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Numbers Support Basketball Prospectus: Dion Is Syracuse’s Best Guard

A new series from Basketball Prospectus ranks the top 100 college basketball players for the upcoming season and two Syracuse players made the first group rated 71-100. Checking in at #99 was everybody’s favorite heart attack Scoop Jardine. His cousin, Dion Waiters checked in at #74. Neither of these were all that surprising, but the descriptions of the two players were somewhat shocking on the first read.

99. Scoop Jardine, Syracuse (Jr., PG)

“There are a lot of people who think Scoop has an overconfidence problem. Regardless of the validity of that assertion, Jardine is one of the better passers in the country and is a reasonably efficient scorer, even when taking on a heavy load in the Orange offense.”

This analysis is pretty accurate, but the words “reasonably efficient scorer” punch you in the face so hard you feel like Uzzy. Jardine’s numbers dropped off significantly last year in the efficiency realm.

Year PPG Min PPM* FG% 3P% PPS**
2009-2010 (Bench) 9.1 22.2 .40 48.9% 38.9% 1.36
2010-2011 (Starter) 12.1 32.1 .37 41.5% 35.7% 1.18

PPM = Points per minute
**PPS = Points per shot

Yes, he carried a large offensive load because no one else seemingly wanted to shoot and a lot more responsibility as the starting point guard, but 2010-11 Scoop was nothing remotely close to efficient when it came to scoring. These are simple stats, without the need for advanced metrics to prove that. Not to mention anyone with two working eyeballs knew Scoop forced as many shots as anyone. Additionally, many of them were bad shots early in the shot clock.

Then there is Dion.

74. Dion Waiters, Syracuse (So., SG)

“Per possession, Waiters’ season was almost identical to teammate Brandon Triche’s, but Waiters is a year younger and forced a bunch of extra turnovers on the defensive end. I wouldn’t be remotely surprised to look back at the end of 2012 and see Waiters as the Orange’s best player.”

As an unabashed Brandon Triche fan and someone who’s called Triche the best NBA prospect on the team, my first instinct was to laugh hysterically. It’s not that Dion is bad and he was the best Orange player by far against Marquette, however the idea his stats could go possession for possession with Triche was laughable to me.

And then I looked it up.

You could make the argument Waiters is actually better than Triche. What?!?! Yup. But wait there’s more.

What the writer is missing is what we can call “the Scoop theory” (see above). Part of the reason Jardine’s numbers were better two years ago than in 2010-11 is that he actually had less of a sample size to work with, not to mention playing worse competition. Scoop would come in and his mission was to be instant offense against an inferior backup guard. This is exactly what Dion did last year while Triche played starter’s minutes against starting guards. Switch the roles and you switch the numbers.

The one laughable implication is that Waiters is a better defender. Both of them are terrible, but if you are picking the lesser of two evils, it’s Triche. Dion is the guy Boeheim benched for his defense (whether you believe that or not is irrelevant. His defense is bad enough that the story was believable) in mid-January.

Waiters showed doubters plenty of looks during the Marquette game that are rare from a young guard. He made good decisions, took smart shots and attacked the rim with a quickness we hadn’t seen all year. If he can (now that he’s staying on the team and all) take that into the 2011-2012 season, his critics may have to change their tune. Waiters, not Triche (or Kris Joseph or Fab Melo) might just be the best pro prospect and player on the Orange.

The one thing all these numbers don’t look at, though, is what doesn’t show up in the box. Both players want the ball in their hands late, are comfortable late in games because and make their free throws (the only two guys on SU you can say that about). The difference comes in attitude. The blowups with Dion are well documented while Triche is as trouble free as they come (if you discount Twitter…#smh). Scoop is no doubt the leader of the Orange and for Syracuse to be successful Joseph is going to have to grow into the player everyone waited for last year. However if either Triche or Waiters grows into a dominant player, the Orange could live up to their pre-season love.

After the tumultous off-season The Per’fesser’s squad has had, they’d take any sort of pleasant surprise.

Posted: Craig Hoffman

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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