Before the season started, the big question for the North Carolina Tar Heels was at point guard. Could Larry Drew II take over for Ty Lawson and get the job done? As the Tar Heels have struggled during conference play, it has become fashionable to blame Drew for the team’s failures.
But is that fair? Let’s take a look at Drew’s statistics through Carolina’s 29 games so far this year, compared to recent Tar Heel point guards in their first season running the team—Raymond Felton in 2002-03, Bobby Frasor in 2005-06, and Ty Lawson in 2006-07.
Granted, Drew is a sophomore and the other three were freshmen when they took over as the starting North Carolina point guard, however, Drew played less than 10 minutes a game last year and rarely when the game was still in doubt.
In addition, Felton and Lawson are considered among the best Carolina point guards of all time and each guided the Heels to a National Championship in their final season. So how does Larry Drew stack up? Surprisingly well, as you can see from the statistics below:
Wait a second…can this be correct? Drew has fewer turnovers per game than Felton in his first year at the helm of the Carolina Ferrari? Yep. And a better assist-to-turnover ratio, field goal percentage, three point percentage and points per shot than Felton or Frasor. In fact, Felton’s assist-to-turnover ratio in 2004-05, a National Championship season, was an identical 1.9/1.
True, Lawson’s numbers in his first season were significantly better, although he actually averaged fewer assists than Drew is averaging this season. But fresh in the minds of many Tar Heel fans is the season Lawson put together last year in leading North Carolina to the National Championship.
Lawson posted a 3.5/1 assist-to-turnover ratio while averaging 16.6 points per game and shooting .532 from the field, .798 from the line, and .472 from behind the arc for a mind boggling 1.70 points per shot while being named the ACC Player of the Year.
Drew ranks third in the ACC in assists per game after Greivis Vasquez and Ish Smith, and fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio after Jon Scheyer, Eric Hayes, Smith, and Vasquez. Defense is harder to quantify and Drew has hardly been stellar in containing opposing point guards.
Iman Shumpert torched the Tar Heels for 30 points when Georgia Tech visited Chapel Hill and Demontez Stitt, Ish Smith, and Malcolm Delaney all posted 20 point games. Yet, Lawson was also criticized for his defense last season and ended up as the ACC Player of the Year.
Drew’s main problem is that when he penetrates and passes out to a three point shooter he has Will Graves and Marcus Ginyard instead of Wayne Ellington and Danny Green. When he gets the ball inside, it’s not to Tyler Hansbrough.
It’s to Ed Davis…er, no he’s out with a broken wrist…it’s to Tyler Zeller…no, he missed 10 straight conference games…it’s to Deon Thompson or John Henson neither of whom typically finish strong through contact. Drew is also a poor free throw shooter, though he is not alone in that regard. Missed free throws have been the difference in several losses this season.
Point guards, like quarterbacks, tend to get the blame when their team loses. However, Larry Drew II is actually performing quite well in his first year as a starting point guard, particularly considering that his team only has three upperclassmen and one starter from last year.
The four point guards with a higher assist-to-turnover ratio—Scheyer, Hayes, Smith, and Vasquez—are all seniors. The two teams at the top the ACC standings, Duke and Maryland, each return four starters from last year, three of them seniors. They have the experience to know how to stay in the game when momentum is on the other side and how to make big plays that win close games at the end.