The Life of a Freshman Point Guard

Dylan Burkhardt

Guard Darius Morris (#4) during Michigan's 67-53 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Crisler arena on Saturday December 5th 2009.  (SAM WOLSON/Daily)Point guard is the hardest position to play as a true freshman. Similar to the quarterback position on the football field, the point guard has an overwhelming amount of responsibility. First, he has to have a great understanding of the offense. He is also typically tasked with defending one of the opposition’s best players. And even more importantly, he has to keep the team grounded through thick and thin because he has the ball in his hands every possession.

Because of the stress surrounding the point guard position, it’s very hard to find true freshmen making a major impact as point guards. The John Walls, Derrick Roses, and Mike Conleys of the world are the exception rather than the norm.

The strenuous nature of the point guard position is also why I think that Darius Morris has the ability to make a major jump in production from year one to year two.

Inconsistency is the trademark of a freshman point guard. Flashes of brilliance are intertwined with boneheaded turnovers. It’s no surprise that teams led by freshmen point guards also tend to be woefully inconsistent.

Let’s take a look at this year’s freshman point guards who were rated in the top 100 and see how they have fared this year. I pulled a group of the top 15 point guards (using RSCI, Rivals, and Scout rankings) and then looked up their basic stats: min/game, min%, points/game, offensive rating, usage, assist%, turnover %.

Avg Rank MPG M% PPG eFG Ortg Usage A% TO%
Tommy Mason – Griffin 6.3 35.0 86.7 14.0 52.1 107.4 22.5 26.8 19.7
John Wall 1.0 34.3 81.9 16.8 50.3 110.4 26.8 33.5 24.2
Eric Bledsoe 6.0 30.3 72.3 10.7 51.4 96.0 20.7 18.4 31.3
Raymond Penn 9.3 30.5 62.7 7.8 44.8 98.1 16.1 17.3 20.9
Mfon Udofia 5.7 23.7 59.0 7.3 44.5 91.9 19.6 17.6 25.4
Darius Morris 14.0 23.7 58.7 4.6 43.7 91.6 15.4 22.2 25.7
Jordan Hulls 12.3 23.6 58.6 6.0 54.0 113.7 12.7 13.2 18.0
Ramon Galloway 18.5 21.5 53.7 7.1 47.0 95.1 19.3 11.0 22.9
Abdul Gaddy 2.0 19.4 48.2 4.3 40.3 84.7 16.6 20.0 28.3
Michael Dixon 16.5 17.2 42.8 7.5 53.1 115.3 19.7 19.3 15.7
Lamont Jones 11.0 18.0 42.6 5.8 43.0 86.1 21.4 17.5 22.2
Maalik Wayns 3.3 15.7 39.3 7.8 49.0 106.1 23.8 15.6 21.3
Chris Colvin 12.7 14.9 32.9 3.1 33.3 68.4 22.4 24.4 35.9
Peyton Siva 6.3 11.5 26.3 4.3 57.7 98.5 22.9 26.5 33.6
Elijah Johnson 3.5 7.7 21.7 2.9 62.1 117.1 21.7 34.2 26.7
Johnie Lacy 18.5 8.2 18.5 1.7 26.5 85.6 15.4 12.1 18.3
Average   21.0 50.4 7.0 47.1 97.9 19.8 20.6 24.4
Avg w/o Wall   20.0 47.9 6.5 46.7 97.2 19.6 20.2 24.7

The results were pretty clear, there are only a couple point guards who have been successful this year. There are only three freshmen point guards who are scoring in double figures and two of them play on the same team. There are only four freshmen with a higher assist percentage than turnover percentage. Finally, over half of the top 100 freshmen point guards in the group are shooting under a 50% effective field goal percentage on the year.

The group that I would call successful includes John Wall (UK), Eric Bledsoe (UK), Tommy Mason-Griffin (Oklahoma), and Michael Dixon (Mizzou). In the end, the “average” top 15 freshman point guard has more turnovers than assists, doesn’t shoot the ball very well and isn’t all that efficient. The average stat line is 21 min, 6.5 ppg, 47.1 eFG, 97.9 Ortg, 20.6 A%, 24.4 TO%. And that’s including freshman phenom John Wall, removing him knocks everything down a point or so.

There are also a few guys who play complementary roles on loaded teams. Brandon Triche (not listed in the table) starts at the point for Syracuse but he plays alongside 5th year senior Andy Rautins. Maalik Wayns has been efficient for Villanova but he’s playing alongside guys like Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher.

Looking at the group of freshmen, Darius Morris is just about right in the middle, a touch below average, compared to the other prized point guard recruits. Morris’ numbers are: 24.5 minutes, 4.6 points, 22.2 A%, 25.7 TO%, 91.6 ORtg.

So while Darius Morris’ season might still be a little disappointing from the eyes of Michigan fans that expected an instant impact player. I think it might be a little too early to rush to a conclusion.

Morris has shown flashes of potential. He’s big, athletic, and willing to defend. He seems to have good lateral quickness and has shown improvement over the course of the season. It’s also pretty clear he has some glaring weaknesses. His shot is fundamentally flawed and needs tweaking, especially from three point range and he still tries to make a few too many fancy plays.

But in the end, he appears to be a pretty average top 100 freshman point guard. The future is bright for Darius Morris, despite taking a few lumps this year. An offseason to focus on improving his jump shot and continue getting acclimated with the offense is just what the doctor ordered.

  • Old Style

    Morris’ assist #’s will look worse than most because he’s kicking the ball to 30% shooters around the arc. It’s hard to get assists when your teammates can’t put the ball in the basket.