Yesterday Drew unveiled the top 50 players on offense in D-I according to his new Four Pettinella Score stat, and in response Prospectus readers rose as one to say: "De'Mon Brooks? Gerardo Suero? Charles Odum? Wha?" Drew has heard the cry of the befuddled, and today he offers some further information on this hitherto woefully under-publicized trio.
PET No. 9. De'Mon Brooks, Davidson
To this point, nearly all the buzz surrounding Davidson owes to their upset victory over Kansas, but three additional things are also true about the Wildcats:
1. They already have a two-game lead over the rest of the Southern Conference.
2. Their offense is ranked No. 15 nationally by kenpom.com (and that resume includes the most efficient performance by any Kansas opponent and by any Vanderbilt opponent).
3. They boast not one, but two members of the PET score top 15 through January 14: Brooks and fellow foul-prone big man Jake Cohen.
It's easy to understand why Brooks flew under the high-major radar during the recruiting process. He was originally committed to Howard until Kevin Nickelberry replaced Gil Jackson. As a high schooler, Brooks was a 65 power forward who couldn't hit eight-footers with regularity. Now, he can't be left open from three-point range. For two years in a row now, Brooks has impressed on the boards and with his ability to score efficiently inside. The major changes he's made since a year ago are an improved turnover rate and free throw shooting that's gone from respectable (68 percent) to strong (83 percent), in conjunction with a major role expansion.
Brooks is long, with quick feet and he's confident putting the ball on the deck. Although he shoots left-handed, he scores easily over his left shoulder in addition to showing moves to his dominant hand. Brooks is also a classic matchup problem. He's strong enough, and with an impressive enough nose for rebounds that Davidson can play him at the 4, but he's far too quick to be contained by the typical opposing power forward. He helps bring the ball up the floor and still ranks in the top 100 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage.
I'd be pretty surprised if Brooks stays quite this high in the PET score rankings, but I don't see any reason he won't at least make the top 50 at the end of the season. The only part of his game that might be unsustainable is that much-improved free throw percentage.
PET No. 11. Gerardo Suero, Albany
Suero is the type of player that makes a stat like mine worth having. There are 345 Division I basketball teams, and nobody can watch all of them all the time. So when an unknown quantity is having a great year for a team with little national relevance, most of the time statistics are going to be the quickest way to recognize that. (Although John Templon of nycbuckets.com says that Suero was hyped in America East circles as the season began, and Templon should, without question, be trusted on that end over me.)
As a high schooler, the Dominican-born Suero's English was less than perfect and his game was out of control, but his talent was noted. His father, also named Gerardo (the younger Suero's birth name is Angel Gerardo) was a quarterfinalist in the 100- and 200-meter dashes at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Despite being 6-4, Suero has certainly inherited some of the family speed.
A junior college transfer from Technical Career Institutes in New York City, Suero lost no time in asserting himself as the America East's dominant player. He's using a truly incredible 37 percent of the Great Danes' possessions, and he's maintaining admirable efficiency while doing so. Before Albany, Suero coupled scoring with impressive rebounding (including one year when he averaged 11.7 boards per game at TCI), but the scoring half has been so effective that his average rebounding is an afterthought. Suero is shooting percentages of 51/36/82 with frequent trips to the free throw line (he's leading the nation in free throws made) and an assist rate higher than his turnover rate. He's carrying a percentage of the offense that only Utah's Josh Watkins can top, and carrying it efficiently.
That said, his game is the type to make fans of both Albany and their opponents nervous. Suero is a championship bad shot-maker. He consistently fires up contested jumpers and off-balance floaters. His combination of size, quickness, and ballhandling ability means he makes it look easy to get wherever he wants on the court. He doesn't understand what, objectively, a smart shot looks like. It's entirely possible that he knows what, for Gerardo Suero, a good shot is, though, and it's probably too early to tell if his style is sustainable. Right now Suero is shooting constantly and making more than enough shots to deserve to continue. His turnover rate is a tad high, and that looks to be due to the same mentality -- trying to create something out of nothing offensively.
Albany's defense is bad, and Suero contributes to that. He has issues with communication -- switching and recognizing screens are both problematic at this stage in his development. But, as it was in high school, his talent is unmistakable. It'd be a mistake to assume he can continue to perform at this level of efficiency, but it'd be a larger mistake not to recognize the excellence of his performance thus far.
PET No. 23. Charles Odum, Portland State
A second-team All-Big Sky finisher last season, Odum's added to his role in the Portland State offense and has pushed his 58/40/73 shooting percentages from a year ago to 64/30/86 in his senior season. Even more than Albany or Davidson, Portland State's offense is well ahead of its defense, which helps to explain Odum's under-the-radar status.
Another reason is size discrimination. Odum stands right at six feet, but tips the scales at over 200 pounds. For whatever reason, people have a hard time respecting the strength advantage of wide-bodied guards and, similarly, have a hard time crediting their speed. Odum is comfortable shooting the ball and is tough to stay in front of. More than anything, though, he's able to shoulder his way around defenders and give himself easy buckets. He ranks in the top 30 nationally in free throws made. On the other hand he can get lost defensively and doesn't yet understand how to use his strength to hamper quicker guards.
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Do these rankings make more sense now? These guys are each under-the-radar for a typical reason -- Brooks is undersized, Odum is short and powerful, Suero's a new juco transfer -- and they play for much weaker defensive than offensive teams. They've all been effective from the free throw line, which is often under-acknowledged. And they've all been playing a little over their heads.
Basically, these surprise guys combine three characteristics:
1. Legitimately and understandably underrated offensive ability
2. Shaky defense
3. Potentially unsustainable success
So some of these guys will fall off, sure. But some of this type of player will hang around, and that doesn't mean that PET score is necessarily wrong -- just that it's not measuring the best overall players, or the most effective future NBA scorers, and it's not trying to.
Drew Cannon is a college student and a regular contributor to Basketball Prospectus. Follow him on Twitter at @DrewCannon1.
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Drew Cannon is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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