I touched briefly on this in an earlier post, but I wanted to dig a little deeper. Anybody who has watched Iowa basketball this year has noticed Matt Gatens is starting to play like the player we all knew he could be. The season didn't start off like Gatens would have liked. He dislocated his thumb in practice before the season, and missed the first three games of the season. Fans figured that the one part of his game that would suffer from this injury would be his shooting. Surely enough, it did in November. In December though, he played like his hand was no longer bothering him.
Here is a graph showing how well Gatens shot in November and December:
Technically, I could make my point by just showing you guys this graph. I mean, Gatens shot a horrible 35% on two point field goals in November and a miserable 21.05% from three point range. Way below his career average. In December though, he has shot 70% from two point range and 36% from three point range. His free throws dropped in December, but if you look at the numbers he went 15-16 from the free throw line in November and 15-18 in December. So, not a big deal.
Next, here is breakdown of how he's scored:
It's pretty obvious that Gatens took a totally different approach in December. In November, he pretty much took half of his shots from two point range and half from three point range. In December, almost three fourths of his shots were from three point range. He also didn't get to the free throw line as much as he did November. His free throw rate dropped from 0.41 free throw attempts per field goal attempts to 0.26. As a result, his point distribution dropped too.
He was pretty balanced in how he scored in November. 34.15% of his points came from two point shots, 29.27% came from three points shots, and 36.59% of his points came from free throws. December saw Gatens score 55.67% of his points via the three point shot. This meant only 28.87% of his points came from two point shots and 15.46% came from free throws. So, he is obviously not driving the lane as much as he was when he was injured, as he isn't getting to the line as much and his percentage of two point shots taken has dropped.
For further evidence of this I looked at his points in the paint:
The first thing to take from this graph is that 7% more of Gatens two point field goals were made outside of the paint in December. Down from 71.43% to 64.29%. Also, his points from field goals (points from free throws not included) in the paint have dropped. Down from 38.46% to 21.95% in December. So, he is clearly not driving to the basket as much as he was in November. He is taking harder shots, but he is making them.
Finally, a look at Gatens' points per game and usage rate:
For those not familiar with usage rate, it is simply a measurement of the percentage of possessions a player uses per game. The term "use" includes field goals attempted, free throws attempted, and turnovers. As you can see, Gatens used the same percentage of possessions per game in November and December. However, his points per game doubled from November to December. Meaning, Gatens has been much more efficient offensively.
Putting all four graphs into context, Gatens is definitely back to normal. His increased shooting percentages are not just because he's hitting easier shots. Instead, he is taking more three pointers and hitting them too. Also, when we look at his two point shots made, he is making more of them outside of the paint. It seems that when Gatens was injured, his gameplan was to get in the lane and get easier shots. Now that he is healthy he is playing a more perimeter oriented game, and is succeeding in doing so. All evidence seems to point to Gatens being healthy, and that can only help the Hawkeyes down the road.