DeShaun Thomas’ step-back may be a leap forward

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Some of us here at College Basketball Talk are not known for our mathematical genius. I count myself paramount amongst the numerically baffled, and Twitter will again be awash with the sardonic tag #Daustermath this season, without a doubt. That doesn’t mean we don’t like or value statistics, especially in the hands of those who know how to read them – first and foremost the estimable Ken Pomeroy.

One suspects that Pomeroy is much like the athletes he covers, in that the work he puts in during the offseason makes him a champion when the games count. Updates to the KenPom.com blog are few and far between in the summer, but when they do appear, they tell us oh, so much.

This week’s post, titled Shot Chart Champions, uses the kind of situational analysis that makes numbers live, breathe and predict things. Pomeroy used the CBSSports.com shot chart to sort out which returning players shoot best from inside the arc, but he also took it a step further. He separated out the true under-the-bucket finishers from those who can comfortably step back and knock down a jumper. Except that, in one case, there was no separation. Ohio State’s DeShaun Thomas excelled as a down-low grinder and as a mid-range shooter. Here are the money numbers from KenPom.com:

Best FG% inside 6′

Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State (129/184, 70.1%). Thomas’s freshman season most strongly compares to Luke Harangody. The more I look at Thomas’s stats (great) and his draft stock (not great, at least yet), the more I think he’s headed down the Harangody career path (illegal cross-race comparison aside). He might be a great college player that won’t get the full attention of pro scouts. Given that there aren’t a lot of dunks in these numbers, Thomas’s close 2P% as a sophomore was pretty amazing.

and then

Best Mid-range FG% (6′-20′)

Deshaun Thomas (67/143, 46.9%). Keep in mind, there were only 31 players that had 100 mid-range shots recorded. Still, it’s impressive to see Thomas pop up as exceptional as both a finisher and a mid-range jump shooter.

Being a grinder and a shooter gives an inside player a leg up on the pro game, for sure. It does not, however, ensure a guaranteed contract. Last season’s best two-point performer regardless of range was Virginia’s Mike Scott, who parlayed his steady, unspectacular game into a 2nd-round selection, going 43rd to the Atlanta Hawks. Still, a 2nd-round shot beats the heck out of no shot at all.