Scottie Lindsey certainly earned Northwestern’s “Most Improved Player” award for 2017. After two seasons coming off the bench as an occasional offensive spark plug with little defensive awareness, he improved significantly on both ends in his junior year. Lindsey ended the season as Northwestern’s leading scorer and a critical part of the team, even if the last third of it was marred by illness.
Lindsey wasn’t quite the same player for the final five games of the regular season, but Northwestern was able to make the NCAA Tournament on the back of his excellent showings throughout nonconference and Big Ten play. With Northwestern finally achieving its long-awaited dream, large amounts of credit have to be given to Lindsey for rewarding the faith Collins and his staff put in him in his third year in Evanston.
The following numbers are taken from kenpom.com.
These numbers should all come in context of volume. Lindsey more than doubled his total shot attempts, and was on the floor more often than not. His usage rate increased from 17.5 percent to 23.0. He took 27 percent of Northwestern’s shots, which tanked his three-point percentage from 40.9 percent to 32.2, but helped Northwestern in the aggregate.
Lindsey’s shooting stats are similar to Tre Demps’ stats from the 2015-16 season, only slightly better. There is no doubt that Lindsey provided more than Demps from the free-throw line and inside the paint, even if their three-point stats are about the same. As a result, Lindsey’s 50 percent eFG% may be a slight downgrade from last season, but his value to the team increased dramatically. He was also reliable. Lindsey had double-digit points in all of Northwestern’s first 20 games, something that Demps never came close to achieving.
The stats should probably be better, but with Lindsey missing four games due to mono and not really looking himself until postseason play began, his stats took a dip. Going 5-of-26 from three in the final five games of the regular season did not help his cause. I’d imagine his conference-only offensive rating would be in the 104-105 range if he hadn’t gotten sick.
Also, after years of McIntosh doing everything, Lindsey finally emerged as something approaching a second ball-handler for this team. It wasn’t always pretty, and he still has trouble breaking a press, but his turnover rate dropped from 15.8 to 11.7. That’s crazy, considering the increase in usage rate.
Stats via hoop-math.com.
|Name||FGA||TS%||eFG%||% shots at rim||FG% at rim||% assisted at rim||% shots 2pt J||FG% 2pt Jumpers||% assisted 2pt J||% of shots 3pt||3FG%||% assisted 3s||FTA/FGA||FT%|
Of the team’s starting wings, Lindsey has a slight advantage in efficiency around the basket, shooting 57.1 percent at the rim last season. However, this shot chart just confirms everything you watch about Scottie Lindsey. He takes a decent amount of midrange jumpers, but most of his jumpshots come from beyond the arc. Unlike McIntosh, 46.9 percent of Lindsey’s jumpers are three-pointers. This is usually fine when Lindsey is making them, and horrendous when he’s sick and they don’t go in.
I felt like whenever Northwestern really needed a bucket, Lindsey was the player who could hit that key three or midrange jumper to salvage a situation. He didn’t get the ball much at the end of games (next year, perhaps he should), but he was always there, consistently scoring 15-20 points per game and giving nightmares to opposing defenses. He was the team’s leading scorer, after all.
While we expected Lindsey to do well offensively, his defensive improvement was the real key to his success in 2016-17. Last season, he would drift in and out of playing good defense. This year, as a starter and with no real challengers to his playing time, Lindsey was locked in on defense. He wasn’t a great perimeter defender like Vic Law, but he held his own and was arguably better than Demps defensively. The NCAA doesn’t release individual defensive metrics, but from the eye test it looked like he did a good job.
Ironically, his worst defensive game was against Rutgers in his first game back from illness. Mike Williams torched Northwestern that day, and it nearly derailed the entire season. But it didn’t, and it just goes to show that if Lindsey had stayed at his 2015-16 defensive level, this team would have struggled mightily.
Lindsey could definitely improve his three-point shooting, but that’s something every person who plays basketball can improve. If you take out the “plague games”, Lindsey averaged 34 percent from three, which is fine. If he can get that number closer to 40 percent, however, this team goes from solid on offense to downright dangerous.
As always, Lindsey could work on becoming a shutdown defender and true two-way player, just as Law could work on becoming a better scorer. They should trade secrets.
Otherwise, I think Lindsey is on track in just about every facet of his game. When healthy, he was usually a very solid player and has shown the potential to be even better next year.
Scottie Lindsey’s Offseason Checklist:
- Figure out how Vic Law is so good at locking people down and copy that.
- Practice threes incessantly, which he probably does already.
- Improve his dribbling skills.
- Ask Bryant McIntosh to design some crunch time plays for him.
- Stay healthy.
The Bottom Line
Scottie Lindsey was Northwestern’s first-half MVP, and he could very well be Northwestern’s MVP for next season. Hopefully, Lindsey can avoid the “Demps Vortex” and improve next season, becoming a truly versatile scorer and defender that can give you 30-35 high-quality minutes in conference play. He very well could’ve done that this season if he hadn’t gotten sick at the end. It’s hard to see him stopping here, given the coaching staff and the work ethic he needed to get this far.
Between Lindsey and McIntosh, Lindsey has more potential upside, given that Lindsey’s game hasn’t fully matured yet. But he’s basically there, he just needs to refine his game. I would say he’s already as good as Michigan’s Zak Irvin, one of the KenPom comps mentioned. If Lindsey can take another small step forward, he could become Northwestern’s star player in 2017-18.