2017 Iowa Basketball Season in Review: Jordan Bohannon

By Matthew Lundeen on April 10, 2017 at 10:00 am
Jordan Bohannon's freshman year was easily the most pleasant surprise of the 2017 season.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

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Jordan Bohannon's freshman year was easily the most pleasant surprise of the 2017 season.

Jordan Bohannon

Bio: Freshman G, 6'0", 182 lbs. (Marion, Iowa)
2017 Season: 34 Games Played, 28 Starts, 29.6 MPG, 10.9 PPG, 5.1 APG, 41.6% 3FG%

Season in Review

Top 5 Games by Opponent Adjusted Game Score Per Minute
  • 1) vs. Indiana (BTT) 0.83 -- 24 points (6-11 3FG) and 10 assists in 37 minutes
  • 2) at Maryland 0.81 -- 24 points (8-10 3FG) and 5 assists in 31 minutes
  • 3) vs. Michigan 0.78 -- 17 points (3-5 3FG) and 6 assists in 31 minutes
  • 4) at Rutgers 0.76 -- 17 points points (5-7 3FG) and 4 assists in 26 minutes
  • 5) vs. TCU -- 25 points (7-12 3FG) and 13 assists in 42 minutes
Bottom 5 Games by Opponent Adjusted Game Score Per Minute
  • 1) at Michigan State -0.31 -- 0 points (0-6 3FG),1 turnover, and 2 fouls in 18 minutes
  • 2) at Illinois -0.091 -- 3 points (1-7 3FG), 2 turnovers, and 2 fouls in 21 minutes
  • 3) vs. Virginia -0.087 -- 6 points (2-6 3FG), 3 turnovers, and 1 foul in 23 minutes
  • 4) vs. Stetson -0.07 -- 2 points (0-3 3FG), 2 turnovers, and 1 foul in 26 minutes
  • 5) at Nebraska 0.06 -- 6 points (2-7 3FG), 3 turnovers, and 1 foul in 40 minutes

I think it's safe to say that Jordan Bohannon was the most pleasant surprise for the Hawkeyes this season. Heading into November, Iowa had no proven point guard on the roster, and there were questions surrounding how Bohannon would perform at the Big Ten level. He was short, labeled as "unathletic," and his best non-Iowa offer was Northern Iowa. We certainly knew that he could shoot the ball (he is a Bohannon, after all), but it was unclear how good his handles were or how well he could command an offense and find his teammates for open looks. In short, we weren't sure about his abilities to handle the point from day one when he was only six months removed from graduating high school.

Well, Bohannon more than answered those questions. He started off the season on the bench with Christian Williams starting at the one. However, Bohannon played more minutes than Williams in all but one of those first six games. Bohannon topped out at six points a couple of times during that time (thanks to some iffy three-point shooting), but he showed a knack for dishing out assists in bunches. He handed out four or more assists in four of those first six games, while assisting on at least six baskets in three of them. With his strong play at the point and a truly awful team performance in the Emerald Coast Classic, Fran overhauled the starting lineup on the road at Notre Dame, and inserted Bohannon at the point guard position.

The lineup change wouldn't stop Iowa from losing their third-straight game, but Bohannon foreshadowed what was to come, as he went off for 23 points and 7 assists in South Bend. More importantly, after starting the season shooting 7-27 from downtown, Bohannon broke through in a big way, knocking down 7-15 against the Irish. He would go on to score 22 points on 6-12 shooting from long range in the next game against Omaha, but we also witnessed just how far the youngest Bohannon still had to go on the defensive side of the ball

After the lineup change failed to snap Iowa's losing streak (now at four games after the Omaha debacle), Fran made a change on the defensive side of the ball, putting anybody but Bohannon on the opposing team's best attacking guard. And it worked, as Iowa was successfully able to hide him on defense and end the non-conference schedule on a five-game winning streak.

Once Big Ten play rolled around, Bohannon had all but cemented his role as the main point guard on the roster. After playing just 23 minutes in the blowout in West Lafayette, Bohannon played no fewer than 29 minutes in the next six games, including playing 30+ in five of them. January was probably Jordan's worst month of conference play, and that's saying something, considering he scored double-figures in five of Iowa's nine games that month and had five assists in four of those games.

Perhaps a better place to draw a distinction than by looking at months is to look at how Bohannon seemed to come into his own at the end of January, when Peter Jok went down with injury. During the first half of the season, it was clear that this was Peter Jok's team and he would be the one to take them as far as he could go. But once Jok went down with injury, Bohannon was one of the key players to step up.

  Games Usage% Points/Game 3FGA/Game 3FG%
B1G Pre-Jok Injury 8 18.1% 8.6 5.6 28.9%
B1G Post-Jok Injury 13 20.1% 14.6 7.5 50.5%

Starting with the Ohio State game when Jok first sat out due to his injuries, Bohannon played a bigger role in scoring on offense. His usage rate went up two percentage points, which, according to Kenpom, takes him from being a "role player" to just over the mark for being a "significant contributor." Moreover, he attempted about two more three-pointers per game, nearly doubled the rate at which he converted on them, and scored six more points per game as a result. 

