Show Me My Opponent, 2020-21: Georgia

Georgia offense

Somehow exactly as fine as last year’s, thanks to an emphasis on playing fast

I…have to admit I did not really see this one coming. Georgia’s offense is pretty much the exact same as of the time of writing as it was when it had the #1 draft pick playing for them barely a year ago. Anthony Edwards wasn’t super-efficient and was an openly mediocre three-point shooter, but he was Anthony Edwards, the #1 pick in the latest NBA Draft and a guy who could get to the rim and get fouled pretty much whenever he felt like it. Along with Edwards, Rayshaun Hammonds – UGA’s #2 scoring option – departed for the NBA (AKA, the G League).

And yet: they rank 73rd offensively vs. 71st last year, are a better shooting team (marginally), and are pretty dominant on the offensive boards. To their credit, Georgia has stayed consistently fine at offense in this in-between season (one that shouldn’t exist if you hired TOM CREAN, but whatever) thanks to speeding it up and playing as fast as they can.

35.1% of Georgia’s shots come in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, which is the 16th-highest rate in the nation and the second-highest in the SEC behind Alabama. They aren’t extremely efficient at it or anything, as their transition eFG% sits at 56.6% (111th nationally), but it’s a small improvement over how they perform in half-court. Notably, Georgia becomes a much better three-point shooting team the less time they have to think about it:

In the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, Georgia is 37-for-98 from downtown this season, or 37.8%. That may not sound like much, but it makes them the 73rd-best three-point-shooting team in transition nationally. This being a small sample size of all of 98 attempts certainly helps, but so does the fact that, on average, you have around a 10% higher chance of your three-point transition attempt being unguarded than you do in a proper half-court set.

Unfortunately, the slower it gets, the more things go wrong

Now, this would be all well and good if it translated to Georgia’s half-court offensive system at all. Some aspects of it actually do. Georgia actually gets better at the rim the deeper the clock goes and is hitting 63.7% of their attempts at the rim in non-transition play, which ranks 48th-best nationally. That’s pretty good! Nearly 8% of all Georgia field goal attempts being putbacks certainly helps this, but even despite that, Georgia has several skilled inside-the-perimeter scorers that we’ll touch on shortly.

It would be quite nice for Georgia and Tom Crean if the deeper the shot clock went, they also shot as well as they did in transition or even better. Instead, as we noted, it gets markedly worse. Georgia’s hitting just 31.1% of their half-court three point attempts (270th-best!) despite 54% of their attempts being unguarded, per Synergy. In fact, on unguarded half-court attempts, the Bulldogs make just 27.9% of their shots, one of the worst rates in America:

And the deeper the shot clock goes, it gets much, much worse. In the final five seconds of a possession, Georgia is 10-for-47 from three (21.3%), which ranks 323rd in the nation. If you can slow this offense down, the odds of them scoring outside of the paint diminishes rapidly:

Sahvir Wheeler and Toumani Camara lead the way offensively, somewhat

Part of Georgia’s offensive blessing appears to simultaneously be a curse. Tom Crean has actually recruited a pretty well-diversified top five in his rotation, where all five starters have made at least six threes this season and have at least 20 makes at the rim. Starting with Sahvir Wheeler, a 5’10” point guard who attacks the rim like just about no one else out there, everyone in this lineup can shoot from 20+ feet out and can drive from 20+ feet out. Wheeler gets a ton of work in Georgia’s ball-screen sets. His game is a bit more diverse when dribbling off the pick, where he’s taken 22 jumpers/runners to 24 layup attempts:

But going away from the pick, he’s exclusively a threat to get to the rim. Wheeler is barely above 50% on the season on attempts at the rim, which is not very efficient, but it’s worth remembering that he’s 5’10” and draws about 4.3 fouls per 40 minutes.

