what I feel in my gut.
The offense seems to run a lot smoother with Spike. And I think it wouldf benefit Walton to watch the game a bit before he comes in.
The optimal lineup? (Apologies for reminding you of those shoes.)
Michigan's underwhelming start to this season can in large part be attributed to the dropoff in play at point guard; this was expected with Trey Burke gone to the NBA, but the degree to which it's affected the team's overall performance has surprised. Without Burke drawing the attention of multiple defenders, Michigan's wings have had a much more difficult time generating offense.
As discussed earlier today, Derrick Walton hasn't had a great start to the season, and his status as starting point guard is tenuous after Spike Albrecht played the lion's share of the minutes against Arizona and acquitted himself well. In an effort to figure out which point guard gives the Wolverines the best chance of winning now, I took another look at the Arizona tape along with the usual foray into KenPom and hoop-math wonkery.
We'll start with the tape from Saturday, focusing on the play of each point guard on both ends of the floor, with an emphasis on the type of shots each generated. Here's the reel for Spike:
And here's Walton:
After THE JUMP, I (chart!) chart every shot from the game, break down my impressions of each player based on the above film and the season as a whole, and take a deeper statistical look into their play.
[JUMP, if you will.]
Before the film breakdown, let's look at the charts, which track shot quality based on where a shot originated and how well the defense contested it. NC stands for No Contest, LC for Late Contest, and HC for Heavy Contest; those categories are pretty self-explanatory, and obviously you'd prefer more NC/LC shots than HCs. Since I'm looking to see which point guard helps the team's offense function, not just what each point does when he has the ball, I charted all shots generated when each player was on the floor regardless of the passers or shooters involved. I define transition shots the same way hoop-math does—any shot in the first ten seconds of the shot clock following a steal, defensive rebound, or opponent made basket. The non-transition chart covers the rest, obviously. Asterisks represent shooting fouls drawn.
|Albrecht on court||1/1||1/1*||1/2||--||--||--||--||1/3||--||4/7 (1F)|
|Walton on court||--||1/1||--||--||--||--||1/1||--||--||2/2|
Both players do a good job of making themselves available for outlet passes and pushing the pace; based on both this game and the season at large, Spike is more likely to look for an open three-point shot in transition—whether it's him shooting it or a teammate.
|Albrecht on court||--||4/4**||2/6*||1/1||0/1||0/2||1/3||3/6||1/1||12/25 (3F)|
|Walton on court||1/1||2/2*||0/2||1/2||0/1*||0/3||--||1/1||0/2||5/14 (2F)|
Here's where the difference between the two players starts to come forth. While both players generated shots at the rim at a decent rate, Michigan got a lot more good looks from three with Albrecht out there, while—considering Albrecht played 25 minutes to Walton's 14—the team settled for a higher rate of two-point jumpers with Walton on the floor. The team scored 1.16 points per shot with Spike running the point compared to 0.79 with Walton; sample size is obviously an issue here, but when we take a closer look at the film there are underlying issues that explain why it's difficult to discount this entirely.
The contrast between the two becomes more stark when looking at the film. A few major areas in which the two differ:
Simply put, Spike is the better passer at this stage, and it shows both on film and in the numbers. He doesn't make many bad passes—most of his turnovers come when he over-dribbles—and he's got much better chemistry with his teammates, especially Mitch McGary, which shouldn't be a huge surprise considering he's got more experience playing with them. Walton misses more open players—for example, he can't find a way to get McGary the ball at the 2:22 mark—and doesn't display the same knack for threading a pass into the post. Spike gives players the ball in a position to shoot immediately; Walton isn't quite there yet. While Michigan is willing to run the pick-and-roll with Spike as the ballhandler, they don't do that much with Walton, because Spike is better at utilizing screens as well as getting the ball to the rolling big.
Spike doesn't take as many shots when he's on the floor; what he lacks in volume, however, he makes up for in shot selection and efficiency. He's better at picking the right time to drive to the hoop than Walton, whose turnovers and poor shots have largely originated from driving into the teeth of the defense and getting overwhelmed by bigger players in the paint. Then, of course, there's Spike's ability to knock down threes from NBA range at a high rate, which also helps...
Due to Spike's outside shooting acumen and his knowledge of the offense, the team's spacing is much better when he's on the floor than it is with Walton. The opening possession of Walton's film and the one that starts at the 0:55 mark are good examples; on the former, Walton has to take a deep three as the shot clock winds down, and on the latter he's bailed out by a foul call at the end of the clock on a difficult pull-up two. One factor in this is Spike's outside shooting threat outweighing that of Walton's; teams have to account for Albrecht when he spots up, and since he's able to shoot from so far outside it spreads the defense thin, opening up room for everyone else.
