replacement in the starting lineup, DaVonte Lacy, has taken much better care of the basketball with a 13.8 TO%. But yesterday, some of the other major contributors on the WSU basketball team stepped up to turn the ball over to compensate for the loss of Aden. Reggie Moore had nine turnovers and now is second on the team with a 26.6 TO%. It's possible that Aden doesn't affect the turnover rate all that much, because someone else with just give the ball away in his place.
Second, take a look at that beautiful "Shooting" bar, especially the gray one. Washington State held Eastern to under 30 eFG%. The Eagles were previously shooting almost 38% on three-pointers alone. They were ineffective from the perimeter yesterday, something that is vital to their success. Lacy was an upgrade over Aden on the outside. It is pretty obvious that this team cannot have Moore and Aden as the two perimeter defenders on the floor at the same time and expect success. Almost any other combination of guards will yield a good result. What WSU did yesterday could have just been a fluke, but by all accounts Eastern was forced into more difficult shots with hands in their faces.
Overall, it was Wazzu's best defensive performance of the season (outside of Grambling - but that was more about them than WSU) and their best shooting night since Portland. This begs the question, what value does Aden bring to the Cougs? He plays a significant portion of the minutes, and uses far and away more possessions than any player on the team. There is no doubt he has offensive skill. He is shooting 42.4% from three, and might be the team's most consistent finisher on drives to the basket. However, his careless passing and inexplicable decisions to drive into triple-teams can hurt. He is a very streaky player. He might score eight points in a row, followed by a string of turnovers and bad shots.
If Aden were to be more selective with his shots and passes, he could very well be a highly efficient player. As it stands right now, his offensive efficiency is at 96.0 (100 is average). He is below average despite an excellent 55.3 eFG%. If he wasn't constantly driving into defenders, losing control of his dribble, or making one-handed passes on the run, he could be generating a higher percentage of successful trips down the floor. The problem is, he is a senior. He played two years in junior college where he had the freedom to do whatever he wanted, and he has kept that same mentality as WSU. He is unlikely to change.
The bottom line here is that he possesses a skill set that is more in line with a guy who comes off the bench for short spurts and scores in bunches to jump-start the offense. He is too much of a defensive liability to left out in long stretches, and he needs a short leash in case he gets into one of his turnover modes. Having Aden start and play 70% of the minutes is most likely hurting this team much more than it is helping. However, he still has some value and it would be nice to see him utilized more effectively.
After the jump, the Game Flow Chart. Where, like two people stuck in an unhappy marriage, the Cougs and Eags slowly drifted further and further apart.
The "pants-off" moment came with just over five minutes to play when the Cougs' lead was 100% safe. That's a lot of quality tighty-whitey time.