The Roles of Harris and Desrosiers

With a number of newcomers set to make an impact and several returnees about to assume greater roles, junior Tyler Harris and senior Carson Desrosiers will be key to any Friar success this season.

You've surely noticed that the Friars' expected rotation for the coming season includes very few players who got significant minutes for last season's Big East Tournament champions. Only LaDontae Henton, Tyler Harris and Carson Desrosiers played in at least 20 percent of the Friars' available and are on this year's roster. I discussed Henton in depth here and take a look at the other two below. I'm focusing primarily on statistical comparisons that will help us to determine what to realistically expect from Harris and Desrosiers in 2014-15.

Tyler Harris

There were a couple of odd statistical pairings in Harris' statline last season, and you surely noticed both if you watched many Friars games. First, he was a terrific free-throw shooter at 83.9 percent but a below-average 3-point shooter at 32.2 percent. Second, he turned the ball over a lot (19.9 turnover rate) for a guy who didn't pick up many assists (9.4 assist rate).

I examined Big East players with similar profiles during the 2012-13 season to see if anything changed in the subsequent season. Let's start with the shooting discrepancy. Generally, good free-throw shooters are also good 3-point shooters. Here is a list of Big East players who shot at least 78 percent on free throws but made less than a third of their 3-pointers.

Good at the line but not behind the arc
2012-13 2013-14
Player Team FT% 3PT% 3PTA FT% 3PT% 3PTA
Russ Smith Louisville 80.4 32.8 189 70.5 38.7 181
Ryan Arcidiacono Villanova 82.4 32.7 217 70.3 34.5 171
J.J. Moore Pittsburgh* 81.5 32.9 82 76.9 28.7 136
LaDontae Henton Providence 81.4 25.8 120 74.6 35.8 134
Niels Giffey Connecticut 87.8 29.4 34 72.7 48.3 120
Ryan Boatright Connecticut 78.5 33.3 129 79.8 37.6 117
Todd Mayo Marquette 79.1 27.9 61 81.4 33.3 75
James Robinson Pittsburgh 79.2 31.2 48 79.4 34.3 70
Average 81.3 30.8 110 75.7 36.4 126

* Moore transferred to Rutgers for the 2013-14 season.

Of the eight players who hit at least 78 percent of their free-throws but made less than 34 percent of their 3-pointers in 2012-13, the eight above also played in major conferences the following season. You'll see that all but one -- Moore (caveat: was Rutgers really in a major conference last season?) -- saw his 3-point percentage improve, though all but three (Boatright, Mayo and Robinson) saw their free-throw percentages get worse. That's the definition of regression to the mean. The good news is that the improvement in 3-point percentage (5.8 percent or 17 points per 100 attempts) far outweighed the regression in free-throw shooting (5.6 percent or -- obviously -- 5.6 points per 100 attempts).

In sum, there's a very good chance that Harris will be a reliable 3-point threat this season, something especially important without Bryce Cotton or Josh Fortune around anymore.

On to the second issue -- below is the subset of those Big East players who committed a lot of turnovers but recorded not very many assists in 2012-13 and survived to tell about it in 2013-14:

Turnover-prone turnarounds?
2012-13 2013-14
Player Team ARate TORate Min% ARate TORate Min%
Davante Gardner Marquette 9.7 18.7 52.9 12.1 10 64.4
Chris Otule Marquette 2.8 20 43.5 1.8 21.1 54.2
Rakeem Christmas Syracuse 2.1 18.6 51.7 5.7 16.1 58.6
Garrick Sherman Notre Dame 5.5 20.5 32.4 7 20.5 68.1
Daniel Ochefu Villanova 7.4 26.3 42.9 12.1 29.2 53.2
Omar Calhoun Connecticut 8.3 18 74.7 5.5 21.5 26.6
Chris Obepka St. John's 7.6 24.4 64.2 7.2 23.8 47.7
Wally Judge Rutgers 9.9 23.9 55.4 6.2 21.9 53.7
Brian Oliver Seton Hall 9.4 22.4 46.7 7.8 12.3 61.7
Brandon Mobley Seton Hall 7.7 21.8 35.4 6.9 14.5 58.8
Average 7.0 21.5 50.0 7.2 19.1 54.7

There is a bit of survivorship bias here, since there were a lot of players who would have made this list but didn't play in 2013-14. We know, though, that Harris has survived -- he will be back and an integral part of PC's rotation this year.

