If there was one player on the Iowa roster that had a down year this season, it was Anthony Clemmons. I guess you can say he was introduced to the ol' sophomore slump. But what was even more disappointing about his season, was that expectations weren't that high for him to begin with. He was pretty clearly the backup point guard whose job it was to come off the bench, play tough defense and find the open man on offense. Clemmons' defense was more or less fine this season, but his assists fell and his turnovers didn't. In fact, they were higher than the astronomical levels that they were at as a freshman. And going into your sophomore season, you would like to see at least a little bit of a decrease in the turnover category.
But I don't want to sound too negative on Clemmons' game. I'm just here to state what happened this season and not criticize a college kid who would kill me if we were to play a game of one-on-one. He already knows that this season didn't go the way he wanted it to, so it's not like he needs some blogger to point it out to him. So, what follows is merely a recap of his season and my opinion on his future. Nothing more, nothing less.
Season in Review
The season started off fairly normal for Anthony Clemmons, as he got regular minutes during the non-conference portion of the schedule. During this stretch of play, his assist rate was sitting right around last year's high number, he was shooting the ball very well (due for regression, of course), his defense was fine, and even his turnovers were slightly down compared to what he did in non-conference play last season. So far, so good.
Of course, that good play fell off a cliff when Big Ten teams started filling up the schedule. And in tandem with that good play, Clemmons also saw his minutes take a plunge too.
Out of all of the non-freshman player's on the team, Clemmons saw his minutes cut the most. He went from playing 20 minutes per game in November to playing less than 4 per game in March. Fran seemed to use Clemmons more for his on-ball defense during Big Ten play, because his offense literally probably cost Iowa points. One problem that Clemmons ran into during Big Ten play was the fact that his shot stopped falling. A 66.67% eFG% in non-conference play gave way to a 33.33% one against Big Ten opponents, and a 0.26 points per minute gave way to 0.11.
Now, Clemmons isn't a score-first type of point guard. He's good for the occasional bucket, but he's more of the classic distributor. His assists did fall this season, but they were still at a respectable level. Instead, the turnovers were the glaring problem for the Hawkeyes' #5.
During conference play Clemmons basically saw his turnovers per minute go up and his playing time go down. His assists per minute also dropped from 0.17 in non-conference play to 0.11 in Big Ten play. And that 0.11 in Big Ten play was down from 0.15 against Big Ten team's last season. So, yeah.
But back to giving the ball away. Turnovers are damaging to a team because not only do they keep points off the board for your team by leaving a possession empty, they can also lead to fastbreak opportunities for your opponent. And seeing how his turnovers per minute went up during Big Ten play, it's not all that surprising that Sports Reference has him being worth -0.2 offensive win shares during that portion of the schedule. Yes, you read that correctly. Clemmons was estimated to be more valuable to opposing Big Ten teams on offense this year. Luckily for him, he was able to essentially close the gap by being worth 0.2 defensive win shares during that same time period. But that's thanks to rounding, and when you break it down to per 40 minute intervals, he was estimated to be worth -0.002 wins every 40 minutes during the conference portion of the schedule. Essentially, all 0.8 win shares that Clemmons provided Iowa this season came against non-conference teams. Yes, his final half of the season was that brutal.
To reiterate, we all know that Clemmons isn't a scoring point guard, but holy crap 0.11 points per minute is low; even for someone that's not looking to score the ball all the time. Remember, though, development is not linear, and he actually did just fine against out of conference foes, so there's a good chance he just hit a rough spot at the end of the year.
Clemmons had basically the same shooting profile as last season. He traded a few more longer twos for closer twos and threes, but he also took 99 fewer shots this season due to reduced playing time. But, in essence, one of every three shots he's taken during his career has come from all three spots on the floor. He's pretty balanced.
One positive development this season was Clemmons' ability to draw fouls compared to when he shot the ball. He went from averaging 0.36 free throw attempts for every shot attempt he took his freshman year, to averaging 0.83 free throw attempts this season. That also includes him attempting 13 free throws and 12 field goal attempts against Big Ten teams this year. That may have happened in a small sample of minutes against conference teams, but he even averaged 0.79 free throw attempts per field goal attempt against non-conference foes this season over 15-20 minutes per game. So maybe we have something here.
