If there's one man that Northwestern needs on the floor this season, it's Alex Olah. Chris Collins has guards galore now and multiple options at forward. The addition of Jeremiah Kreisberg brings some depth at the center position, but the transfer isn't expected to produce on the same level as NU's junior 7-footer.
Two years ago there was little reason to believe Olah would become such a vital piece to Northwestern's offense. He averaged just 6.1 points in 22.2 minutes per game. He was a bit clumsy and withdrawn, lacking the drive that a Big Ten team needs out of its big man.
Last season provided not just hope but justification that Olah could be NU's solution at center. Olah's efficiency from the floor improved immensely as his shooting percentage jumped from 41.5 percent to 50.9 percent. Olah is due for a huge 2014-15 season if his numbers continue on the same trend:
Olah's offensive game was much more polished last year. He developed a couple nice post moves, including a fairly reliable right hook. He was better at sealing defenders and demanding the ball on the block, but there's definitely still room for improvement.
There are several main factors holding Olah back from being Northwestern's offensive focal point, namely his passing ability and lack of athleticism. Olah's post possessions often seem pre-determined. He gets the ball on the block, looks at the ground and almost everyone on the court knows what's coming. Luckily for Olah, he can often get away with that thanks to his size. But dumping the ball into the big man would be much more valuable if he improved at reading the defense.
Olah often tried shooting over double teams or ran right into defenders on his post moves last season. Rarely did he kick the ball back out after receiving it in the post. However, that isn't totally on him. The team needs to communicate by calling out double teams and helping him find the open shooter. Olah is only going to demand more defenders as his post game improves, and Northwestern will put more points on the board if he starts to pass up contested hook shots for open threes.
Olah's lack of agility is a bit harder to make up for. He's only decent in the pick-and-roll because defenses have plenty of time to recover and rotate if Olah does get space on the roll. However, he's mainly been working with Dave Sobolewski to this point, and Olah's production off screens may improve with quicker guards Johnnie Vassar and Bryant McIntosh.
Olah's repertoire of post moves is also limited due to his build and level of athleticism. He's not going to spin along the baseline or beat his man off the first step. Olah is effective as is, yet there's a ceiling to how far his game can grow.
All that said, Olah is set to take a huge role offensively for Northwestern. There's no clear leader stepping into Drew Crawford's shoes. JerShon Cobb and Tre Demps should both score in double figures, but neither is a great ball-handler or penetrates the lane very well. Vic Law's game is still too raw and unpolished to produce night in and night out.
The question isn't really "Can Alex Olah become Northwestern's offensive focal point?" The question is "Will he?" Still 10 days from the official start of the season, it's too early to really say, but Olah isn't far off. If his awareness and passing from the post improves as he learns to work Collins system with NU's new guards, Olah will be the centerpiece for Northwestern's offense.