Offseason Positional Analysis (SG)

As we wait for football to heat up, it’s as good a time as any to analyze the coming basketball season. Over the next few weeks, we will analyze the logical rotation and depth chart, based on position. We analyzed the point guard position last week. Next is what should be the Pack’s weakest position (unless Degand isn’t healthy) – shooting guard.

At first glance, this might seem a bit counterintuitive – after all, NC State returns a senior who has started almost every game at the position for the last two seasons (absent a few dreadful games trying to run the point in Atsur’s absence). But Courtney Fells is most definitely not a guard – at least at the ACC level.

I don’t believe it’s hyperbole to label Fells as the worst passing guard that I have ever seen start at the ACC level (outside of senior day pity starts – and maybe not even then). His passes are lazy, and his instincts are horrendous. Making matters worse, he has a tendency to get into a mental fog and completely stop moving without the ball. Especially with poor creators like Javi and MJ at the point, this ground the offense to a standstill. Even Fells’ defense started to slip – although he often shut down the opponent’s top guard for 15-20 minutes, he would just as frequently lose focus and allow his man to explode late in the game.

So, we have to make some strategic decisions. We have already dictated that we will leave Farnold Degand at the position where he can have the most success – PG. Now, we do the same with Fells, treating him solely as a forward. That’s the easy part. What’s hard is finding another credible option at the 2.

As the Pack’s season swirled down the toilet last February, Trevor Ferguson started to play. It was perhaps an act of desperation, but certainly called for. And Trevor responded by busting his ass every minute he was on the court. Sometimes he was good, sometimes he was bad. But he always gave max effort, and showed flashes of a reliable outside shot. He has trouble creating shots for himself, but perhaps he could feed off the chaos created by Degand’s speed. Ferguson’s lack of quickness is a significant defensive limitation, and he is not a good secondary ballhandler. However, with Degand on the court (who is a plus defender and doesn’t need help bringing the ball up the court), Trevor’s liabilities could be minimized. Ferguson is tall enough to at least get a hand in a shooter’s face, which is better than nothing. More importantly, his passing (which had been on the Fells level) has significantly improved with added confidence and experience. Because of his effort, he also runs the floor reasonably well (and I don’t think speed is a problem for him – just quickness).

Julius Mays is the other possible candidate to start – but it is very dangerous to rely on a fringy “high major” recruit to contribute much as an underclassman. One only needs to look at Javi’s uneven performance last year for proof. [NOTE: Yes, I know you all just love Javi – but how many games did we win with him playing a significant role?] In any event, I would prefer to see Mays paired with Javi, as Mays hopefully will be steadier as a secondary ballhandler (which Javi needs). CJ Williams is more of a combo swingman (that sound like Fells to anyone?), and is at least as fringy as Mays. MJ has a slow, awkward shot, and is a disaster with the ball. I suppose Simon Harris could at least go in and hit people, but he’s even more of a forward than Fells.

Still, Sidney Lowe and staff must resist the temptation to play Fells at guard, even for a minute. The SG position will be weak no matter what, and shifting Fells or Degand would cause a chain reaction weakening the team elsewhere – without solving the problem.

Who should start? Trevor Ferguson, by default. He has experience, and seems to best complement Degand’s game. It’s hard to imagine a limited athlete like Ferguson playing such a significant role on an NCAAT-caliber team, but he’s the Pack’s best option (and we are not an NCAAT-caliber team). It also sends a message to the more “attitude challenged” that effort will be recognized and rewarded at NC State.

What should the rotation be? Based on his defense, Trevor could log anywhere from 20-30 mpg, with 25 being the likely outcome. Backup SG is anyone’s guess. We imagine that Julius Mays would get the first crack at it (especially when Javi runs the point), but he might not be ready. CJ Williams is a similar unknown, but probably even less likely to be ready, especially considering the obligations required as a secondary ballhandler. The default choice would be Marques Johnson, who would at least be able to play passable defense. One would expect him to be a complete cipher on offense, though – and it’s hard to produce offensively with a black hole at the 2.

Position Grade: D-

About BJD95

1995 NC State graduate, sufferer of Les and MOC during my entire student tenure. An equal-opportunity objective critic and analyst of Wolfpack sports.

