The basketball season is officially over (congratulations to North Carolina). With the recruiting signing period just two days away, Pat Chambers and crew have been busy on the trail looking for capable guys to fill the newly open spots on the team. While they do that, we at Black Shoe Diaries will take a look at the players who remain, looking back at what they did this season and what they can do to improve next. First stop is Deividas Zemgulis.
Davis did not see the court much this season, but with most of the guys ahead of him now gone, it’s very likely that a good offseason propels him to the seventh or eighth spot on the team. With the increased role would come the increased pressure to perform beyond what we’ve seen so far from the young Lithuanian.
Davis left everything to be desired on offense, which is troubling for a guy who was recruited as a sharp shooter coming out of high school. Zemgulis only had 13 shots from three this season, making just three of them. A ton of that can be credited to him not being on the floor that much; any sort of production would be heavily skewed if you’re only getting eight percent of minutes (and 12% of possessions) in a game. And, as with all chicken or egg arguments, one has to wonder if more time would have allowed him to better adjust and contribute more.
As the season progressed, he seemed to be moving more freely and effectively on the court, if ever so slightly. His shot, however, never came. His offensive rating tells you everything you need to know, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Zemgulis seemed at his best against the best competition. In conference play, his offensive rating was 69.7 (nice.7), and his eFG% was 37.5 against Tier A and B opponents. These are paltry numbers to go by, but they show a sign that Zemgulis can overcome his own inability if he keeps working.
In order to put these defensive numbers in perspective, let’s compare them other players on the team: Lamar Stevens’ block percentage for the season was 2.4, Tony Carr’s was 0.8, Payton Banks’ was 1.0, Shep Garner’s was 0.3, and Josh Reaves’ was 2.8 (I left Mike Watkins out because it’s unfair to compare him to a monster like Watkins). Zemgulis, in his extremely limited time, out blocked the best player on the team in Carr, and came close of Payton Banks. The only non-Mike Watkins players to have done unquestionably better than Zemgulis in that department are Lamar Stevens and Josh Reaves, and they are, again, two of our best players on the team. The story doesn’t change that much with the other statistics, as his steal percentage was within the range of the best players as well.
It’s not surprising to see Zemgulis perform better on defense than offense, as this has been as staple of Pat Chambers teams over the years. And in fact, you could say it’s a good sign of things to come. Every player that has seen significant improvement under Chambers has done so by first becoming a good defender, then following it up with a better offensive game. If Zemgulis can follow in Brandon Taylor’s footsteps, he could use his limited, but effective defensive performances and turn them into something better.
It’s good to see that Davis wasn’t a total cinder block on the court last season, but the offensive ineptitude completely hampered any good that could have come out of his defensive game. Swapping offense for defense only works in the last minutes of the game, and with the new rules likely to come in the next season, that may not even be a possibility. Zemgulis followed a very Brandon Taylor-esque sophomore season, where the faint promise of something better completely disappeared once the season started. That said, here are few things he can do to improve.
Offseason To-Do List
1) 100 threes a day - Davis came in with the purpose of being a stretch wing guy that would provide a spark off the bench, and he hasn’t been able to do that so far. Zemgulis should take a page from Maggie Lucas’ playbook, and shoot enough to make it feel natural. With Payton Banks gone, this is his opportunity to take the role of sixth man on the team, and there’s no better way to do it than shooting lights out from beyond the arc.
2) Bang with the big boys - Zemgulis actually had a stretch where he played in the post out of necessity, and he wasn’t as terrible as you'd expect. He, like Brandon Taylor before him, would benefit from creating an inside game that prevents teams from simply guarding him outside and making him completely ineffective.
3) Watch the turnovers - This is certainly not a problem exclusive to him, but Zemgulis’ assist-to-turnover ratio was atrocious this season. He needs to learn to control the ball better, especially inside. A missed shot is always better than a turnover.