Ball movement is also better with Spike on the floor, and this is obviously tied into the better spacing. It's also a matter of who's doing the passing. When Walton brings the ball up the court, he usually passes it off to one of the wings and heads to the corner; often, these sets end with a Stauskas or LeVert drive after a lot of Amaker-style cycling around the perimeter. Spike is more likely to be a part of the initial play when he brings it up, as his ability to pass or shoot off the pick-and-roll allows the wings to spread the floor and spot up.
Here's where things get interesting, as I don't think there's much question that the offense fares better with Spike at the helm; the common thought is that his defensive deficiencies are keeping him from being the clear-cut starter. There's definitely something to this: Walton, while not stellar in this regard, is the better on-ball defender. While both players are beaten off the dribble at around the same rate, Walton's size advantage on Spike makes him better at contesting shots and preventing easy passes into the post.
Spike, however, has some advantages as well. He's more disciplined defensively, communicates better—blown switches were more common with Walton out there—and is more adept at navigating around on- and off-ball screens. I think he's a better transition defender, as well; while Walton is prone to gambling for steals, Spike is good about identifying a man early and getting back into good position—the same traits that make him a better help defender, in my opinion.
I think Walton's size and aggression, especially as he learns to reign in the latter, make him the better defensive player overall; I'm not sure the gap is wide enough that it makes up for the difference offensively at this stage. It's very telling that when Michigan was in desperate need of a stop at the end of the Arizona game, neither point guard was on the floor, and Beilein mentioned in the postgame presser that he's considering using the Caris-at-point lineup more often as a situational defensive look.
Another chart, all stats from KenPom:
|Walton||60.2||99.1||21.5||18.3||20.3||26.6||33.8||16-22 (72.7%)||16-33 (48.5%)||12-32 (37.5%)|
|Albrecht||40.0||126.9||15.5||15.3||30.9||14.5||11.1||2-4 (50.0%)||7-15 (46.7%)||9-21 (42.9%)|
This gets to the heart of the matter, at least offensively. Walton uses more possessions and is less efficient with them, especially when it comes to assist-to-turnover ratio. Walton's one advantage is his ability to get to the line, but he's not as good as Stauskas (66.7 FTRate), McGary (43.6), or Robinson (41.9) in that regard, and he's not too far ahead of LeVert (28.6) while being a less effective scorer inside the arc than any of those guys. Michigan doesn't need Walton to get to the line; they do need Spike to generate a healthy number of assists while still taking care of the ball.
After looking at the film and the numbers, I think Spike is the better point guard for this team in the short term; his passing and shooting really change how the offense operates and the difference between the two defensively just isn't enough to overcome that. Beilein didn't discount the possibility that Spike takes over the starting role after the Arizona game, and I wouldn't be surprised if that comes to fruition sooner rather than later, especially since this team is running out of margin for error when it comes to making the tournament, let alone getting a half-decent seed.
what I feel in my gut.
The offense seems to run a lot smoother with Spike. And I think it wouldf benefit Walton to watch the game a bit before he comes in.
Is why not use Abrecht in a Jordan Hulls-type role, like Indiana does?
Edit: if he's so good at shooting 3's, why not use him more to spot up and shoot and stretch out the defense that way?
He does a fair amount of spotting up, actually; per hoop-math, six of his nine made threes this year have been assisted. I think Beilein would be much more willing to put him and Walton out there at the same time—allowing Spike to spot up more—if that lineup wouldn't be very small and defensively deficient. As it is, I think he's being utilized the right way.
Nicely done and I agree that Spike is the better option right now. The only thing that would make me hesitant on making a switch is that we would lose his potential instant offensive and perimeter shooting coming off the bench.
Finally got around to watching the Zona game on my DVR last night (was hoping to get through a conflicting event during be actual game without having it spoiled, only to get a "can't believe we blew that" text), and considered putting together a diary on this topic. Should have known one was coming after reading between the lines in the recap and seeing the game for myself.
Walton will come around, but at a minimum Spike should be in a relatively equal time share at this point and has probably earned at least a nominal starting spot going into conference play. His passing was sharp, defense acceptable and showed some of that outsized moxie at times.
Now about that late FT he missed...
Great analysis, Ace. Point per shot for the team seems like an especially crucial stat in regards to point guard play. That was the Arizona game only, yes? Is there much difference in each player's season output?
Spike sure makes some nifty plays, doesn't he?
I agree we expected a dropoff at PG but I expected more execution in passing and defense while the shooting could come later. While Spike is not that athletic as a defender he appears to be in the right spots. I've only watched 3 full games this year and parts of a few others but Walton seems out of position a lot and the AZ game he really seemed just plain lost. Most of the offense was pass to a guy on a wing and everyone stand around. It really makes one appreciate what Burke did as a freshman. Again I was not expecting that as Burke had a "Henne like" freshman year, but I thought Walton would be a bit better than this. I was going to say no one would expect a PG to be so good so early 20 years ago but then I remembered we had Jalen 20 years ago so I guess this is just the state of the game nowadays.
