Dererk Pardon was not supposed to play this year.
From the start of the year, Chris Collins made it clear that that Pardon would redshirt his freshman year to get polished and pack on some muscle before his college career would really get going.
Then Alex Olah and Joey Van Zegeren both picked up foot injuries and Pardon's shirt was burned. For a player who wasn't supposed to even be on the court this year, it's hard to be real unhappy with his production. Expecations were zero. Pardon blew those expectations away.
The following numbers are taken from kenpom.com
Shooting 65 percent from the field is good. It's very good. An offensive rebound percentage of 12.3 percent is also very, very good. Those stats show how most of Dererk Pardon's 6.7 points per game were scored. He crashed the glass better than anyone not named Joey Van Zegeren and, in doing so, was able to create easy scoring opportunities for himself without requiring back-to-the-basket post touches.
There's also a lot of not good in here. The free throw percentage sticks out. For someone who got to the line a bunch, you'd like to see him convert at a higher clip. The good news is free throws can be improved significantly (just ask Alex Olah). The other big negative is the foul rate. Committing 6 fouls per 40 minutes in conference play is untenable for a starter. If he bumps his minutes up from the 16.6 he played this year to what Alex Olah played this year (24 per game) in 2017, he's going to need to bring that foul rate way down.
This might shock you, but Dererk Pardon didn't take many shots that weren't right at the rack.
It's relatively unlikely that Pardon is ever going to add a face-up midrange game, and that's fine. It'd be nice to see Pardon be able to add some post moves to his arsenal. Right now, he's not really someone who's going to beat defenders in back-to-the-basket isolation situations. He's got a strong left hand and a good pump fake, but that's it right now. If he can add one or two moves in the offseason, he can maybe diversify his shot chart a little bit.
The most important thing to remember when breaking down Dererk Pardon is that he wasn't supposed to be playing. Pardon was basically forced to move 10 months ahead of schedule when his shirt got burned. The fact that a player who was deemed too raw to play when the year started could come in and have a 28-point, 12-rebound game displays a jaw-droppingly high ceiling for Pardon.
He attacks the glass with an intensity that Northwestern hasn't seen in a very long time. Despite being undersized, he has a nose for the ball and uses his frame and his freakishly long arms very well. He may be a one trick pony, but that's okay for now. He does his thing very well, and with an offseason to round out his game, there's no reason to be upset with his one-dimensionality for now.
Dererk Pardon is not a replacement level Big Ten center on the defensive end yet. The aforementioned foul rate is not good, but he struggles in on-on-one situations and positioning as well. Some of it has to do with his size. Long arms are fun, but trying to defend a 7-footer when you check in at 6-foot-8 is difficult. That lack of defensive ability is going to be exposed even more next year when compared to what Alex Olah, Northwestern's best defender (yes, better than Sanjay Lumpkin), gave Northwestern the past two years.
The good news is that a lot of talented bigs (Deyonta Davis, Diamond Stone, Matt Costello, A.J. Hammons and Thomas Bryant) are either graduating or going to the league. The bad news is that there a lot of talented bigs (Isaac Haas, Trevor Thompson, Ethan Happ, incoming freshmen De'Ron Davis for Indiana and Derek Funderburk for Ohio State, and potentially Davis, Stone, and Bryant) are still here. It's hard to feel exceedingly confident about Pardon's ability to lock those players up.
The Bottom Line
I thought that Dererk Pardon was a full two years away from being a useful piece for Chris Collins when I first saw him in the exhibition game and even just in warm-ups. I am also a big dumb idiot who was really wrong.
Northwestern fans should be incredibly happy with what Dererk Pardon showed them this year. He's way ahead of schedule and he has a lofty ceiling. If everything went according to plan in 2015-16, Northwestern would be entering 2016-17 with a true freshman center and a redshirt freshman center making up their entire rotation. Instead, they have a center who's played through a Big Ten campaign and who had the best single game of any Northwestern center since Evan Eschmeyer. He overperformed more than any other Wildcat, and that's a huge win for Collins and company.