The value of high volume and low efficiency players is a constant source of debate among basketball people. On the surface, many of these players appear to bring down an offense with either low shooting percentages or high turnover rates (or both). As a result, the inefficient shot taker is often viewed as selfish. However, high usage players also add value to an offense that is harder to measure.
Other teammates (most likely with inferior skills for creating offense) are able to boost their efficiency. This is because the high usage player is either drawing a lot of defensive attention or possibly taking necessary shots at the end of the shot clock.
Take a look at Boise State’s offense by player last season:
Drmic and Marks enter their senior seasons on track to break many Boise State school records on the offensive end. Both were the main shot takers for the Broncos last year despite playing with three seniors with fantastic offensive ratings (Elorriaga, Bropleh, and Watkins). The Boise State offense was very good at number 28 in the country, but could it have been better? The answer certainly wasn’t as simple as, for example, getting Jeff Elorriaga more touches. He operated almost entirely off the ball as a lethal three-point shooter and floor spacer.
With the extremely efficient role players gone, this year’s Boise State offense will be an interesting test case for usage and efficiency. On the one hand, role players are ultimately much easier to replace than Drmic and Marks. On the other hand, Boise State will need efficiency from somewhere. Whether that means new role players stepping up or maybe just a more efficient Derrick Marks remains to be seen.
The “best” way to take a look at the hidden impact of usage is probably through lineup data. I put best in quotes because of course the problems with lineup data are well documented: sample size, no accounting for opponents, etc. So with that caveat, let’s take a look at Marks and Elorriaga last year:
Sample size and lurking variables be damned, score one for the “ball hog” here. Despite his offensive rating, the numbers appear to indicate that Derrick Marks was making his teammates better on offense while on the court.
The Boise State offense will almost certainly be one of the best in the Mountain West again this season. Shot creators like Drmic and Marks simply aren’t easy to find at the mid major level, but a transformation into a nationally elite offense will require increases in efficiency in some capacity.