Ranking the Three Best Bigs at Running the Court

Posted by on December 8, 2014

As we continue towards the slowest college basketball season ever, it’s not easy finding big men very good at running the floor in transition. An athletic big adept at filling the proper lane is an extremely useful advantage to have. When the big man in transition beats his defender down the court, the smaller guards tend to have no choice but to either concede a basket or foul.
Two years ago, Luke Winn tracked Cody Zeller’s transition points in his weekly power rankings. I used Jeff Haley’s hoop-math.com to identify the top three big men this season at running the floor by the numbers. Both usage (how often the player gets transition opportunities) and efficiency (how often to player converts transition opportunities) were considered.
Here are the top three bigs in transition through the first week of December:

1. Zach Auguste – Notre Dame

While Notre Dame’s overall tempo is still slow this season, their average offensive possession length is much shorter than previous seasons. Zach Auguste certainly gives the Irish incentive to get out in transition with the way he has finished at the hoop this season.
The big caveat here is that Notre Dame has played five teams ranked 325th or worse in the country to the start the season. However, Auguste is still very impressive in transition. The 6’10″ junior legitimately looks like the fastest player on the court at times and seems to always fill the correct lane. Auguste also hasn’t sacrificed defensive rebounding in favor of leaking out. He ranks 69th in the country in defensive rebounding percentage.
Below is a GIF of Auguste grabbing a rebounding, crossing a defender over, passing the ball up, and sprinting down the court as the trailer:
Auguste draws the foul on the play, but as you can tell by his numbers this type of play has ended in a basket more often than not this season.

2. Jarvis Williams – Murray State

Jarvis Williams is one of the best dunkers in the country. The 6’8″ senior gets plenty of dunks in transition, but unfortunately at the cost of defensive rebounds. Murray State is currently 344th in the NCAA in defensive rebounding percentage. It’s hard to say without a more detailed analysis if Williams and Murray State’s “cherry-picking” is ultimately worth it, but it does lead to great transition highlights.
Williams doesn’t rely on speed nearly as much as Auguste in transition. Williams instead sometimes slowly creeps to the hoop and waits for the defense to fall asleep. His teammates are always looking for him and he gives them a lot of room for error with his jumping ability.
Here you can see Murray State’s propensity to cherry-pick. Williams actually leads the 3-on-1 fastbreak (he is rarely ever the ball handler), but eventually receives one of his many alley-oops on the season:

3. Aaron White – Iowa

Aaron White is different from Auguste and Williams because he has the ability to consistently put the ball on the floor. The 6’9″ senior can catch the ball on the perimeter and get to the basket. White frequently uses a right-left euro step that is really hard to stop due to his length.
White also has the advantage of playing on top of Iowa’s 1-2-2 press. When Iowa generates steals off the press, he is in great position to get going in transition. Fran McCaffery offenses have always looked to push the ball. The 1-2-2 press leading into transition was also a staple during McCaffery’s three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances with Siena. White’s skill set really flourishes in McCaffery’s uptempo system.
Below is one of White’s several euro steps this season:

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