08-09 Basketball

73 Responses to Offseason Positional Analysis (SG)

  1. pakfanistan 07/15/2008 at 11:32 AM #

    Fells may be a bad passer but I have a hard time believing he can’t be coached to be at least a fundamentally sound passer. Of course, he’s made it this far without learning so, who knows.

    I personally don’t believe he’s an inherently bad passer. I think he’s just a little lazy and unmotivated. Why whip a crisp pass when a I can just toss it over there…whoops, picked off.

  2. redfred2 07/15/2008 at 11:45 AM #

    Everybody talks about the point but this is the weakest position in my mind.

    Let somebody turn the ball over, let them miss shots, let them dribble it off of their feet, as long as they do SOMETHING CONSISTENTLY, besides consistently standing in, and consistently watching from, the corner, then it will be a major improvement over what that position has provided over the past few seasons.

  3. JeremyH 07/15/2008 at 11:47 AM #

    so not only do we not have an effective point guard, we are a black hole at the shooting guard… great.

    Fells falls into the category of athletic freak that plays ball rather than a solid basketball player, so his lapses are an effect of that–something the structure of Herb-ball helps mask.

    With Grant and Hickson gone, and no major recruit coming in, it’s going to be important what kind of impact folks like Mays and Williams have. They may offer a much needed upgrade in team quickness, and might make that desperate glance down the bench by Lowe a little bit more bearable. Dang, we need some upper-tier recruits and quick. Ryan Kelly, Derrick Favors, John Wall, Lorenzo Brown, come on down!

  4. statered 07/15/2008 at 11:55 AM #

    If Trevor is getting anything more than spot minutes it means we have thrown in the towel on the season. I like him but he is just not capable.

  5. Anthony Grundy 07/15/2008 at 12:03 PM #

    Why is it assumed that T-Ferg is a “limited athlete”. I have thought and still think a lot of that is perception due to his pastey white skin and bright red hair. I think he’s at least an average athlete. Regardless, if John Schyer and Matt Causey can have good seasons in the ACC, then i don’t see why T-Ferg doesn’t start for us next year.

    For the record, I think Courtney is a good player and has consistently improved each year. Most notably his shot improved dramatically last year. I agree his ball handling and passing skills are poor, but he should be on the floor.

  6. happypackdad 07/15/2008 at 12:26 PM #

    Fells will get some time at the 2G spot this seaon. I think Mayes is better than his rankings & will get some PT there also. Fergie & Javi should split the rest.

    Help is coming, the ’09 & ’10 classes are shaping up nicely, be patient.

  7. BJD95 07/15/2008 at 12:54 PM #

    “Limited” does not equal “horrible.” I’ve watched him play – he just doesn’t have the quickness or strength you see from a typical ACC-caliber guard. Hell, I said that he’s plenty fast, and runs the floor well. If he was more of an athlete, he’d be a much better defender. He gives max effort, and pays attention (unlike Fells).

    Trust me, Fells will play. Not to steal from the next entry…but who the hell else is capable of playing major minutes at the 3?

    Fells did indeed improve as shooter, and showed some good rebounding instincts. Moving to a wing forward slot could maximize his strengths and camouflage his weaknesses – assuming he’s willing to pay attention and give more consistent effort, we could finally see his performance match his potential.

    If Fells could be coached into a decent fundamental guard, it would have happened by now. He is a rising senior, after all. One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. It’s time to turn the page on Fells as a guard.

  8. Rick 07/15/2008 at 1:16 PM #

    Do not expect any immeditate help from CJ Williams. He has some potential but is not ready to play at the ACC level.

    Fells has had two different coaching staffs try and teach him to play smart basketball. At this point, we can be assured it is not the coaching.

  9. choppack1 07/15/2008 at 1:18 PM #

    I’m hoping Marques will surprise us – maybe give us some time at the 3 too. Hopefully, he’ll show some decent offense that he was too afraid to last year – or maybe he was just too busy trying to follow the “whistle”.

    Ferguson did play some good minutes for us last year. However, unless he continues to improve, we’ll be lucky to be NIT team w/ him at the 2. If he does continue to improve, I think he’ll be OK that position. I think he actually got a lot bit bigger physically last year. If that continues, he should actually be able to hold his own at his position this year defensively.

