Monday, March 14, 2011

2010-2011 Season in Review: Eric May

Eric May's season could probably be summed up by this one graph:

Thanks for reading. See you next time. Kidding. But, this season was pretty much a nightmare for Eric May. I remember before the season started, there were people predicting he would have a breakout season and end up the best player on the team. Well, they would have been right, had the season only lasted one month and ended in November. Because once December started, May fell off a cliff, and just kept falling until the end of the season. His big November was largely the result of an unsustainable 60.42% eFG%. His eFG% came back down in the following months: 40.38% in December, 44.44% in January, and 42.71% in February/March. As May's shots stopped going in the basket as much, he looked like he started to lose confidence in his game. This led to May taking fewer and fewer shots per game. Let's see, taking fewer shots and making fewer shots, doesn't seem like a great recipe for success. Yet that's exactly what happened with Eric May. Now, this offseason becomes crucial for May, as he tries to fix whatever the hell went wrong this year.

  • Athleticism- May is one of the best athlete's on the team (I say "one of" because Basabe and Archie are pretty damn athletic too). Every Iowa fan sits on the edge of their seat when Eric May gets out in front on a fast break. The anticipation of his thunderous dunks are almost as exciting as the dunks themselves. His athleticism also allows him to be one of the best guys on the team at creating his own shot. May tied Marble this year, for third on the team in creating their own shot, as 50% of his field goals were of the unassisted variety. May is a raw talent. He's the guy that just oozes athletic ability, and you hope he can be developed into a complete basketball player.
  • Turnovers May finished the season ninth worst in the Big 10 in turnovers, with a 24.7% turnover rate. What's really disappointing about that number, is that it is about 4% worse than his freshman year, where he had a turnover rate of 20.4%. Iowa, as a team, had a big turnover problem this year. Eric May was just a small part of it. Which means, this isn't the last you will hear of turnovers in the weakness column. 
  • Free Throws- May took almost the same exact number of free throws this year (53), as he did last year (57). However, he made about 6% less of them this year (32 compared to 38). His 60.4% free throw percentage trended the wrong way this year. Hopefully, next year it well trend back toward 70%. 

 Shooting-wise, May was a very efficient scorer against out of conference teams. However, as the competition got tougher, he also found it harder to get shots to fall. He went from averaging 1.06 points per scoring attempt in non-conference play, to averaging 0.94 points per scoring attempt in Big 10 play.

May's awesome November, in which he averaged 0.47 points per minute, played a big part in helping him average 0.39 points per minute in non-conference play, after having a terrible December, in which he averaged 0.29 points per minute. When Big 10 teams started coming to town, May's offensive production tanked. At first, he was sidelined for a game because of an injury, but even after he was healthy, he just looked lost at times.

In this post, I looked at May's stats, and hypothesized that he had lost confidence in his game, and wasn't sure of his role toward the end of the season. Here is one of the graph's from that post:

(Note: The numbers are slightly different in this post from that post. That is because that post was before the Purdue game, and this post takes into account the whole season) I hypothesized that May was struggling to find his role in the offense because he was shooting less and less. In November, he took a shot every 2 minutes and 51 seconds and made one every 5 minutes and 16 seconds he was on the court. By February/March, he took a shot every 4 minutes and 38 seconds and made one every 11 minutes and 41 seconds he was on the court in February/March. Considering, he was only averaging about 22 minutes per game in February/March, May was only making about 2 field goals per game on average. Not good.

Eric May was about as balanced a shooter as a player can be this year. He took very close to the same percentage of shots inside of the paint, outside of the paint, and from beyond the arc. However, he gets most of his value from inside the paint and from his three point shooting. May struggled to knock down the mid-range jumper this year, and as a result, he only scored 9.4% of his points from those shots.

May's 63.75% FG% on shots in the paint was third worst on the team this year, finishing ahead of only Gatens and McCabe. His 17.46% FG% on two point field goals outside of the paint, was only better than Devon Achie. Devon fucking Archie. Archie made 10% of his two point field goal attempts outside of the paint. When you look at wing players, May's was 17.46% was easily the worst on the team. The next worst was Marble, who made 25% of the very same shots.

May actually shot well from three point range. However, I'm a bit skeptical there too. In his freshman year, May made 28.7% of his three point attempts. That was during the course of him taking 143 shots from behind the arc in Lickliter's three point-centric offense. In McCaffery's offense, May took only 66 three point shots the whole year. So, May cut his sample in more than half this year. I don't doubt that May improved his long range shooting during the offseason, but an 11% increase is a pretty big jump. I'm not saying that it's not real. I'm just saying don't be surprised if he only makes about 33% of his three point attempts next year.

Looking at his assist rate and offensive rebounding rate, May actually held steady from his freshman to his sophomore year. Those numbers aren't real exciting, but they also didn't trend the wrong way, like his turnover and defensive rebounding rate did. I covered turnovers above. Looking at his defensive rebounding rate is perplexing (Like it was with Gatens). May should be a good rebounder, considering how athletic he is. I mean the kid can jump. In his freshman year, that translated into a very good defensive rebounding rate of 14%. His defensive rebounding rate that year was only worse than four other non-post players in the Big 10: Evan Turner, Talor Battle, Manny Harris, and William Buford. This year he was so far down the list, that I don't want to even count.

Expectations for Next Year:

May's case is a strange one. He has so much athletic talent, but he seemed lost for the last three-fourths of the season. Now, he has all offseason to fix whatever the hell was wrong this year. Since he lost his starting spot at the end of the year, the small forward position will be a competition to watch in pre-season practices next year. If Marble improves during the offseason, the starting backcourt for the Hawkeyes could easily be Cartwright, Marble, and Gatens when the season tips off. Also, don't discout Aaron White, from the incoming recruiting class. He looks to be almost as athletic as May, but also about three or four inches taller. He may not push for the starting spot, but depending on what he does with the playing time given, he could push May farther down the bench if he doesn't show signs of improvement next year.

May is most likely never going to be a great shooter. So, the close to 48% eFG% he has put up both of his years at Iowa, is a pretty realistic number for him. He needs to find his shots, though. It's hard to do much scoring when you aren't taking many shots, as was the case this year. Since Iowa has Basabe, Cartwright, and Gatens returning next year, May doesn't have to be a dynamic scorer. But, he does need to put up better than the 0.25 points per minute he averaged from December through March this season. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.33 to 0.35 would be just peachy for a fourth scorer. He also needs to cut down the turnovers. At least get the turnover rate back to the 20% it was at during his freshman year, if not south of that total.

Last but not least, it would be nice to see him go back to pulling down defensive rebounds again. He's too athletic not to be a good rebounder. Not to mention, he was a good defensive rebounder his freshman year. So, it's in there somewhere. The question is will it come back? Will Eric May harness the athletic ability he has, and transform it into on the court success? I really hope so, as I truly hate seeing him look lost on the basketball court.

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