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Dereon Seabron’s evolving versatility is a boon to NC State’s offense

Seabron gets assists now, and that’s pretty big.

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

You may or may not have noticed, but Dereon Seabron is pretty good at basketball. The sophomore guard came into the season largely a one-dimensional player, but his ability to get to the rim and finish was so absurd that it almost didn’t matter. You could sell out to stop it and he would still hang twenty on you.

The potential a guy like that has if he starts to diversify his game is off the charts, and at some point, Kevin Keatts recognized that he had to bet on Seabron doing just that because none of his other guards could put any fear in a defense by attacking the basket. When you run an offensive scheme that’s built entirely around dribble penetration and you have one guy on the team who can create any kind of rim pressure, that’s going to be the guy who needs the ball. A lot of State’s offense ran through Seabron anyway, but Keatts tweaking the lineup so he’s the primary ball-handler, then surrounding him with whoever the best shooters are has created more opportunities for better shots. Seabron’s development as a passer is starting to pay that off and NC State’s offense is starting to play better because of it.

Seabron is 12th in the ACC averaging 3.4 assists per game, but the line of demarcation between the Wright State game and the Miami game is defined. He averaged a modest 2.8 assists over the first 12 games, but since ACC play began and he started getting more time as the primary ball-handler, he’s averaging 4.8 assists per contest. That would be good for third in the league over the full season.

The sophomore isn’t a true point guard and is still very much developing passing skills, but you live with the growing pains when he’s the only guy on the team that can consistently get the defense helping and moving. State is shooting 40.3% from three over the last four games, all of which Seabron started at the one. It shot 30.2% for the season prior to that stretch, and that includes all the cupcake games. That’s not a fluke, that’s, in part, the extra attention Seabron demands allowing for better looks for Smith, Allen, and Hellems. 15 of Seabron’s 24 assists over the last five games have led to triples, which accounts for a third of NC State’s triples not made by Seabron over that time.

Nowhere was the effect of this change exemplified more than the Florida State game, when NC State made 12 of 27 threes and Dereon Seabron assisted on seven of them. Seabron and Smith in particular connected on the drive and kick for five three-pointers as the Wolfpack racked up 81 points and shot over 44% from beyond the arc. State lost the game because it sucks at defense, but hey, this article is about offense.

Now State is not going to shoot 40% from three as a team for the rest of the season, but it should be clear that it was always a more capable jump-shooting team than it let on, it was just failing to generate any good looks. State basically took two shots at the beginning of the season: A Seabron layup or a contested jumper. Now it’s starting to pay off how easy it can get the former with better looks from three. This has been a good little tweak and a nice bit of player development from Kevin Keatts (it also doesn’t hurt that Smith is just on fire and has made everything lately, but there’s always more than one thing that goes into this stuff).

This is of course the same general concept that made NC State’s offense so formidable in Kevin Keatts’ first season. Markell Johnson’s versatile point guard play and dribble penetration demanded a lot of attention from the defense. Johnson was surrounded by four other guys who shot better than 38% from three. It’s a basic basketball concept, and people have certainly been vocal about State’s apparent simplistic application of it, but it absolutely works if the right pieces are in place. It’s just that getting the right pieces in place can be hard. State is closer to achieving that right now than it was at the beginning of the year and certainly than it was at any point last season.

I don’t know what goals are realistically left the rest of the year for NC State. It may have shot itself in the foot too many times already, but its best approach from here definitely includes Seabron being the object the offense orbits around the rest of the season. How much better the offense can get is probably closely tied to how much he can increase his versatility, and current returns are good.