    I’m also hoping Mays will surprise some people too. If he does, I think we’ll be a quicker smarter team.

    And yes, team quickness, outside shooting, passing, ball hanlding etc will all improve if Fells can be moved to the 3 spot.

  10. gopack17 07/15/2008 at 1:25 PM #

    Anybody who doesnt beleive fergie is at least a halfway decent should look at his highlight videos on youtube. He was actually pretty nasty back in high school-im probably too optimistic about this but i think he definitly has potential..

  11. McPete 07/15/2008 at 1:33 PM #

    “Help is coming, the ‘09 & ‘10 classes are shaping up nicely, be patient”

    the 2010 class is shaping up nicely so far, but we have one 2009 commitment from a guy who barely cracked top 150 lists. let’s not count our chickens before they hatch with those other guys i’m sure you’re alluding to.

  12. wufpup76 07/15/2008 at 1:56 PM #

    I agree w/ Trevor at the 2 as well … and, with respect to BJD – I think we may be underselling Trevor a bit

    I thought his on-ball defense late last season way exceeded what he had previously showed … I also give fair marks to his passing skills, so long as he’s not trying anything fancy or cross-court (our entire team seemed to suffer from “terrible decision pass” syndrome last season) … In the UVa game, Trevor seemed the only one capable of making a low post entry pass … If Trevor’s confidence continues to rise, he has a sweet stroke … If we could ever have Fergs, Fells, and Horner all “on” at the same time … but maybe that’s wishful thinking

    Ball handling and quickness are certainly shaky, but I think Trevor can be an average (hopefully better) 2 guard in the ACC

  13. BJD95 07/15/2008 at 2:06 PM #

    ^ I acknowledged his improved passing and outside shot (both functions of confidence, I believe). Still, I think his evolution is more likely to be towards a “nice” player that doesn’t hurt us, rather than one opponents fear will beat them.

    IIRC, Ferguson played against VERY low-level high school competition, which didn’t prepare him very well for the speed of ACC play. He is catching up in that regard, but I think his “youtube” athleticism looks deceptively good based on caliber of athletes around him.

  14. b 07/15/2008 at 2:10 PM #

    I like the idea of Ferg and Degand. The defensive liability that Ferg represents can be masked with zone sets, the problem is he isn’t the only defensive liability. Mays should get 10-15 minutes, and if Degand or Javi have improved their outside shooting, MJ can be effective 10-15 minutes at the 2. He showed he could hit floaters when he was able to get penetration. Williams is a scorer/slasher and he should be a 3, but since we have no legiotimate backcourt threats he may have to spend some time there if none of these other solutions succeed.

    Best case scenario is that Mays is this years Jeff Teague, they are similarly rated from the same state, and Fells excells at the three. Ferg ahd Williams pick up 10-20 from game to game and we are a bubble team.

    Worst case Mays is another miss and teams focus their attack at Ferg so Fells has to play 2 for defense. We battle UVa for the basement again.

  15. EverettBeez 07/15/2008 at 2:11 PM #

    After last season, attitude sure should count for a lot. Tervor demonstrated, as you say, a real desire to play. Too many folks did not. If that problem, team-wide, isn’t corrected this season, you’ve got to figure Lowe is in trouble. I can take loosing if we actually show up. But if we come out lead footed, wishing we were back eating pizza and playing WII, I just loose my mind. I don’t want to break my tv.

    D- is so depressing! That’s what I give students when I think they’ve tried hard, even though the grade book says they failed. Still, better to be realistic then irrationally hopeful. It would be nice going into this season expecting nothing and get to celebrate a good surprise. Can we, as wolfpackers, actually pull that off?

  16. BJD95 07/15/2008 at 2:22 PM #

    ^ Very spot on, Beez. I initially graded this position an F, but didn’t want to look like I was being overly critical of Ferguson.

  17. Sw0rdf1sh 07/15/2008 at 2:55 PM #

    Well, if Fells doesn’t start at the 2, he sure as hell will be the starter at 3. (as I see you might be alluding to on the next piece)

    He might be a weak passer, but his shot last year seemed to be right on at times, especially from outside when we needed it. Granted, we didn’t look good as a whole last year, but Courtney had his moments. I don’t think he is as bad as a player as this made him sound……but I agree the spot on the floor needs help.

