St. John's basketball: the slow start of Omari Lawrence

St. John's freshman guard Omari Lawrence has started his career with an interesting role - an off the bench jack-of-all-trades. He's defended against Duke's Kyle Singler, he's brought the ball up against opponents; Omari's been the rebounder in a 4-guard lineup.

In all of this, he's put up an interesting stat line - an effective field goal percentage of 39.7% (not good), an offensive rating of 71.6, a defensive rebound percentage of 16.8% of available misses, a 5.0 steal percentage, a turnover percentage of 28.0, 2.1 block percentage... he's made some plays but he has struggled as well.

What's up with Omari... below.

From the New York Post:

"I think the speed of the game has been the hardest thing to adjust to," Lawrence said. "I need to be more consistent. If I can show the staff that, I'll see the court more. It's on me."

Don't write him off like some have. In fact, look at Maryland's Sean Mosley. He was a top 150 guard (as Omari was in all the scouting services at one point) who came to Maryland and looked like he had no clue how to shoot a basketball.

Mosley rebounded decently, defended solidly, made passes from time to time but didn't make enough positive plays. Mosley couldn't hit the side of the barn and compounded it with turnovers. Omari? He rebounds decently, defends solidly (with some mistakes to be sure, but he is very willing), he makes passes from time to time but not enough, and his shooting is... not good right now.

Take a look (stats provided by Statsheet):

Omari Lawrence Sean Mosley
2009-10 2008-09 2009-10
Min Per Game 10.7 Min Per Game 19.6 30.3
Minute % 24.8 Minute % 48.4 69.8
Possession % 21.1 Possession % 18.3 19.3
Offensive Rating 71.6 Offensive Rating 93.9 125.4
Shot % 19.1 Shot % 15.6 17.7
Effective FG % 39.7 Effective FG % 38.4 64.1
FG % 35.9 FG % 37.0 60.6
3pt FG % 33.3 3pt FG % 23.8 41.2
% of Att - 3pt 23.1 % of Att - 3pt 12.7 17.2
FT % 26.7 FT % 70.7 75.6
Free Throw Rate 38.4 Free Throw Rate 49.6 45.4
Off Reb % 3.1 Off Reb % 7.9 5.9
Def Reb % 16.8 Def Reb % 12.5 11.2
Assist % 13.4 Assist % 12.1 18.5
Steal % 5.0 Steal % 2.6 2.9
Turnover % 28.0 Turnover % 20.3 17.4
Block % 2.1 Block % 1.6 1.9
Fouls Per Game 1.1 Fouls Per Game 2 2.2

Sean Mosley's 6'4", 210 lbs. Omari's 6'4", 215 lbs.

Obviously there are some differences. The more highly-touted Mosley was an eager offensive rebounder for the Terrapins last year. With a slightly lower turnover rate, Mosley had a higher offensive rating. Omari also takes threes more as a percentage of his field goal attempts, 23.1% compared to 12.7% in Sean Mosley's freshman year.

Most strikingly, you can see that Mosley got to the line more frequently as a percentage of his shot attempts - and actually hits his free throw attempts. But you can see the similarities - big guards whose games are not dependent on their perimeter shooting.

Last year, Mosley averaged 5 pts, 3.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, .8 steals in 19 minutes, all while shooting 37%. St. John's has the luxury of playing Omari fewer minutes; he's putting up 2.6 pts, 1.9 rebounds, .76 assists, .9 steals per game in 10.6 minutes, shooting 35.9%.

This year, Mosley is dropping 13.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists. Shooting 60%. Not taking many 3-pointers, much like last year, getting to the line, much like last year.

The point of this is not exactly that Omari's career will reflect Sean Mosley's - they have different coaches and different roles - but that you need to give most freshmen time. Omari and Sean's games are both different from the imagined ideal of the shooting guard - the Willie Warren type, the JJ Redick pure shooter type. But both of these guys are crafty guards who were touted as solid mid-range shooters and dogged, slashing scorers.

O-money needs to do better, no question. He's got to keep that handle tight. And hit his free throws. His game is different, physical. And it may take some time to adjust to the speed and strength of college. But he has ballhandling skills, and passing skills - if you saw the games against the lesser opponents, he wasn't bad at seeing his teammates.

Lawrence shows some positive signs, and some sculpting work in the weight room, combined with work on his shot will, in my prediction, give St. John's a physical impact player for years to come. Just imagine O-Money yelling "and one!" repeatedly, to the frustration of opponents.

I can see it.

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