A couple of weeks ago, I took a deep dive into Texas Tech's Brittany Brewer and what her game looked like. Today, I want to talk about another Big 12 senior who's getting plenty of WNBA Draft hype: Texas Longhorns forward Joyner Holmes.
The Longhorns got off to a rather pedestrian start to the 2019-20 season, dropping games to South Florida and Hawaii in non-conference play, as well as losing to a pair of very good teams in NC State and Arizona. They then opened Big 12 play by losing two of their first three games, prompting some valid concerns about what the rest of the season would look like for the Horns.
Since then, the only loss for Texas was to No. 2 Baylor, and while it wasn't a pretty loss – the Horns lost by 20 at home – there is the important fact that over their last seven games, the team is 6-1. After it looked like the floor could fall out and Texas could potentially miss the NCAA Tournament, the team is back in the thick of things and seems solidly poised to earn an at-large bid. [Update: Due to some technical issues on my part, this article was started before, but completed after the Iowa State loss.]
So, with that team background out of the way, let's talk some Joyner Holmes.
Joyner Holmes' statistical profile
On the season, Joyner Holmes is averaging 13.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. She's shooting 42.4 percent from the floor and has a usage rate of 27.2 percent.Her field goal percentage has dropped three points since her junior year, but she's rebounding better this season.
Holmes has seen her usage rate drop this year despite taking more shots, with a decrease in turnovers partially responsible for that. Turnovers have long been an issue for Holmes, who's been among the most turnover-prone players in college basketball during her Longhorns tenure, and while her turnover rate is down this year, she still is averaging 3.1 per game.
The senior forward has also had some games where her shot just hasn't been falling. Three times over the past month, Holmes has shot under 30 percent in a game where she took at least nine shots. That's led some women's basketball figures online to question Holmes' shot selection.
Is that a fair concern?
Let's look at some game tape!
Concerning Holmes' shot profile, here are some notes from her Synergy profile:
First, in terms of post ups, which have been Holmes's most used playtype, we see a couple of things. First, she's been fairly good on the left block, but on post-up plays on the right side, Holmes is scoring in just the eighth percentile nationally. That wouldn't be an issue, but 31.6 percent of her post up attempts have been logged as coming from the right block, so this might be a spot where you start to think about adjustments.
But that's not to say Holmes is ineffective in the post. For example:
Here, Holmes is on her weaker side of the floor. But she's able to spin around towards the basket, put the ball on the floor, and get to the basket. Holmes ends up putting up a high-arcing layup under the left side of the basket. What I like about this play is that it's a great showcase of Holmes's explosiveness. She gets good position on the block, and then uses that explosiveness to dribble and get such a good look.
Another way that Holmes has made an impact this year has been with putback attempts:
Charli Collier puts up a missed shot here, and Holmes is right there to put it back up. She positions herself well between the two defenders and is able to go up and grab the board. Holmes has scored more efficiently on put-backs in relation to how the rest of the players nationally have than she has on any other playtype, with her points per possession on put backs ranking in the 72nd percentile nationally.
And yeah, if we want to address some of the critiques of Holmes, put-backs being her most efficient playtype makes sense, as the variety of shots you can take off an offensive rebound are fairly limited. You aren't really going to wind up with a bad look on one of those possessions.
But that talk about shot selection also obscures an important point: Holmes is very clearly an incredibly talented athlete who excels at getting to the hoop in transition and whose future is bright because of her versatility. Maybe she improves her jump shooting and becomes a stretchier big at the next level, or maybe she winds up playing the five in lineups where she's surrounded by shooters, allowing her to unleash her ferocity on both ends of the floor.
And then you factor in her upside as a playmaker.
Something that doesn't get talked about enough with Holmes is her passing. Yes, she turns the ball over a little too much, but she's also capable of being a very solid passer down in the post. Watch this play, for instance:
On this play, Holmes goes out to the 3-point line and sets a pick for Sug Sutton. Holmes defender ends up switching onto Sutton without Sutton's defender switching onto Holmes, which leads to an open Holmes rolling to the hoop. She receives the Sutton pass, and the next thing you might expect here would be for Holmes to go for the bucket. But the defense quickly collapses onto Holmes, whose past to the basket is now impeded. So, what does she do? She notices that Collier's defender is now sagging off to help defend Holmes, which opens up a passing lane for Sutton to swiftly make the right decision here and get the ball to her center for the easy bucket.
It's that kind of quick decision making that helps us see why Holmes is getting WNBA Draft hype. Teams want players who can quickly recognize the changing conditions on the basketball court and then make plays that take advantage of those changing conditions. Holmes is someone who fits that mold, and while she's struggled to convert on some looks offensively over the past few weeks, her biggest strengths – her rebounding and the boundless energy she brings to the floor – can help Texas overcome issues like that.