Does Max Strus have a better shot at the NBA than Sam Hauser?


(Image via TRank)

I watch a lot of college basketball. More than is probably healthy for me. Definitely more than is healthy for a parent of two young kids that like to be up hours before dawn. I’ll watch pretty much any game, but I love watching all Big East teams. Heck, if I didn’t go to Marquette, I might even be a Creighton fan this year, I haven’t missed a game. They are by far the most entertaining team in the conference, maybe the country.

But again, I watch a lot of ball, and not just the pretty variety. I’ve seen more DePaul games than probably 90% of their fanbase. That’s why I stated earlier this week that they wouldn’t be the doormat they have been the past 2 years. They have these awful stretches of offense every game that kills them, but overall, it’s a team that can beat mediocre teams on a good day, and good teams on a great day.

So you can imagine my surprise Thursday night when I’m scrolling Twitter and see this.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure to be introduced, Max Strus is a trigger happy guard who transferred from Division II Lewis University in the offseason and has established himself as one of DePaul’s best players. He’s got a reputation as a deadeye shooter, though the results haven’t borne that out yet. In any case, he’s athletic, emotive, and a lot of fun to watch as long as he’s not on your team.

But never in my wildest nightmares did I imagine Draft Express, the most trusted NBA draft gurus out there, would include Strus as a sleeper NBA candidate. He has poor shot selection, doesn’t create much for others, plays JJJ style defense and does not read the game well at all.

Don’t take my word for it, though, let Bill Raftery do the talking.

This was the second missed dunk of the half, and single handedly handed Notre Dame the momentum. Again, Raftery is not a Dakich type announcer attacking players for mistakes. This is as angry as you will hear him on a call, and it was justified.

But more so than the Tweet or any personal Strus animus, it’s the fact that Sam Hauser is following up a fantastic freshman campaign with an even better sophomore one, on much higher usage. And yet, even Marquette fans seem to be afraid of putting Sam and the NBA in the same sentence. I’m not saying he’s going to declare for the draft after the season or anything like that, but we have a large enough sample now to be able to start seeing Sam at the next level. But nope, nada.

So that got me thinking, how does Hauser compare with Strus, a player receiving much more fanfare at a national level? Let’s dive in.

For starters, Strus is almost 2 years older than Hauser, who just turned 20 this month. This doesn’t affect either’s play, but makes a giant difference for player evaluation at the NBA level. Strus is listed at 6-6 weighing 216 pounds, while Hauser stands at 6-8 weighing 225. So from a physical aspect, both have a similar build and body structure, though Hauser’s extra 2 inches (and 2 fewer years) give him a decided advantage.

How have these measurable translated on the court? It’s not even close.

  ORtg Usg% eFG% TS% 3P 3P%
Max Strus 111.1 23.3 55.1 58.8 34 35.4
Sam Hauser 134.1 19.5 67.2 69.2 38 49.4

When it comes to advanced scoring stats, Hauser is on a different plane. Strus has a bit higher usage, but when it comes to shot%, the gap closes even more (22.5% v 24.8%). Again, this isn’t a knock on Strus, per se. He’s having a very good year on a team with fewer offensive options, but there is no way to look at the stats and not objectively say Hauser is already a more potent scorer.

Well, could that be because Hauser is content to sit in the corner and bomb away while Strus creates everything for himself? While Strus definitely does create for himself a bit more, a quick look at Synergy says the difference is negligible. 

Only 18.9% of Strus’ offensive possessions come via Isos or P&R ball handling while 44.8% of his possessions come off screens without the ball or spot up shots. And he hasn’t been very good at creating for himself. He’s scoring .68 PPP as the ball handler on P&R (32 percentile), and .64 PPP on Isos (28 percentile).

Hauser relies mostly on spot ups as well, but 18.6% of his offensive possessions came via Post-Ups and Isos. These are also his weakest areas, only scoring .82 PPP and .72 PPP respectively, but the efficiency is still on par or better than Strus. (And as we started to establish above, Hauser has been much better at spot ups and shots off screens as well.)

Spot Up Off Screen Transition ISO Post Up P&R Ball P&R Man
Strus 1.30 0.88 1.31 0.64 NA 0.68 0.4
Hauser 1.44 1.13 1.6 0.73 0.82 NA 1.33

But basketball is not all about scoring and measurables. Both Strus and Hauser project to be 3 and D guys at the next level, playing the wing position and not having the ball in their hands for much creation. It’s here where Hauser really excels. He has already played the 2-5 in college, so he’s used to defending players both bigger and smaller. Hauser isn’t a fantastic perimeter defender, particularly against smaller guards, but he’s fundamentally sound, and rarely makes mistakes in his rotations. Strus has spent over 80% of his time defending the perimeter, and has done it well, but hasn’t had to face many bigger players in DePaul’s setup.

As for the rest of the advanced metrics, again, the chart speaks for itself. 

  Min% DReb% ARate TORate Stl%
Max Strus 83.9 10.7 11.3 17.0 3.0
Sam Hauser 77.3 15.7 15.6 13.4 2.1

Strus is a much better athlete at this point in time, that’s the biggest point in his favor now and going forward. So I do get the allure of projecting a player with his frame and speed at the NBA level if he’s the scorer his reputation hails him as. But through the first third of his D1 career, the reputation has exceeded the results.

Hauser is more limited athletically and will never jump out of the gym. But he has proven over a larger sample at a higher level that he’s an elite shooter and a much more well-rounded player. He’s been playing behind Howard and Rowsey’s shadow because they too are not of this world when it comes to shooting and can create for themselves with ease. Yet, he’s the one that led the team in minutes the past two years. 

Heck, Haanif Cheatham still has an DraftExpress profile while Hauser has never appeared. Different players, yes, but no one can tell me with a straight face Cheatham currently has better prospects than Hauser. 

One last time, this is not meant as a slight to Strus. This is not meant to say Hauser will be a two and done. Heck, this isn’t even to say that he’ll ever get a sniff at the NBA. What I am saying is that when similar players with inferior results are getting NBA prospect love, it’s past time to get the conversation started. 

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2 Comments on “Does Max Strus have a better shot at the NBA than Sam Hauser?”

  1. x
    February 23, 2018 at 9:32 am #

    you are a moron, Max Strus will play in the NBA and be successful, bottom line.

  2. mike
    June 15, 2019 at 7:20 am #

    i have watched every Depaul game and have gone from no doubt to no chance. Don’t proclaim to be an expert

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