The "Talent" Myth

Many posters on Cougcenter seem to be under the impression that this Cougar team is loaded with talent that should make them one of the top two teams in the conference and it is only coaching that is holding us back.  We love our players, and I love them too, but we need to understand that we are a thoroughly average team with one truly above average player, not a team loaded with top tier talent.

This started small and grew over time.  I want to give a hat tip to Nuss for giving me some suggestions along the way. 

After the jump, you can read my thoughts.  But be warned, it’s long and it’s stats heavy. 

First off, a few notes about the premises I am working with before you dive in.  If you are not a stat guy (or gal) you may not enjoy this post.  That is fine, but just know that I am basing my argument off of stats from Ken Pom.   Also, I am going to generally ignore our defense.  Two reasons for that, both I hope readers can agree with.  Defense is hard to measure with any one stat and I don’t want this to get out of hand, and our defense is actually pretty good.  Also, when people talk about a coach failing to fully utilize players they have a tendency to mean on offense and not on defense.  Rarely will an argument be framed that Ken Bone isn’t getting enough steals out of Marcus Capers due to a failure in coaching or half time adjustments. 

With that, off we go. 

Based on ORtg, we have 3 players in the top 30 in the conference.  There are three teams ahead of us in the standings; all three teams have 4 players in the top 30 in ORtg.  You can check that here.  ORtg is an overall metric of offensive production.  It includes about all things that a player can do on the offensive end, both positive and negative (points scored, shooting percentages, assists, turnovers, offensive rebounds, etc.), and tries to create one stat that summarizes that player in a measurable way.  100 is meant to be average and should signify that if that player used 100 possessions for a team, they would score about 100 points or 1 point per possession.  Usage percentage relates to the amount of possessions a player uses.  There are better explanations out there and I recommend searching them out if you are curious, they can explain it in further detail.

Now, looking at our players with their Ortg, their conference rank, and their usage percentage.

Capers - 4th in conference, 119.1 ORtg and uses 12.9 percent of possessions.

Motum - 5th in conference, 117.6 ORtg and uses 17.8 percent of possessions.

Klay Thompson – 22nd in conference,  108.2 ORtg and uses 32.1 percent of possessions.

Reggie Moore – 42nd in conference, 101.4 ORtg and uses 18.5 percent of possessions

DeAngelo Casto – 44th in conference, 100.5 ORtg and uses 21.8 percent of possessions

Abe Lodwick – 46th in conference, 100.3 ORtg and uses 8.8 percent of possessions

Faisal Aden – 55th in conference, 95.4 ORtg and uses 28.5 percent of possessions.

 We have three players that fall in that "average" range, Reggie, DeAngelo, and Abe.  Combined, they use almost 40 percent of our possessions.  That is not bad, but not great.  We have three above average based on the rating; Klay, Motum and Capers.  Here is where we can start to see both the problem with the ranking and part of the problem with the team.

First, our average players.  Reggie, D, and Abe all rank in that category.  I’m going to leave Abe out at this point, he uses very few possessions and I don’t want to open the can of worms that is "what position does Abe play."  So we will compare Reggie and D to their peers. 

With Reggie, guys that are around him in efficiency and similar in position (G or PG, 1 or 2 if you must).  Jorge Guiterrez.  Lazeric JonesLamont Jones.  Not to mention Venoy Overton.  All of these players have similar usage percentages and HIGHER ORtg.  That covers 4 teams in the conference, with four different guards, that all have contributed similarly to Reggie.  This is not to say that Reggie isn’t valuable to us, he is incredibly important to our team.  But the point is that he is not statistically a giant step up from other guards in the conference.  And he is significantly below the top level of guards, guys like IT who come in at 116.2 ORtg and a 27% usage. 