As you can see by the linear trend upward on the chart above, Bohannon only got better as the season went on. There was the 24 points he scored in the win at Maryland by knocking down eight threes.

Then came the Wisconsin game, where he buried the game-winner in the same arena that two of his older brothers had once called home.

And when you thought he couldn't play any better, he went and ended the season by logging the first three double-doubles of his career in the final three games of the season.

I was optimistic about Jordan's career at Iowa coming into the year, but I had no idea that he would be this good before he was at least a junior. Three star true freshmen aren't supposed to be this good, this quickly, you guys. 

Key Numbers

111.0 -- Bohannon's offensive rating this year. That number was fourth-best on the team, behind Nicholas Baer, Peter Jok, and Brady Ellingson. However, only Jok used more possessions on offense this year, making that feat even more incredible. And while I love Baer and am cautiously optimistic on Ellingson, putting up a 100+ offensive rating in 20% of possessions is more impressive than doing so on 15% or 12%.

#62 -- That's where Jordan Bohannon's 30% assist rate ranked nationally this year, according to Kenpom. On a per game basis, Bohannon handed out five assists per game. For comparison, Mike Gesell didn't even hit 28% until his sophomore year, and didn't surpass 30% until he was a junior. If Bohannon gets any better, he's going to approach Bryce Cartwright territory.

10.9 -- Bohannon's 10.9 points per game ranks #7 for Iowa freshman since the 1993 season. He's behind a great list of players that includes Jess Settles, Ricky Davis, Tyler Smith, Tyler Cook, Aaron White, and Melsahn Basabe.

3 -- The number of Iowa players (Bohannon included) since 1993 that have shot 200 or more three-pointers and made at least 40% of their attempts. Bohannon (41.6% on 214) is in great company with senior year Luke Recker (41.3% on 223 attempts) and junior year Jeff Horner (40.8% on 211). (Peter Jok just missed out on this list over the last two years. He finished with 199 attempts in his junior season and his injuries dropped him down to 38% shooting this season.) If you expand that list to every team in the country and trim the list down to just freshmen, you see that Bohannon is just one of 26 freshman since 1993 to shoot 40+% on 200+ attempts. And some of the names on that list include: Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, D'Angelo Russell, and O.J. Mayo. Also, the leader is someone named "Brett Blizzard" so that's pretty cool.

9 -- The number of freshman nationally since 1993 that have averaged at least 10 points per game, had an assist rate of at least 30%, and made at least 40% of their threes. That list puts him in the company of Lonzo Ball, D'Angelo Russell, and Markelle Fultz. Now, Bohannon's ceiling/pro potential obviously isn't the same as those guys, but making that list is still quite the accomplishment. 

Next Year

Bohannon is a guaranteed lock to be Iowa's starting point guard next year and --barring crazy unforeseen circumstances -- for the rest of his career. While there is a ton of competition at every other position, Bohannon is the lone person locked into the point guard spot. If no true backup emerges, it is highly probable that Bohannon is playing 30 minutes per game again next season. 

But while he has the most job security on the roster, that doesn't mean there aren't things for him to work on over the offseason. Defense is obviously the first one that comes to mind. I demonstrated the difference between Bohannon and Christian Williams a few days ago when I reviewed Williams' season. But the key for Bohannon in the offseason is learning how to stay in front of quicker guards

It's not hard to imagine him getting better over the next few years, but how fast will he improve? And by how much? Because for as good as he is on offense, he can be a liability on defense against certain teams. Fran was able to hide Bohannon on shooting guards that didn't really have the dribble-drive in their arsenal this year, but against teams like Northwestern who had three people in the back court that could attack the basket, there was literally nowhere to put Bohannon that wouldn't be a complete mismatch. 

On offense, the task isn't nearly as daunting as it is on defense. The two weakest areas of Bohannon's game were turnovers and finishing at the rim. Fortunately, his 21% turnover rate wasn't much worse than average, and that should decrease with more experience. The latter, however, may not ever be a strength for an undersized guy like him, but it can certainly get better than the 41% he made at the rim this year. 

Even if Bohannon doesn't get much better near the rim, it's not a huge deal since so much of his value is tied up in his three-point shooting. And, boy, can he shoot the ball.

And fortunately, he's much more than a shooting guard in a point guards body. The guy can also create opportunities for his teammates. 

And he can do it in the up-tempo style that Fran likes to play.

Bohannon just finished one of the best freshman seasons we have seen at Iowa in the last quarter of a century. To reiterate what I already said before, three star true freshmen aren't supposed to be this good, this quickly. And when you pair him with the all the young talent on the current roster and the young talent that is in the recruiting pipelines, the future certainly looks bright for Iowa basketball. 

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