Note: I wrote this awhile back in the lead-up to the NBA draft but am curious what others might have to think about it now so I'm reposting it from my blog. Also, I'm sure Matthew will have some great basketball preview stuff and probably stomp all over this when the time comes but I wanted to give the basketball forum a little more love.
Buddy Hield had a season for the ages. He went from relative unknown to Naismith Player of the Year. After a senior season that saw his team earn a Final Four berth for the first time in over 10 years, he was drafted 6th overall to the New Orleans Pelicans. All teams returning a senior wing are hoping to see a Hield-like transformation. Here’s why Peter Jok can be that player for Iowa.
Peter Jok was a Top 10 recruit nationally before going through a series of knee injuries that knocked him down the ranks. Since being at Iowa, Fran McCaffery has brought him along slowly. He averaged under 10 minutes as a freshman, struggling with conditioning and defense. His minutes increased over twofold his sophomore year. As a junior he averaged 27.7 minutes a game, including over 30 during conference/tournament play. All signals point to him being fully healthy, well-conditioned, and capable of more.
Buddy Hield averaged 32 minutes his sophomore and junior years before seeing them spike to 35 for his senior year. Iowa will need these kind of minutes from Peter Jok.
Iowa will likely slot Jok for these minutes across three positions. Though he played the bulk of his minutes at small forward last year, he will see more playing time as a two and spot minutes at the point. Even though he will see every team’s best perimeter defender, I’d expect him to feast on cross-matches that seem him going against these smaller defenders by working his constantly improving post game or simply shooting over them.
Hield’s numbers last year are simply extraordinary: 25 points per game on 50/46/88 shooting. The gaudy 3 point shooting numbers (4 per game on 8.7 attempts) mask how great he was at attacking the basket: he averaged 5.4 free throw attempts per game, a good sign of aggressiveness on offense. He was one of six players to shoot over 8 3s and 5 free throws per game.
But when normalized Per 40 minutes Peter Jok’s numbers compare well to Buddy Hield’s:
From College Basketball Reference
Even if Peter maintains this efficiency and rate with only increase in minutes, we will still see point totals well under Hield's from this year (Jok's 16.1 points per 27.1 minutes prorate to 20.3 in 35). To make up the additional 5 points, he'll have to become more efficient in virtually every phase of offense to improve his junior year splits of 43/40/85. He can do this by attacking the basket more for layups and free throws and substitute long-range 2s for 3s.
In terms of career trajectory, Jok’s sophomore/junior are in line with Hield’s freshman/sophomore year — looking at TS% which accounts for 2s, 3s, and FTs. Will Jok be able to avoid the dip Hield saw his junior year? For Iowa to succeed, he'll need to avoid the dip Hield saw.
Hield also returned to a team with 73% minute continuity. The chemistry and improvement of known quantities is hard to quantify beyond this number, but Oklahoma was in a much better position going into 2015 than Iowa is right now. Iowa returns only 40% of their minutes from this year, down from 63% for 2015. This means a couple things: 1) Oklahoma's team success will be unlikely for Iowa to replicate, 2) there are a lot of shots left for Jok (and others) to take, and 3) if others don't step up, Iowa will be one-dimensional offensively.
Fran McCaffery and Jok are already on record that this will be his team. The last time a single senior had such a huge role was 2006–07 when Adam Haluska became the most recent Hawkeye to average over 20 points a game. That team fell short of an NCAA berth despite his best efforts — one of many seasons to forget throughout the [REDACTED] era.
If Jok can make a jump like Hield, in terms of volume and efficiency, it will be a truly remarkable individual season for Peter. If the right pieces fall in place around him, we could be in store for a deep run in March.