As for his shooting this season, everything from the floor went up, but despite getting to the line more often, he couldn't convert many of his free throw attempts. Over his career, Clemmons has shown to be a pretty decent three point shooter on limited attempts. If he can cut down on his turnovers, that's a valuable skill to bring off the bench. As for the two point jumpers, we all know that shooting percentage will come down next season, but I'm guessing his free throws will go back up in a bit of a tradeoff.
In his first year on campus, Clemmons was one of the best passers in the nation. He was estimated to have played a role in almost 1 out of every 3 teammate field goals while he was on the court. That assist rate was good for 63rd in the nation among qualified players, according to Kenpom. This season, that number dropped to a respectable 1 in every 4 teammate field goals, but that wasn't good enough to qualify for a little yellow and red ranking on his Kenpom profile. The assists aren't necessarily a huge deal, though. For one, 24% isn't a terrible number; Mike Gesell's assist rate was 28.6% on the year. And for two, assists rely on your teammates making their shots. Iowa's different lineups seemed a bit clunky on offense at times this season, so maybe his teammates just weren't hitting their shots when he got them the ball.
More worrying, of course, are the turnovers. Usually turnovers are a stat that I feel goes down at least a little bit from freshman to sophomore year. It wouldn't necessarily be so troubling if Clemmons' freshman turnover rate hadn't been so high, but to go from really bad to DAMN... well, that's a little worrying. Turnovers can get a player yanked from a game faster than just about anything outside of picking up quick fouls. Needless to say, this is the key to Clemmons' career development. If he wants to show Fran that he deserves more minutes, the first thing he needs to cure is this turnover bug he seems to suffer from.
Speaking of increased minutes next season, those look like they could be hard to come by. Sure, Iowa loses 3 key guys from a deep team this past season, but Roy Devyn Marble is the only guard out of that trio of players. Marble's absence leaves about 30 minutes per game that will go to guards and wing players next season. Peter Jok should see the largest increase in playing time out of guys currently on the roster, but incoming junior college point guard Trey Dickerson is most likely going to see a good chunk of those minutes too. And Josh Oglesby could even see a couple more minutes per game with all the experience he has under his belt now. Iowa's got a crowded backcourt next season, and Clemmons could easily find himself as the odd man out. If that were to happen, and he was still on the team, he could be looking at single digit minutes per game and seeing most of his time as a defensive substitution at the end of games.
However, a best case scenario for Clemmons is probably finding 10-12 minutes per game next season (off the top of my head, as I haven't attempted to break down minutes for next season yet), upping his assists to his extremely good freshman rate and finding a way to cut down on the turnovers. Seeing how 1.5 of his estimated 2.1 career win shares have come on defense, Fran's not expecting gigantic things out of him on offense. Even if the assists don't come back to quite his freshman levels, cutting down on his turnovers would go a long way. Being arguably the best on-ball defender on the team is nice and all, but it loses some it's sheen when you give back all the defensive value added by coughing the ball up on offense.
All in all, I still have a lot of faith in Clemmons' game. I think he's capable of being a strong bench piece on just about any Big Ten team. We saw a lot of that during his freshman season (I still remember his performance against Iowa State) and we saw that over the first couple of months this season. The problem for him now, though, is that while he may develop into a Big Ten caliber player, Iowa may simply have too many better options to go with than him. We saw a similar situation with Kyle Meyer, and he made his decision to transfer before the guy that Iowa has been recruiting heavily at his position (Willie Atwood) had even made his college decision. In Clemmons' case, Trey Dickerson is already committed to Iowa, so the situation is much clearer. If Sapp decides to stick it out and try and earn his playing time on this Iowa squad, more respect to the man. But if he decides that there just isn't enough playing time for him over his final two years at Iowa, I can't blame him one bit.
Kyle Meyer Peter Jok