This time last year, when I was writing about Adam Woodbury's sophomore season, I mentioned him as the heir apparent to Zach McCabe, as the team's enforcer. Well, after his junior season, I think it's safe to say that he's earned that reputation, whether he actually meant to or not. This will be the only paragraph in this post about Eye-Poke Gate because, frankly, I don't really give a damn. Rightly or wrongly, Woodbury now has the reputation of being a dirty player around the league and the country. And, honestly, I'm cool with that. And he should be cool with that too. He's a hard-nosed player that brings toughness to an Iowa team that has been labeled as "soft" in the past. That's valuable.
Now, I'm not necessarily saying he gives Iowa extra value by being "gritty" or whatever other stereotypical label you want to use to describe a basketball player of Caucasian-descent that people tend to perceive as being slow, lumbering, and unathletic. What I am saying, and like Fran has said in the past, is that Woodbury gives the Hawkeyes value in things that statistics don't always measure. Specifically, on the defensive side of the ball. He's not the best shot blocker or defensive rebounder in the world, but he does put himself in good position to deny the ball to opposing big men in the post, and he is very good at using his height to alter shots. Where his game still needs the most growth, of course, is on offense.
But be patient because we all know that it can take a few years for big men to develop their offensive game fully. Woodbury only has one more year to really do that, so time is definitely running out. But it's not like he's chopped liver on offense, either. He's shown flashes of being a monster on that end of the floor, but he still has times where he's almost invisible. He is a player that's going to split his value about 50/50 on both ends of the court, so even if his offense isn't fully developed he still gives Iowa something on defense.
This past year wasn't a breakout season like we were all hoping for, but it wasn't really a drop off from the big step he took as a sophomore. More than anything, this season looked pretty similar and that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
Season in Review
The non-conference portion of the season was a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde show for Adam Woodbury. He started off the year looking like he had found himself an effective offensive game, and it wasn't just him beating up on lesser opponents either. Instead, Woodbury scored 10 points against a Texas team with a huge frontline; 12 against a Syracuse team that was down this year, but also had two good post players; and 10 against a North Carolina team that also had two very good players in the post.
Monthly performances don't always break down very cleanly (they are very arbitrary cut offs, of course), as the North Carolina game happened in December. But if you look at his monthly splits, November was easily his best month and December was... well, woof.
Things definitely went up from the low point of December, but you can tell from the first chart that his highs were high and lows were low. His aggregate performance stabilized a bit once Big Ten play started, but you can still see that for every great game against Maryland, Purdue, or at home against Northwestern, there was a performance like he had at Ohio State, at Wisconsin, or at Northwestern. The Adam Woodbury that we got on any given night was capable of looking like a bulldog or a chihuahua (no offense to the chihuahua lovers amongst us). Basically, he was maddeningly inconsistent, which is why he tended to be a polarizing player when it came to Iowa basketball fans this season (and seasons past).
So why was he so inconsistent this year?
Well, similar to years past, it had mainly to do with the evolution of his offensive game. He had some inconsistencies on the defensive end at times, where he still found himself in foul trouble or struggled to really make much of a difference rebounding. But his play was much more consistent on defense than on offense this year, where he continued to struggle with going up strong at the rim early on and would disappear from the game from time to time.
The beginning of the season was odd this year because Woodbury made it a point of establishing his mid-range game, and he successfully did so, making 43% of them in November. However, as the season went on, that percentage normalized and he was sitting somewhere around 20% for the final four months. That's not efficient, and credit to him, because he did move closer to the rim as the season wore on.
But there were still quite a few instances in which he went up as if he was still in high school and didn't have to worry about shorter players blocking his shots. Being as this was no longer high school, he saw more than a couple of times where shorter players rejected him at the rim as if it was nothing. And December was easily the month in which he struggled the most near the rim, which shouldn't be all that surprising if you remember how terribly Iowa's big men played against Northern Iowa in Des Moines.
I'm not of the opinion that Woodbury needs to dunk the ball every time near the rim, but I do think that he still needs to work on going up stronger. Layup or dunk, it doesn't matter. All that matters is getting the ball in the cylinder without getting your shot blocked or altered, and that wasn't always easy for Woodbury. But it did get better as the season wore on.
Of course, this is not me saying that Woodbury is a terrible player. Really, he's a pretty average offensive player at this point in his career. And average on offense and above average on defense, is really an above average player. It may not be what you expect out of a former four star recruit, but it is valuable. And despite his tendency to go up weak near the rim at times, he was still an average shooter on the court and near the rim.
He had an offensive rating that was just slightly below average this season, but that really had more to do with the fact that he still had a bit of a turnover problem that hasn't been addressed much since he stepped on campus, than with the fact that he was an average shooter.
Overall, this season was pretty comparable to last season from a win share perspective for Adam.
