A Look At the “Nasty” Man

Stefan Nastic enters his final season at Stanford as the last piece of Stanford’s Trio of Presumed Senior Starters (The 3 TOPSS?), and will be expected at least at the outset to anchor Stanford’s offensive and defensive interior. The question becomes how suited is he for that task. Furthermore, what is reasonable to expect from Nastic this season?

Note: For a glossary of the metrics used below, click here.

In 2013-'14, Stefan Nastic took a big step forward as a contributor. His true shooting percentage was 60%, and he shot 58% on eFG, while using 20% of possessions when on the floor. His turnover percentage dropped to 17% from 24% the previous season. He was a revelation at times with his ability to secure post position and finish at the basket. He also shot 64% from the foul line, good enough for a big man who gets regular touches. [Ed: He also seemed unable to miss the entire NCAA Tournament.] Unfortunately, this is the part where Sir Mix-A-Lot gets happy because there are some big “BUTS” to his 2013-14 season.

All of Nastic’s numbers decrease when filtered through conference play. This is typically the case for all players, so on the surface, it’s not so bad. However, Stefan experienced a significant drop-off once the Pac-12 logo started showing up on the court. His 60% TS fell to 51% and his eFG fell from 58% to 48%. His TOV% also rose to 18.5%. These are all significant drop-offs. To wit: His 60% TS and 58% eFG each would have been among the top five marks in the conference, whereas the actual numbers merely place him in the top 40. When you think about 12 teams with five starters, he essentially was just better than the bottom third (give or take). Maybe most disturbingly of all, his free throw percentage dipped from 64% to an unacceptable 56%. Add it all up and you have the following summary of his performance. (Note: These ratings correlate with expected points per possession, with average set at 100. The larger the number, the more expected points when the player is on the court, so a higher ORtg rating corresponds with better offense, and a higher DRtg corresponds with worse defense.)

StatOverallConference Play

Put another way: Overall, Nastic’s offensive rating warrants comparison with Chasson Randle, but in conference play he was a less effective offensive player than Robbie Lemmons.

Defensively, there wasn’t nearly as much drop-off in performance, and DRtg, especially for a big man, can be an iffy proposition. A big man who spends time helping and covering for others might not be rated as highly, but still it does give some indication into the quality of individual defense being played. His size alone suggests that Stanford is going to have to lean on him for interior defense. The team overall has some length at multiple positions but not an overabundance of bulk. Lateral movement is not Stefan’s specialty, so it’s reasonable to expect Stanford’s interior defense to take a hit. This isn’t necessarily a comment on Stefan, so much as the reality of losing two stalwarts in Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis, each of whom covered a lot of territory and made up for teammates’ shortcomings.

There are two areas where Stefan needs to improve: rebounding and court awareness. For a player of his size, Stefan has not been an effective rebounding presence at this point in his career. Let’s take a look at stats from StatSheet.com.

There's a lot to play around with, but note that in conference play, Stefan grabbed a low percentage of available rebounds, averaging less than two defensive rebounds per conference game. Now, of course, this in part because he was oftentimes on the floor with Powell and Huestis, who were very aggressive rebounders. Nevertheless, to give these numbers some context, D.J. Shelton was the conference’s leader in rebounding at 10.5 per game. Huestis, all 6-foot-7 of him, was fifth in the conference at 8.4. In fact, all but one of the conference’s top ten rebounders in conference play were shorter than Stefan. Of course, height is just one factor when it comes to rebounding, but there’s no arguing that at seven feet, Nastic is going to have to improve in this regard, and that at seven feet, there should be room for that improvement.

The conference’s leader in offensive rebounding percentage was Arizona’s Bachynski at 13.2%. Stefan grabbed a meager 5.5% of available offensive rebounds, good for 31st in the league. For final context, consider: Not one player rated below Stefan in this category was seven feet tall. Thirteen of the 30 players ranked above him were 6’8” or shorter.

Offensively, Stefan struggled with double teams, especially while posting flush on either block with his back parallel to the edge of the key. Now, physical limitations aside, Stefan was often victimized by late double teams, often guards who waited for his dribble to drop down and dig at the ball. Tactically, Stanford can help neutralize this vulnerability by emphasizing middle of the paint touches, either on pin downs or for the recipient of high-low passes out of the triangle.

As the third leg in Stanford’s senior leadership tripod, Stefan is going to play a crucial role for the Cardinal this season. He’ll be anchoring a talented but inexperienced front line headlined by Travis Reid, who despite his prodigious talents is going to need a partner in crime when it comes to doing the dirty work in the paint. The excellence of Randle and Brown are virtual certainties, but if the Cardinal is going to be a team worthy of attention come March, Nastic is going to have to make the biggest leap forward.

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