Texas Longhorns Basketball Report: A Closer Look at Jonathan Holmes

Basketball players come in many different types. A tiny number of players -- like LeBron James, for example -- are great at every aspect of the game. A huge number of players -- like me, for example -- aren't very good at anything. Players in Division 1 basketball fall somewhere in between these two extremes. (They have to be better than a 35 year old scientist with a reconstructed knee and no jump shot.)

This space in between LeBron James and most of the rest of us is occupied by a range of players. Some excel at one or more specific things, while having very specific weaknesses as well. And then there are players who aren't great at anything in particular, but are good at nearly everything.

In many ways, having a good all around game means a player will often go under-appreciated, simply because nothing stands out. A player who grabs a few rebounds, knocks down a few jumpers, steals a pass here and there, and blocks a shot or two doesn't end up on SportsCenter very much.

After his freshman season, Jonathan Holmes appears to be this sort of player. He can certainly improve particular aspects of his game, but he doesn't have glaring weaknesses. He is a player who is not flashy, but who is good at everything.

This is the third entry in this series, looking at each of the returning sophomores on the Texas Longhorns. I have previously written about Myck Kabongo and Sheldon McClellan. This post deals with Jonathan Holmes. After the jump, I take a look at Holmes' game, and compare him with several other big men from Texas' recent past.

In his freshman season, Jonathan Holmes was a fairly efficient player who used a fairly low percentage of possessions. This is stat-geek jargon, so I need to explain it. You use a possession when you are the last player on your team to have the ball. This means that you either shoot the ball, or you turn the ball over. At any given time, there are five players for each team on the court (unless you are trapped in the movie Hoosiers). If each player on the court uses exactly the same number of possessions, then each player will use 20% of the possessions. Last season, Jonathan Holmes used 18% of the possessions while on the court, whereas players like J'Covan Brown and Myck Kabongo used more than 20% of the available possessions.

Efficiency refers to what a player does with the possessions that they use. In Holmes' case, he had a true shooting percentage of 57%, which was second on the team to Sterling Gibbs, and turned the ball over in 19% of his possessions(*). Holmes' possessions were fairly productive, but he didn't use very many of them.

(* I have written about true shooting percentage a lot. But it is worth occasionally describing what it means. Basically, it is a statistic that accounts for everything a player does shooting the ball. It includes two point shots, three point shots, and free throws. Three point shots and free throws are weighted to account for their different values. More details are here, in a post I wrote about a year ago.)

For a big man, Holmes shot a fair number of three point shots. Roughly one quarter of Holmes' field goal attempts were from three point range last season. Unfortunately, he only made 25% of his three point attempts. This is a poor percentage, to say the least. From two point range Holmes' was much better. He made 56% of his two point attempts. He also took 0.57 free throws for every field goal attempt (a good rate of getting to the line), and made 72% of his free throws.

Holmes' three point shooting percentage seems strangely low for a player who attempts so many long range shots, and who appears to have a decent shot based on his free throw percentage and two point jump shot percentage (Holmes hit 41% of his two point jump shots, which is a good shooting percentage for these shots). Holmes looks to me like a player that you would normally expect to hit about one third of his three point attempts.

Holmes' two point shooting percentage is high for two reasons. First, as pointed out above, Holmes made 41% of his two point jump shots. Second, Holmes took about two thirds of his two point shots at the rim, and made 66% of these shots.

How Holmes gets his shots at the rim is interesting. 41% of Holmes' points at the rim were assisted. To put this into context, Sheldon McClellan took 27% of his attempts at the rim last season, and 41% of McClellan's points at the rim were assisted. Holmes and McClellan both took a nearly identical number of shots at the rim last season, and both were assisted on almost the exact number of points that they scored at the rim. When talking about basketball players, the comment is often made that a particular player can create his own shot. Holmes created about the same number of shots at the rim as McClellan created, so if McClellan has this shot creating ability, than so must Holmes. But Holmes creates his shots differently. Holmes does it mostly by being a really good offensive rebounder. Jonathan Holmes chased down 12% of the avaliable offensive rebounds while on the court, with many of these turning into easy put backs. In a way, this sort of shot creation is actually better than beating a man off the dribble to get to the rim. By getting an offensive rebound, Holmes creates a shot out of thin air, without taking it away from someone else.