He took a slight step back on offense this season because he played more minutes, used more possessions and shot the ball a little worse and had a few more turnovers. A drop of 0.2 in offensive win shares isn't gigantic, and he actually upped his defensive value by 0.3. In total, Woodbury's win shares per 40 minutes only dropped by about 2 percentage points from his sophomore year, which, in my book, is pretty stable. Not really much of a step back or a step forward.
On offense, Woodbury upped his points per game for the third straight year this season. However, that was largely due to the fact that he played about four additional minutes per game in 2014-2015. His points per minute went down a bit, but it was a pretty small drop. If you remember my rule of thumb from the past, being in the neighborhood of 0.30 to 0.35 points per minute is an average offensive player.
In order to see what Woodbury should do to be an above average offensive player, we should probably take a look at - you guessed it - his shooting tendencies.
It's probably not a coincidence that he put up his best offensive numbers a year ago, considering that was the season in which he took the largest portion of his attempts near the rim. Woodbury has always had somewhat low rates of shot attempts near the rim for a seven-footer. That's not because he's a big man with an amazing mid-range game, but that's because a decent chunk of his shots come via little turn around or running baby hooks that come a little bit away from the basket.
In a proper world, those would not be categorized in with mid-range jumpers of the longer two variety. But I take what the box score gives me, and until there is a website that breaks shots up into smaller distance categories the way the NBA does, then this is what we have to work with. Anyway, if he can make an effort to at least take 60% or more of his attempts from near the rim next year, he would really be doing himself a favor.
As you can see, he already gets the majority of his value from near the rim and at the free throw line anyway. The mid-range jumper that he has somewhat developed over the last two years is fine in moderation, but his game is more valuable near the bucket where he makes at least two-thirds of his attempts every season.
Because, like I said, he's actually a pretty damn good shooter in the vicinity of the cylinder, even with some of the issues that come along with not always going up strong. If he can make a more consistent effort to go up strong with the ball down low, his efficiency could be pretty insane. And if he increases his number of attempts around the rim, his offensive efficiency and overall offensive value should shoot up quite a ways, taking him from an average offensive player to at least an above average offensive player. Oh, and if he can find a way to make 71% of his free throws again, that would also be very helpful.
Of course, being a seven-footer who is still developing offensively, there are other things that Adam Woodbury brings to the team and that's rebounding and altering shots.
There's not statistic for altering shots, so I included Woodbury's block rate on the chart. It's declined every season, but I wouldn't argue that he's necessarily altering fewer shots every year. I mean, he is one of the big reasons Iowa's opponents struggled to convert in the paint and around the rim this season.
Besides altering shots, a lot of Woodbury's value is also tied up in rebounding. And, according to Kenpom, the worst he's ever been on the offensive glass was 165th in the country.
His defensive rebounding is a little less consistent, but still not horrible. And he's slowly making progress when it comes to not fouling as much. Could that possibly be why he's blocking fewer shots?
But, overall, Woodbury is an above average defensive player, who can rebound and alter shots, but who also has the ability to make plays that don't always show up in the box score.
The next step in his career is to develop a more consistent offensive game. And that is the goal for next season.
Adam Woodbury is a real wildcard for this Iowa team in 2015-2016. And while I feel like I can make that argument for just about anybody on this team, Woodbury does still have some legitimate potential that he has yet to fully tap. We know it's there because we've seen glimpses of it in the past. The key is finding that consistency to show it on a more regular basis.
As a senior, with no other true center on the team, Woodbury is probably in line for another minutes increase next year. He's spent the past three seasons splitting minutes fairly evenly with Gabe Olaseni, but those days are over. Considering Woodbury still shows the tendency to find himself in foul trouble from time-to-time, his minutes may not reach as high as they otherwise would. But, just throwing a quick number out there off the top of my head, I would say he will at least be playing 25 minutes per night next season. I would imagine Fran would like to get more out of him, perhaps even somewhere in the ballpark of 28-30 when Big Ten play starts, seeing as he is the only real post player with any experience returning next season. But however many minutes Woodbury gets, that means the rest of the time Iowa is going to be playing a smaller type of lineup that they haven't really played yet under McCaffery's tenure as coach. That is a topic for another day, but the fact that Iowa will have a lot of young players in the second unit next year, has me thinking that Fran will want Woody on the court a lot more than in past years.
The ideal situation for Woodbury would be for him to take the next step offensively, and turn in to a consistent threat on a nightly basis. Going up strong near the basket and possibly upping his number of shots near the basket, all in the hopes of becoming a more efficient scorer. If he can increase his points per minute to somewhere between 0.35-0.40, he could easily average 9-10 points per game, depending on the amount of minutes he sees on a given night. Add to that continued above average defense, and that's a pretty valuable player.
Woodbury is likely on the outside looking in on a future in the NBA right now, but he is on the radar. Draft Express listed him as the 74th best junior as of a couple weeks ago. If he can find a way to make a big jump offensively next season, then he will have the NBA's attention. Because, as they say, you can't teach size. Woodbury has the size, he just needs to find the consistency.
Next Up: Anthony Clemmons