But DeAngelo is one of the elite posts in the conference you say?  OK, let’s look at that one.  Players with similar numbers to D, Josh Owens at Stanford and Markhuri Sanders-Frison at Cal.  Also Reeves Nelson at UCLA.  All of these players have higher ORtg with similar usage percentages.  Other good posts in the conference that are farther up both the usage and ORtg rankings, Jeovon Catron, Nikola Vucevic, Harper Kemp.  This avoids the elite posts in the conference, which include Josh Smith, MBA, and of course Derrick Williams.  DeAngelo brings a lot to the table for us, blocks on defense.  He leads the team in defensive rebounding rate at 17.8 percent.  Right next to Abe at 16.3 percent.  They are the two highest rated defensive rebounders we have, and are good enough for 17 and 19 in the conference.  Again, about average.  DeAngelo is also a good offensive rebounder, grabbing 8.6 percent of rebounds on the offensive side which ranks him 15th in the conference. 

I am not trying to destroy these two players, just point out that they are average when compared to similar players within the conference.

Let’s move on to our higher rated players. 

Capers is a great player in a lot of ways.  But he is not a great offensive player, he has limited options to score.  He is great at the tipjam.  He has some awesome baseline jams.  Every now and then he will make a jump shot.  That is it.  He knows not too shoot to much, and that is why he is so effective at ORtg.  He only uses 12.9 percent of our possessions and really would only see his effectiveness drop if he used more.

Motum is similar; he has limited things he can do on offense.  His growth is impressive, and he will hopefully continue to grow, but he is not great at banging with the bigger Pac 10 players.  He’s a great passer for a post, but his defense can be suspect.  His time is increasing and this is probably a good thing, but Motum is still a player adjusting to the speed/size of Pac 10 basketball.  Great upside, but not a player that I would rate as a top 5 player at his position in the Pac 10.

When people call out Coach Bone or say that we aren’t getting the most of our talent, you could point at Capers and Motum and say that they should be using more of our possessions.  We know that Capers has a limited offensive game, but when we say we should get more out of our players are we saying Capers should shoot more?  His effectiveness on offense would say yes, but as smart fans we know that isn’t the case. 

Klay is really good.  He’s 3rd in the Pac 10 amongst players that use at least 28% of possessions.  Of course, there are only 4 players using possessions at 28% or more, and we have the 3rd and 4th best of those players.  Klay we can live with at that usage rate, the 4th player we cannot.  Hello, Faisal Aden.

There isn’t much that really needs to be said to explain Faisal, but his stats are really important to this idea we are not a spectacular team.  Faisal uses 28 percent of the possessions when he is on the floor, placing him second in the conference behind his teammate Klay.  Two really important things here.  One, Klay is doing all he can.  A 31 percent usage rate with his efficiency is unreal.  Two, while we know that Faisal uses up more possessions then he should, what are our viable alternatives?  Klay can't shoot much more, turning to Reggie or D raises our efficiency only slightly, so who should shoot? 

OK, so what does all this mean?   In my mind, we have a group of players that are average for the Pac 10 this year.  And this is where I think my point really lies.  The "talent myth" that I believe exists about this team is that we are more talented than our record in conference play shows.   But we are currently sitting 4th in the conference.  And we are full of players that are average to just above average at their positions in the conference this year.  So we are where we should be.  This year, WSU is as large a part of the "down Pac 10" as any other team.  For those that believe Coach Bone isn’t getting enough from his talent, I ask what else is he supposed to get?  Is Reggie really an elite Pac 10 guard this year?  Is DeAngelo being underutilized on offense?  Should Brock and Capers really be shooting more if both of them are limited in their options and are likely to be less efficient as time passes?

I love the Cougs, and I love watching a competitive team in the Pac 10.  And we are a competitive team in the Pac 10.  But we also, as fans, have to recognize what we are not.  And we are not the most gifted team, talent wise, that WSU has ever had.  We are a team with one truly remarkable player in Klay, a few really solid role players (Capers, Motum and Abe) and a few Pac 10 quality, but average quality, players (Reggie, D, and Faisal?).  What else is our coaching staff supposed to do?    

This FanPost does not necessarily reflect the views of the site's writers or editors, who may not have verified its accuracy. It does, however, reflect the views of this particular fan, which is just as important as the views of our writers or editors.

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