14-15 – The 6’9″ sophomore started 33 games this season, though he averaged only 17 mpg over the season. In part that was a reflection of the foul trouble he often found himself in, as Gav just couldn’t avoid the bad combination of overly aggressive defensive play and the lesser level of respect often shown young players by officials. Yet, there were positives in an up and down season for the big man.
He went through some tough moments of bad judgment (especially in some late game situations, like the one at home against Minnesota) but for the most part Gav played very well defensively. Izzo has said he’s already one of the most capable pick and roll defenders he’s had, which is saying a ton. I think at times he was effective in the post as well, when foul trouble wasn’t hindering him. The encouraging thing is that he’s so gifted athletically and moves his feet so well that I think you can play him down the line against more than just conventional big men. I suspect that time may be coming as soon as next season.
Offensively, Gav is still very much a work in progress. I think overall he showed some progress from his freshman season but his ability to finish at the rim is still needing work, as he’s bothered some by length and is still developing his touch in close to the basket. Where he’s absolutely shown a lot of value is in transition, however. He runs rim to rim faster than the vast majority of guys he’s playing against and even if he’s not scoring, just by making opponents move he’s giving MSU value.
Going Forward – Izzo indicated in his first post season comments that Gav needs to “learn to love the game” this offseason. I suspect that comment was meant to inspire more than indicate any problem, but it does suggest that Gav has to work very hard over the next few months to improve his offensive game in particular. I think even with the influx of new big man talent, he’s going to play a significant role…HOW significant is down to two things: an improved ability to finish plays and to play defense without fouling.
I don’t expect him to become a great offensive player but I think he can get better. He did shoot 58% from the floor but he can and probably should be a mid 60s guy with a little more attentionto detail. More importantly, I think he can give MSU a versatile post defender as a guy capable of banging inside as well as handling people playing further away from the rim. His footwork and athleticism suggest he can do that and I suspect MSU may ask him to do more of that next season, providing he demonstrates he can handle it without picking up unnecessary fouls. Gav’s also got to get a little better in squeezing rebounds. It’s certainly not an indication of a lack of strength…I think it’s got more to do with continuing to adjust to the level of activity in the collegiate game inside. I like his odds for coming back a better player in October and remaining a part of MSU’s rotation and perhaps even as a starter once again.