With Dalano Banton’s departure, Nebraska’s returning core of experienced players dropped to four — Trey McGowens, Lat Mayen, Derrick Walker and Kobe Webster.
The team’s leading returning scorer is McGowens, the 6-foot-4 guard who averaged 10.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists in his first season as a Husker. What did he do well, and where does he need to improve? To answer those questions, let’s take a look at his Synergy profile to get a better feel for how McGowens put up those numbers.
McGowens’ 10.7 points per game came on a 49.2 true shooting percentage, meaning his efficiency left a lot to be desired. Overall, McGowens scored 0.818 points per possession (PPP), ranking him in the 37th percentile nationally. Synergy classifies that as average.
That is buoyed by his transition numbers, however. And as much as Fred Hoiberg wants his team to run, the majority of possessions will still take place in the half court against a set defense. McGowens only scored .754 PPP there (29th percentile, below average).
McGowens’ most common play was the pick-and-roll, which accounted for 29.3% of the possessions he ended. He scored just 0.67 points per possession, however (39th percentile, average). He turned the ball over 23.3% of the time, shot 34.8% and drew a shooting foul 13.6% of the time.
Pick-and-rolls with McGowens often resulted in a fairly high degree-of-difficulty shot. He pulled up for a dribble more often than anything else and that was actually the best result for Nebraska as he scored 0.964 PPP (65th percentile, very good). He rarely found open lanes all the way to the basket, some of which is on his struggles to use the pick properly to get downhill and some of it is on Nebraska’s lack of spacing as he usually found a body or two or three in the paint when he turned the corner. Regardless, he shot 2-of-11 on runners and 7-of-17 at the basket.
McGowens looked to score more often than make a play for others, but he was better as a passer than a shooter in pick-and-rolls. He fed the roll man 17 times for 18 points (1.059 PPP, 59th percentile, good), he kicked it out to spot-up shooters 51 times for 52 points (1.02 PPP, 70th percentile, very good) and he looked to hit cutters four times (two buckets, one trip to the foul line and one turnover for four total points).
McGowens certainly showed some promise as a pick-and-roll playmaker, but his decision-making could use some work, especially now that it seems he’ll be the primary ball-handler with Banton gone.
McGowens’ second-most common half court play type is spot-up (21%), but he only scored 0.716 PPP (23rd percentile, below average). He shot 19-of-63 with eight turnovers and five trips to the foul line.
McGowens shot 10-of-28 (35.7%) on spot-up catch-and-shoot 3s (55th percentile, good). Thinks usually went poorly when he put the ball on the deck, however. He shot 1-of-6 on pull-up jumpers, 3-of-8 on runners and 5-of-21 at the basket (yikes). That last number is particularly troubling considering how athletic McGowens is; he should be very successful attacking closeouts, especially with his improvement as a 3-point shooter.
The problems are two-fold. First, he needs to improve as a finisher. He flat-out had a few blown layups among those 16 misses. The other issues is his decision-making as he can get tunnel vision and force up difficult shots even though he hasn’t created an advantage. Again, better team spacing would help create easier opportunities for McGowens, but he also needs to just read things better as well.
McGowens looked to score off hand-offs on 6.8% of his possessions and he scored 0.917 PPP (63rd percentile, good). He only shot 6-of-19 but he also earned five trips to the foul line (including a couple and-ones) and was 3-of-6 on 3s. That means he shot 3-of-13 on 2s, and it was more of the same story as spot-up attacks — he was well-defended and took some bad shots anyway that didn’t fall.
Interestingly enough, McGowens’ most successful play type (with double-digit possessions) was isolation. He scored 25 points on 22 possessions (1.136 PPP, 93rd percentile, excellent). He shot 6-of-12 (and earned four trips to the foul line) on drives and was 2-of-5 on stationary jumpers. Perhaps it’s simply the sample size, but it’s interesting that McGowens was so much more effective on straight ISOs than on spot-up plays. Teammates shot 4-of-13 for 14 points on his passes out of isolation (0.933 PPP, 50th percentile, average).
McGowens shot 5-of-7 with three trips to the foul line on nine cuts, he shot 0-of-4 on put-back attempts with two fouls, he shot 2-of-3 with two turnovers coming off screens and he shot 1-of-2 with a foul on post-ups.
Hoiberg loves to run, and 22.7% of McGowens’ possessions came in transition. He scored 1.038 PPP (53rd percentile, good), shooting 52.8% with a 25% foul rate and a 15% turnover rate.
McGowens pushed the ball up the floor himself on 54 of those 80 possessions, scoring 54 points for a 1.0 PPP (67th percentile, very good). He shot 18-of-35 with 15 trips to the line and eight turnovers. He shot 10-of-18 when somebody else triggered the break.
McGowens shot 23-of-39 at the rim with four shots blocked. He was 0-for-2 on runners outside the restricted area, 0-of-2 on pull-up 2s and 0-of-1 on pull-ups 3s. He shot 5-of-9 on catch-and-shoot 3s.
McGowens can more easily leverage his explosive athleticism in the open floor where there’s less traffic to navigate, thus the better efficiency. Even so, he can make the leap from good to very good or excellent if he continues to improve his body control, touch and focus around the rim.
Overall, McGowens was a much improved jump shooter last season. He shot 10-of-25 on unguarded catch-and-shoot looks (1.2 PPP, 62nd percentile, good), though only 3-of-10 on guarded shots. That equals out to 1.114 PPP on catch-and-shoot opportunities (68th percentile, very good). he shot 17-of-54 (31.5%) on jumpers off the dribble, scoring 0.852 PPP (63rd percentile, good).
The closer he gets to the basket, the less efficient he becomes, however. McGowens shot 31% on 29 runners (0.724 PPP, 45th percentile, average) and 39.1% on 69 non-post-up shots around the basket (0.87 PPP, 15th percentile, below average).
McGowens made a leap as a jump shooter during his first season as a Husker. If he wants to take the next step as a player, he needs to make similar improvements as a finisher in year two. With his size (for a point guard) and athleticism, there’s no reason he should be so inefficient around the basket. Some of that is on his decision-making (both when to shoot and what kind of shot he takes), but some of it is on body control and touch. It all needs to get better in 2021-22.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.