  18. RickJ 07/15/2008 at 3:01 PM #

    I have never seen Julian Mays or C. J. Williams play thus have no idea how they will do next year. However, we took commitments from both players (one in Oct. 2006, the other in Nov. 2006), a full year ahead of the signing date for the 2008 class. If neither can help us much next year, I will be very disappointed. I give the coaching staff plenty of slack regarding Javi, Johnson & Degand because of the ridiculous timing of Lowe’s hiring but these two players were evaluated and taken very early in the process. If they can’t play, it will be very troublesome to me. I am not saying they have to be great but I would hope that they perform at a level higher than their rating.

  19. redfred2 07/15/2008 at 5:29 PM #

    Agreed Sw0rdf1sh, he did, but I think if you’ll revisit I think you’ll find that most of Fells’ major scoring efforts came long after the game had already been pretty much decided. He seems to have a knack for coming alive when we’re already down, just enough to keep our interest and get our hopes up, then he fades on out when it matters.

    As far as Trevor Ferguson goes, I have said all along that people just need to back off and give him time. That he would have some kind of a positive impact in a Wolfpack uniform sooner or later. I don’t really know how solid he may be as a player before his time is up, but if he ever had/has the luxury of some other consistent perimeter scoring threats on his team, then I think everyone would be loving his shooting skills, and maybe even his passing skills as well. He’s not going to go out and take over the game from the onset, but nothing has ever developed around him to allow him to reach any kind of comfort level or to play HIS game. And like everyone else has already noted, he hasn’t shown much of an ability to create his own shot on this level just yet either. But I’m still thinking that he can play and be effective, though it may be somewhat old school and in an unorthodox kind of way compared to today‘s game. If you get a chance next time you watch a game in the RBC, or in person anywhere the Pack is playing, concentrate on Ferguson in pre-game warm ups, he can definitely light it up when given proper space to get his shot off.

  20. JeremyH 07/15/2008 at 6:49 PM #

    redfred2, just a couple of years ago it seemed like none of our players could miss during warmups…. we miss you Evtimov and Atsur..

  21. AfterglowXP 07/15/2008 at 7:28 PM #

    Two Words-Clayton Beard.

  22. sf59 07/15/2008 at 7:34 PM #

    fells is lights out in crunk time…. 🙁

  23. hball57 07/15/2008 at 7:34 PM #

    Let me get on the Ferguson bandwagon as well. First his passing is better than average because he actually anticipates and lets the pass go while the player is getting in position to catch it. He doesn’t think first. He is also basketball smart.

    Let me compare his athleticism to an ex Pack player – Engin Atsur. he is a better athlete than Atsur, both in speed and quickness. He is not at Atsur’s basketball IQ – yet. But Atsur guarded quicker people – including point guards – even with an injured hammy.

    I also want to point out the ACC. Can someone name the shooting guards that are extremely athletic? I think the SG position maybe generally be the most nonathletic in the ACC. And didn’t he do well against McClinton in the tournament game? With positional defense – and with a PG and a SF who can defend their position – Ferguson may show the instincts to make him a defensive “plus” rather than a “minus”. Also with Degand at point and Fells at SF, we have an offense who will either prevent double teams or could punish double teams.

    As we go through this position analysis I hope we remember that it is as much about team match ups and mismatches. I chose to look at best case (it’s summer … I could get depressed later). Let’s say Ben gets the space to operate at the high post, and Brandon can play against “4”s again, who he can take outside and play in space. Fells can play outside and drive and Ferguson and Degand can hit open shots. Pass out of the high post to options in each players scoring zones.

  24. Afterglow 07/15/2008 at 7:40 PM #

    It sounds as if T-Ferg is the guy at this point. There seems to be no other logical explanation.

    Perhaps after the last game of last year he knew THIS and has a lot of work in the off season to greatly improve his game.

    I guess for now, hope is the best four letter word we can prescribe. I know some on this blog are very high on this kid and as far as flat out effort is concerned, I will admit, I like what I see. I’m not discounting other skill sets he has but I’m just a little hesitant to get too excited.

  25. AfterglowXP 07/15/2008 at 7:48 PM #

    sf59-Do you mean crunk as in… get crazy and drunk!

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