In my first 2023 hoops preview installment, I looked that the exceptionally bleak performance from NC State’s defense in 2022. Whew, that was rough. Glad that year’s over. Big pain. Major bad.
Thankfully, as I dig into the offense, the picture is a lot brighter, and there are far fewer questions to fret over at this end of the floor. Because NC State’s offense actually held together pretty well in Manny Bates’ absence, even without a reliable post scorer.
Gotta make (two-point) shots
|Overall (nat'l rank)||48.0 (267)||46.0 (315)||34.1 (149)||14.5 (11)||30.2 (103)||29.1 (215)||39.3 (134)|
|Conf-Only (ACC rank)||49.1 (10)||44.8 (15)||36.7 (7)||14.9 (3)||29.1 (6)||24.1 (13)||41.4 (5)|
Right, so last year’s hamstrung squad couldn’t make twos, and couldn’t prevent the opponent from making twos. Bad recipe, turns out.
The 2022 team was the most perimeter-oriented of Kevin Keatts’ tenure, which was a function of both necessity as well as Terquavion Smith’s swift emergence as a sniper. Aside from Dereon Seabron, there was nobody the Wolfpack could rely on to make twos; that’s an understatement, really.
It was pretty much a nightmare inside the arc for the guys accounting for the bulk of the offense: Jericole Hellems shot 38.8% on twos, Cam Hayes shot 39.6%, Casey Morsell shot 35.6%, Thomas Allen shot 40%, leaving Smith, at a meager 43.9%, the shining model of efficiency by comparison.
Ebe Dowuona shot 55.9% but took only 93 shots all season—he was never a primary part of the offense, so his efficient work didn’t make much of a dent in the overall picture.
Still, NC State’s offense finished 59th in adjusted offensive efficiency despite this rather glaring weakness. State both took a lot of threes and made them at an above-average clip, and here is where Baby T’s influence was most apparent: he attempted 260 threes and made 36.9%, which is pretty damn good for the volume. He also shot over 40% on threes in league play.
The Pack also did an exceptional job at avoiding turnovers. If you’re going to be a poor-shooting team, the best thing you can do is give yourself as many cracks at the hoop as possible, and an elite percentage of State’s possessions ended in a shot rather than a turnover. That was a big, necessary help.
There’s good reason to believe that will be a strength again, as the team’s most turnover-prone players are gone. Jarkel Joiner, who figures to have the ball in his hands plenty, has a lengthy track record of being solid here. The perimeter shouldn’t be a problem.
And the Wolfpack should improve its interior scoring substantially with DJ Burns and Dusan Mahorcic on board. Burns has been a tad turnover-prone, but I figure his effective paint production (he’s a career 60% shooter on twos) will more than make up for it. His ability to take pressure off of State’s perimeter offense should help the Pack’s outside shooting, so I’ll be surprised if the team doesn’t show substantial improvement in its overall shooting percentage. Having a credible post threat again sure is handy.
Both Burns and Mahorcic also have been good offensive rebounders in their careers; Dowuona was also good at this end last year, too. This is another area where State can be as good if not better than it was last season, at least on paper. And they weren’t bad here last season.
Ideally, NC State will have four solid-to-good three-point shooters in Smith, Joiner, Casey Morsell (35% in ‘22), and Jack Clark. That’s better perimeter depth than last season. The bigs should be more visible and more productive inside.
So: if we have a team that shoots it better (very good odds), keeps taking care of the ball at a high level (good odds), and continues rebounding at an above-average clip (solid odds), then we have the makings of an outstanding offense. We’ll need some time to figure just how good it’ll be, but I’m optimistic.