Monday, October 15, 2007

Lowering the Boom

The other bookend to the 2007 frontcourt will probably be senior Bambale Osby. The junior college transfer surprised most Maryland fans by becoming a solid contributor off the bench and was instrumental in wins over Illinois and North Carolina. He will be asked to replace Ekene Ibekwe who departed as a three year starter with over 1,000 career points and 700 rebounds. Will "Boom" be able to do that?

Some fans might think that freshman Braxton Dupree will be starting in place of Osby by January. I don't put much stock in that prediction. There are two ways that will happen: Osby struggles badly in November and December or if Dupree is shockingly good. I think Dupree will be a fine player at Maryland. You can probably put him down for 1,000 points and 500 rebounds in his career. I don't think he is good enough to come in and start right away, however. He may get significant minutes especially in the early part of the season or if Osby struggles with foul trouble. Keep in mind that Terp great Lonny Baxter didn't start as a freshman until Obinna Ekezie, a good but not great player, tore his Achilles tendon and was lost for the rest of the season. My suspicion is that once league play starts Osby will be starting. The scrimmages over the next few weeks will tell us more, until then lets examine the two main questions regarding Osby: how well did he really play last season and will he be able to produce as a starter?

This is what Osby was able to do last season:

2006 GamesPoints/40minRebounds/40mineFG%
Out of Conference17.711.762.9

That is not a mistake he did average 17.7 points per 40 minutes in both non-conference and ACC games. Usually role players or bench subs have their numbers drop in conference play where the games are more competitive and there is less chance for "garbage" stats. In Osby's case that didn't happen as his production actually went up in rebounding, but it would be impressive if his numbers dropped only slightly let alone stayed the same. His effective field goal percentage dropped significantly as he took more shots once conference play began but it was still a respectable 50%. Some out there might still be skeptical. If you view Boom as only a bench player you might suggest that he wouldn't be able to produce like that if he was given starting minutes. Perhaps, but there are a few stats that contradict that theory. We can try to answer the second question at the same time, can he replace Ekene Ibekwe?

First we'll start off by comparing the two in ACC play:

ACC GamesPoints/40minRebounds/40mineFG%

So adjusting for playing time Osby actually was slightly more productive in ACC play than Ibekwe. Some of you still might be muttering about how Osby was just a role player and you cannot extrapolate his limited minutes like I just did. If that were true then Osby would have a limited role in the offense when he was on the floor and just happened to score when he was give those limited opportunities. The more involved he was on offense the more clearly his deficiencies would be exposed, or so goes the logic, but was that the case?

All GamesOff RatingeFG%% Possessions% of Shots% Minutes Played
James Mays98.248.827.023.770.2
Raymond Sykes106.160.811.68.826.9

In this table I compared Osby and Ibekwe but also included James Mays and Raymond Sykes from Clemson. More on why I included them as an example in a moment. A quick aside as to what those categories mean is warranted. The offensive rating is points per 100 individual possessions, a measure of efficiency. The possession percentage is how often the player ended a possession in some way (by scoring, committing a turnover or missing a shot), which gives an indication of how involved they are in the offense. The shot percentage is a measure of the proportion of shots they took when they were in the game relative to the number of shots the team took as a whole. The percentage of minutes played is what you would expect.

What this shows is that Osby was just as involved in the offense when he was on the floor as Ibekwe. When he was involved he was also more efficient than Ibekwe. If anything it demonstrates that with a poor eFG% and offensive rating that Ibekwe was probably too involved in the offense last season. He tended to suck up possessions (his 23.4% rate was highest on the team) without much benefit (his 96.1 rating was the lowest of any starter). A high possession rate or shot rate doesn't mean a player is good but it does indicate their statistics are a more reliable indicator of their true value. As you can see the Tiger's Raymond Sykes was better than starter James Mays in a number of important categories but it would be wrong to assume he would be a better player with more playing time as his % possession and % shots numbers do not indicate he was very involved in the offense. It is rare that a player can raise those numbers significantly and still produce at a high level year over year.

Osby's numbers suggest that he will be able to increase his playing time and production while keeping his efficiency at the same level. Now his numbers are merely okay, as a 100 offensive rating isn't any great shakes, so I'm in no way suggesting that Osby will play at an all conference level. For example here are some of the better post players in the ACC from last season:

Al Thornton 117.3
Tyler Hansbrough 119.8
Josh McRoberts 108.1
Kyle Visser 113.6

Boom won't be at those levels most likely but he will be a steady contributor. Osby's biggest weakness is his foul shooting which is a miserable 58.7% which is even worse because Osby is good at getting fouled boasting a team high 71.9% rate. (Did you know that even with that bad shooting percentage Osby made more free throws than Mike Jones?) If Osby can improve that shooting just 5% he could raise his scoring average by 2-3 points per game.

Ekene Ibekwe was one of the better shot blockers in the nation and Osby won't be able to replace that intimidating presence in the middle. He is decent but not great defensively and relies more on positioning than shot blocking. The trade off for all those blocked shots with Ibekwe was also a team high 108 fouls and four disqualifications. It is probably a net loss on defense with Osby replacing Ibekwe but not a significant one.

Overall I think Bambale will be able to effectively replace Ibekwe in the low post with little, if any, drop off in production. In some ways his presence will actually benefit the team as Osby is a better passer and has superior shot selection. His presence in the locker room should be mentioned as well. He is well liked and respected on the team. His infections optimism will be helpful when this young team experiences some adversity.

You can read a great story by Patrick Stevens in the Washington Times about Boom.


Freestater said...

Boom is a great human being. MD was lucky to land such a great 1* recruit!

matthew said...

a 5% increase in ft% would result in a 2-3 points per game increase if boom was shooting 40-60 free throws per game.

Esquire said...

I'll connect the dots for you. If Osby had played an equivalent number of minutes as Ekene Ibekwe he would have shot roughly 170 free throws. If he bumped his shooting up to around 65% he would have made about 110 free throws out of 170. He converted 54 free throws last season. The difference between 110 and 54 is about 2-3 points per game over the season. Sorry it wasn't more clear.