Holmes was a decent, but far from great, defensive rebounder who tracked down 14% of the available boards for Texas. Defensive rebounding is an area where Holmes could improve, as poor defensive rebounding was one of Texas' biggest problems last season. Additionally, Holmes blocked a few shots, but he is not the type of player who is an imposing presence near the rim.

The biggest problem for Holmes last season was his tendency to get into foul trouble. Holmes averaged one foul for every 6.4 minutes that he played. This was the shortest time between fouls for any of the Texas players. Holmes' struggles with fouls made it hard for him to stay on the floor at times last season. He can have a much higher impact this year if he can just cut down on the fouls.

Comparing Holmes with big men from Texas' recent past

In the last decade, the Longhorns have had several other big men who shot frequently from long range. Both Brian Boddicker and Brad Buckman could hit the outside shot(*). I thought it would be interesting to compare these two players with Jonathan Holmes.

(* It is really easy to get Boddicker and Buckman confused when thinking back on them, even though their games were different. Both were tall white guys who were highly regarded high school players. But it is the similarity of their names that really messes me up.)

When Brian Boddicker arrived on campus, he was only the second McDonald's All-American to attend The University of Texas (Kris Clack was the first). From the moment he arrived on campus, Boddicker took a lot of three point shots. Roughly half of his career attempts at Texas were from beyond the arc, and he was a 40% three point shooter over his Longhorn career. Boddicker didn't really hit his stride on offense until his junior year; prior to his junior season, Boddicker struggled some from two point range. In his first two seasons, Boddicker only hit 39% of his two point shots. But by his junior season, Boddicker's shooting percentages from both two point range and three point range improved, and Boddicker became one of Texas' most reliable offensive players. Boddicker never used a very large percentage of Texas' possessions. During his junior season, he used 18% of Texas' possessions, which was the highest rate of his career. Boddicker was decent as a rebounder, but not spectacular.

Brian Boddicker is not a very good comparison to Holmes. Boddicker was much more of an outside shooter than Holmes is, and Homes is unlikely to ever match Boddicker's fantastic three point shooting percentages. On the other hand, Holmes is a much better scorer inside, and a much better offensive rebounder, than Boddicker ever was.

Brad Buckman was different from Brian Boddicker. Buckman was also a McDonald's All-American. While we remember Buckman as a guy with an outside shot, he only really started shooting the three his junior year. As a freshman, he only attempted two three point shots. In his junior and senior years, about one quarter of Buckman's shots were from three point range, which is the frequency that Holmes shot the three in his freshman season. Buckman always used more possessions than Boddicker while on the floor. As a junior Buckman used 24% of the Texas possessions when playing. Buckman was an excellent rebounder, with an offensive rebounding rate similar to Holmes, and a defensive rebounding rate that was better than Holmes' during his freshman year. Buckman also blocked more shots then either Holmes or Boddicker.

While it is tempting to group Holmes, Boddicker, and Buckman together, they are quite different players when we look more closely. Boddicker was a really good shooter who happened to be very tall. Buckman was a big man who happened to have a decent outside shot. Holmes probably fits somewhere in the middle of these two cases.

Outlook

Jonathan Holmes' versatility is one of his biggest strengths. I am interested to see how Rick Barnes uses him this season. It would not surprise me to see Barnes play big lineups on occasion, where Holmes plays on the wing on offense -- this particularly makes sense if Barnes wants to play zone defense for a few minutes here and there to protect his freshman big men from fouls. I am sure we will also see Holmes play inside. If Holmes can stay out of foul trouble, his ability to play multiple positions, make shots, and grab rebounds should earn him plenty of playing time.

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