Analyzing Vander Blue’s early offensive struggles

Vander Blue has struggled early on in the season as a primary scoring option. (Photo by A. Martina Ibanez-Baldor)

It is no secret that junior Vander Blue has gotten off to a slow start on the offensive end this season. This is the part of the analysis where I strictly outline that this is a dive solely into his offensive struggles. Having re-watched the first two games, his defense is still tremendous and although his rebounding may take a hit because of the addition of Trent Lockett and rise of Juan Anderson, he is still quite busy on the glass. There is definitely more to a basketball player than just scoring buckets, but seeing as those have been difficult to come by from the backcourt, I wanted to examine why that is.

Blue is currently shooting a chilly 20 percent, making only three of his first 15 shots through two games. Although he possesses the second highest usage rate on the team at 23.76 percent (meaning he shoots the ball a little more than one in every five trips down the floor when he is in the game), he has not been effective or efficient.

Extrapolating numbers per 40 minutes is a skewed metric as increased play doesn’t always increase production or efficiency, but Blue’s points per 40 minutes is third worst on the team at 9.80. ahead of only Jake Thomas and Derrick Wilson. Again, this doesn’t mean Jamal Ferguson and Steve Taylor are already better scorers than Blue, simply that Vander’s production has been meager.

Last season, Blue got out to a hot start scoring in double digits his first two games (10 against Mount St. Mary’s and 14 against Norfolk State). He was shooting 62.5 percent from the field, was 3-4 from the line and already had 10 assists. There are two enormous differences from last year, and they happen to be playing in the NBA. Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder were the first and second offensive options and took most of the defensive attention. Blue was consistently matched up against weaker defenders, which when we’re talking about low-major programs is a huge advantage. This year, he has received a lot more attention from opposing defenses and has found much less room to drive to the basket, his main method of scoring.

Here is Blue’s shot chart for the Colgate game.

Red is a missed shot, green is a made shot and blue is a foul in the act of shooting. (Graphic by Andrei Greska)

The numbers are to place the shot in chronological order and also delineate the appropriate youtube video that corresponds to it. You can find all of Blue’s shots here: 12345-6789.

It is obvious that there is an abundance of red, but the distribution of the red is interesting. All of the shots Blue missed came from the right side of the floor while his only two makes came from the left side, though both came in transition on a fast break. What this shows is that defenses already know he can only drive to his right, making it much easier to guard him. It’s simple, he needs work on his left hand.

Another feature to note is that Junior Cadougan has a very good feel for Blue’s rolls to the basket. The result isn’t a made basket i both cases, but the design of the play is successful and something I think we’ll see a lot more in the future. Here is the second oop miss from early in the second half.

Finally, Blue’s stroke on his three was very encouraging and looked, dare I say it, good. Sometimes shots don’t fall, but compared to his form from the previous seasons, this is a drastic improvement.

Here is Blue’s shot chart from the game against Southeast Louisiana.

Red is a missed shot, green is a made shot, yellow is a charge and blue is a foul in the act of shooting. (Graphic by Andrei Greska)

The numbers are to place the shot in chronological order and also delineate the appropriate youtube video that corresponds to it. You can find all of Blue’s shots here: 12345678910.

It is very similar to the shot chart from the first game as a majority of the shots came from the right side and his only made basket came on a lay-up from the left side. The bucket was a result of great play from his teammates as Derrick Wilson pushed the ball up quickly while Davante Gardner sealed his man off beautifully.

Blue was once again very aggressive going to the basket, getting fouled twice on the way to the rim and nailing all of his free throws. However, his first charge of the season was very poor, and showed he might be pressing. He lost control on his drive and was forced into a needless turnover early in the shot clock.

Once again, Blue’s shot isn’t textbook perfect, but it looks much better than it has in years past. All of his shots in the game were on target and in rhythm. Strangely, every single jumper Blue has taken this year has been a tad strong. Blue is doing a good job of only taking what is there, and its only a matter of time before they start falling. Confidence is Blue’s best weapon, so when one falls, more will follow.

A big negative, though, is he still has no feel whatsoever around the rim. His floaters are short, hooks are ugly, and finger rolls awkward. This is something confidence won’t fix. He just needs to keep working at finishing at the rim and developing a smoother touch so his banks don’t rocket off the glass.

Overall, Blue’s offensive game hasn’t been terrible. The execution isn’t good by any means, but he has the right idea. He is 0-5 on jumpers, with only one of them having no shot to go in, and 3-10 from in and around the paint.

The biggest worry is that all of his made baskets and two of the three times he’s been fouled while shooting have come in transition and not the half-court. His only half-court positive action came off a miss of his own three with the defense unsettled. Without being able to hit the open three, of which there will be a lot available when Gardner is getting double teamed, he won’t get free enough to be able to create much on his own.

The situation isn’t dire yet though, as a bad two game stretch can be easily offset during the course of a season. Blue will have to continue to shoot when he’s open, thrive in transition and get to the free throw line where he has become Marquette’s best shooter since the second Villanova game last season.

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