Georgia’s second-biggest possession-user is “center” Toumani Camara, a 6’8” sophomore that is 12-for-65 from three in his career. Tennessee should happily sag off of any and all three-point attempts he puts up in this game. That said, Camara has been utterly fantastic from everywhere in transition. Wheeler has more makes in transition because he’s the primary ball-handler, but Camara is more efficient and is happy to get to the rim as frequently as possible:

In half-court, he still lurks on the perimeter, but over half of his shots come at the rim. He does drive to the rim some and is marginally threatening as a basket-cuts guy, but honestly, I find myself most worried about how Tennessee will defend him as part of the ball-screen packages. Camara’s very good at both rolling and popping out of these sets and does them both in equal amounts.

Along with that, there’s the whole “best offensive rebounder on the team” thing. Tennessee finally started to take care of business on the boards in the second half against Kentucky, but don’t let Camara only being 6’8” fool you. He was dominant on the boards in Georgia’s sorely-needed road win over Auburn, bringing home 12 boards with three of them on the offensive side:

Because this section is already long enough for a game Tennessee will be favored by 10+ points in, I’m using this part to run through what the rest of Georgia’s serious offensive threats do well. Justin Kier is the primary 2-guard that defends 1 through 3 on the other side of the ball. Kier is Georgia’s best three-point shooter (37.8% on the season) and has been a particularly happy recipient of Wheeler’s kickout passes:

Andrew Garcia is the sixth man, but he’s used the fourth-most possessions on the team. He almost never attempts threes (five on the season out of 115 total attempts), but has been an absolute monster on the boards. Of his 174 points this season, 38 (21.8%) have come from putbacks on offensive rebounds, per Synergy.

Tye Fagan, who is a junior but feels as if he is entering his sixth season, has turned into one of the most efficient two-point scorers in the SEC. He has the fifth-best 2PT% in SEC play at 65.6% and has been terrific at pushing the pace in transition:

Lastly, there’s P.J. Horne. Horne has played the third-most minutes of anyone, but has just an 11.9% Usage Rate, qualifying him as “nearly invisible” on KenPom. The upside to Horne being nearly invisible is that he has the most three-point makes on the team at 30, rarely takes anything I’d call a bad shot, and most importantly, has far and away the lowest TO% on the team at 8.5%. He just knows where to be offensively.

Incredibly, this current 73rd-ranked Georgia offense stands as the fifth-best offense Georgia has had since 2002-03.

Here’s a quick scout of Georgia’s rotation. Only players who receive at least 10 minutes per game in SEC play are considered. The first five players are projected starters. Positions in parentheses are from Bart Torvik’s algorithm.

  • #2 Sahvir Wheeler (pure PG). Top Dawg on the team, at least in terms of driving the offense. Wheeler is not efficient at all and has an atrocious 25.6% TO%, which I swear I would’ve gotten to had I not already written 1,200 words on the UGA offense. 28-for-109 on everything that isn’t a layup.
  • #5 Justin Kier (combo G). Also inefficient and doesn’t even bring the passing prowess Wheeler has. Combine that with a 25.9% TO% and it’s ugly. That said, Kier is UGA’s best shooter and best perimeter defender.
  • #14 Tye Fagan (wing G). The second-most efficient rotation player next to P.J. Horne. Fagan doesn’t get to the line much at all, but he’s 57-for-74 at the rim and rebounds really well for a 6’3” guard.
  • #24 P.J. Horne (stretch 4). Horne uses possessions at the same rate as 2019-20 Jalen Johnson, which is to say not much at all. And yet: he has the most made threes on the team, never turns the ball over, and has the fewest negatives of any player on the roster.
  • #10 Toumani Camara (wing F). Camara is going to attempt two or three threes in this game and, more likely than not, miss all of his attempts. It’s kind of a shame, because he is a really good scorer in the paint and an excellent rebounder. Also gets fouled a lot.
  • #4 Andrew Garcia (PF/C). Has the misfortune of only being 6’6”; kind of what I wish E.J. Anosike was. Garcia can’t shoot, but has converted 70.7% of his attempts at the rim and is one of the best per-possession offensive rebounders out there. Commits 5.9 fouls per 40, though.
  • #0 K.D. Johnson (combo G). Johnson has only played in eight games, but he has the highest per-possession usage rate on the team. Of particular interest: Johnson is 14-for-31 on threes, yet 18-for-45 on twos and has an awful 24.1% TO%.

NEXT PAGE: Well, this is certainly a defense

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