Numbers Don't Lie

The stats say Tracy Abrams shouldn't shoot. Some people say stats are for losers, though.

The stats are screaming don't take the shot.

Don't do it, man.

We're now eight games into Tracy Abrams' third season – he's not a good shooter. The Chicago product has hit less than 26 percent of his 3-point takes (44 for 175). And this season has seen a particularly slow start, with his effective field percentage (a formula tweaked with added weight on 3-pointers) at 33.3 percent after he hovered around 44 percent his first two seasons on campus.

So… all that speaks to a cut and dry conclusion. He shouldn't shoot. Drive to the basket or move the ball. In Tuesday's loss at Georgia Tech, Abrams heaved a dumb 3-pointer and missed two point blank layups in crunch time. Any of those shots go and the game probably would have been won. But they didn't.

And so fans started wondering aloud… Why is Tracy shooting? Put Jaylon Tate in!

He shouldn't shoot. That's what it says on paper. And that's what the Georgia Tech performance backed up. But basketball isn't played on paper. And one game shouldn't rush one to judgment.

Recall the IPFW game, when Abrams "willed" the team from a double-digit first half deficit to a gutsy two-point win. Coach John Groce said Abrams had a look in his eye, a we're-not-losing way about him. Same thing happened at UNLV. He stunk it up shooting, but made the plays necessary, two key steals and two clutch assists, to win the game.

His peaks and valleys end up frustrating everybody into fits. Yeah, he might not be shooting well for most parts of games. What else is new? But you always feel like he's about to turn it on. It always feels like Abrams is due for a 4 out of 6 run, a stretch of play when he's driving to the basket and darts back the other way with either that playful laugh or a dead-serious gaze after hitting a tough bucket. He's going to get a steal. He's about to make a pass to somebody who's ready to throw a dagger.

That's how tough kids like Abrams make you feel. You don't know why or how – you just feel like something good could happen.

Abrams is an example for why I can't ever fully buy in to all the sabermetrical, statistical mumbo jumbo that I'm sure should be telling me something.

He is the reason some people like to say stats are for losers.

There's no number that measures out for us the amount of leadership a player provides. There's also no way of knowing how much respect a guy like Abrams has in the locker room.

Joe Fan in the A-section and me and my buddies on press row have the stats to back this – Abrams probably isn't going to hit the next 3-point shot he takes. But what does Rayvonte Rice think when Abrams is squaring up? Kendrick Nunn? Groce?

They're the ones that count. And it seems, from my somewhat embedded position, that Abrams has the green light.

"I want him to stay with it," Groce said after the loss. "I want him to continue to maintain being aggressive. I think that's important."

Nights like the one against Georgia Tech make it easy to start calling for a change. Tate had five assists and no turnovers in only 14 minutes. He hasn't shot well either, but the thought is Tate will create more for others, an advantage if the shooting is going to bad with either choice.

In keeping with the stats… Tate has assisted nearly 37 percent of the shots his teammates have hit when he's been on the court. His turnover rate, a percentage of personal possessions used on turnovers, is 18.1 percent. For a true freshman, those figures are something better than awesome. For comparisons sake, Abrams is at 20.2 and 17, respectively.

Tate is off to nice start. And Abrams has been inconsistent enough to make you want to pull your hair out. It's easy to say Tate should get more minutes. But he's never scored 28 points, pulled eight rebounds and had four steals in a game. He's never logged 35 minutes in a hostile environment like Michigan. His peers have never voted him team MVP.

Tracy Abrams has done all those things. That's where the respect comes from. That's where the confidence was created.

So, the stats may be yelling loudly. The percentages are like multiple waving arms, swaying like crazy to get the point across. That may be, but you see, with Abrams, it's not that easy, not so black and white. It's more of a gray-shaded 50-50, as crazy as that sounds. If he shoots 100 times, the past tells us less than 40 will go in. The further out he is, the less likely it is the ball rips the net. The truth is though, each individual shot has a 50 percent chance of going in – it either does or it doesn't. Every take before that doesn't impact the try at hand. That's the mentality Abrams has. He's a fighter in that way. He's a bulldog with a mission and a bad memory.

He's logged nearly 70 percent of the minutes, played a main role in 26 percent of the possessions and taken over 25 percent of the shots taken (when he's been on the floor) so far this season. Those figures speak to his importance, as only Rice is on that level in each category.

What the numbers don't let you know is when the next one that's going in will actually go in. Abrams doesn't seem fazed by his penchant for missing; so don't take the Georgia Tech version as proof of anything.

The stats, ultimately, won't define Abrams. His worth can't be measured like that.

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