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What does Eric Paschall bring to Villanova basketball?

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In light of yesterday's news, VUHoops went through new transfer Eric Paschall's stats from last year, and envisioned how he could help the team.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

With the news breaking today that Fordham Rams transfer (and Atlantic-10 Rookie of the Year) Eric Paschall has decided to commit to Villanova, we took a deeper dive into what he can bring to the table at Villanova.

The Measurables

A three (or four?) star recruit out of the St. Thomas More school in Oakdale, Connecticut - Paschall landed somewhere between the 100th and 200th best high school recruit in the country last year (depending on your source). A few of the scouting reports on him out of high school:

Via ESPN.com:

Strengths:
He's a late bloomer, young for his grade, and filled with potential. Historically long and athletic, his body is evolving with an element of power to give him all kinds of physical advantages. He's bouncy and explosive around the rim, makes great use of an interior spin move, and is skilled to enough to play facing the basket on the perimeter.

Weaknesses:
He's a little caught between the two forward positions, lacking ideal height for the four-spot but still being at his best from 15 feet and in. He's capable of making an open shot from the perimeter but will want to continue to improve in that area. He's also physically capable of being a versatile defender and excellent rebounder if he'll apply himself in those areas.

Via Rivals (by Eric Bossi):

A bit of a tweener from a size and position standpoint, Paschall is very active and he's got a feel for scoring the rock. An excellent athlete, he is probably best used as a slightly undersized four man with some perimeter skills. His ability to score on the interior and rebound should make him a very productive college player

The general consensus was: slight tweener with a raw outside game, but the skill, body, and ability to bang and score inside.

Let's focus on the upside here, from a pure ‘recruit' standpoint: he's currently 18 (born November 4th, 1996), making him younger than Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges, just a few months older than Donte DiVincenzo, Tim Delaney, and Omari Spellman (fine, more like 8 months in Spellman's case), and quite possibly still growing.

Stack that on top of a 6'-10" wingspan (2 inches longer than Hilliard's) and a vertical more than adequate to throw it down like this, and you start to see the potential upside of this transfer signing.

The Hype

Paschall rode his counting stats, amassed as one of the focal points of Fordham's attack, to the A-10 Rookie of the Year award. While I must throw out the necessary cautionary flags - he's not these guys, one year is a dangerously small sample size, and it could have simply been a result of impressive counting stats rather than true ability/efficiency - here's a list and quick career summary of the last 6 (well, 7) players to win the A-10 Rookie of the Year award.

2013-2014: Jointly shared by DeAndre Bembry (Saint Joseph's) and EC Matthews (Rhode Island). Bembry, after his freshman campaign, led his team in scoring in his follow-up season, was voted 1st team all-conference, and is currently projected as a 2nd round pick in the 2016 NBA draft. EC Matthews hit all the same markers with his sophomore campaign, and is currently projected as a 1st to 2nd round choice in the 2016 NBA draft.

2012-2013: Semaj Christon won the award this year, playing for Xavier before they were added to the reconfigured Big East. He made first team all-conference in the Big East during his sophomore season, and was drafted in the 2nd round of the NBA Draft after declaring. He was named to the Futures All-Star Team after spending his season in the NBA's D-League.

2011-2012: Kendall Anthony , a point guard for the Richmond Spiders, won the award in 2011. The diminutive guard made a first team (2014-2015) and second team (2013-2014) all-conference team after his freshman year, and finished his 4-year run at the school as Richmond's all-time leader in 3-point field goals.

2010-2011: T.J. McConnell, a point guard last seen plying his trade for Arizona's consecutive Elite Eight teams, was the conference's ROY in 2010. He's made three all-conference teams between the A-10 and Pac-12, several all-defensive teams, and is right on the fringe of draftable prospects for the upcoming NBA draft (on DraftExpress, currently ranked at 64).

2009-2010: Chris Gaston took home the award this year. A Fordham alum (and possibly the least distinguished member of this list of former ROY winners), Gaston would play at Fordham for 4 years, serving as one of the team's leading scorers for the entirety of his tenure. He made one all-conference team after winning ROY honors, and was an honorable mention in a second year. While it's honestly unclear, he appears to be playing professional basketball in Israel now. Research!

2008-2009: Andrew Nicholson, the last on our list of historical winners of the A-10 ROY, played at St. Bonaventure for 4 years. He collected many accolades during his career, including, most notably, A-10 Player of the Year honors and an All-American Honorable Mention during his senior year. He was drafted just outside the lottery (19th overall) by the Orlando Magic, and while he hasn't established himself as a consistent starter, he's been a regular contributor over his 3 seasons with the team.

