Anthony Clemmons' junior year was a pretty nice feel-good story. After a disastrous sophomore season, in which his minutes were slashed and he was on the outside looking in with the number one JUCO point guard prospect coming to Iowa City, I wrote at this time last year that I wouldn't be surprised to see him transfer. And yet, all the transfer talk that swirled last off season seemed to come mainly from the media speculating on the issue, rather than Anthony Clemmons ever considering such a move.
But here we are, and look at how things have changed. That star point guard recruit announced months ago that he would be the one transferring due to not receiving enough playing time, and Clemmons is coming off a season in which he played the most minutes of his entire career. A big key to his bounce back was cutting his turnovers way down this season. And while his assist rate continued to fall from the great rate we saw when he was a freshman, Clemmons more than made up for it by continuing to show that he could consistently hit the three-ball while shooting it more often this year.
2014-2015 was a great season for Clemmons, and he more than met our preseason expectations. Going into his senior year, he looks like the more-than-capable backup point guard we thought he could be after his freshman season.
Season in Review
Every player on a team has a specific role to fill. Most people talk about the leading scorer, but you also have guys who are absolute beasts when it comes to rebounding, you have guys that can simply shoot lights out, and there are a whole lot more roles and niches to be filled. I say that because it's important to understand that Clemmons is Iowa's backup point guard, which means that his numbers don't always look spectacular.
As you can see, it was about a 50/50 shot whether or not Sapp would cross the team's average threshold for overall value offered on a given night. But he's a role player, and he's not going to be a star. If he was a star, then he wouldn't be a role player.
And his role over his career has been primarily as a great on-ball defender, who we hoped wouldn't hurt Iowa on the offensive end. As a freshman, Clemmons showed signs of having a decent offensive game, while he showed the exact opposite with his turnover problem last year. But this year, Clemmons kept his defensive value, cut the turnovers, and changed his shooting habits a little bit. After taking about only 33% of his field goal attempts from beyond the three-point line in his first two seasons, Clemmons increased that to almost 47% this season. And, just like his first two years, he made right around 37% of his attempts as a junior, which helped offset the fact that he struggled to finish in traffic near the rim.
But his increased reliance on the long ball was probably the most important part of his game, outside of maybe his defense.
His three-point shooting percentage largely tracked with the adjusted game score per minute that he offered Iowa this season. As a trade off with the increased perimeter game, his assist numbers dropped from his first two years on campus, but it also seemed to cause a drop in his turnovers this season, which was a much welcomed sight. After running a turnover per minute rate of 0.09 in his first two seasons as a Hawkeye, Clemmons was consistently under that this season.
His turnover rate - a better statistic than turnovers per minute, but also one that I've found harder to accurately calculate on my own on a monthly basis - also went down to 22.7%, which is still a little high, but much, much better than the 30-31% we've seen from him previously.
In total, Anthony Clemmons had a nice bounce back season after a rough sophomore slump. Hopefully he can keep that momentum going into a solid senior season.
Looking at his points per game and points per minute, we get more evidence that his junior season was a nice bounce back. If we look at his shooting tendencies, we can see that he accomplished similar numbers to his freshman season, but in a different way as a junior.
As a freshman and even as a sophomore, he showed a roughly equal likelihood of attempting a shot that was either near the rim, a two-point jumper, or a three-point jumper. But as a junior, his long twos turned into threes, which is good because he tends to shoot those better anyway. (Are you reading this, Mr. Uthoff?)
With the drop in turnovers this season, Clemmons' ability to shoot approximately 37% from downtown is probably the most consistent part of his offensive game. And if we look at his scoring profile, you can see that the increased attempts from outside changed where he got all of his offensive value from as a junior.
Instead of getting almost half of his value from inside the three-point line, he got about 40% of it from outside of it and split the rest mainly between shots near the rim and free throws.
Of course, in addition to the shooting and scoring, we see again that Clemmons also cut his turnovers this year.
We also see the assists drop, but that could have been because he was making less-risky passes than he was in the past, which also was why his turnovers fell. Or it also could have been that he was shooting the ball from distance more often, rather than driving and finding the open man. It's all give and take. If a player makes one change to their game, it's usually going to affect other parts of it, too.
But the increased three-point shooting and the lower turnover numbers were good enough to make his junior year the best season he's had in an Iowa jersey from a win shares perspective.
Not only did he up his total win shares this season, but he also increased his win shares per 40 minutes while playing more minutes than he ever has before (20 per game). I know I've spent the majority of this post talking about Clemmons' offensive changes, but win shares reminds us that he still gets the majority of his value on the defensive side of the basketball. Sapp is a great on-ball defender, and if he can continue to shoot well from long range and keep his turnovers low (and possibly up his assists) he should be in for a nice final season as a Hawkeye.
Well, I've kind of already given this away multiple times throughout the post, but the keys for Clemmons next year are: 1) Keep playing great defense; 2) Keep shooting and making threes; 3) Continue to cut the turnovers down (preferably below 20%); and, this last one is not a necessity, but 4) Increase his assist rate a little bit.
If he can do all of those things, he should be a more than serviceable backup point guard for the Hawkeyes come next season. I don't necessarily expect him to do all of those things because rarely does a player develop so perfectly, but if he can avoid taking a step back next year, he should have a fine senior campaign.
Next Up: Peter Jok