Cuse Country

Home Away From Dome for Syracuse Orange Fans

where to begin?

Posted by syracusan on January 21, 2007

It may seem opportunistic to rag on Andy Rautins right now: given his performance this afternoon at the Garden he’s an easy target and the timing of the criticism might come off as overly convenient. But I assure you I had planned to bring him up after the Cinci game, I just didn’t have time. The fact is, his play is killing this team, and it’s getting harder and harder to understand why Boeheim is giving him the kind of minutes he’s getting.

Against St Johns Rautins inexplicably got 24 minutes of PT, and contributed a Gorman-like 1, 1, and 1 in the box score. Though his defense has gotten more–shall we say–‘energetic’, he’s becoming a detriment on the court through his combination of non-productivity and ever more atrocious shooting percentages. He put up an 0-5 today (all 3’s, like usual), dropping his season output to 35%. From beyond the arch he’s down to 30%, well below the likes of Josh Wright, despite that shot being his alleged specialty.

I can’t shred Rautins thoroughly the way I did Gorman earlier this year, because I still believe he’s capable of contributing, and I bet at some point in his career he’ll have a Nichols-like awakening with his jump shot. You can tell watching him that he has shooting talent, and he’s probably just going through early career jitters right now. Plus, he plays with good flow and rhythm on offense, seems to understand the game, and at least has decent positioning on defense. That said, at this moment in time he’s killing us. And if there’s going to be an inexperienced player on the court working through offensive growing pains, that player needs to be Paul Harris.

To be fair, the argument for Rautins starting is reasonable. It comes in three parts: 1) Devo has rejuvenated himself as a high scoring 6th man, and Jimmy isn’t ready to mess with that chemistry; 2) Harris, for all his defense and rebounding, is totally lost on offense and heavily disrupts the flow of the team when he’s on the floor (see Cinci game), so Andy is preferable; and 3) even when Rautins isn’t contributing, the threat of his long range shot opens things up for others and his sound fundamentals and understanding of how the offense operates allows the other four guys on the floor to function well.

Yadda yadda yadda. The problem is that at some point several games ago Andy’s negatives started outweighing all those alleged positives. #1 I don’t buy anymore, and probably Boeheim won’t either pretty soon. #2 is still true, but the excuse is retarding Harris’ progress in favor of keeping a guy in the game who isn’t doing a damn thing. And #3 is falling apart more and more with every clanged 3 pointer. The fact is, Andy isn’t out there as a decoy – he’s actually shooting it. And he’s missing, a LOT. His bricks are starting to lose us a lot of possessions, to the point where it’s hard to understand why he’s getting minutes that Harris could have. His net contribution to the offense is in the red because all those missed shots offset whatever positives he adds to the “flow”. Paul is no threat from outside of 10 feet, but frankly neither is Rautins these days, so why not go with the more promising rookie?

Harris contributes ridiculous per-minute rebounding numbers, plays lockdown man-to-man, and has a knack for getting to the line. Granted Jimmy shies away from playing zone while Harris is in the game, which might be hurting the team as a whole since the 2-3 is still our comfort zone; and anyone who watched the Cinci game knows that the offense was firing on all cylinders until Paul came in and gummed up the works with his uncertain positioning on offense and over-dribbling. But my argument is that Rautins is no longer having a positive effect, and it’s time to suck it up and let Harris figure out his confusion on the court. He’s capable of being a difference maker even without any kind of jump shot, and his energy is contagious.

Towards the end of today’s game, foul trouble and Josh Wright awfulness forced Jimmy into going with a sort of anti-Villanova lineup of all bigs. Devo was the only real guard, with Harris at the 2 and Nichols/Gorman/Roberts/Watkins rotating on the front line. It was an enormous lineup, and I’d love to see something like that work. I’ll be the first to admit they didn’t do much on the court and that most of the offensive possessions came down to Devo or Nichols shooting threes, but we damn well got every freakin’ rebound during that stretch! If they could somehow make that lineup work, it would be hellish on opposing teams. We’d often have a size advantage at all 5 spots, even against most Big East teams.

It’s a pipe dream because Boeheim loves the stability of a true point man who doesn’t look for his shot, so Josh will always get big minutes. But his up and down play isn’t likely to end any time soon, so I’d like to see more experimentation with the All-Bigs rotation. Alternatively, let Wright and Devo handle big minutes at the guard spots and let Harris rotate in whenever any of the starting three on the frontline need breathers. Whatever the formula, it’s time for Harris to get back the minutes that Rautins has been stealing.

*****

A while back we had a mini-debate about the relative significance of offensive rebounding statistics. The game today against St Johns was a counter point to the example I gave back in December. This was a grind out affair where both teams’ shooting percentages were in the 30’s, fast breaks were limited, and defense (and poor offense) ruled the day. In such a situation a team capable of excelling on the offensive glass and clearing the defensive glass will have a huge advantage. We failed utterly in our first big test. Not that St Johns did much better, but the fact that rebounding was a wash in a game like this one probably cost us the win. There will be nights when the jumpers aren’t falling and when every layup seems to rim out (or brick…or airball…Mookie), and on those nights you need to be able to hit the boards to pull out victories. Especially a team like ours that will probably lose the turnover battle every night. But we couldn’t do it, not even close. So everything else being equal, we turned it over a bunch of times in important situations and missed our foul shots. Ergo, a loss.

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