Sunday, March 13, 2011

2010-2011 Season in Review: Matt Gatens

Gatens had an up and down year. Before the season started, in October, Gatens injured his thumb. As a result, he missed the first two games of the season. When he returned, he was clearly not healthy. His injured thumb caused him to average 0.33 points per minute (8.20 points per game) shoot a 33.33% eFG%, and connect on only 21.05% of his three point attempts. When December rolled around and his thumb was feeling better, Gatens went off. He averaged 0.45 points per minute (16.17 points per game) on a 58.57% eFG%, and making 36% of his three point attempts. In January, he improved to 41.86% from behind the arc, but his points per minute dropped to 0.39 (13.50 points per game) as he saw more difficult competition. Still good, though.

However, the ten games in February and March, weren't particularly kind to Gatens. His three point percentage took a dive, falling to 27.45%. His eFG% was still a decent 45.63%, but because of his shooting dip, his points per minute fell to 0.34 (12 points per game). Very similar to his 0.33 mark he put up in November when he was injured. Gatens finished the season shooting 33.1% from downtown, and making many fans wonder what happened to the player who hit 40.3% of his three point attempts during his freshman year. It was a solid year from the lifelong Hawkeye (he did average 12.62 points per game), but it still left a lot of people questioning whether or not he was overrated.

  • Scoring- Gatens took a step forward scoring-wise this year. His 0.38 points per minute was up from his 0.32 his freshman year and his 0.33 his sophomore year. It's even more impressive, when you consider he put up the equivalent to his sophomore average of 0.33 points per minute, in November, when he shot very poorly because of his injured thumb. Even when he's injured, he will still put points on the board.
  • Outside Shooting- A lot of people are down on Gatens' shooting this year. His 48.4% eFG% was better than his Sophomore campaign (45.5%), but worse than his Freshman campaign (52.3%). His three point field goal percentage was the same way: 33.1% this year, compared to 32.8% last year and 40.3% his freshman year. However, the injury and the cold streak he was on during the last month of the season really hurt him. In December and January, Gatens shot 38.71% from long range, which is much closer to that 40% mark that everybody has been waiting for Gatens to repeat. If Gatens hadn't been hurt in the first month, his overall three point percentage probably would have been much better, and would have been able to withstand the terrible February and March that he had shooting the three. Not to mention, that his 37.04% FG% on two point attempts outside the paint was the best on the team. When you consider that Iowa, as a team, shot 28.17% from out there, Gatens looks very good. The guy is a shooter. 
  • Free Throws: Gatens 87.36% free throw percentage is almost 7% better than Zach McCabe's, who is number two on Iowa. I should also mention that Gatens finished number one in the Big 10 in this category for the second time in his three year career. The other time, was when he made 90.4% of his free throws during his freshman year. A lot of his comparisons go back to his freshman year.
  • Quickness: Gatens isn't the most fleet of foot, and this has caused him some problems. I can remember multiple times where this has gotten him beaten on defense this year. Specifically, back door passes against Northwestern, quickly come to mind. This also limits his offensive game, and explains pretty well why he gets so much of his value from shooting the three point shot. He's not a threat to take the ball to the basket.
  • Finishing at the Basket: Speaking of which, Gatens has always seemed to struggle when taking the ball to the hoop. He doesn't always go up strong, and that allows the opposing team's big men to contest or block the shot without Gatens drawing the foul. It's such a small part of his game, that it isn't necessarily a big deal for Gatens, except for games like at Minnesota this year, where he shot 1-6 (16.67%) on shots in the paint. But, it is interesting to note, that Gatens' 61.82% FG% on shots in the paint, was second worst on the team behind McCabe who shot a horrible 51.02%. The team average was 68.86%. So, yeah. That is why I listed this under weaknesses.

As you can see, Gatens was pretty consistent in how he scored and how he shot, despite the different levels of competition this year. His 0.38 points per minute, was second on the team only to Basabe. His 1.08 points per scoring attempt was the best on the team by a wing player.

Gatens took almost 55% of his shots from three point land this season. He also preferred the longer range variety of two point shots almost 10% more, than those inside the paint. However, because those shots inside the paint are much more likely to fall, Gatens got a tiny bit more of his value on two point shots from inside the paint, rather than from the mid-range variety. But, he does most of his damage to opposing teams from beyond the three point line. He also gets about 20% of his scoring value from the free throw line. It helps to be an 87% shooter from there.

I think I mentioned every one of these shooting statistics above. But, here you go again. This time in graphical form! Yay graphs!

This year, Gatens showed that he was able to cut his turnover rate down to a career low. However, his assists and rebounds also dropped significantly. The assists can probably be explained by the fact that Iowa had one if it's best passers in a long time at point guard, in Cartwright. The rebounds are a little perplexing. My first guess, would be because of the change in coaching philosophies and systems run between McCaffery and Lickliter. But, who knows? Iowa's defensive rebounding was downright pathetic in conference play this year. And Gatens' defensive rebounding rate falling by about 4% from his career rate, certainly didn't help.

Expectations for Next Year:

Gatens will be going into his Senior year next season. He will be a four year starter, and will look to put up the best season of his career. Staying healthy would go a long way in helping him achieve that goal. His Sophomore year he played on a bum ankle during conference play. Then an injured thumb caused him to basically have a wasted November this season.

Staying healthy, should also help him get his shooting back up. Seeing Gatens' eFG% back up around 52% like his freshman year would be nice, and would probably help him average over 0.40 points per minute for an entire season. A big part in that, will be how Gatens shoots from behind the three point line. In the last two years where he has suffered injuries, he has shot in the 33-34% range. Hopefully, next year that will increase to the high 30's and back up around that 40% mark that he had his freshman season. Getting his defensive rebounding rate back up over 10% would be nice, but it's not as important as his shooting is.

This will be Gatens last go around, and I'm sure he would like to quiet all the doubt that has surrounded him this year. My expectations of Gatens have certainly diminished over the last three years. However, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. For one, I've gotten a lot smarter in evaluating basketball players (Before I looked at stats, I thought Gatens could be the best player in the Big 10. Shut up. I was young and naive. I'm only 23.). For two, he's a shooter. That is his role on the team. The good thing is, that with a very good passing point guard in Cartwright and a real post presence in Basabe, he should be able to fulfill that role even better. A full year of them playing at their best, should allow for Gatens to have a good year of doing what he does best. Shooting.

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