When Trent Lockett announced he would play his final season of college basketball at Marquette, the task of replacing two NBA players got a whole heck of a lot easier for Buzz Williams and co. The Golden Eagles gained a savvy veteran guard with great size and even better intangibles who would be able to provide much needed leadership and act as a mentor to some of the younger players.
“I think having three years of college basketball under my belt will put me in a unique position,” Lockett said at media day. “I think I have experience that I can relate to some of my teammates.”
Junior Vander Blue has seen some of the qualities that make him an exemplary role model just weeks into Lockett’s Marquette career.
“He’s real down-to-earth. He’s very responsible,” Blue noted. “Always one of the first ones in the gym, and always putting in extra work. He helps show the young guys what to do. He’s proven to be successful, and he’s brought that here by showing us all the keys and tactics that you need to get over the hump.”
Yet, for all the plaudits a good leader receives off the court, it is what happens on the court that will determine how successful Lockett is in his stint in Milwaukee.
“He helps us. A lot. Especially when it come to rebounding, helps us in size defensively and everything,” junior Jamil Wilson said of his new teammate. “In pretty much all aspects of the game he helps us. He’s 6-4, 6-5, maybe a little taller than Vander, but a bit heavier. He’s a bigger guard so he helps us when we play big guards.”
His size has some already painting him in the Jimmy Butler mold, so let’s dive into the numbers to see how that pans out.
The first thing that pops to mind when talking about Butler is the propensity to draw fouls under the basket and get to the free-throw line. His senior year at Marquette, Butler went to the line 240 times, 69 more times than the closest teammate in DJO who had 171 attempts. The Tomball native hit 188 free throws for a very respectable average of 78 percent.
As impressive as those numbers are, they are a step back from his production during his junior year when he reached the line 244 times, almost twice as much as Lazar Hayward who had 127 attempts on the season. According to KenPom, Butler had the eighth highest free-throw rate in the nation at 87.5 that year.
What all this tells us is that Butler was an elite player when it came to getting to the line and it is a bit too much to expect Lockett to match that production. The Arizona State transfer hit 71 percent of his 128 attempts last season. While this number is drastically lower than Butler’s senior or junior season numbers, when you take into account pace and overall games played, they are not quite so far apart.
Taking minutes played into account, Lockett got to the line once every 6.82 minutes last season while Butler did so every 5.34 minutes his senior campaign. Using KenPom data, Lockett had a free throw rate of 59.5, ranked no. 91 in the country, while Butler’s rate was a more human 62.8 his senior season. These numbers perfectly highlight the aggressive nature of both players’ games in going to the hole and drawing fouls.
When you take the quality of Lockett’s new teammates into account, I think it would be safe to say his overall free throw attempts may decrease, while his free throw rate may go up. Lockett wasn’t a high volume possession hog as a Sun Devil, so the difference won’t be drastic, but his style of play will very likely stay the same.
The other thing Butler was able to excel at during his playing days in the Blue and Gold was grab rebounds. Although he size suggested he’d be a wing player, Butler turned out to be a very effective player at the 4 and the 5 position. He was second on the team in rebounding both his junior and senior seasons, averaging 220.5 total rebounds. He wasn’t a rebounding machine, but averaging six rebounds a game as an undersized big man in the Big East is no laughing matter.
For his part, Lockett averaged 5.8 rebounds a game for Arizona State last season, the top mark on the team. His defensive rebounding rate of 15.7 was three points better than Butler’s senior season and would have only trailed Jae Crowder on last year’s squad, not counting Chris Otule.
Again, going off what we already know, we can clearly project Lockett to be the best rebounding guard on a team with two above average rebounding guards in Vander Blue and Todd Mayo. Coupled with Otule’s return, we could see a similar style of play we saw at the beginning of last season where Marquette looked to push the tempo off every defensive rebound by sending its other guards flying up the court. The loss of DJO will limit this a bit, as he was a phenomenal open court driver, but Mayo and Blue may both see their roles tweaked as there will not be a pressing need to shore up the glass.
At the end of the day, looking into the past will only tell you so much about the future. Lockett will take some time to adjust to Buzz’ system, just as Wilson took about 15 games to adapt. That’s even without mentioning the upgrade in competition he will see facing the Big East instead of weak Pac-12 teams the past two years.
“I think it will be a big adjustment,” Lockett himself admitted. “The style of play is dramatically different. I think from top to bottom the Big East is by far the best conference in the country.”
The early reviews are good though, getting past a boot camp that he described as a life-changing experience and going through a few weeks of practice in already.
On a team that’s as deep as this Marquette squad is, Lockett won’t be expected to create offense for himself or put up big stats every night. What this team needed was a consistent scorer who could draw fouls, grab boards and play lock-down defense at multiple back-court positions.
Lockett is just what the doctor ordered.