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Michigan State Basketball Season In Review: Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn

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This is the eighth post of my Season in Review series where I will analyze each MSU player’s season and give each a grade based on (my) preseason expectations

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

After striking out on 5 star point guards Tyus Jones and Tyler Ulis, the MSU coaching staff lucked out finding Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn Jr. to become their first commit in the 2014 class. With the reputation of being a great leader and being possibly the fastest player in his class, he still came with a couple flaws;he stands just 5’ 11" or so and isn’t a shooter. Tum Tum started 17 games for the Spartans including finishing the season with 16 straight starts.

The Comparisons

Using this player comparison tool created by MGoBlog’s Alex Cook, these are the B1G players with the highest similarity scores (dates back to 2008):

This is actually a promising group. He likely compared similarly to so many freshman point guards because typically that group isn't particularly efficient and has a high turnover rate. While it would be fun to think he might have a Darius Morris type of sophomore leap (quite possibly the biggest improvement in recent memory), that’s not particularly likely when looking at their physical profiles. However, it’s just good to know that players that ended with good careers struggled a bit their freshman year.

The Good

Despite not being able to space the floor as a point guard, the team still somehow seemed to play better when Nairn started. He started his first game against Indiana in the place of Trice and the Spartans led 36-17 at the half in a game which culminated in 70-50 Spartan victory. Fluke? Well the next game he started was against Northwestern on the road (Trice again came off the bench) and at the time MSU was coming off of a home loss to Illinois so this was arguably the team’s lowest point. The "Tum Tum effect" struck again as the Spartans led 38-14 at the half that ended 68-44 MSU. Obviously two games is a small sample size and neither Indiana nor Northwestern were great teams last year but there definitely seemed to be something to his positive effect on the team that didn’t show up in the box score. One obvious effect is that he allowed Trice to play off the ball more which allowed for more open shots. After starting Nairn and having Trice come off the bench for a few games, they finally started together on March 1 against Wisconsin. Although they lost that game, starting with Nairn became a recipe for Trice to succeed.

Nairn's effect on Trice

Month

Games

Points/Game

FG%

3P%

FT%

TS%

Jan/Feb

14

14.4

37.1%

35.7%

66.2%

50.3%

March

10

18.7

43.4%

39.1%

76.4%

58.4%

Again it’s hard to know how large of an impact Nairn directly had on Trice but the results were good enough to keep going with it.

The Bad

Due to his blazing speed he often didn’t need to shoot outside shots in high school which meant that Nairn came in as a poor perimeter shooter. That wouldn’t necessarily be that big of a deal but the other issue was he wasn’t a particularly good finisher at the rim either making just 44% of his attempts at the rim per hoop-math. With neither shots at the rim nor shots behind the long line as great options, Nairn settled with taking 2-point jumpers a lot (60.2% of his shots) which are the least efficient shots in basketball. Again, since he wasn’t really a shooter, he made 26.4% of those 2P jumpers which is a very poor percentage. He also had the reputation as a good defender, but I’m not totally convinced he was as good as people said he was on that end. He had a low steal percentage (not the best indicator of defense but still), and although he usually stuck with his man pretty well, he didn’t always have great contests on opposing players’ shots due to his lack of height.

Overall

Despite being a top-75 recruit or so, I didn’t have particularly big expectations for Nairn. Last year Josh posted this article about the newcomers for last season which included a video and cautionary (and ultimately pretty accurate) scouting report of Nairn’s game.  He wasn’t a scorer last year and that may never be his role in his entire career at MSU. He’s going to be much more Travis Walton than Kalin Lucas and MSU fans might not like that because they’ve had more of scoring point guards the last several years. Honestly with the makeup of the roster the next few years that shouldn’t be that big of an issue as there should be other players capable of scoring the ball well enough.

Grade B

Previously

Travis Trice

Branden Dawson

Denzel Valentine

Matt Costello

Bryn Forbes

Gavin Schilling

Alvin Ellis