Scottie Lindsey is, by all accounts, a freakish athlete. A long, 6-foot-5 guard with a ton of bounce and a nice outside stroke is not something you can find growing on trees. His talent is undeniable. And yet, halfway through his collegiate career, his game remains incredibly hard to pin down.
Lindsey can, within two possessions, be both incredibly frustrating and absolutely electric. At his best, he's a microwave who can come in off the bench, drain a handful of threes, and carry your offense. At his worst, he's a passive scorer and a defensive liability who's lack of communication with his teammates can lead to open looks at the rim and at the three-point line.
Lots of people pegged Lindsey as the guy who would make the biggest leap due to the extra minutes available to him with Vic Law out for the year. Instead, a marginal uptick in minutes (15 to 19) led to a marginal uptick in scoring (4.4 points per game to 6.4) and a season that was punctuated by ups and downs.
Heading into 2017, Lindsey is still a favorite to be a starter next year. With the other guards either already behind Lindsey on the depth chart (Jordan Ash), or unknown quantities (Isiah Brown), it certainly figures to be Lindsey's job to lose next year — unless Chris Collins wants to get real funky and roll out Vic Law at the 2.
Lindsey, of the players who played last year, is the most interesting storyline of the 2017 season. We know what Bryant McIntosh is. We have an idea of what Pardon and Falzon's strengths and weaknesses are and reasonable expectations of improvement for next year. We have no idea what expectations to put on Lindsey.
On a surface level, Scottie Lindsey should be a really good defender. Length plus size plus athleticism is usually a winning formula for what makes someone an asset on the defensive side of the ball, and when Scottie Lindsey is in position to use those tools, he can do some pretty exciting things.
Glassing the hell out of an opponent on a 2-on-1 break is a cool thing to be able to do.
When people are high on Lindsey as a defender, these are the kind of plays they envision. Have him turn loose his athleticism and embarrass some people.
Unfortunately, Lindsey puts himself in position to turn that athleticism loose far too infrequently.
The Chameleon/matchup 2-3 zone that Chris Collins employed this year takes a lot of precision to run successfully. If one person doesn't let the guy next to him know about a switch, the zone is going to be shredded in a very obvious way. Multiple players on the roster struggled with this. Nate Taphorn saw his minutes almost entirely dissolve. Tre Demps struggled at times too. It's a system that demands perfection, and when one thing breaks down, everything crumbles.
Lindsey struggled to get himself organized in the zone. Let's start with a really obvious example. This came against Penn State, which might have been Lindsey's worst game this year (17 minutes, 2 points, 5 fouls):
There's nothing wrong with Lindsey tracking the runner to the far side of the floor. There is something wrong when Tre Demps has no idea it's coming. He leaves Brandon Taylor to Lindsey because he doesn't know that Lindsey is all of a sudden under the basket. If Lindsey communicates where he's going in the zone with Demps, Demps can slide over to cover Taylor and leave Jordan Dickerson to Alex Olah. Why Lindsey expects Taphorn to pick up the cutting Isaiah Washington is a head-scratcher. Whatever happened, it ended with an uncontested three-pointer.
The issues would continue:
Here, Lindsey passes off Devin Foster for no real reason. Doubling Shep Garner that far from the basket isn't in the gameplan, and by leaving Foster, he's left Taphorn with the entire left side of the floor, covering Foster and Deividas Zemgulis. Another unexplained switch, another wide open three.
Against Iowa, Lindsey found himself on Peter Jok a few times. That's a win for Iowa. After an offensive rebound, Lindsey tried to get back to Ahmad Wagner. Big mistake.
Trying to get to Wagner is good, but when the ball is one pass away from Peter Jok, one of the most dangerous 2-guards in the conference, you can't switch. You have to at least wait for the ball to be reversed so that the split second Jok is uncovered doesn't cost you. Demps might be slightly at fault, but the lion's share of the blame has to go on Lindsey.
The most flagrant example comes from the game on the road against Maryland. Lindsey is in charge of Jake Layman, and then suddenly, he isn't anymore.
Not a lot to say about that one.
Bryant McIntosh and Tre Demps are not the fleetest of foot when it comes to moving laterally. Neither one of them is an exceedingly great one-on-one defender. That means that the players at the base of the zone have to be ready and willing to chip in. Lindsey's decisions as a secondary defender were often puzzling. Here's one example:
A lot goes wrong here. First of all, hugging Troy Williams when your shot blocker is covering a pick and initial pop at the top of the key is not the right play. Williams is Indiana's worst shooter. The late reach is cover for not sliding in front of Robert Johnson. It ends in an unguarded Yogi Ferrel three, which somehow doesn't go in.
Lindsey's fouls committed per 40 minutes checks in at 4.6. That is way too high for a guard. In 42 percent of Lindsey's games this year, he committed at least 3 fouls. When put in one-on-one situations, he gets too handsy and gets called for cheap fouls.
These are the plays that should be really concerning when the though of Lindsey lining up against starting guards for 25 minutes arises. Collins usually does a good job of keeping Lindsey off of guys who like to drive, but when he's matched up against a multi-threat player like Shep Garner or Brandon Taylor, they know they can take it right at him and either get to the rack or get fouled.
Troy Williams found that tactic worked really well:
There is room in the Northwestern lineup for offense-first players who don't play great defense. Tre Demps, Bryant McIntosh, and Aaron Falzon were hardly defensive stoppers last year.
Lindsey has tools to improve his defending. He has a long way to go to turn that side of the ball into a positive of his game, but every once and a while, we can see flashes. If plays like this can become the new normal, he can absolutely be a useful piece of the puzzle next year:
This is where Lindsey thrives: open floor situations where he can take a gamble--he chops down when he doesn't have to on the contest--and have athleticism to get away with it. The issue is that these plays make up such a small fraction of what it takes to be a consistent defender. His lapses in communication are why in the most important games of the year, like both of the Michigan games, Chris Collins didn't trust him to play more than 15 minutes. If he is to be the starter next year, and unless something changes he probably will be, he is going to have to develop a lot more on the defensive end.
Part 2, where Scottie Lindsey's offensive game will be broken down, will be published on Wednesday.