What does D.J. Carton bring to Marquette?

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Image via Twitter

There’s no replacing the greatest scorer in school history, it’s as simple as that. But as highly regarded as the freshman class is, none of the 3 incoming recruits is capable of running the offense or carrying a scoring burden right away.

That’s fine, almost all freshman can’t, but the issue for Marquette comes with who remains to try and pick up some of that slack. Each of Koby McEwen, Greg Elliott and Symir Torrence have had moments, but none of them have proven capable of being the go-to guard on a nightly basis at the Big East level.

Enter the transfer market. After missing on some high-level prospects like Carlik Jones and Bryce Aiken early on, Marquette was squarely in the mix for any of Justin Turner, Jamarius Burton or David DeJulius, all set to announce this week.

Now don’t get me wrong. No transfer from Wichita State, Bowling Green or Michigan was going to miraculously pull off a Markus-like season, or even a poor-man’s Markus. Heck, even a homeless-man’s Markus would probably be good enough to make an All-Big East team. That wan’t a realistic expectation to set on any of the three.

But as it stood, Marquette had very little proven quality at the guard position, a position that is vital for Wojo’s style of offense, and would instead have to rely on big jumps from all of its guards nearly simultaneously, plus a surprise from someone like Dexter Akanno.

Enter D.J. Carton.

Marquette had recruited Carton before his meteoric rise to a top 30 recruit in the 2019 class, but was left off the final cut from 6 to 3 teams before Carton selected Ohio State in July of 2018.

When Carton declared his intention to transfer after this season, Marquette was once again one of the first teams to reach out. But as transfer after transfer announced their new home, Carton’s recruitment (and social media feeds) had gone silent, leaving pundits and message board fans in the dark.

And just as Marquette morale was reaching a nadir…

So what does that mean for Marquette?

For starters, it is not a #DoneDeal that Carton will see the court next season. He is a traditional transfer in the sense that he played a portion of last season, more on that to come, and would have to sit for his year in residence before becoming eligible under the current rules.

But there is a very good chance he does see the floor.

He missed Ohio State’s last 11 games after taking a leave of absence to focus on his mental health, revealing he had been suffering with mental health issues since his senior year of high school. He did return to campus in February for classes, but did not return to the basketball team the rest of the season. Having made these problems known in real time and having actually sat out of games, rather than just announcing it as a reason to transfer makes him a good candidate to receive a waiver to play immediately, particularly as Milwaukee is only about 3 hours away from his home, rather than the 7 in Columbus.

Now, the NCAA waiver process is by no means a sure thing. Having the backing, publicly and privately of OSU coach Chris Holtmann is important, but we’ve seen crazier decisions. This is where the impending rule change comes into play.

The NCAA was expected to vote to eliminate the sit-out year for first time transfers in April, but COVID-19 restrictions moved the vote until late May. Although the vote is expected to pass, there is still plenty of uncertainty about whether it would go into effect right away, or not until the 2020-2021 school year.

For the sake of this article, we will assume he does become eligible, and discuss his impact on the current roster. What does he bring to the table?

For starters, he brings an athleticism to the PG position not seen at MU since Dominic James left.

Yes, that was from high school, but it’s a taste of what made him a 5-star top-30 prospect. And it’s not just a high school thing. As a freshman against quality competition, he was able to use that athleticism to become a tremendous finisher at the rim.

Carton.JPG

Marquette’s bigs didn’t even shoot 60% from around the basket. It was something no one on the team did well in 2019. In fact, MU’s guards combined to shoot 42% at the rim. If you want to just look ahead to 2020, McEwen, Elliott and Torrence went 53/120 for a meager 44% average.

So right off the bat, Carton provides a level of offense from the guards that did not exist without him.

But he is not simply an athletic guard that needs to work on his shot. He finished ranked in the 96th percentile on spot shots in synergy, scoring 1.24 points per possession while shooting 40% from 3.

There’s more.

Wojo has built a reputation as an offensive tactician, with 4 straight teams finishing in the top 32 of KenPom’s offensive rankings. It’s a stark departure from the offense his first two seasons, both finishing outside the top-115 in the country.

Now, this is where you go back to the first paragraph and say, of course, he had the greatest scorer in program history the last 4 years. Anyone could do that. But as easy as Markus made it seem, and as many bailout shots as he had, the offense Wojo has thrived with isn’t just predicated on hoping Markus hits some shots.

As seen clearly in 2017, Wojo’s teams thrive on using high ball screens to get favorable matchups and then attack them. In 2018 Rowsey and Markus rode it to become the best pick and roll ball handling scoring team in the nation. Even without as many options, the offense has used P&R scorers heavily and efficiently.

Capture.JPG

But then looking at what comes back next season, you can see how that might be an issue.

Capture.JPG

Again, this is where Carton can pay immediate dividends.

Carton P&R.JPG

On a high-major team that was ranked in KenPom’s top-15 at the time of his departure, Carton saw half of his possessions come via P&R BH. And although .88 PPP may not seem like something tremendously great, to have that kind of number, at that kind of usage, as a freshman against high major opponents is pretty eyepopping.

And we should probably mention that he is a good distributor as well. Synergy puts him in the 89th percentile for efficiency of Poss+Assists, which adds the impact he creates from assists on top of his individual possessions taken. Last season, a possession that ended with in his hands or an assist was worth 1.26 PPP.

And the best part of this transfer, compared to an average transfer, is that he is not a finished product. Most immediately eligible prospects have 3+ years under their belts, so what you see is basically what you’re going to get.

As we analyzed last week, transfers have typically seen a bump in ORtg while seeing both minutes and usage decrease. I don’t think Carton fits into this mold.

He is a 5-star prospect that played a big role on a high-major team after only 1 season. I do expect his minutes and usage to stay even, or even go up a bit. And while the ORtg may not see the usual transfer bump, I would also expect his high turnover rate of 25.9 to come down with experience, like it does for most PGs.

Basically, of all available options, Marquette landed the piece that would most improve its prospects for this season and beyond.

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Did I mention that he is a good to great defender with NBA-level athleticism to fall back on?

D.J. Carton, if eligible, will slot directly as Marquette’s starting point guard, lead the team in usage and minutes by providing high quality shooting and finishing at the rim. It will allow Koby to move off the ball next season and relieve some of the pressure off of Symir to produce immediately.

For Marquette, a frustrating spring has flowered into a renewed sense of hope that an NCAA berth is within reach in 2021.

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Categories: Analysis, Home, Offseason, Recruiting

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One Comment on “What does D.J. Carton bring to Marquette?”

  1. Matt
    April 16, 2020 at 12:50 pm #

    Good news for MU, which was disappointing on Monday

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