There really isn't a slouch on this list. The talent level of the Atlantic 10, while obviously not overwhelming, isn't as low as the league's perceived lack of name recognition would have you believe. Most recent Rookie of the Year winners have gone on to bigger and better things - in the NBA, or on a more prominent stage. It's another reason (though, again, drawing career parallels between Paschall and guys-related-to-him-simply-by-conference-and-award is far from scientific) to be optimistic about Paschall's continued growth potential as a player.

The Stats

Of course, the meat and potatoes of the analysis behind whether he can contribute at Villanova. Historical precedent and recruiting profiles are nice, but what does his freshman year at the college level tell us about what he can really do?

On the surface, it's not especially intriguing. While Paschall led the Fordham Rams in points per game (15.9), finished 3rd in rebounding (5.5 per game), and threw in a few assists, blocks, and steals for good measure, he piled up these stats under a heavy usage load at an honestly inefficient rate.

He took more than 13 shots per game (more than anyone on Villanova's roster this year or last), and coughed up almost 3 turnovers a game. While on the floor, he used 27.30 % of his team's possessions, and 30.40% of the team's shots (both top 150 rates in the country). However, with a field goal percentage of 41.90%, and a 3 point shot clocking in at a poor 31.50%, he looked more the part of a chucker than a great scoring option. This is backed up by some advanced stats - per individual offensive rating (based on Dean Oliver's formulas, and provided by KenPom), he managed a rating of 96.5 points scored per 100 possessions. Based on the BPM scores provided at basketball-reference (for a full explanation of its calculation, see here), he was barely a positive contributor on the offense end (+0.6) and a negative on the other end (-2.4).

The negative extent of his contributions on defense last year are especially troubling. While these stats certainly aren't perfect in terms of gauging value, they paint a more nuanced picture of the player Paschall was than simply reciting his point per game average, or postseason honors.

A similar theme shows up in a first glance at his shooting statistics, from hoop-math.com.  Nearly 40% of his shots were taken from 3 point range, despite the fact he hit only 31.50% of them - though the attempts are in line with Villanova's three-happy ways, the worst 3 point shooters on Villanova this past year connected on 36% from long range. Another 25.7% of his shots came from the dreaded mid-range, an unfortunately high percentage for a guy only hitting about 36% of his shots from the same area. Also, his assist rate was far too low for a guy who handled the basketball as much as he did. To succeed at Villanova, he's going to have to learn to create for others.

However, there are layers to his game that show some serious promise. Despite his unfortunate dedication to the jump shot (though more on that later), he's flashed serious ability around the basket. Of the 358 shots he took last year, 123 of them (34.40% of his total shots - a higher percentage than any Villanova wing or guard besides Josh Hart, whom he tied) were at the rim - and he converted 58.50% of those attempts.  While this isn't an outlandishly good conversion rate, there are a few things that make it truly impressive - and exciting for Villanova fans.

Despite lacking any sort of threatening jump shot, Paschall managed to muscle his way to the rim at an above-average rate, and finished strongly when he got there.  Additionally, the percentage of his attempts at the rim that were assisted (just 47.2%), in combination with his usage rate, points strongly to a guy who had to create his own opportunities at the rim, through a combination of drives and offensive rebounding opportunities. So a wing with no jump shot, who had to create his own shots, and happens to be just 6'-6", finished at a nearly 60% rate at the rim while taking a higher percentage of his shots there than Villanova's best off-the-dribble drivers (basically Darrun Hilliard, Dylan Ennis, and to a smaller usage extent, Phil Booth)? Yes, I think the offense can use that.

He also converted 15 and-1's last year, showing an ability to finish through contact, and generated fouls at a respectable-though-still-a-bit-low rate, drawing 4.4 fouls per 40 minutes, and finishing with a free throw rate of 30.40%.

A deeper analysis of his shot attempts (again, via hoop-math) & game (kenpom) turns up some more positive indicators. For one, he was excellent at generating second chance points - his 22 putback attempts last year (defined as a shot taken by a player within four seconds of an offensive rebound) rank up there with Daniel Ochefu (24) and the departing JayVaughn Pinkston (also at 24).

