Few inextricably-linked duos that I can remember in IU history have the potential to tantalize and frustrate, sometimes even on the same play, as Stan Robinson and Troy Williams.
Well, after watching these two guys play for a little over a season now, it’s become crystal clear when each is at his best on the offensive end of the floor, and, conversely, when each is at his worst and becomes a detriment to Indiana.
Why is this important? Because the difference between IU being a great offensive team this year, and merely a good one, lies in large part with Stan and Troy fully realizing what I’m about to explain.
(Note: And to go from a great to an elite offensive team, Emmitt Holt needs to become a 10-8 guy for the season. I know we’re all excited about him, but that will be a tall order when the game-in, game-out competition gets better.)
For Stan …
It’s all about his mindset when in possession of the basketball.
When Stan handles the basketball and penetrates the defense with the primary intention of creating for his teammates, he is dynamite. Evidence: his five assists against Savannah State. He was focused on finding his teammates, and he did so consistently, usually in high-percentage situations that were converted into points.
On the flip side, when Stan handles the ball and penetrates looking to score, it’s an extremely low percentage proposition for IU. Evidence: his eFG% of 23.8%. (Last year it was 45.8%.) And I know the counter will be, “But he often gets to the line.” Yes, but not enough to compensate for being a 60% shooter.
The stats I love from Stan’s line this year are that his ARate is 32.8% and his TO% is 18.8. Last year, these numbers were flipped (12.6% and 22.0%, respectively).
Simply put: when a player’s eFG% is lower than his usage rate (27.2% this year), scoring simply cannot be his first, second, or even third thought. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be a useful offensive contributor. Stan can be extremely valuable on a team with good shooters (Yogi, JBJ, Zeis) and finishers (Troy, Emmitt) when he focuses on using his excellent penetration ability to create and distribute.
Add in Stan’s terrific on-ball defense, and he becomes a potentially invaluable piece of IU’s bench. But these recent offensive trends have to continue.
Now look: I realize Savannah State is no good, and Stan’s work won’t look that pretty and efficient all the time against better competition. But here is the Big Point of this entire post: it’s about mindset. For Stan and Troy (as I’ll explain in a minute).
Saturday night, Stan was looking to create for his teammates. Too often last year, and even some early this year, he was driving in wildly looking to create something for himself. If he can be a consistent third creator on offense (joining Yogi and RJ), then even when one or both of those guys needs a rest, our ability to find open 3s and baseline dunks won’t wane. That is one way we compensate for the lack of post scoring.
For Troy …
It’s really quite simple with Troy too. And, yes, it comes down to mindset.
When Troy is patient on offense, remembers that he is a finisher — not a creator, and plays off the creators (Yogi, RJ, Stan), he is a high percentage shot machine, especially when he works the baseline. Evidence: Troy’s eFG% of 61.2%.
However, when Troy decides to be a creator (namely, any time he dribbles more than twice), it’s one of the lowest percentage possessions possible for Indiana. Evidence: Troy doesn’t get many assists (ARate of 9.9%) and still turns it over too much (17.4%).
I’m sure you’ve all noticed this too. I’m not breaking any news here.
But imagine if Troy could eliminate the 3-4 bad turnovers/bad shots he seems to commit each game, and instead focus on being smart and patient away from the ball and attacking the offensive glass. That gives us 3-4 more possessions with the ball in the hands of creators who are far more likely to produce a good shot for someone — including Troy. That’s potentially 4-5 more points per game. For a team that will struggle to play defense, that alone could be the difference between winning and losing some tight games.
I realize that Coach Crean wants Troy to be aggressive, and he should be. Troy’s aggression puts a lot of pressure on a defense. But there is smart aggression and just low percentage nonsense.
If Troy can get rid of the low percentage nonsense (which, really, should not be that difficult), he can maximize what he’s great at. And I think he becomes an All Big Ten-level player.
When I first saw Stan and Troy play last year, I was not very optimistic. Frankly, they just looked like good athletes with so little understanding of how to play basketball that I wondered how they would ever be consistently useful to a winning team.
But each guy has really made big strides and worked hard to do so. During his Savannah State postgame press conference, for example, Tom Crean was effusive in his praise of Stan’s work ethic and desire to improve.
Stan and Troy are not perfect — far from it. But they are further along today than I thought they’d be initially, and they each can make another huge leap simply by committing to the mindset flip that I have described above.
This roster is the perfect complement for what each is good at doing. If they understand that, and fill the role that is theirs, it can take their games, and IU’s as a whole, to another level.