The improvement we see above is very modest, with assist rate staying virtually the same with a small but not-insignificant decrease in turnover rate. What this tells us is that being turnover-prone can be a sticky trait, so expect Harris to commit his share of turnovers during the rest of his Friars tenure. There is a chance he could see he an improvement along the lines of fellow forwards Brandon Mobley and Brian Oliver. Each saw his turnovers decrease with the arrival of true point guard Austin Gibbs last season.

Carson Desrosiers

The 7-foot Wake Forest transfer was everything Friars fans could have hoped for last season -- at one end of the floor. He was the team's best defensive rebounder (per minute) and really PC's only shot-blocker. In fact, he was an elite shot-blocker during his time on the floor. Only St. John's Chris Obepka blocked more shots for his time on the floor among Big East players.

Desrosiers is not suddenly going to morph into an offensive force as a fifth-year senior, but even within his peer group, he struggled to make an impact on the other end. Below you'll find a table of 15 Big East players -- 4's and 5's mostly -- who had strong defensive rebounding and blocked-shot rates last year. You'll also see their 2-point field-goal percentage as well as their %Poss, which is basically the proportion of their team's offensive possessions they accounted for when on the floor (20 is average).

Big East bigs comparison
Player Team Min% DR% Blk% %Poss 2PT%
Matt Stainbrook Xavier 58.9 24.0 4.4 24.3 55.8
Daniel Ochefu Villanova 53.2 21.8 7.7 17.4 59.8
Kameron Woods Butler 79.5 26.2 3.0 17.1 43.1
James Farr Xavier 30.6 24.9 6.3 17.8 61.1
Orlando Sanchez St. John's 53.1 20.1 5.4 18.4 59.6
Chris Obekpa St. John's 47.7 16.5 15.7 13.2 56.2
Will Artino Creighton 32.6 18.9 2.8 19.7 66.9
Mikael Hopkins Georgetown 51.7 17.5 8.8 21.3 43.6
Nate Lubick Georgetown 62.0 19.9 3.0 13.0 58.2
Carson Desrosiers Providence 46.6 20.6 12.2 12.1 45.9
Brandon Mobley Seton Hall 58.8 17.3 4.3 17.5 52.2
Sandi Marcius DePaul 45.9 17.1 5.8 15.7 60.0
Tommy Hamilton DePaul 58.7 17.6 2.8 19.9 40.7
Jalen Reynolds Xavier 29.3 19.9 4.3 16.7 53.3
Moses Ayegba Georgetown 30.5 19.2 6.9 10.4 56.4
Average 49.3 20.1 6.2 17.0 54.2

Within his broad peer group, Desrosiers rates as above-average at both grabbing defensive rebounds and blocking shots. In fact, only he, Obepka and James Farr (and Farr just barely) were above average in both of those categories within this set of players. On the other hand, Desrosiers was almost unquestionably the least effective (which is not to imply "least skilled") offensive player in the group. He and little-used Jalen Reynolds of Xavier were the only two of the 15 above who came in below the average in both %Poss and 2-point percentage. The Friars don't need Desrosiers to take more shots, but it would help if made more of the ones he attempted. The only three players on the above list who made a smaller portion of their 2-pointers attempted many more.

If there is good news to be found here, it comes from two places. 1) Desrosiers made 12-of-19 2-pointers to finish the season. This spanned the team's final 10 games, one of which (at Butler) he did not play in due to injury. It's, admittedly, a small sample. 2) lists the five players who had junior seasons most similar to Desrosiers over the last 10 years. Of those five, two haven't played their senior seasons yet -- Minnesota's Elliot Eliason and Stephen F. Austin's Tanner Clayton -- but the other three saw their 2-point percentages jump from 48.1 percent collectively as juniors to 59.4 percent as seniors, a massive improvement. Desrosiers has never shot better than 47.8 percent on 2-pointers, but there is hope that he could experience a similar improvement and hit in the mid-50s this winter. That improvement would go a long way toward giving the Friars the offensive balance that would enable Ed Cooley to keep him on the floor to impose his defensive will at the other end.

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