I'd sacrifice some defense right now to get that offense humming on all cylinders. McGrary gets much better looks with Spike out there. I dont see why a 20/20 split in time cannot work as Walton gets some confidence back and learns over the year and maybe by February he can take more of the reigns.
it live and deleted off DVR because I hate watching losses but I have to say, Greg Anthony is going to have to get a little more animated for that arrangement to work out. I really don't know why CBS made that change. I think Nance, Kellogg and Kerr really call a good game together and really don't think Nance and Kellogg were bad alone. That role does not seem to fit Anthony.
While 6-4 isn't great, look at who their losses are against: Charlotte (7-3) neutral floor, @ Iowa St (8-0, #17 in AP, #13 in USA Today), @ Duke (7-2, #8 in both polls), Arizona at home (#1 in both polls).
While it would have been nice to win one, two or more of those games, they were in all those games with the exception of the Duke. Duke hasn't lost a non-conference home game in something like 10+ years. Throw in the fact that the best player, McGary, missed most of the pre-season and seems to be still trying to get back into the groove - McGary didn't play against Iowa St and didn't start against Charlotte.
Is it that underwhelming?
the charlotte game is the only disappointing one, iowa state seems bad at the time but young team first road game and iowa state is doing quite well themselves so could be worse. hanging for the whole game against arizona is a good sign for improvement going forward so being 6-4 instead of a possible 9-1 if those close games go our way seems disappointing but it isnt that bad.
It is way too early to panic and I think we will be fine.
Seems to be a general funk hanging over MGoBlog these days.
Mitch did play against Iowa State after 1 day of practice.
I must have checked the wrong box score.
interesting to see what JB does. I think he knows he needs Walton's ability over Spike but as pointed out, they don't have much cushion left to let him learn on the court. Spike did look good against Arizona but prior to that I had been pretty disappointed in his play this season. Maybe it would help Walton to focus on defense this year so that JB had some options depending on matchups. He could use more of Caris and Mitch to trigger the offense with Walton on the floor.
I like that. Caris is very aggressive and is the best working off that pick and roll.
I think the chemistry between Spike and the other starters is one of the most important aspects. The offense just bogs down so much with Walton running the offense. With Spike it seems like everyone has a little more awareness of where they need to be. Is it possible that Beilein runs more plays or the team has more of the playbook to work with when Spike is running the point?
there's obviously no way to measure it, but it seems to me that spike gets worn down faster than most players. i wonder if his production would drop off if he started getting starter minutes.
I feel Spike is playing better than Walton also. I still believe that Spike is a 6-man, not that he couldn't/shouldn't start. Say we put Spike out there, who comes off the bench to create a spark? Maybe Irvin, but now you have two back court freshmen checking in at a moment that could be critical. Spike is a stop gap, he's smart and has experience. He can come off the bench and get 30 minutes. I don't think Spike is the answer to our slow/avg. starts, that's got to be GRIII and 3Goggles. Walton has to get experience running the offense because his ceiling is more than likely quite a bit higher and the PG spot is going to be our achilles heel when we match up w/ the likes of staee and against ohio and their velcro PG defense. These games don't mean much the B10 season will determine our future seeds I'd rather have two PG's with mild confidence than have 1 and a guy that is looking over his shoulder and playing tight. I say give him time it's not soccer you can sub em' in and out when ever you like and Spike is a proven commodity off the bench.
My Theory: Walton has the higher ceiling, and Spike isn't a guy the coaches can see leading a team to a Sweet 16 and beyond. So while yes, Spike is probably better for winning games right now, the coaches will continue to play Walton as much as possible to get him the minutes he needs to be significantly improved by the end of the season. Work out the lumps, get the chemistry with the other guys, all that now, in non-conference games which don't matter as much as Big Ten and tournament games.
I think Spike is not only the best option for UM, but just simply a legitimately good option at PG. Spike is doing exactly what this team needs (a steady hand that allows other players to play their best games). Next year, an experienced Walton is probably the better primary option, but there's no good reason to force Walton into that role right now.
You're saying the opposite of people I agree with, yet I agree with you.
The more I watch this season, the more I think Spike should be playing more now AND for the rest of the year. Our PG this year doesn't have to be a scorer/shot creater. We have Stauskas/McGary/GR3/Levert who can fulfill that role. At PG, we just need someone that can distribute the ball efficiently w/ minimal turnovers and knock down an open shot. That's Spike personified (the over-dribbling needs to stop though).
Tweets at Kate Upton, Spike = 1, Walton = 0.
But seriously, I think the current strategy needs to continue. Have Spike take the lion's share of the possessions, and get Walton the experience to have a Spike-like performance in March (if need be). Who's to say that defense won't improve as well?
I would like to see what we could do with some continuity using Caris and Irivn in the backcourt together with Stauskis, GRIII and McGary...
That would be a solid defensive line-up, great size, and several scoring options...
Walton needs to bulk up on some Triple Steak Stacks.