This is the seventh in a series of posts looking at the performance of individual MSU basketball players this past season. Because the end goal is to discuss improvements and/or adjustments that appear to be in order for next season, the series is limited to returning players. Previous entries: Kalin Lucas, Korie Lucious, Chris Allen, Durrell Summers, Raymar Morgan, Draymond Green. Next up: Delvon Roe.
Delvon Roe entered his freshman season as the first recruit ranked in the top ten nationally to take the court for Michigan State since Shannon Brown in 2003. But he was coming off two knee surgeries, the first of which had cost him almost the entire senior season of his high school career. It wasn't entirely clear, then, what Roe would be able to offer the team in his first college season.
What Roe ended up contributing as a freshman is exactly what Tom Izzo needed him to contribute: a solid 15-20 minutes per game at power forward. He was rarely called upon to score in large numbers; he put up more than 10 points in just 3 games. But he was a rock on the boards, played solid defense, and showed poise when he was put in a position to handle the ball. Looking back at the Spartans Weblog archives, I find that after raving about Roe's versatility in the season opener, I rarely had much to say about him, either positive or negative. He just did his job. (Exception: His superb performance in the Michigan game.)
Statistical review of Roe's season after the jump:
(Notes: "Conference Regular Season" includes the Kansas game. 2PM/G = 2-pointers made per game, etc.)
Roe never pushed much past the 20 minutes/game threshold for any extended stretch of games and he hit a little bit of a wall in postseason play (partly due to Draymond Green's emergence). But his numbers held up well over the course of the season, with both his 2-point and free throw shooting percentages increasing as time went on (hard not to go up from a 36.8% mark at the line, I suppose).
Looking ahead to next season, Roe's big-picture task can be summed up quite neatly: Replace Goran Suton as MSU's primary post player. At first blush, that may seem like a pretty big task. Suton averaged roughly twice as many points and 60% more rebounds per game than Roe did last season. But a large portion of those advantages were a function of playing time. Here's a comparison of the two players' tempo-free numbers:
Suton enjoyed a major advantage in the offensive rating category, but that was almost entirely a function of two things: 3-point shooting and free throw shooting. Roe's 2-point shooting, ball-handling, and offensive rebounding numbers were right in line with Suton's. And he got to the free throw line a lot more frequently. Defensively, Roe excelled at cleaning up missed shots and provided a pretty decent shot-blocking presence.
So the challenges for Roe this season are really just two-fold (presuming he's not going to develop a three-point shot over the course of six months):
- Get healthy enough and well conditioned enough to play 25-30 minutes per game. Reports indicate he's pretty much at 100% in terms of his knees now, so hopefully the increased playing time won't be a problem.
- MAKE YOUR FREE THROWS! I'm pretty optimistic on this point, too. As noted above, his numbers slowly got better over the course of the season. 58.3% isn't Sutonesque, but if he can get into the 60-70% range (where he reportedly was in high school), that'd be enough to make him a positive contributor as a low post scorer. And he actually has a good looking stroke at the line. He was consistently shooting his free throws too long last season. One theory was that he shot the ball a lot while he was still rehabbing the knee and, once his knee was strong enough to get back on the court, he had a little too much power going in his stroke. An offseason of shooting the ball with his entire body working normally should go a long way toward making his trips to the free throw line less nerve racking for the Spartan faithful.
If Roe is really back to 100% physically, the sky's the limit for him. The experts are already starting to pay attention: Jeff Goodman has him at #8 on his list of the top 25 players fans need to get to know, and DraftExpress.com couldn't find much to criticize (other than the free throw thing) in ranking him as the #12 NBA prospect in the Big Ten.
Roe has already demonstrated that he's a tough, smart, versatile basketball player. Put those attributes together with the physical talent that made him a five-star recruit and you're going to have a player who will eventually be a contender for the title of Best Big Man of the Tom Izzo Era.
Thus concludes my review of the 2008-09 performances of the seven returning MSU players who played signicant minutes last season (and just five months after the season ended!). It's a pretty impressive nucleus--four upperclassmen-to-be with all-conference-type skillsets and three sophomores-to-be who made substantial contributions as freshmen. Some time soon I'll take a look at the players who spent most of tlast season at the end of the bench and see what they might have to offer in the upcoming season.