2021/22 Louisville Basketball Analytical Preview Part 1: The JJ Traynor Conundrum
The metrics love the Bardstown native...how will Chris Mack keep him involved?
Now, more than ever, Louisville faces a crossroads with JJ Traynor. While the guard play conversation has stolen the offseason show, I find the frontcourt conversation of the 4 and 5 spots even more compelling. A big part of that conversation involves JJ Traynor.
Here’s what's clear:
Traynor is a budding talent with legit NBA promise who needs playing time to reach that promise.
His lack of weight/playing size make two things apparent: He can get pushed around in the wrong matchup and he can appear he’s “not trying hard” due to his preferred finesse style of play.
It could be harder for him to crack the rotation given Mack’s preference to not move Withers to the 4, Malik Williams being healthy, and the additions of Sydney Curry + Rose Wheeler.
Louisville has to find a way to get him on the floor.
Here are the raw numbers of what Louisville got with JJ Traynor on the floor last season, these numbers exclude garbage time. The first thing that grabs your attention and the thing we’ll spend time talking about is the eye-popping +55 with him on the floor.
Think on this for a second...
Louisville was better in every major statistical category last season with JJ Traynor on the floor except turnovers and offensive rebounding. They shot 7% better from the field, got to the line at a higher clip, and generally made more “winning plays”.
On defense, they were better in every major statistical category except one, they forced less turnovers. Opponents shot nearly 8% worse from the field.
Throughout this preseason we’ve heard Head Coach Chris Mack virtually praise everyone with the exception of JJ Traynor. I think there are multiple reasons for this. I think the biggest is being scarred by what Mark Williams did in the ACC Tournament to Louisville to end the season. He overpowered the weaker Cardinals repeatedly throughout the game. It was the lasting moment of a strange season that, understandably, left a bad taste in the mouth of all. It’s why Mack has mentioned toughness virtually each time he’s been in front of a camera since then. Traynor was a big reason why that happened.
What I would suggest is simply this…
I would never, ever compare this team to Gonzaga.
Let me say that again, I would never, ever compare this team to Gonzaga.
But one attribute they do have is the ability to play like the Bulldogs
. What made them so successful is two things: Everyone on the floor could shoot and make a three, All bigs can pick and pop. They, too, lacked toughness which Baylor largely exposed in the National Championship. But they overcame it most of the season because of how good they were on offense. With JJ Traynor on the floor, Louisville can mimic that (and bring in Curry, Williams when they need the toughness boost).
Traynor was the best three point shooter on the team last year. The sample size is small and not reflective of his true shooting ability but it’s something you cannot dismiss. When it comes to Pick and Pop sets, Louisville as a team ranked in the Top 5 percentile according to points per possession when they ran them. To nobody's surprise, Traynor led them in these sets, he ranked in the Top 15 percentile of all of College Basketball.
There are legitimate reasons for keeping Traynor off the floor at points this season. What is undeniable is that he should be a major factor in the rotation. If he isn’t, Louisville is letting a major opportunity go beckoning. At least that’s what the numbers say.
Graphics via Pivot