I don’t always post articles any more, but when I do, they’re usually about Markus Howard.
With two kids and greater work responsibility, I just don’t have time. But when it comes to that 17-year-old bad boy, as Steve Wojciechowski endearingly referred to him after Tuesday’s OT win over Seton Hall, I make time, dammit.
So here I was, diving deep into probably the 2nd greatest basketball analytics site I’ve ever seen (barttorvik.com) thanks to a Luke Winn plug, basking in the features that let you compare games and players, not looking for anything in particular. I found that Marquette’s win over Hall while getting demolished on with offensive rebounds was quite rare.
But then I started just looking for some comparison’s to Howard’s phenomenal freshman year and came across a mind blowing stat. There are only 5 freshmen in the country that have an ORating greater than 120, playing over 50% of their team’s minutes, while using at least 20% of possessions. (The parameters may seem random, but they weed out players with low usage (like Hauser) that don’t play a lot of minutes, as increased playing time and usage tends to decrease efficiency.) Those players were:
The first four are unanimous one-and-done freshmen, ranked in the top-20 of freshman prospects and projected to be first round picks in Draft Express’ most recent mock draft. Howard wasn’t even listed in anyone’s top-100 player or top-20 freshman list. What he is doing as a 17-year-old is absurd. If he were at a blue blood putting up those numbers, we’d be talking about him as an NBA prospect despite his size. To say he’s been good doesn’t do him nearly the justice he deserves.
Taking a broader look, here are the high-major players to post those full-season numbers since 2010:
Thomas Bryant (Indiana, 17th in 2017 Mock Draft)
Luke Kennard (Duke)
Ivan Rabb (Cal, 16th in 2017 Mock Draft)
Karl Anthony-Towns (Kentucky, No. 1 pick 2015 draft)
Devin Booker (Kentucky, No. 13 pick 2015 draft)
Cody Zellar (Indiana, No. 4 pick 2013 draft
Jared Sullinger (Ohio State, No. 21 pick 2012 draft)
Take a look at that list again. Depending on how Luke Kennard ends up (and he’s playing like an All-American this year) every single name on this list will be a first round pick. Also, all but one player on the list is taller than 6’6″ with Malik Monk being 6-foot-3.
I’m not saying Howard will be a first rounder this or any other year, being a sub-6-foot player is a death knell at the next level. What I am saying is if it was judged merely on production rather than perception and projection, Markus Howard would be in the conversation for being a top 5 freshman this season. And think about it again. Short basketball players are not in high demand at the high major level. You have to be some sort of prodigy to be able to overcome the size discrepancies on both ends. So it makes sense that only taller players would be part of this elite company. It just makes Markus that much more special.
The biggest caveat is that we’re only halfway through the season, with some brutal stretches coming up that will definitely make Howard a priority on the defensive end. He won’t sneak up on opposing coaches any more, that’s for sure, but his shot making and creating has been almost as efficient against Tier A/B opponents (123.6 ORtg in 9 games) and even better in conference (132.2 ORtg in 4 games).
He’s the best freshman I’ve seen since Dominic James, and yes, that includes Henry who despite production and projection couldn’t touch Howard on the offensive end. He’s the most exciting Marquette player since DJO, at least.
Enjoy this little secret for now, because if it continues, you’ll be hearing Markus Howard’s greatness from every outlet for a long time coming.