This is the latest in a series of posts designed to examine just how WSU's season went sideways. We tackled Klay Thompson yesterday. We're looking at each of the regular rotation players in order of minute percentage, and next up is Marcus Capers.
Remember that these posts aren't about playing some sort of "blame game"; they're about examining the evidence and trying to figure out what happened. Everything we're looking at played a role in this team's demise this season, but none of it is responsible for all of it.
I'm on record as one who loves Marcus Capers. If we were trying to divvy up the blame pie -- which, as I mentioned earlier, we're not -- I'd feel fairly confident giving Capers a small slice. But even he has played a role in this late-season decline.
Like many players, Capers suffered a marginal decline in performance from non-conference play to Pac-10 play -- a decline that is pretty conveniently explained by in the increase in the level of competition. For a guy who relies so much on his athleticism, it makes sense that he'd have more success against less athletic competition:
Outside of the distinctly elevated turnover rate, I'm not sure any of this was unexpected. However, let me go outside the box a little bit. I know we generally shun counting stats around here as accurate representations of player contribution, but go with me for a moment on this one. Here are Capers' counting stats each year of his career:
Essentially, Marcus Capers is exactly the player he was a year ago -- just playing more minutes. Now, I know this doesn't even come close to quanitfying his defensive contributions to the team, which are considerable. But when a guy is playing approximately 70 percent of the available minutes, but is about .3% usage away from being designated "nearly invisible" offensively by Ken Pomeroy, that's a pretty significant issue.
I know we're all in love with his defense and the occasional dunk. But it's time Cougar fans sort of woke up to reality: There's probably no other team in this conference that would be playing such a limited offensive player for close to 30 minutes a game. It works if the team is getting superlative offensive contributions from the other two perimeter players -- some combination of Thompson, Reggie Moore or Faisal Aden. But how often is that happening?
Capers has demonstrated no ability to shoot or put the ball on the floor; the only thing opponents have to worry about with him at the moment is boxing him out. Since that's really not that difficult to do, Capers is a liability on offense when he's on the floor. And as we already mentioned, that's a lot of the time. When you factor in the minutes he's on the floor with Abe Lodwick, the Cougs are playing three on five.
And this part of the reason why this team is struggling. Does Ken Bone take his best perimeter defender off the floor to get more offense? He's done that a little in the past few games -- 20 minutes or fewer for Capers in two of the past three.
I still love Capers. I love his passion, I love that he knows his skill set. But the reality is that coaches of very good teams don't have to make a choice -- their starters can defend and score. On most teams, a guy with Capers' skill set is a 15- to 18-minute-a-night energy guy off the bench. For this team, he's a 30-minute-a-night regular.
So while you can't really blame some sort of significant dropoff by Capers as contributing this late-season slide, when you combine his lack of development with the offensive slides going on around him, he's definitely had his role.
Next up: Reggie Moore