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How can WSU get more out of Justin Powell?

On the heels of a nervy win over Washington, it feels like he’s capable of more.

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Ashley Davis

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To the basketball!

Beating Washington never gets old, as evidenced by the good feelings in the wake of Saturday’s 56-51 victory for the Washington State Cougars. It matters not that the game wasn’t … uh … aesthetically pleasing — a win over the Huskies is a win over the Huskies, and it feels absolutely stellar, even half a week later.

But in thinking about the offense, which produced just 0.92 points per possession in that one, we can’t help but turn our attention to Justin Powell.

Powell has been a really good player for WSU since transferring from Tennessee this past offseason. He’s a borderline-elite high-volume 3-point shooter, a strong ball handler, and an excellent passer. And he’s doing all of that while playing huge minutes.

The old saying goes “availability is the best ability,” but I might even change that to “dependability is the best ability.” Coaches love to know what they’re going to get from guys on a night-to-night basis, and Powell has been the definition of dependable this season. I don’t want to undersell how much that matters.

And yet … it sure feels like there’s a bunch of meat left on that bone. Powell’s usage rate in Pac-12 play is just 16.2%, only a tick above his season mark overall. To put that in perspective, here is a list of players whose actions are ending possessions at a more frequent rate than Powell during conference games:

  • Mouhamed Gueye (obviously) — 28.5%
  • TJ Bamba (duh) — 25.5%
  • Kymany Houinsou (77.9 offensive rating yiiiiiikes) — 18.9%
  • Adrame Diongue (WHAAAT??!?) — 16.8%
  • Andrej Jakimovski (sigh, what could have been) — 16.4%

And, in case you’re curious, DJ Rodman and Jabe Mullins are only a tick behind Powell, each at 15.8%.

Now, for some guys, increasing usage correlates with a drop in efficiency, so it can be a trade-off. However, given his skill set, it’s hard not to think that Powell should be a comfortable third in that pecking order — and that the Cougs would be better off if he was. Some of the issue is that Powell’s not really an explosive athlete on the order of Gueye and Bamba, but there also seems to be some passivity to his game at times — a reluctance to take risks.

How does WSU get more out of Powell? Since Craig is still in Costa Rica, Jeff welcomed on CougCenter’s own basketball savant, Bryce Hendricks, to talk about that — but not (of course) before we celebrate the Cougars’ win over the Huskies:

We also touch on:

  • Noah Williams’ return, which was more benign than anticipated;
  • Whether we should be worried about Kymany Houinsou, who is really struggling;
  • Previewing Oregon State and Oregon, who close out the home schedule for the Cougs this weekend;
  • And finally, we turn our attention to women’s basketball, where Kamie’s Cougs have a potentially pivotal weekend against the same teams.

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Music by Randy England — you can learn more about his work on Instagram!