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Is it possible Stanford is better without Ziaire, Daejon and Bryce Wills?

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  • Is it possible Stanford is better without Ziaire, Daejon and Bryce Wills?

    Originally posted 01-29-2021, 06:43 PM

    On the surface, this seems like an absolutely bonkers suggestion. Ziaire is a like lottery pick; Daejon is a 4-year starter who might make an NBA team one day; and Bryce Wills is one of best perimeter defenders in the country.

    And yet, the proof might be in the pudding: Stanford has now beaten UCLA and Arizona (on the road) in back-to-back games; two of their most impressive wins of the season (after beating Alabama in their opener). How could this be?

    Well, the idea that losing more talented players will actually make a team better (at least over the short run) makes sense if, for example, those more talented players are taking lower quality shorts ... and their lesser talented replacements are working to take higher quality shots. So, is that happening?

    Let's start with the big star: Ziaire. Ziaire started off like gangbusters against Alabama, going 8-15 from the field, including 3-5 from 3-point range; and Stanford won! Since then, however, Ziaire has played in 12 games; in those games, Ziaire is shooting 34.8% from the field (on 11 shots per game) and 15-51 from three (for a lowly eFG% of 40.5%); consequently, Stanford is 7-5 in those games. In a nutshell, Ziaire is taking 11 low-efficiency shots per game; 11 shots is roughly 20% of all of Stanford's FGAs per game.

    Then there's Daejon Davis (admittedly, one of my favorite players in the conference). Because he's been hurt, Daejon has only played in six games since the Alabama opener; Stanford is 2-4 in those games. In those six games, Daejon is averaging about 10 FGAs per game, shooting 41% from the field, and is 7-24 from 3-point range -- for an eFG% of 46.7%. While not as bad as Ziaire's eFG%, 46.7% is not good. On top of that, I watched Daejon against Utah and Colorado make repeated high-risk steal attempts, allowing the player he was guarding to get off easy shots. Daejon is very capable of coming up with steals, but he's been trying too hard.

    So between Ziaire and Daejon, when they play together, they are taking approximately 40% of all of Stanford's shots, and yet only producing about 0.85 points per FGA. By way of comparison, and this is a rather crazy stat, the rest of Stanford's team is averaging something like 1.4 points per FGA. Having 40% of your FGAs reduced from 1.40 pts/attempt to 0.85 pts/attempt is a reduction of roughly 20 points per game of offense!!

    Then, there is Bryce Wills -- considered by many as the top perimeter defender in the conference. There is no serious argument that Wills takes a lot of bad shots: he's shooting close to 60% from the field for the season. The problem with Wills is that he presents exactly zero threat from the 3-point range; in the eight games he's played in since the Alabama opener, Wills has hit exactly ZERO 3-pointers in over 220 minutes played.

    So, between Ziaire, Daejon, and Bryce, this ostensibly starting backcourt trio for Stanford has made a total of 22 3-pointers on 78 attempts since the Bama game for a shooting pct of 28%.

    So what happens if Ziaire, Daejon and Bryce are not in the lineup taking 3s? Well, that means more 3-point attempts for Oscar da Silva (37%) and Spencer Jones (36%); it also means more FGAs for Jaiden Delaire (who is shooting close to 50% from inside the arc in conference play) and from Michael O'Connell (who is above 50% from 2-point range in conference play).