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Uptick or Improvement: Part 2

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NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Pittsburgh vs Syracuse Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Part 1 covered the upticks and/or improvements that sophomore guards Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens need to make this season. For those that didn’t get a chance to read it let’s quickly recap the difference between an uptick versus an improvement.

An uptick is a small increase in production or consistency, while an improvement represents a much larger increase. For example, if a player boxes out a majority of the time, an uptick would see them become a player that consistently boxes out. If that same player seldom boxes out, then an improvement is needed to become consistent in this manner. This doesn’t include something that sits outside realistic expectations; I won’t be suggesting junior forward Terrell Brown improve dramatically as a three-point shooter, as that may only marginally help the Pittsburgh Panthers as a whole and would likely come at the cost of improving upon something more relevant. Keep in mind, this isn’t a comprehensive list. I’ll save that for later in the season. With that out of the way, again, let’s dive in.

Au’Diese Toney - Uptick:

  • I am going to cheat here and skip right to improvements for the second year forward. Sure, there are several aspects of Toney’s game that could use a slight uptick, that’s true of all players, but the biggest two areas in which Toney can improve need a little more detail.

Au’Diese Toney - Improvement:

  • Three-point shooting - At 24.6% from beyond the arc last season there’s certainly room for improvement. The shooting percentage is a little concerning when more than half of his 69 attempts weren’t contested. A lot of his attempts came within the flow of the offense and off drive-and-kick opportunities.

I broke down Toney’s three-point shooting after the game against the Florida State Seminoles last year. On the plus side, he does a good job of floating to the corner as his defender helps (or feints and recovers) on strong side drives - attempt two. He will also relocate to open space in a variety of settings - attempt three and four, both makes.

Let’s put aside the somewhat ambitious step-in triple (attempt five) because five out of the six attempts are makable shots for a reasonable shooter. It’s hard to go six for six from distance no matter who are you, but these are the types of looks that Toney was getting last season, more than 25% have to go down.

  • Must actually become a slasher - What offensive skill can Toney hang his hat on? When pressed you might arrive at slashing. That’s where a fair amount of people end up at. I mean, that’s really not true, but I can see why that’s the landing spot.

There were flashes, but the results didn’t support the notion. Toney had the worst finishing percentage at the rim of any player on the team (45.9%) while taking half his shots at point-blank range; no other Pitt player was below 50%. Couple that with 15 assists on the season (I’d guess less than three were off drives), and the result was a lot of lot of empty drives.

To his credit, he wisely attacked slower defenders as he enjoyed an athletic mismatch on the offensive end, at least on the perimeter. However, his gather wasn’t always consistent especially if he wasn’t sure he was about to draw contact or not, and he wasn’t nearly as explosive off one leg as he was both. This led to a lot of attempts that hit the bottom of the rim or hit off the back iron.

The second and third sequence above flash his explosiveness off both feet, but the third sequence really shows he wasn’t accustom to finishing around the basket through contact against bigger bodies.

*The clip itself was meant to show how the Panthers have to utilize all levels of the floor to create shot opportunities; they don’t need to take a lot of mid-range jumpers for that to occur.

It’s hard to be a slasher if you always need to elevate off both feet in the lane and lack top-end athleticism. The exception looks a lot like this.

We’ll I thought this was only going to be two parts, but rather than cut the section on junior forward Terrell Brown short, I’ll devote an entire third installment to him later this week.

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