While his offensive rebounding percentage is somewhat low (just a 5.80% rate of available offensive rebounds while he was on the floor - compare this to Josh Hart, who clocked in at 9.0%), I think a good portion of this can be traced to the fact he was taking so many shots for his team - it's much easier to rebound someone else's misses. This possibility is reflected in his rebounding percentage on the other end - his 14.20% defensive rebounding rate was comparable to Villanova's second ‘big' (JVP) last year. He's a load around the basket, and his offensive rebounding ability (and propensity for putbacks), especially combined with another excellent rebounding wing in Josh Hart, could be a source of easy points for Villanova when he's on the floor.

Another very useful category tracked on hoop-math.com is the ‘late offense' tab. This statistical table shows offensive statistics recorded for each player 30 or more seconds after the start of a possession, or an offensive rebound - essentially, what happened when a possession broke down and somebody had to get a shot up. Efficiency in this category is generally very low, and can contribute to a skewed view of a player's offensive capability - when you're pushed up against the shot clock, most of the shots you'll be able to get off will be of the contested jumper variety. And Eric Paschall, the high-usage man of Fordham, was no exception to this rule. He took 41 shot attempts during these situations last year: over 80% of them were jumpers, and he logged an eFG% of 26.8% on those 41 attempts.

Now, being the guy in control of the offense, especially late in the shot clock, is likely something Paschall will not be asked to do much at Villanova. Hilliard and Arch took the most shots in this category last year, and it stands to reason Jay will continue to ask his guards to run the offense - especially with Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth hitting their ‘veteran strides' in 2016-2017, when Paschall will be able to play.

So, controlling for Paschall's ‘late offense' and ‘putbacks,' I developed a slightly modified shot distribution profile that reveals some cause for optimism regarding Paschall's outside shot.

Shots at rim

Made at rim

Rim FG%

Shots 2pt J

Made 2pt J

2PJ FG%

Shots 3pt

Made 3pt

3FG%

NonLate-NonPB

96

59

61.46%

72

27

37.50%

127

43

33.86%

When not being asked to jack up contested jumpers late in the shot clock, Paschall was actually a somewhat respectable shooter from all three ‘zones.'  His FG% at the rim surprisingly jumps when putback opportunities are removed, he's a nearly 34% 3 point shooter without all those late misses (miles ahead of where Hart, Arch, Hilliard, and Ennis were during their first years with the program), and even hits a clean 37.50% from the mid-range, which is a few percentage points above average.

And this helps point back to one of my greatest sources of optimism for Paschall's tenure at Villanova - he will never be asked to do as much as he did at Fordham. At Fordham, he was option 1A and 1B - only one other guy who played more than half the team's minutes came within 5 percentage points of his usage rate, with everyone else lagging by about 10% (or more). The idea that efficiency pretty much always decreases with increased usage is a commonly accepted tenet of basketball analysis - it's a concept discussed in Dean Oliver's seminal ‘Basketball on Paper,' and has, as a rule, held up. It's really tough to score efficiently when you're asked to do as much as Paschall was, especially as a freshman. While that campaign is decent evidence that he's probably not suited to be such a go-to option in the Big East, there are indicators under the surface stats that suggest he can be a very valuable contributor as part of Villanova's balanced attack.

When not asked to carry the entire offensive load, his skills in the dribble-drive game, potential for an outside shot, and rebounding ability are very promising pieces. Additionally, his body type and athleticism make him an ideal piece for Villanova's switch-heavy scheme - he can likely body up many of the 4s he will encounter, and has the athleticism to at least stay with most of the smaller players he may end up on.

With a year to focus on improving his outside shot and learn the nuances of Villanova's defensive scheme, it's not hard to envision a scenario in which Paschall and his 6'-10" wingspan, 3 years of eligibility, and dribble-drive game becomes a key wing contributor in Villanova's rotation. If nothing else, being able to practice against an athletic wing with a huge wingspan should be beneficial for everyone else on Villanova's roster next year; and I believe he could have a big role to play down the road.

My personal preference would be, with a developed outside shot, for him to play the nominal ‘3', with some spot minutes in a JVP-type inside role when Jay wants to go small.  The sort of length he could bring to the ‘3' (and for the record, when I talk about positions, it's generally just ordered by size of guy on floor. Here, I'd want him to be the 3rd tallest guy on the floor when he plays, optimally) is something that really works for Villanova (see: Hilliard), and can help combat some of the team's potential size issues.

He's a very nice roster piece; not a singular answer to the problems Villanova's had in postseason play the last few years, but long, athletic, and very versatile. I'd take as many of those types on the team I root for as they can get.